Rokinon 12mm Cinema Lens – Review and Video
If you’ve paid attention to any of the weekly updates we’ve been doing over the last week you’ll know that I got my hands on a new Rokinon 12mm cinema lens recently. I bought it because I needed something wider than what I had, and I had gotten to actually put hands on a lens in the wild a couple months ago and was impressed with the fact that it didn’t feel shabby at all. I figured that 99% of the time I’m manually focusing any way, so the buttery smooth damped focus ring felt fantastic, and autofocus is really not something I’m too stressed out about.
First things first, the layout: the focus and iris rings have built in follow focus gears, which is awesome – they are standard pitch so they will likely work with any thing you’ll probably be using this lens with. Additionally, both rings are nicely damped so the focus pull is smooth. I will say that using it with my D-Focus follow focus it is almost a little too tight – but I’m used to using my 25 year old Nikon glass. The iris is de-clicked which means easy pull to get that half-stop if you need it, but also lets to change the iris mid-take if you’re that good (I’m not, I’ll admit) but it is nice to have. The lens does not extend when you focus it, unlike many still lenses, which is nice for connection to a rail-mounted matte box. Also of note, the lens is marked on the left side with a focus puller in mind, which is fine for those of us who don’t have that luxury and use in-camera focus peaking any way, but worth noting you won’t be able to look over the top of the camera for your focus mark, nor is there a depth of field scale on the markings – again, this is a cinema lens and these are comments from someone who has used still lenses for years.
As for tactility and general feel: it is a plastic body mostly with some speckling texture on the focus and iris rings. Although mostly plastic it has a good feel, and the bayonet mount – for the MFT version at least – is solid metal and provides a nice positive connection with the camera. Overall the build quality feels nice, it has a good bit of heft, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a cheap kit lens in any way. The front of the lens takes 67mm filters, which is way more convenient than the Rokinon 10mm which does not take filters. I put a B+W filter on it the day I received it because I’m neurotic about not scratching my glass.
So, overall thoughts on handing and build quality – its nice, I like it a lot!
How about image quality? To test it I am pitting it next to the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 micro four-thirds lens. The Olympus is generally regarded, along with the Panasonic 12-35, as one of the best general zoom lenses for micro four-thirds, so it will be interesting. All the test footage is shot in cinema 4k at 24p in Cinelike D without any color grading.
The Results? I think it was a surprising test, the color rendition and the weird focus at infinity on both lenses was the most surprising for me. I’m curious to know that if I was shooting a proper landscape if the infinity would still provide focus issues. The extra warmth in the Rokinon is very apparent over the Olympus. I suspect that they are both equally wide, but the Rokinon somehow captured more of the vertical than the Olympus did – it almost appeared to shift upward when I swapped the lenses. Sharpness-wise I think they are pretty equal, but I do like the color and feel of the Rokinon images a bit better. I think that they lend themselves to a less clinical, more artsy image than the Olympus does. Last, but not least, if you haven’t seen our absurd art film where we try the sharpness of the Rokinon shooting straight into the sun have a look – I am actually pretty happy with the image results.