Ever since Veydra released their lineup of Mini-Prime MFT cinema lenses, I’ve been getting lots of e-mails from readers asking me to do a review on them. So for those of you that have been waiting, this article is for you.
I was able to use these lenses for the first time on a professional shoot several weeks ago, and was very impressed to say the least… So rather than simply reviewing them, I also wanted to compare them to the Rokinon lineup (my budget cinema kit of choice up until now) to see how they would stack up.
If you aren’t familiar with Veydra lenses, they are very high quality cinema lenses that are specifically designed for MFT mount cameras, such as a GH4 or Blackmagic Pocket Camera. While most other cinema lenses can be adapted to MFT mount (including PL and EF lenses), these are amongst the only native MFT cinema lenses out there, which means you get a lot more bang for your buck. Since the lenses are physically smaller than PL or EF lenses (by a long shot) their overall cost is kept to a minimum, while the quality is top notch.
Occasionally when reviewing lenses I will simply shoot a bunch of test footage with an entire kit to test sharpness, color accuracy, distortion, and other important factors. Those types of tests are definitely helpful, but they don’t always give an accurate representation of what the lenses are capable of on a real world set. I find that by far the best way to test a lens is by actually putting it through it’s paces on set, and letting the results speak for themselves. That’s what I decided to do with the Veydras.
Thankfully during the time that I had access to these lenses, there was a project I was Directing/DP’ing that I was able to use these lenses for. It was a book trailer for a well known author, and although the edit isn’t yet complete I did take some screen grabs that I will share below.
Before stepping on set to shoot this book trailer I had never used the Veydra lenses myself. I had heard some very good things about them, but didn’t have any hands on experience with them yet, so naturally I didn’t know what to expect. That said, even with no experience using these lenses before, I felt right at home as soon as I started working with them.
The first thing I noticed was that the lenses felt and operated like true cinema lenses. Unlike Rokinon lenses which are housed in plastic, the Veydras are all metal and feel just as well built as cinema lenses many times their price. The iris and focus rings are unbelievably smooth, and the focus throw is a near perfect distance for focusing by hand, or with a follow focus.
I have shot with many of the best cinema lenses out there, and the fact that the Veydra Mini-Primes feel so similar to use and operate is pretty astounding, especially considering the price point.
But at the end of the day, build quality isn’t everything. A lens is only as good as the image it produces, and most of us would choose a sharper and more accurate lens over a softer lens, even if the latter was built much better. Thankfully in the case of the Veydra’s – it’s a best of both worlds situation.
As soon as I started shooting with the lenses I immediately noticed their sharpness on the onboard monitor of the camera (which was a MFT Blackmagic Cinema Camera by the way). I can usually trust my eye when working with a new lens, and right off the bat I felt that the sharpness and detail was really incredible. This was especially apparent when I shot on the widest lens that I had in the kit (the 16mm). Wide shots will often reveal softness in lenses, but in this case things were looking really good right away.
Throughout the shoot I used every one of the lenses in the kit – 16mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm. For MFT cameras, these focal lengths are ideal as once you factor in the 2x (approximate) crop factor, these lenses cover a very wide spectrum of focal lengths. If I were to purchase this kit, I would also invest in their widest lens – the 12mm – as that will give a nice wide 24mm equivalent on most MFT cameras.
All in all, the shoot went really well and the lenses were an absolute pleasure to work with… But it wasn’t until I got in the editing room and was able to look at some of the shots up close that I could really see what these lenses were made of.
What impressed me most in the edit suite was not only the sharpness/detail (as I was expecting that), but the color and consistency of the lenses. The files above have been color graded slightly, but I practically could have used every shot straight from the camera as is, simply by adding a Blackmagic Film to Rec. 709 LUT on them. Not only because the colors were so accurate and pleasing as is, but also because all of the lenses matched so well. There was no discernible color or contrast shift from lens to lens, making the small amount of color work that I did on the files very simple and quick.
Here are a few uncolored screen grabs from our shoot:
Normally the first step that I will take when coloring a project is to match every shot before any creative work is done. That step will be virtually eliminated in my color process this time around as the shots already match perfectly as a result of the consistency of the Veydras.
This is an area where these lenses really seemed to have the Rokinon’s beat. While I am a fan of the Rokinon cinema lenses, they certainly aren’t known for their consistency. Some of their lenses are lower contrast than others, some aren’t quite as sharp, etc. which means more time needs to be spent either on set (lighting) or in post (coloring) to get them to match.
Although I wasn’t able to also shoot with the Rokinon lenses side by side with the Veydras on my shoot, I was able to take some test shots after the fact to compare sharpness and detail.
For my test I used the Veydra 25mm, 35mm, and 50mm and compared them to the Rokinon 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm. Unfortunately I didn’t have the Rokinon 16mm to compare with the Veydra 16mm and I didn’t have an 85mm Veydra to stack up next to my 85mm Rokinon. Regardless, even being able to compare just these three lenses was pretty telling.
Let’s take a look at some of the shots. These were all captured on a Blackmagic Pocket Camera with no lighting at my home:
Veydra 25mm Vs. Rokinon 24mm @ 300%
Veydra 35mm Vs. Rokinon 35mm @ 300%
Veydra 50mm Vs. Rokinon 50mm @ 300%
It’s pretty obvious from these shots that the Veydra’s have a massive advantage over the Rokinon’s in terms of sharpness. The Rokinon’s are much softer – particularly the 24mm, and would definitely need to have some sharpening done to them in post in order to match the Veydra’s more closely. I assumed the Rokinon’s would be softer wide open, but these results were still surprising given that the Rokinon’s were stopped down to T2.2 and therefore would have theoretically been even softer wide open at T1.5.
Veydra Vs. Rokinon: The Verdict
We’ve clearly seen that in most ways the Veydra lenses trump the Rokinon’s. They’re built better, their optics are higher quality, and the image quality they produce is superb. That said, there are other factors that come into play when you are considering investing in a lens kit, and the Rokinon lenses still have a few positives in their corner.
First off, the Rokinon lenses are faster at T1.5 (for these focal length equivalents), while the Veydra’s max out at T2.2. In reality this wouldn’t be a huge factor for me when deciding between these two lens kits, since I normally shoot stopped down a bit on the Rokinon’s anyways to increase sharpness. That said, for those of you that absolutely need the extra light, the Rokinon’s are the faster lenses.
Another consideration of course is the price. The Veydra lenses are very reasonably priced in my opinion (the kit I was using runs about $3700), whereas a comprable Rokinon kit will be just under $2000. That’s a pretty substantial price difference, so if you need to keep your costs to a minimum, then the Rokinon’s offer a great budget-friendly option. That said, you do get what you pay for and the Veydras in my opinion are worth far more than even the $3700 that they are listed at.
The final positive about the Rokinon’s is the fact that they are offered in EF mount and will cover Super 35mm (or in some cases full frame) sensors. For many shooters this may not matter, but for others it’s a worthwhile consideration. Even if you primarily shoot on MFT cameras, there is something to be said about using EF lenses since they can be used more universally on other cameras (if you rent or buy a camera with a different mount in the future), and they can also be used with a speedbooster on your current MFT camera.
No matter what, there will always be pros and cons when comparing any two lens kits. Even still, for MFT shooters the Veydra prime lenses offer a tremendous amount of value and image quality that can rival some far more expensive cinema lenses out there, and I highly recommend them.
To learn more about Veydra you can visit them online at http://www.veydra.com
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!