Review: SLRMagic 17mm T1.6 (Micro Four Thirds)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer SLRMagic 17mm T1.6 product images (2 of 5)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.8

SLRMagic has always been right up there with Rokinon on offering cine lenses at an affordable price. So when they offered us a chance to look at their 17mm T1.6 lens for Micro Four Thirds, we were naturally curious. Many of their previous lenses were quite sharp but in the recent years the company has been trying to take on a higher end audience. And when we got this lens, we were a bit confused by the results that we were getting until we realized that it is a lens that isn’t about the chart numbers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

– Beautiful image quality for cinematography

– Extremely well built

– Gears are great for video and stills

Cons

– Very soft wide open for stills

Tech Specs

Taken from our original posting

Lens Type:  Fast wide-angle lens
Compatible Cameras:  All micro four thirds mount cameras
Optical Design:  12 elements in 10 groups
Distance Settings: Distance range: 0.17m to ∞, combined scale meter/feet
Aperture: Manually controlled diaphragm, 10 aperture blades, Lowest value 16
Bayonet: Micro Four Thirds
Filter Mount: Internal thread for 52mm filter; filter mount does not rotate.
Surface Finish: Black anodized
Length to bayonet mount: approx. 78.65mm (approx. 3.10in)
Largest diameter: approx. 56.3mm (approx. 2.21in)
Weight:

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer SLRMagic 17mm T1.6 product images (3 of 5)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.8

SLRMagic has a very traditional formula to many of their lenses: make them have manual focus, manual aperture, and build them out of metal and glass like a tank. And for the most part, the 17mm T1.6 adheres to this philosophy very well. At the front of the lens is a filter thread which also holds the twist off lens cap. This makes sure that your chances of losing said cap go down.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer SLRMagic 17mm T1.6 product images (4 of 5)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.8

The lens is overall quite smooth on the exterior with the exception of two control rings: one for focusing an the other for aperture control. These rings have grooved teeth that are designed to work best with follow focus systems. In real life practice though, it works quite well with fingers too.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer SLRMagic 17mm T1.6 product images (5 of 5)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.8

What you’ll also find is a depth of field scale, aperture makings and distance markings. Overall, these work quite well but for cinema use, a videographer would want them on the side of the lens. Instead, SLRMagic went with the photography norm and put them on top.

Build Quality

SLRMagic’s build quality is nothing but stellar with an all metal build, a screw on lens cap, and really smooth focusing. We’ve never been afraid of slightly mishandling our SLRMagic lenses.

Ease of Use

For videographers, it’ll be a bit tougher to pull focus since the focusing markers are on the top of the lens instead of on the side where they should be for cine work. Otherwise, you’ll need to just keep in mind where you’re focused to and what your aperture is. Given the fact that this is a T stop lens as well, the light transmission will be very exacting.

Focusing

SLRMagic makes all manual focusing lenses, and the focusing of this lens is the most pleasantly of any SLRMagic lens that I’ve had the pleasure of testing. Videographers will truly appreciate it. The focusing isn’t too smooth or too tight, but really just right enough.

Image Quality

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SLRMagic’s lens is something that shouldn’t be looked at as all about the numbers. We tested it for street photography, and in all honesty it isn’t the sharpest optic. If you’re looking for sharpness, then you’ll need to search elsewhere. This lens instead is all about the overall look when it comes to stills. It delivers some beautiful images with wonderful bokeh and that when looked at as a whole can be quite breathtaking. But if you choose to zoom in 100%, you’re not going to do the lens any justice.

Sharpness

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Shooting wide open? Forget about it.

For still images, don’t expect anything stellar unless you stop down to f2.8 and below. This lens is super soft wide open to the point where sometimes you can’t even tell if you’re in focus or not. But with that said, it is also designed for cinema use–which means that you’d need a softer lens to begin with. You can liken the sharpness to those of old film lenses.

When it comes to shooting video, this lens is really right on the money.

Color Fringing

Only in the most extreme of situations did we find any color fringing. To be fair, this was also when a variable ND filter wasn’t used. In general, videographers won’t have much of a problem. In lots of our images though, cranking up the contrast just a tad brought out color fringing.

Color Rendering

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We used this lens on the Olympus OMD EM5, and found the color rendering to be quite vibrant and beautiful right out of the camera. Even when we used a flat color profile, the image quality was still quite saturated. On a personal note, I like the more saturated look though it may anger a video editor.

Bokeh

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We’re really not kidding when we say that SLRMagic has designed the lens in their lineup with the best bokeh that we’ve seen so far. Not only is it creamy and a beautiful blurry haze, but it is also incredibly pleasing and super smooth. If anyone complains about the bokeh, they seriously need to be smacked.

Video Quality

Extra Image Samples

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VS Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

SLR Magic 17mm T1.6 at T2

SLR Magic 17mm T1.6 at T2

Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 at F2

Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 at F2

We did a very quick an unscientific comparison of the Voigtlander 17.5mm and the SLRMagic 17mm. For what it’s worth, the Voigtlander is sharper, but the SLRMagic lens has better bokeh to us. One lens is over $1,000 while the other is under–however, SLRMagic’s offering isn’t the super fast aperture lens that Voigtlander’s offering is.

Conclusions

If you’re a cinematographer, we see no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this offering from SLRMagic. It’s lightweight, well built, and has a beautiful look to it for an affordable price. But if you’re also looking for something for awesome still work, just don’t sit here expecting the sharpest lens in the world. Instead, you’ll need to just embrace the look that it can give you.

Recommended Items and Cameras

Sony NEX 6: This lens also comes in a Sony NEX mount, and on a larger sensor you’ll be able to shoot video with even better bokeh due to the larger sensor.

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