Review: IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone (Canon EF Mount)

The IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone lens is a whole lot of fun to play with!

When the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone came in for review, I tried to figure out what I’d exactly do with a lens like this. It’s super wide and has full frame coverage. It’s too slow to really work effectively for astrophotography, but it is surely good enough to use for a day of fun walking about in Brooklyn. But in addition to that, it’s also got the quality from IRIX that I’ve come to respect. This company is a European based one that uses Korean optics along with their designs to create lenses that are much different from everything else that every other manufacturer is making at the moment. At the core, it’s still a lens; but the design is something that I haven’t seen from any other manufacturer out there. So if you’re not paying attention to IRIX just yet, maybe you should start.

Editor’s Note: As a note, IRIX makes two versions of each lens they do. The Blackstone lenses are higher end with metal construction while the Firefly options are super economical. Both lenses are typically really affordable. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Weather sealing
  • Sharp image quality
  • Depth of field scale
  • Click at the Infinity setting
  • Metal build

Cons

  • Using the blacklight on the lettering is cool, but glow in the dark would be much better.

Gear Used

We tested the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone with the Canon 6D.

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone taken from their website 

Lens Version Firefly Blackstone
HOUSING MATERIAL Lightweight material, 12% weight saving aluminium-magnesium alloy, premium finish
HOUSING OUTER FINISH standard anti-scratch
FOCUS RING MATERIAL anti slip coating all-metal anodized ring with grooved surface
MARKINGS printed engraved
MARKINGS PAINT standard UV light reactive paint
WEATHER
SEALING
FRONT LENS ELEMENT no
FOCUS LOCK RING yes
FOCUS RING yes
CAMERA MOUNT yes
PROTECTIVE CASE INCLUDED soft lens pouch hard lens case

Ergonomics

When you look at the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone, you see a very minimal camera lens in many ways. But then when you look closer, you’ll see that there are a whole sort of calculations, adjustments, and more that can be observed. What you also see is that the lens cap goes on over the front of the lens. This lens has the lens hood permanently attached.

IRIX lenses are manual focus optics and have very interesting designs to them. For starters, there is a working depth of field scale in two different areas. Why? I’m not sure honestly. Then there is the infinity mark–which clicks when you move the lens to that spot.

Oh yeah, since this is such a wide angle lens you’ll see this massive front element. You can’t attach a filter to it unfortunately. But IRIX has this special thing in the mount that allows you to drop in filters there.

Build Quality

Here’s the mount of the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone. Not only can you see the filter drop in slot, but you can also find some of the weather sealing here. It’s a rubber ring that completes the sealing when attached to the camera. Then consider the fact that the lens has a metal exterior through and through. Nothing about the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone feels cheap and yet it’s one of the most affordable lenses on the market. Photographers who take it out for landscape shooting will genuinely enjoy it. But they’ll also really be amazed at its ruggedness. The only cavear though is that it tends to be heavy. When you combine this with a full frame DSLR like the Nikon D850 or the Canon 5DSr, then you’re bound to be carrying quite a bit of kit.

I really, really wish that IRIX made these lenses for mirrorless cameras. The company says that they’re in the process of working to bring the lenses to E mount.

Ease of Use

If you’re from one camp, then you’ll believe that the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone is one of the easiest lenses to use. But if you’re from another camp, then you’ll believe the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone to be incredibly complicated. In truth, you really need to pay attention to the depth of field scale and have a fantastic viewfinder with good eyesight. Otherwise, you can switch to Live View, focus and shoot. You’ll know that everything is in focus more or less when you hit infinity–and at that point you’ll be treated to nice, hearty click to indicate this. The IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone is a lens that I really recommend for the photographer who has experience. It will be best suited to those who know all the ins and outs of zone focusing.

Focusing

Focusing the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone requires you to manually focus the lens. Luckily, since it’s such a wide optic, a whole lot will be in focus to begin with. There is a very effective depth of field scale on the lens, so there is no need to really sit there and worry about missing the shot. Indeed, it can be really tough to miss unless you’re not very experienced with zone focusing.

Image Quality

When you use the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone lens, you’ll realize that it’s pretty difficult to get a bad photo with it. Like pretty much every lens on the market, it’s got good image quality and there is very little to discredit it with when it comes to the image quality. IRIX lenses tend to have a look to them that is all their own. They’re not like Canon’s, not like Sigma, not Rokinon, and not like Zeiss. In some ways it has the saturation of Zeiss lenses but with this characteristic crunchiness or Rokinon’s lenses. Crunchiness? Yes, that’s really the best way that I can describe it.

Bokeh

This is an 11mm f4 lens. You’re not going to get any sort of significant bokeh at all. Not only is it a wide angle lens but it is also slow. Let’s move on from here.

Chromatic Aberration

There’s distortion towards the edges of the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone lens but it’s well controlled considering that this is a very wide angle full frame prime lens. Luckily you’ll encounter no real issues with purple or green fringing. Even further, you’ll be amazed at what it gives you.

Color Rendition

The colors from the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone lens are pretty saturated overall. I like them, and when working with a camera that has a great sensor you’ll be able to make the most of it. At the current standpoint in technology, I was able to get more from Nikon RAW files than I am from Canon RAW files. So the colors there are also partially due to how the sensor and the lens work together. From what I’ve seen of IRIX’s lenses though, the saturation will always be there quite considerably.

Sharpness

If you look at the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone lens’ sharpness, you’ll realize that it’s best served at around f8. Generally speaking, I see very little reason to focus lens in most instances except when you’re shooting street photography subjects who are not too far away from you. Thsi lens deserves to photograph scenes in beautiful sunlight and does a great job of doing it.

Extra Image Samples

Some of these images were shot by my good buddy Mike Florio, who you can follow on Twitter.

Conclusions

Likes

  • Colors
  • Lens flare is nice
  • Sharpness
  • Weather sealing
  • IRIX continues to do stuff that are different from everyone else out there

Dislikes

  • Instead of Blacklight illuminated, the text should be glow in the dark

The IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone is a lens that impresses me a whole lot. Would I buy it? No. But I think that the photographer who buys a lens like this is bound to just shoot landscapes and architecture. You’ll be sure to set it to infinity and then pretty much forget about it otherwise. IRIX continues to do things that other manufacturers should pay attention to like the infinity click and the blacklight illuminated text.

We give the IRIX 11mm f4 Blackstone four out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for more.