The Pentax SMC 200mm f/2.5 is quite a unique lens. The most impressive feature that jumps into your eyes straight away is a really fast aperture of f2.5. When you take the lens into your hand, you can tell it a serious one. Large, heavy, built like a tank, great long through smooth focusing ring, this lens is a pleasure to use. However non of this matters if optics can’t deliver. The SMC 200mm definitely delivers nice images; no wonder it’s still popular and quite expensive for a vintage lens. These are going for over £400/$700 on eBay, so not what you would call an absolute bargain. While it’s nice and sharp, is it really worth paying so much over, let’s say a very nicely performing and really cheap Tokina 80-200mm f/2.8 ?
Well, YES and NO, it really depends on what is your priority. Pentax produces really sharp images even wide open and doesn’t really need to be stepped down by a stop like Tokina to get a decent sharpness. Contrast, clarity and colours are also really good. On a downside of course is a higher price, no flexibility of a fast zoom lens. There is also quite a lot of red chromatic aberration in many lighting situations, stepping down the lens helps, but you have to be at f/5.6 to get rid of it almost completely, which is less than perfect. And at the end of the day, how much difference does actually f2.5 makes comparing to f2.8. Well not that much really, it’s only a third of a stop and while it does affect the brightness and bokeh a little bit as you’ve probably seen in the test above, alone it’s not worth paying the extra $400 and should not be the reason for choosing it over f2.8 lenses, unless you want to show off.
I don’t need and can’t afford to keep both Tokina 80-200mm f2.8 and Pantax 200 f2.5, so I decided to sell one. Which I’m keeping? Tokina wins for me. Much more flexibility, still really fast at f2.8, it produces very beautiful images and it’s really cheap making it a great value for money lens, which is what I value a lot. One other reason why Pantax had to go, is because it also focuses the same way Nikon lenses do. Most of my lenses focus in the same direction as Canon, so I’m used to such workflow when shooting gorilla style and even more importantly with a follow focus. Pantax could be a great choice for Nikkor lens user and while it’s a bit expensive in my option, comparing to modern lenses, it offers a lot of the money. Like most vintage lenses it’s much more suitable for video work than most modern lenses: great, long through focus ring with hard stops, manual aperture adjustment ( can be adapted to most cameras with a simple, cheap adapter).
While I’m not keeping mine, there is a place for this lens and if you find one for under £400/$700 it might be worth giving it a good closer look.
Click to view this item on eBay
Tokina AT-X 80-200mm
is one of the most exciting vintage lenses I have in my current collection. I was really keen to try to since I bought it a few months ago. My lens has a Minolta MD mount, which requires an adapter with additional lens for it to work properly with Canon EOS DSLRs, so I didn’t bother with it initially (I think it comes in different mounts too, which are more easily adaptable to Canon DSLRs). So in the end I decided to try out the lens with my Sony NEX 5N, which keeps impressing me every time I’m using it; such a powerful, fully featured camera in such a small body with a very affordable price tag too. I bought a cheap MD to NEX adapter on eBay, without any additional glass that could affect the performance and it works as good as one could wish for. Being quite a heavy lens at 1.2kg, the Tokina 80-200 really benefits from having a sturdy, metal tripod ring mount, especially when used with such a tiny camera like 5n. For the test shoot, the lens was supporting the camera, rather than other way round. It really helped with the stability and there was no problem with the lens being front heavy. The lens itself is all metal too, except the clip-on lens hood, which is plastic (I have no problem with that). If my info is current the AT-X is the professional Tokina range (something like L to Canon) and it definitely feels like it’s built for professional use. This is a very solid lens with a really nice, wide, smooth focusing ring, perfect for manual focusing. The lens does extend ever so slightly when focusing, but not much. The front 77mm multicoated element looks very impressive too, but what is really special about this lens is it’s constant aperture of f/2.8 throughout the focal range. It puts this lens up against the big boys like Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8
and Nikon’s 80-200mm f/2.8
. These lenses are very expensive comparing to Tokina (up to 10 times more expensive!), but they are excellent and certainly worth their price, but what if one can’t afford a Canon or Nikon? Should they go for a cheaper, slower version like Canon’s 70-200mm f/4? I believe that this Tokina offers much than a slower modern equivalent by one of the leading brands. It’s still about 4 times cheaper even that Canon 70-200mm f/4, so I believe this is one of the cheapest fast alternatives to Canon and Nikon fast, long zooms. At the time of writing there are 4 Tokina AT-X 80-200mm lenses on eBay, one going at "buy ti now" price of under $200 and another about $250, which is an absolute bargain, considering that the lens performs well and I hope you’ll agree with me that it does produce some very lovely images. I was mostly testing it at 200mm because this is what makes it special; not really the 80mm or 100mm at f/2.8, but 200mm at f/2.8. I’m very impressed with the bokeh it producing even at f/5.6, but I would say the sweet spot for the lens is f/4. Like most lenses it certainly benefits from being stepped down by a stop or two. The f/2.8 is definitely usable is the situations that demand for it (low light scene for example) but there is plenty of shallow depth of field at f/4, so that is where I’ll mostly stay.
I haven’t used neither the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 or Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8, so I can’t comment on how well they perform wide open, but like I said, most of the lenses benefit from being stepped down a bit and there is nothing wrong with that, especially if your not paying thousands of $/£ for a lens.
Anything I don’t like about the lens, or the images it produces? Well, I’m not too keen on the pull-push zoom design, which makes it almost impossible to zoom in or out smoothly during the recording. With DSLRs I don’t tend to do that anyway, so not a big problem. A bigger problem for me is the presence for the chromatic aberration, definitely not as much as in some other lenses I’ve tested, but it’s almost always there, mostly in out-of-focus highlights and extreme light spots of the image. The bad thing is that it doesn’t really go away completely even when the lens is stepped down to something like f/5.6, so that is my biggest problem.
Nevertheless at this price the images are still mind blowing and this is one of these great lenses that are only cheap because majority are not aware of their existence and this is exactly what the budgetfilmmkaer.co.uk mentality is about; it’s about finding good stuff that is affordable and is good value for money, not about crap stuff that is cheap to buy or even worse, expensive, so I highly recommend this lens, just make sure you buy the one which compatible with your camera, preferably without any adapters that contain glass in them because it’s likely to affect the performance of the lens, softening the image at very least, which would make the whole thing a bit pointless.
Hope this info is useful to you guys and it will help save you some money on your future lenses. Stay tuned for many more lens tests and my future lens giveaways.
Click to view this item on eBay
Above is a very simple test I’ve done on 3 great 50mm f/1.4 lenses. I often use a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4
and everyone knows that it’s a great lens, although the focusing ring is certainly not the best. A few months I shot a little test video
with Nikon 50mm f/1.4
and I really enjoyed using it. The Nikon 50mm performed really well and this lens along with other Nikons is very popular amongst the DSLR/Large-Chip-Camcorder filmmakers. The third lens in this test is the least popular and the cheapest out of 3, the Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm f/1.4
. It is also the smallest and probably the lightest lens in this test.
The purpose of this test was to determine how well does Olympus stack up against the more (and more expensive) popular alternatives. Below are my own thoughts about the results. You are more than welcome to share your own thoughts and the comments below.
The first test was to determine how nice is the bokeh from these 3 lenses. Wide open all 3 lenses have nice, soft bokeh. The Canon, probably has the softest, Olympus is also really good, but I would say Nikon was producing the least round out-of- focus circles. I personally prefer round circles. At f/2.0 Canon and Olympus still managed to produce circle bokeh circles, while Nikon was producing heptagon bokeh, which is still fine, but I just prefer circle bokeh. Pretty much the same goes for f/2.8.
Next and much more important test was to determine the sharpness of each lens at different f-stops. In my 200% timeline video crop test, the Olympus really surprised me. At f/1.4 it appeared to have the best sharpness out of 3. It also handled the highlights from the lights at the fruit stand really well, probably even better than the 4 times more expensive Canon. Nikon had the most ghosting.
At f/2.0 Nikon has really caught up and actually performed better than Olympus. Canon performed nicely as expected.
As I was stepping down the aperture, Nikon kept getting better and probably performed the best at f/2.8. Canon was very close and Olympus stayed behind, although still a great performance for the money.
To get the better idea what the sharpness is really like I took some photos with each lens and placed on the timeline at the 400% crop. This gave a much better picture of how each lens really perforce.
At f/1.4 all 3 lenses have very similar sharpness, but Canon actually has the most chromatic aberration. At f/2.0 Nikon performed better than the other 2.
At f/2.8 Nikon was still slightly ahead of other 2 and I think when stepped down it actually performs the best, which probably explains why Nikons are so popular.
Anyone who would buy the Nikon or Olympus, would probably buy them for video work only as there is obviously no auto focusing on these lenses. The difference in image quality is not that different, especially in video mode. Both Olympus and Nikon lenses offer great value for money for video shooters. Both have very nice focusing rings (much better than Canon’s), on-lens aperture adjustment (great for different brand cameras) and they are much cheaper than the Canon (Olympus being the cheapest and Nikon slightly more expensive, but still 3 times cheaper than Canon), so if you are only using your DSLR for video, there is really no point buying Canon EF. The Canon lens is great for photographers, but does not offer such a great value for money for videographers. All 3 lenses really benefit from being stepped down to at least f/2.0. For me Olympus is probably the best wide open, so really a great choice for them low light. My Olympus is not even is such a great shape, there is some dust and spots of fungus inside, which might have affected the performance slightly. I wonder what it would have been like if it was in such a great condition as my Nikon. I have to say Nikon was probably overall the best performer for the money.
Canon lens wasn’t mine; Nikon is great, but focuses clockwise unlike my Canon lenses (which is the pain with a follow focus), so I’m keeping the Olympus to be my 50mm f/1.4 for now.
I highly recommend this lens for anyone wanting to invest into some fast glass at a bargain price. If you are Nikon person, then Nikon 50mm is a better choice.
Above you can see a quick test I’ve done with this lens while out in a local park. It was really bright and I couldn’t use this lens at wide open aperture, so I think this test footage doesn’t do the justice do to this lens. I really need to test it out in low light next time. At f/2 is should be a great low light performer. I’ve also done some quick tests against the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, which is a great lens and while Canon produced better results in my test, it wasn’t 10 times better, but it’s 20 times more expensive than Helios, so in my opinion, Helios offers much better value for money than Canon.
Helios 44M is one of the first lenses that started my interest in vintage manual photo lenses for video use. It is a very interesting lens, not only it is one of the cheapest lenses you can buy, but it’s also apparently a Zeiss Biotar copy. The lens optics were based on Zeiss formulas, so these lenses are apparently very sharp, considering you get a good copy. Apparently the quality control was quite poor, so optical quality varies. It is possible that the lens I tested against Canon was not the best optically.
The lens itself is very well built, it’s fully metal, with a nice, long through focusing ring (about 270 degrees). I have 4 of these lenses and a few have slightly stiff focusing rings, so that is something worth bearing in mind.
You can find out a bit more about this lens in a great article I found here
. This lens must be the biggest bargain ever. The first Helios 44m I bought, cost me just £3. “Carl Zeiss” quality lens for under £10? That must be the best kept secret in budget filmmaking world, or was I just blinded by “Canon-Only” world around me? If you didn’t know about this lens, now you know, so don’t hesitate even for a second to get one, at £10-£20 what have you got to loose? In the worst-case scenario you can sell it back on eBay.
I will be giving away a few of these lenses in my next giveaway, but if you can’t wait, just pick one up and you won’t regret it.
Click to view this item on eBay
Above you can see some test footage which I shot with a Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
lens. In my opinion this vintage Russian lens is very special. It has a very nice look to it and when shooting into the sun it creates very interesting flares that add a lot of character to the footage. It’s not suitable for every scenario, but I think it definitely adds a very cool oldschool film look the footage shot with it. I personally really like the result I was able to achieve with this lens and it’s not just about the flares. The lens is really sharp and close focusing ability makes it a really good lens for close-ups (see 0:49 of the video). The colors are really good too and the maximum aperture of f/2 is great for low light shots. One of the nicest things about this lens though is the fluid aperture adjustment. This not something that is usually found in photo lenses. It lets you adjust the aperture in a smooth way, so you can easily fine-tune your aperture while recording without a sudden change of brightness. This feature was very handy when I was filming the BMX riders coming into the bright daylight and back under the roof where it was much darker. I was able to adjust the aperture very easily and smoothly without it being obvious in the shot. This a feature that is usually reserved to Cine lenses, so it is so nice to see it in this budget lens. The focus ring on my copy is really smooth and has long through, which meant I was able make really smooth, subtle focusing adjustments, which is what you would usually want from a lens used for video.
A lot of modern auto-focusing lenses have a very short through, which helps the autofocus motors achieve the focus quicker for photography needs, however for video this is actually a big downside, so good old manual lenses are so much better for manual focusing. They also have hard stops, which are important if you use a follow focus and focusing marks. Again, some modern lenses, Canon EF in particular don’t have any hard stops.
I keep telling people that the reason why modern lenses are so much more expensive that the old glass is not only because they have great optics, but also because they have great, fast auto focusing motors, which obviously makes a massive impact on the price. After all, these are photography lenses made for modern sophisticate cameras with fancy auto focusing systems. I said it before and I’ll say it again: if you are only doing video work with you DSLR then there is really no need to buy modern Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, etc glass. You can get so much more for your money if you invest into manual lenses and they don’t have to be as cheap as this Helios. Even very popular manual Nikon and Zeiss lenses will cost so much less that a modern equivalent which will not necessarily be better for video work.
If you are on a tight budget though, I highly recommend this Helios 44-2 58mm
lens. It is a great mid/close up lens and it is so cheap that anyone can afford it.
I have 2 of them and I will be giving away one shortly. Stay tune for more details.
Click to view this item on eBay
Ever since I transitioned from photography to video, especially with my 5D MKII, I stopped using some of my lenses, including my Canon 100-400L. In fact, I’ve only used it once or twice for video needs and had for the occasions when I felt like doing some photography. It is a great photography lens, but for video not so great, really shaky when focusing, even on tripod. I can’t justify keeping it for a very occasional photo session, but I still want to have a 400mm reach if I even need it both in video and photography. I decided to see what I can get with similar features for much, much lower price. I ended up buying 2 lenses, which by no means are the best in this focal range, but which won’t make rob the bank to buy them. You can see what they are like in the video above, so here I want to talk about my personal conclusions on each of them. Canon 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6 L – As mentioned above, this is a great photography lens, known to be very sharp wide open and it does look sharp in my little test I’ve done. Image stabilizer helps with the extensive shake, but it is still very difficult to use this lens for video without introducing a lot of shake due to its length when extended and quite stiff focusing ring (find for photography, but had to be much smoother for video). I think this lens is worth its money for photographers, but I can’t justify the price for video users. Tamron 200-400mm LD f/5.6 – This is one of my 2 potential replacements. This lens offers auto focusing on Canon DSLRs, which is essential for photography needs (not as fast and quiet as Canon though). It is also easy to focus manually, however the lens is even longer than Canon when extended and the lack of Image Stabilizer makes image at 400mm look very shaky when focusing. With such lenses you can just about getaway with having a locked of focus on a tripod without touching the camera, otherwise there is a camera shake all over the place. To my big surprise the image quality and the sharpness on this lens is very close to Canon. Considering that the lens can be bought about 4/5 times cheaper than Canon, it is certainly an impressive performance. The one thing that is a bit annoying is constant aperture of f/5.6. I can live with it at 400mm, but I wouldn’t use this lens for 200mm shots. There are plenty of vintage 200mm f/3.5 lenses (some which I tested earlier) costing as little as £15, so the really is no point in using such lens for 200mm shot, which for me makes it a bit of waist.
Tokina 400mm AT-X f/5.6 – Now, this is a very interesting alternative to both lenses. As mentioned above, the are plenty of cheaper, faster lenses below 400mm, so what not just get a prime like this one which is 400mm only with the benefits of reduced size, due to lack of zoom. This lens is the most compact out of 3. The only one that has an inbuilt metal (rather than plastic) lens hood. The lens is built like a tank, much better than Tamron. The focusing ring is really smooth with quite a long focusing through comparing to other 2. The combination of shorter length and smooth focusing ring actually lets you focus with this lens without introducing camera shake. This is a big deal for me. There is also auto focusing on Canon DSLRs (for stills of course).
The sharpens of the images is very almost identical to Tamron. Certainly a great performance great for the money. Same as Tamron it is 4/5 times cheaper than Canon, so definitely worth the money.
Click to Enlarge
All 3 lenses are worth their money and I will let you guys make up your own minds, but my personal conclusion is that I will be keeping the Tokina. This is the only one that I can actually use for video properly and it has auto focusing if I ever fancy taking a few pics.
Thank you to everyone entering the competition. Unfortunately there can be only one winner. As I suspected there weren't many entries in my first even
giveaway, just 26 entries across 3 platforms from around 10-15 people. To all of you who didn't win, make sure that you enter into my future giveaways. I will do the next one at the end of January 2012, so only a few weeks to go until the next one. I'm sure there won't be many more entries into the next one so make sure that you enter the next one too for a great chance one of my lenses.
To make sure that you don't miss the future competition SUBSCRIBE
and follow BF on Tweeter
200mm lens test
, you will know that I decided to giveaway the lens, that I think performed the best in that test and also is the best built. In my opinion it is the Chinon 200mm f/3.5. It’s a great little prime; very solid (no plastic parts here), quit heavy, with a very nice and smooth long through focusing ring. The lens is still in excellent condition cosmetically and optically. It comes with both lens caps and has a very easily adaptable M42 mount.
It’s is not an expensive lens and might not be a highly desirable prize, but it’s very simple to enter and it will only take a few minutes of your time.
There are 3 ways: YouTube, Facebook & Tweeter.
- You need to like the BudgetFilmmaker page: http://www.facebook.com/BudgetFilmmaker
- You also need to like the actual post about this competition. Again from that, I will be able to take your username and put it into the raffle.
- You must be following Budgetfilmmaker there: https://twitter.com/#!/BudgetFilmmaker
- You will also need to tweet this little message from your profile: Great Chance to Win a Lens, Chinon 200mm prime. Check out the details here: http://www.budgetfilmmaker.co.uk/1/post/2011/12/post-title-click-and-type-to-edit1.html #Chinon200giveaway
- I will be able to track you down by the hash-tag and add you to the raffle.
You don’t have to enter in all 3 platforms, you can use only 1, but if you enter in all 3 your chances will of course increase. It makes sense to do that anyway, because you most likely have different profile user names on each site anyway and you could cheat this way anyway and enter 3 times. Even if you have exactly the same names on all 3 sites, you name will still be counted 3 times.
Please no cheating though, just one entry from each platform. If I see that the profile was created just few days ago and it’s empty, I’ll have to ignore such entry, as such page would like the profile was just created to enter and might be one of a few my the same person.
I will be happy to send this lens anywhere in the world, so no restrictions in that sense.
You can enter until the midnight on Thursday, the 5th of January. It will then give me enough time to announce the winner on Friday, the 6th.
Good luck to everyone entering. If you don’t win this time there will be many more opportunities in future. I’m not rich, but I will try to do 1 giveaway each month, so stay tuned.
If you read my post on my
Well, I tested the first 4 and I’m not crazy about the results. I shot everything on a very dull, humid, hazy day, which didn’t help the contrast and colours. Everything was shot with a neutral profile and all footage is ungraded.
Let’s look at the results of each lens.:
Hanimar 200mm f/3.5
. This a well built lens, with a nice focusing ring, but optically it is very poor, not only the contrast and colours are not impressive, but the sharpens is also very poor with loads of CA. I bought it for only £10, so if you only have £10 to spend and you don’t have anything in this range, it might be better than nothing at all, but there are better lenses out there that can be bought for around £10, so for me this lens scores 2 out of 5. Chinon 200mm f/3.5
. Quite a decent lens, well build, has inbuilt adjustable hood. Nicest looking lens out of 4. Optically for me it is also the best. Best clarity, contrast and colours, sharpness is decent too. Still looks quite washed out, but I believe that is due to the weather conditions. This lens assembled in the same was as Nikon lenses. It focuses in the same direction and aperture is adjusted in opposite direction from another 3 lenses. This could be great if you are a Nikon lens user, but for me, this sort of construction doesn’t really work, especially when using follow focus. I paid less than £10 for my one, but average price on eBay is slightly higher, still well worth the money though. I would give this lens 4 out of 5 Optimax 200mm f/3.5
. Very similar to the Chinon above. Similar build quality, also with the lens hood, but it’s quite loose and the aperture blades are stuck and only close a little, which is a problem with my particular copy, should not apply to every Optimax 200mm out there. Optically it is also very similar to Chinon, just a touch darker. Overall good alternative to Chinon, but due to the problems with my particular copy I would only score it 3 out of 5. Prinzgalaxy 200mm f/4.5
. This lens is very deferent from the other 3. First of all it is much slower at f/4.5. The lens also looks deferent and has deferent construction. The good points of this lens are: the fluid aperture adjustment, great fox fine-tuning exposure during the recording (just like on Cine-lenses) and 16 blade aperture. Unfortunately all of that makes little sense with this lens, firstly because this is very, very stiff; both focusing and aperture adjustment requires a lot of effort, which means you can’t really easily fine-tune anything. The 16 blade aperture also makes little sense since this lens is so slow that you probably wouldn’t close the aperture too often to take advantage of all these blades. The problems don’t end the, optically it is also quite poor, very low contrast, in result washed out colours too. Sharpness is ok, but overall, this lens is not really worth looking at, considering that it costs about the same as the other 3. I give it 1 out 5. Unless you can pick one up for no more than £5, I wouldn’t recommend buying it.
My conclusion: The 2 lenses that stand out are Chinon
, but even they are not brilliant, at least no in this test. I used Chinon on one corporate shoot and it actually performed very well along side Helios 135mm, which in my previous test looked much punchier, so I think the colours and contrast would have been much better in better lighting conditions.
I think both Chinon
are worth the money you would pay for them. They are 10 times cheaper than any modern equivalent, but certainly not 10 times worse. I still have at least another 4-5 200mm lenses to test and review including a very exciting Pentax 200mm f/2.5
, which is one of the most expensive vintage lenses I bought, but still very cheap comparing to any modern equivalent, so expect another 2-3 videos on 200mm lenses. Next up though, I will do a quite test of Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and more group test of 28mm and 50mm lenses. If you guys want see any other specific tests, let me know. I don't need so many 200mm lenses, so I decided that I will give away one of these lenses. I don't want to give away some total rubbish, so
I'll give away the Chinon 200mm f/3.5
, probably the best lens out of 4. I will soon announce how to win this lens, it is going to be something very simple, so make sure that you follow me either on YouTube
to make sure you don't miss the announcement and rules.
It is time for my second test so far. This I quickly tested 4 very cheap 200mm primes, all 4 in very easily adaptable M42 mount. 200mm is a nice long focal length for video, anything longer and camera starts go become very shaky, so for the long shots 200mm is one of the best choices. Back in a day, 200mm along was found any every big camera manufacturer’s range. There are so many 200s out there. I have bought about 10 myself for my research. They are very easy to get hold of and most are very cheap. Like I mentioned in my previous post, old photo lenses have some great advantages over the modern EF lenses, but at the end of the day the optical quality matters the most.
It has been a long time since my last post on the website. In the background though I’ve been doing a lot of research and buying quite a lot of vintage lenses for my own use and for my vintage lens guide. So I finally got around to doing the first quick test of the few lenses I recently acquired. This is a test of 4 135mm lenses, all in m42 mount, very easily adaptable to any modern DSLR. 135mm lenses are virtually non existent in modern lens world, but back in a day, they used to be popular, so there are many of them out there, over 30 that I know of. I now have around 10 myself, so this is something that I would like to call part 1 as there will be at least one more or quite possibly a few more 135mm lens orientated tests. I really like 135mm. The first I bought was Helios 135mm f/2.8, which I really like (more about it below). 135mm f/2.8 makes a nice, quite fast 200mm on a 1.5x crop camera like the lovely Sony Nex 5N and on 4/3 camera this becomes a 270mm 2.8, pretty incredible for the price you will pay for such lens. I’m more than happy using such lens as a 135mm on my 5D too, still pulls in the subject quite a lot. All 4 of the lenses in this test can be picked up on eBay for around £5-£30 depending on your luck, sellers description, type of listing and condition. Some are sold in larger quantities than others, not to say that the rarer ones are the better ones. I’ll go through every lens separately and talk about pros, cons and my opinion on each of them. I’ve made the video above to go with the write-up, so you guys can take a look at the images these lenses produce and make up your own mind them. The closest lens that I could compare these to is my Canon 100mm f/2.8 Micro, which is a very nice, very sharp lens, but not great for video for one reason, the focusing ring has such a short through it’s virtually impossible to keep the moving subject constantly in focus. Every little adjustment on the lens shifts the focus significantly. The other problem that Canon EF lenses have, or something that they don’t have, are the hard stops, The lenses spin past the end focusing range and this can mess up the focus marks on a follow focus, if you use one. So lets start: HELIOS 135mm f/2.8. Like as said above, this was one of the first vintage lenses I bought and actually the one that I ended up using the most along side my Canon EF. Unlike the 100mm, this old Russian lens has very nice, long through focusing ring that really allows me to fine-tune the focusing very precisely. As I said in one of my previous posts these lenses remind me of Cine lenses. Well build, long through focus, aperture adjustment on the lens, on some lenses it is even fluid like on Cine lenses, so to me these are little budget cine-lenses, so much more suitable for video work and manual focusing than modern EF lenses. This applies to most vintage photo lenses, not just this Helios. These were made for manual focusing, so that is what they do best.
The build quality of Helios 135mm is lovely, but what about the optical quality. Well, for the amount of money I’ve paid for it ( about £15), the image quality is pretty amassing. I felt confident enough to use this lens on a few corporate jobs and even on a greens screen music video. Let me tell you, the images it produced were very crisp, with lovely colours and contrast. You can see in the video, how it performs comparing to the others. One of the best out of 4 for sure. One of the downside I’ve noticed in these vintage lenses, including this Helios, is a visible amount of CA (chromatic aberration), which is especially evident on silver wind chimes on the left of the frame. CA is not evident in every situation, but should be noted as a downside, although it is not uncommon in modern day lenses and can also be found in cheaper modern lenses too, so don’t let this put you of and look at more expensive, low-end modern alternatives in hope of better image quality; it is not always the case and paying more doesn't always mean better quality, which is what these test the my lens guide will be all about. Another little downside of Helios 135mm for some might be a 6 blade aperture which produces polygonal bokeh when the lens is stepped down, the bokeh is also much fussier than on some other lenses, which is not necessary a bad thing. Smooth like butter Bokeh might not always be the best thing, depending on what you are trying to capture and the feel you are going for. I personally didn’t have any problems with the lens. The overall look of the images matches the my other, modern lenses really well. Will definitely be taking a closer look at this lens and will do more test videos with it.At the moment I would give this lens overall score of 4 out of 5. PROMURA 135mm f/2.8. Not so impressed with this lens. While colours and contras are similar to Helios, the sharpness is nowhere as soon. Another downside is that the lens only focuses to 2.5m, which in not really acceptable considering that 3 others focused to my foreground object without any problems. Promura has a 6 blade aperture same as Helios and CA is similar to Helios too. The lens is made in Japan, but you wouldn’t say that by it’s optical quality. It is nicely build, no plastic parts that are usually found in modern lenses, but the focus ring is little stiff and the focusing through is very short comparing to the other 3. I’ve paid £10 for mine and even at this price I would only give this lens 2 out 5, there are just to many other 135s that are much better. Time to stick it back on eBay. :) The only weird thing, all the other
Promura 135s I found on eBay at the time of writing a completely different, so please note, that my conclusion only applies to this particular design. CHINON 135mm f/2.8. This lens has very obvious low contrast and washed out colours. Sharpness is quite good, but CA is really evident even though the lens is Multi Coated which is suppose to cut down the CA. The images captured through this lens looked like something shot on flat picture profile. Contrast can obliviously be added in post production (I tried and it looks fine), but I think it should really look as good as possible straight out of the camera. Since the lens is not really cheaper than the others (I paid £10 for mine), I see no excuse for such low contrast. The build quality is good. The focus ring is actually the nicest one of 4, very smooth and focuses easily. There is also an inbuilt, adjustable lens hood. The lens is made in Japan. This is not the only Chinon 135mm available. Most of Chinon 135s I found on eBay at the time of writing are actually different from this one. I’ll try to buy one of them cheap and see what the image quality is like. I suspect it might be different, so I wouldn’t judge of all Chinon 135s by this copy, but this particular copy only scores 3 out of 5 in this test. Dollonds 135mm f/3.5. At f/3.5 this is the slowest lens out of the lot, but in some ways the nicest. It is the smallest, lightest lens, which straight away makes it very suitable for smaller cameras like Mirrorless 4/3 cameras and Sony’s NEX range. I recently bought the NEX 5N and this lens will probably look the most organic out of 4 on such camera.
There are a few more advantages this lens over other 3 lenses, which are: The fluid aperture adjustment (no clicks), which is great for fine-tuning the exposure just like on Cine lenses. A lot of people de-click they photo lenses to archive such adjustment ability . There is a second ring, that lets you adjust the aperture in stops/clicks. The other nice advantage over the 3 other lenses is the 15 blade aperture. That is really nice and creates round, soft bokeh. There is some CA in this lens, but actually much more pleasant and unnotisable reddish colour rather than slightly annoying blue ghosting found on other 3. So while the lens is slowest, in some ways it is the best.
The lens is made in Japan, nicely build like the other 3. I paid £14 for mine which is still very cheap, the lens is well worth the money I paid. I give it a strong 4 out of 5. If it was f/2.8 it would be 5/5. The only bad thing, this lens is quite rare and at the time of writing there are none found on eBay. My Conclusion: The 2 that stood out to me are Helios and Dollonds, very different but both nice in their own way. The Helios is always available is a good investment, no matter what camera you have. If you can find Dollonds and you are using something like 5N which has excellent low light performance, then this a great choice, even though it is f/3.5. This is just the first test video. There will be more 135mm test and possibly dedicated longer test videos of Helios and Dollonds. Other than that I will be doing many more tests and my aim is to test around 100 manual lenses, so check back soon for more test. Next one will be: 4x cheap 200mm going head to head, so see you in the next post.