Monday, March 12, 2012

Unique or Eerily Familiar?

So I found myself with an extra hour to burn at a camera prep last week. What to do? How about check out a set of new PL-Mount prime lenses! Yeah, super excitement.

35mm PL lenses don't come cheap. The best of the best (Master Primes, Leica Summilux-C, or Cooke 5i) can easily run $20,000 to $30,000 each per lens. Putting together a decent set of 8 - 14 primes can set you back in excess of 200K. Luckily there are a number of lower-cost options that have come to the market over the past few years. Some recent examples include the Schneider Cine-Xenar II set at about 30K total (25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 95mm, T2), the Optica Elite S35 Digital set coming in a bit under 35K (18mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 100mm, T1.3), and the Luma Tech S35 Illumina set at around 35K (18mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, T1.3).

I had the chance to play around with another set: the Kenji Suematsu Signature Series from Unique Optics. The set includes an 18mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 100mm all at T2. Total price: around $35,000. These lenses look very similar to Cooke S4's but are noticeably heavier and feel more robust. Iris and focus mechanisms are smooth with some nice tension. I didn't have that much time to actually shoot much with the lenses but I did try out all of the primes and put them through their paces. Overall they felt very much like the Cooke S4's and 5i's. I found the Unique Optics to be a bit sharper than the S4's but still had that nice "roundness" to their look. The flares were striking and reminded me very much of the Cooke 5i's. They may not have the same name recognition but these lenses perform on par with the Cooke S4's at a fraction of the cost. I was pleasantly surprised.

Here's a quick flare test I shot (the living furniture is indeed me) and you can check it out via Vimeo right here: Unique Optics Lens Flare Test.

A big "Thank You" to the boys at West Coast Camera Rentals for the demo.