Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 Practical Lens Review and Video Test

The convergence of still photo DSLR's and video camcorders brought a game changing dynamic to the world of image making. The introduction of the Nikon D90 and the revolutionary Canon 5D Mark II in 2008 made affordable HD video capture with that "bokeh" film style. With any emerging technology there are drawbacks, especially with using still photography lenses for video. The Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 Aspherical Wide Angle Lens solves many of those problems at a great price.

At a street price of $500, the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 Aspherical Wide Angle Lens is a filmmaker's dream. A fast lens with an aperture of f/1.4, a focal length equivalent of a standard 50mm lens on a crop sensor and a price that will not break the bank makes this fast prime lens great for HD video capture. The magic is in the design of the lens with controls for easy focus and aperture. The focus barrel is nice and wide with a long throw to slowly manipulate critical focus. This is a must when shooting at a fast f/1.4 aperture.

The optics give great color especially when compared to the "L" equivalent of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L lens. Superb color, contrast and sharpness describe this Korean made Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 lens under many brand names such as Samyang and Bower. I picked up my Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 Wide Angle Lens from my friends at North Tampa Photography. As a Rokinon lens dealer, they now carry the full line of Rokinon prime lenses.

Now for the drawbacks. Still photographers will be disappointed because of the lack of automatic focus. This above average in size prime lens comes fully manual out of the box. No focus confirmation light or chirp on this prime lens, you just have a sharp, fast and manual piece of glass catered to DSLR cinematography. I suggest the Canon EF 35mm f/2 for a street price of $330 for a fully automatic still photography lens.

The next drawback is the ratcheted aperture ring. It is not smooth like the focus control because it has clicks for every f-stop. Not ideal for a smooth change of exposure. I suggest using a variable neutral density filter such as the Fader ND Mark II Filter on the Rokinon 77mm sized filter thread to reduce the incoming light.

Strawberry fields forever as far as my Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 wide angle lens can see. The annual Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida is the perfect backdrop for a video test of this fast prime lens. A 1080p video shot with the Canon Rebel T3i/600D paired with the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 lens at 29.97fps. Edited with Apple Final Cut Pro 6.0.6 and transcoded to AppleProRes422 using the Canon E-1 Movie Plugin.

Strawberry season in Plant City, Florida was captured with the help of my affordable HD DSLR rig. For stability, I used the Manfrotto 701 HDV head paired with Benro 3580 tripod legs. For audio capture, I used the AZDEN ECZ-990 shotgun microphone. For critical focus, I used the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x magnification with a Blue Star large chamois eyecup protector. For a reduction of incoming light, I also used a FADER ND Mark II filter.

The Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 wide angle lens review verdict? This fast affordable prime lens catered to HD DSLR cinematography has the color,contrast and sharpness comparable to Canon "L" glass. The lens ergonomics are worthy of Broadcast Television ENG cameras with a long focus throw for precise control. The Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 wide angle lens compatible with Canon full frame EF and crop EF-S mounts makes this prime lens an excellent value for any DSLR filmmaker. As sweet as Plant City, Florida strawberries, your cinematic heart will not be disappointed.

You can view more pictures and videos in my Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 Lens Review and Plant City, Florida Strawberry Festival Gallery shot with the Canon Rebel T3i/600D and the Canon 1D Mark IV.

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  1. Hi Chad, thanks for the review. I was wondering which you would recommend - the Rokinon 35mm 1.4 or the Sigma 30mm 1.4? If I am shooting indoors on a Canon 600d, would the 5mm make much of a difference?

  2. Hi Megan,
    It all depends if you primarily shoot video only, stills only or a little of both. If you plan to shoot video most of the time, I suggest the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4. It is very difficult to get sharp still pictures at f/1.4 with manual focus. If you only shoot still photographs at the 35mm focal length, I suggest the Canon EF 35mm f/2 prime lens. At a street price of $330, it is a great bargain. If you plan to do both still and video, I suggest the SIGMA 30mm f/1.4 lens. The SIGMA retains the Canon AF and the manual focus ring has enough resistance to focus smoothly. The Rokinon is catered to video capture only plus the added benefit of being $100 less expensive. Check out my review of the SIGMA 30mm f/1.4 lens here...


    Good luck with your choice...

  3. Megan,

    I almost forgot to tell you. The 5mm difference is not that noticeable on crop cameras in my opinion.
    The other tidbit is that the SIGMA does not work on full frame sensors and only crop sensors. The Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 works well on both types of sensors as well as the Canon EF 35mm f/2.

  4. What's your thoughts on the tripod setup you use?
    If you had to move around a lot and have a good tripod that wasn't too hard to get set up and ready, would you recommend the above?
    How smooth is the movement?
    Many thanks, Elahn

    1. Hi Elhan Z,

      I am a big GITZO tripod leg fan because of its sturdy telescoping pole design but I do not like the excessive price. Fortunately, BENRO makes great chinese knockoffs of this design at an affordable price. My leg of choice is the BENRO 3580 aluminum legs. More durable and stable than all those spreader legs that come bundled with many video heads today. The telescoping legs are not quick to setup when compared to the spreader legs ultimately. The Manfrotto 701 hdv fluid video head is the smallest video head that works perfectly with my DSLR setup. Very small for travel and smooth enough for my rigs. Of course, there are more expensive and faster setups but those heads and legs cost more than the camera. My legs and head cost me under $300 btw...I hope this helps...Good Luck!

  5. What picture profile setting were you using for the video? Do you usually stick with one profile setting and color correct in post?

    1. Gerald, I just used standard picture profile and set my custom white balance with a grey card until I got my desired temperature. "Golden Hour" is sometimes too golden and you can "cool" down temperature by playing with the WB. I try to mix different amounts of shade and sunlight in my custom white balance to get my desired color.

  6. Thanks for the great review! what is the banjo piece that played with the video?