Following the release of several anamorphic prime lenses for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) – 28mm, 40mm and 65mm – Vazen has now released this 85mm lens for full frame. Curious to see how it performs? Read on…
A lot of chinese companies have recently started to provide more or less affordable anamorphic lenses to the market, like SLR Magic, SIRUI, Vazen, or more recently Venus Optics (LAOWA) who teased an anamorphic rear 1.33x adapter for their OOOM cinema zoom lens.
However, what sets Vazen apart is the fact that they design their primes with an 1.8x horizontal stretch factor, rather than the typical 1.33x factor most of the other companies offer.
While I do understand that 1.33x stretch is ideal to convert your typical 16:9 video image to a 1:2.4 ‘ish widescreen image, for me personally the “anamorphic look” is all about having a certain aestethics and character – namely the out of focus vertical stretch of objects or elliptical rendering of light sources – happening really at 1.8x or 2x horizontal stretch only.
Please have a look at our article here where sensor sizes and aspects of anamorphic shooting are explained, if you are not familiar with it. Also, see our article here for the full specification of the Vazen 85mm f/2.8 1.8x anamorphic prime.
Optical performance of the Vazen 85mm f/2.8 1.8x lens
Disclaimer – I haven’t shot a resolution chart, so statements made below are my personal observations from shooting various scenarios over the course of a week with this lens.
General – 85mm on a full frame sensor with a 1.8x horizontal stretch translates to 47mm equivalent effective field of view – a very useful focal length.
For the sample footage in the video above I used the Panasonic LUMIX S1H in full frame 3:2 sensor mode (V-Log), and the 1.8x desqueeze option for the sensor based image stabilization and monitor. The full frame 3:2 sensor capture translates to an aspect ratio of 1:2.7, which has a bit less image height than the standard 1:2.4 widescreen ratio. In the sample image above I indicated this difference by the small black bars on the top and bottom.
Quick note on working with the footage in DaVinci Resolve – the 3:2 sensor capture of the LUMIX S1H is encoded in 10bit H265, with a resolution of 5952×3968 – thats a whopping 23.6 Megapixel per frame – almost 3 times UHD resolution! That would normally be a nightmare to edit.
However, I have recently built a new PC (AMD Ryzen 3900x, 32GB RAM) with a loaner RTX3090 graphics card from NVIDIA (thank you!). Unbelievable but true, but working with those monster resolution H265 files in a 3840×2160 timeline in DaVinci Resolve (17 public beta 6) and a few nodes for color grading including a LUT results in buttery smooth playback with 28% GPU load (7.6 GM memory usage).
Sharpness – at f/2.8, the lens is a bit soft and shows a field curvature (i.e. when shooting a landscape and you focus in the center, the corners are soft and if you focus in the corners, the center is quite soft). I personally like this softness, as it feels very natural and not so clinically sharp like some modern lenses.
At f/4, the lens sharpens up across the image including corners. At higher aperture numers (e.g. f/8), bright light sources turn into nice star shapes.
Flares – please have a look at the sequence of images below. At f/2.8, the lens flares quite heavily overall, and pointing it into the sun creates the signature blue horizontal streaks.
Closing down the aperture to f/4, f/5.6 and f/8 the flaring is reduced, while the blue horizontal streaks are getting harsher and actually more pronounced.
Out of focus areas – objects before and behind the focus plane are beautifully rendered, and the 1.8x horizontal stretch leads to nice, clean elliptically shaped rendering of light sources. Also, the transition from in focus to out of focus areas is smooth.
Minimum focus distance – a bit on the long side with 1.15 meters, limiting your ability to get close up shots. The previously tested Vazen 40mm T2 lens for MFT had 0.85m for example which is much more usable.
Build quality of the Vazen 85mm
Overall, build quality is quite good, the focus and aperture rings move with the right mechanical “feel”. The weight is 1.5kg and length is 17.5cm – so not that heavy and quite manageable for handheld shooting.
As can be seen in the image above, there are no precise markings for the aperture and focus distance.
What feels a bit odd, the grease which is used to lubricate the moving elements in the lens is visible – looks like too much was used here … (indicated by the red arrow below).
Also, the carbon fibre inserts have a cheap appearance – designwise they don’t merge well with the rest of the lens in my opinion.
Hence, not quite up to my expectation of an $8.000 US lens which is not exactly cheap.
Lens mount – the lens comes with a PL mount and an EF conversion kit. The PL mount is a big plus in comparison to other mounts like the MFT, as it does not flex and feels super solid. I used a PL – L mount adapter from Novoflex supplied by AV Professional in Vienna (Thanks for the loan!) on the LUMIX S1H along with it.
I really like the resurgence of the anamorphic look in recent years, propelled by companies like Vazen or SIRUI which offer relatively cheap anamorphic primes.
Well, with the recent addition to their lens lineup, the 85mm f/2.8 1.8x Vazen lens is not exactly “cheap” anymore at $8.000 US but still reasonably priced compared to traditional lenses like e.g. Kowa anamorphics. And after all, this lens covers a full frame sensor – the Red Monstro and Alexa LF for example.
The overall image characteristics are really lovely, and I hugely enjoyed working with this lens – it just offers this different look when compared to your standard spherical lens set, which can really make your production stand out.
I am really eager to get my hands on the other two full frame anamorphic primes that Vazen has announced, namely the 55mm and the 105mm focal lengths which are to be released early 2021.
Have you worked with Vazen anamorphic primes recently? What are your impressions? Let us know in the comments below.