Wide Angle Lenses Compared on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera
After image quality and design quirks, the most discussed topic regarding the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera is lenses. Specifically, the issue regarding wide lenses. Since the BMCC's sensor is slightly smaller than Micro Four-Thirds, but uses a Canon mount, one of the complaints has been that it won't be possible to get a sufficiently wide image with the available lenses in that mount. The team over at OneRiver Media set out to prove exactly what was possible with current wide lenses, and they've also created one of the first short projects shot completely on the Cinema Camera (besides everything that John Brawley has done so far, of course).
Here is the short PSA, called Texting is Dangerous:
...we opted to perform a fairly straight and neutral grade with high contrast, something close to what the camera produced, post debayer and de-log profile. We used the following lenses on this production: Canon 24mm f/1.4L, Canon 50mm f/1.2L, Canon 135mm f/2, Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom...Mounting the camera on the Porsche with its stiff suspension proved well, and obviously not a typical solution. I almost didn’t want to include that footage, but felt that the audience would want to see ALL shots in their extreme variants.
The widest footage in the video above was shot somewhere between f/4.5 and f/5.6 at the least because that's the minimum aperture for the Sigma lens. The one lens that has been talked about the most as a possible fast wide for the Cinema Camera is the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, which is almost two stops faster at its minimum. For those worried about shooting in lower light, RAW is going to give you a lot of range to work with, and a lens like the Tokina is going to be plenty fast enough for a lot of situations.
OneRiver Media has also done a comparison with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 7D, and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. You can click on the image on the right to see the full-size comparison. There's no question you can get the widest with the Canon 5D Mark II, but the BMCC can get plenty wide with the Sigma lens, and for the work many people are doing, it's going to be more than enough. Of course, you're not really going to be able to get a fish-eye effect with this camera, and a fast wide lens -- like a 24mm f/1.4 mounted on the BMCC -- takes on an equivalent field of view of a 55mm lens on a 5D.
Here is what Marco Solorio said about the lenses tested:
Personally, I really like the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM lens so far. It doesn’t have any barrel distortion at all and the edges stay straight throughout. Sharpness isn’t bad either, even wide open. The Canon 8-15mm f/4L is clearly the widest, but has obvious barrel distortion. Zoom in to 15mm and the distortion goes away for the most part. It’s a sharp lens throughout. And the solid build-quality is typical of all Canon L lenses; very nice. The Rokinon 8mm T3.8 cinema prime lens is just a shy less wide than the Canon 8-15mm lens, and has its own share of barrel distortion, albeit less than the Canon. Fully wide open, this lens is soft. To get decent sharpness, you need to stop down to about T5.6.
If you want very wide lenses it does mean you'll probably have to make an investment in some new ones (assuming you don't own any of the lenses mentioned). This is a valid complaint, but let's also keep in mind that this is a first generation product and it's very possible Blackmagic will address the mount issue with a future camera model. Either way, at the moment, getting this kind of image quality out of a camera costing $3,000 is just astounding, and there's no question people will find workarounds for whatever problems this camera might have (even if it means modifying the camera).
Be sure to head on over to the OneRiver Media blog for the full analysis of these lenses.