SALT III: a Comprehensive and Thorough High-Speed Professional Lens Shootout

There are now more options than ever for good professionally built lenses, and many of them are exceptionally fast. None of them are perfect at their widest aperture (well, a few come as close as possible), but there are times when you just need that extra stop or two of light, even if you might normally be shooting more closed down. SALT, the Southland Alternative Lens Test, is conducted by a group of professionals who test a wide range of lenses against each other in difficult situations, trying to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each set of lenses. The most recent test, WFO, is specifically designed to push lenses like Master Primes, Zeiss Super Speeds, and Canon Cine lenses at their widest aperture to see how well they perform. Check out the test below.

Here is the list of testers and the list of lenses, and thanks goes to Matt Hayslett and Matthew Duclos for posting the results:

A little bit more about the test, from Matt Hayslett's blog:

The purpose of this shootout was to directly compare lens sets on an identical setup. Our goal was not to “test” the lenses, rather provide you with all the info necessary to evaluate the lenses and decide what works for you. These lenses cover a wide range in affordability and availability. This shootout was never meant to prove which set is better than the other. We hope you will see that any of these lenses could be used to shoot quality material and have been for years. We attempted to get Cooke 5i’s for the test but unfortunately none were available at the time. Some of the lenses have slightly varying focal lengths so understand field of view may appear slightly different (i.e. 24mm vs 25mm, 75mm vs. 85mm). Please also keep in mind the slight differences in exposure since we were working with lenses rated between T 1.3 and T 1.5. No matte box was used to ensure there was no vignetting or concealing of flares.

We all know these lenses perform well closed down to a T 2.8, so this shootout was designed to push the lenses to their limits wide open. Most of the flaws visible wide open disappear once stopped down (examples will be available for download).

Watch the entire test below. It runs around 45 minutes, but there are actually more lenses thrown in than just the ones listed above, so it's interesting to see the others compared as well. If you'd like to download a 2K or 4K file of the video, you can find them here:

These are the results from the lens projector, which show the resolution and characteristics of the lenses:

Check out a 100% crop of the 50/55mm test, which is actually a bit more telephoto on a Super 35mm image area (click for larger):

The great thing about these options is that all of them have their own specific looks. Knowing the limits of a lens will allow you to utilize it to the best of its abilities. While all of these lenses were tested on the EPIC, I actually think I've seen some of the best looking projects shot on lenses that weren't as sharp and actually experienced a bit of chromatic aberration. Just because a lens is technically perfect doesn't mean you will necessarily like the look, which is one of the reasons that lens performance is about more than just specifications.

It's pretty obvious why the Master Primes get so much usage on higher-end shoots, especially since they are about as perfect as a lens can be wide open. Be sure to head on over to Duclos' and Hayslett's respective sites for more in-depth information about the test, and for the full R3D, JPEGs, and lens projector results.

What do you guys think? Which was your favorite? Did any of them surprise you?


Your Comment


Nice, but no Samyang?

March 2, 2013 at 1:18PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Chris Lambert

Yes, it's in the test, but not officially one of the lenses put on the projector. You'll have to watch to see the results.

They tested more still lenses in this previous test:

March 2, 2013 at 1:28PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

This is super cool, and really useful as well.

March 2, 2013 at 1:49PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom

Awesome. Thinking about asking for a summilux set for my next birthday. Was going to go for a private jet, but trying to go cheaper this year.

:D Great article, fun read.

March 2, 2013 at 5:12PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Did I miss the Schneider Xenar III's? I rented those and was ASTOUNDED with the bokeh and color but was wondering if it was just me.

March 3, 2013 at 1:24AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Flash Gordan

We love the Xenar's. We used them with our F3 and had fantastic results.

March 3, 2013 at 4:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Mike Edwards

I will also chime in that the new xenars are amazing. Tons of blades hence the bokeh you loved. Neutral color and overly little distortion. IMO at the mid range xenars and Cooke role the roost ...leica at the high end.

March 3, 2013 at 10:53PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

jordan carr

those leicas have a sweet flare!

March 4, 2013 at 7:00PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


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