Beyond all the technical factors in lens design, the most important thing we want to know is, what do the images it creates look like?
DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored content brought to by XEEN.
There are so many factors that affect why we might choose a given lens for a project. Price; are we renting or buying? Weight; are we doing a handheld or Steadicam or gimbal job? Physical dimensions; do we need to work in a small space? How fast it is; can it work in low light? Ease of use; do we want the barrel of the body to move smoothly with whatever motors we're rigging up? Durability; can it withstand heavy use?
But the main thing every cinematographer is looking for in a lens is how it affects the look of an image, because every lens, even the most "neutral," affect your image in one way.
When we got our hands on an early set of the brand new XEEN CF Primes for testing, the first thing we wanted to do was test the quality of the images we were going to see if we choose to shoot with them.
There are a lot of compelling technical reasons to choose them (affordable, lightweight, compact, fast aperture), but all of that wouldn't matter if we didn't like the images the lenses gave us.
So, we set about testing for how these lenses reproduced skintones, how the bokeh and chromatic aberration appeared, and how the lenses flared.
Bokeh & Aberration
The first test we wanted to do was on bokeh and aberration. As you've probably seen in a thousand lens tests, one of the easiest ways to really see this is by placing a set of out of focus Christmas lights in the background of your shot.
As you ramp to out of focus, the small point sources give you a good indication of what the bokeh is going to look like—does it blow up into an undefined blob? Is the blob smooth or does it get darker at the edges? This can also give you a good sense of chromatic aberration.
Chromatic aberration, if you haven't run across it, is when you get color fringing, often purple or green, at the edges of big highlights. Because of the nature of sensors, aberration changes from sensor to sensor, so we put the CF lenses up on an Alexa, a Fuji, and a Blackmagic to see how they compared.
Overall, we were very impressed with both the smooth bokeh and the incredibly minimal aberration.
With some lenses, you get a visible and distracting "pop" of aberration that is quite distracting as you focus rack through a light source. But across all 3 cameras, we didn't have that at all with the CF glass.
There is some aberration, but it's very minimal and not something most would find distracting.
Lens flare is one of those things that goes in and out of fashion. At one point in history, it could get you fired. Then it was a trend, then it was dated, then it was a trend again, then it was dated again.
The key for a cinematographer is having some understanding of how a lens will flare. With the XEEN CF, we found the flares go be well controlled. Shooting straight into the sun created a flare, but it didn't create a veiling flare that washed out the whole image. We were also able to work around it and see through to the image.
Flare is one of the aspects of "personality" in a lens and, with the CF, it felt "friendly."
Last, but certainly not least, is skintone reproduction. Every single lens has some color tint to it even if it's just "slightly warm" or "slightly cool," it's still something.
We found the XEEN CF primes to be a touch warm, especially in skintones in a way we found flattering. This is combined with the CF primes being just a hair "soft," not in a "looks out of focus" way, but in a "smooth" way.
If you look at the skintone shots in the video, the model's eyes have a pleasant sharpness and crispness that feel "clear", combined with flattering, slightly warm and slightly smooth reproduction in the skintones. That makes a dynamite combination.
- 8K coverage
- Carbon Fiber design
- Luminous focus markings
- 11-blade aperture
- XEEN CF 16mm T2.6 (available 2020)
- XEEN CF 24mm T1.5 (available Nov 2019)
- XEEN CF 35mm T1.5 (available 2020)
- XEEN CF 50mm T1.5 (available Nov 2019)
- XEEN CF 85mm T1.5 (available Nov 2019)
- PL, Canon EF, Sony E mount
- ~2.1lb/.93kg in PL
The XEEN CF lenses are available now.