Rokinon posted a not-so-subtle hint at their upcoming Xeen product line to their Facebook page earlier today. The photo shows a Xeen branded pirate ship blasting a Zeiss CP.2 and Canon CN-E out of the water. Not much mincing of words there.
I’ve had some hands on time with this new product and I have to say, I’m impressed. Let’s discuss a few minor details first. I’m not a huge fan of the name. “Xeen” sounds way too similar to another target competitor, the Xenon FF primes from Schneider. I’m not really sure what the story is behind this name and where it came from but I’m told by inside sources that it’s still better than other proposed names. Maybe it will grow on me. Maybe… The next order of business: let’s get this out of the way right now. Yes – these are the same optical design as the Rokinon Cine DS lenses. Yes, the Rokinon Cine DS lenses share their optical design with the older “non-DS”. Yes, Samyang is the OEM for Rokinon. Yes, Samyang used to offer the same still photo lenses under a variety of brands. Satisfied?! There are a lot more details that we’ll be going into in the coming weeks with a deep look into the Rokinon brand and the products they offer. Check back soon for that. Until then: Onward with Xeen.
The new Xeen primes will begin shipping in August with a 24mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5, and 85mm T1.5. The lenses have an all aluminum alloy body with your pick of Arri PL, Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, or Micro 4/3. All the lenses will have a common 114mm front diameter and identical focus and iris gear positions for speedy lens swaps. The aperture will be a nice 11-bladed iris. The focus barrell is laid out with plenty of nicely spaced, clearly readable distance marks and about 200 degrees of rotation. Each lens weight will vary a bit based on the design but will all be around 2.5 lbs. Coverage on these first three primes will be an impressive 35mm full frame (that’s Vista Vision 8K for those of you who only speak Red). I haven’t tested these on a Red Weapon just yet – the wides may not cover entirely, but I’ve been pleased with the results on similar sized sensors already.
When Canon released their CN-E primes they began by shipping just the 24mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Schneider began their Xenon FF line with a 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm. I’ve said it before and unfortunately I have to say it again… Three lenses does not constitute a cinema lens “set”. I was disappointed when Rokinon informed me that the Xeen lenses would initially only be three lenses. That said – I’ve been promised a complete line of Xeen cinema primes in the very near future. I don’t know exactly which focal lengths they plan to port over from the Cine DS line, but with any luck, we could potentially be looking at a set consisting of a 12mm T3.1 Fisheye, 14mm T3.1, 24mm T1.5, 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5, 85mm T1.5, 100mm T3.1 Macro, and a 135mm T2.2. There are even a few other focal lengths that could be utilized from the Cine DS line such as the 16mm T2.2 or the 10mm T3.1 Fisheye. However, these aren’t designed for 35mm Full Frame, but rather Super 35 (APS-C). Not a deal breaker but it would mess with the flow of this otherwise 35mm Full Frame set.
I had a good amount of time to play with the new Xeen primes over the past few weeks and I do have to say I’m quite impressed. I’ve known for years that the quality of lenses coming out of South Korea was padded, maybe even sandbagged, intentionally or otherwise, and that the potential for a properly designed and manufactured product was well within reach. The Xeen lenses are just that – a well made lens. The barrels are all very well machined and finished. The PL mount is a proper stainless steel. Even the shims are laser etched brass and/or steel. The hardware is all very nice. The focus and iris movement are butter smooth with just the right amount of resistance. The optics are just what most would expect. It’s identical to all the other Rokinon Cine Primes with the exception of the coatings. Rokinon does boast a newer, better advanced 14 layer anti-reflective multi-coating to suppress flares and control aberrations. If you’ve tried the other Rokinon lenses in the past and you were happy with the performance, then you’ll definitely be happy with these. If you tried the Rokinon primes before and weren’t impressed with the image quality, give these a try and you may find that their new coatings take them up a notch. All this to say, yes… The Xeen lenses are an absolute bargain at $2,500 each. You simply can’t argue with that price tag. Or maybe you can but that’s your fault for expecting Master Prime quality out of a lens with a $2.5k price tag. Don’t get greedy.
To me, this isn’t about how low the price bar can go or how debated the image quality of these lenses will be. To me it’s about innovation. Rokinon really isn’t doing anything new here. They deserve no credit beyond meeting the basic demands that the motion picture industry put in place decades ago: consistent, fast, reliable prime lenses… It’s not difficult. And yet, the cinema lens market has been flooded with mediocre products that cater to the YouTube review generation. The Xeen lenses are a shot over the bow of all the other lens manufacturers. It’s time to stop the price war and focus on true innovation. It’s time to put the cinematographer ahead of the profit margin. There’s a place in this ever-evolving industry for an entry level prime lens like the Xeen and there’s a summer blockbuster feature film set where a top of the line precision optic belongs. So go ahead, put a $20,000 price tag on your flagship prime lens, but you’d better make it damn good. I’m a regular preacher of my “Cine Lens Compromise” theory in which the balance between optical performance, mechanical performance, and price is easily determined. Some of which is simply the laws of physics. To raise the level of optical and mechanical performance to the max, the price must lawfully follow. Simple as that. The Xeen lenses just set that bar for the rest of the industry. So now the question on everyone’s mind – how do these compare to the Zeiss CP.2, the Canon CN-E and the Xenon FF? I’ll have an extensive comparison coming very soon. Subscribe!Until then, if you’re convinced, you can Duclos Lenses – Rokinon Xeen Cinema Primes. Oh, and no, there’s not a six month wait. They’ll be shipping immediately. However, quantities are limited – so I wouldn’t take too long to decide.