Fujifilm has been busy… If you’re a Fuji fan like I am, you’ve been completely obsessed with the new GFX mirrorless medium format camera and haven’t been paying attention to the other projects they’ve been working on. Which, when you think about it – is mind boggling, that Fujifilm is doing so much at once. This particular move is a bit different for Fujifilm. Instead of making something that fits tightly into their own ecosystem, Fujinon Optical Systems has designed and manufactured a purpose built cinema lens, exclusively for E-mount cinema cameras. A whole new line they’re calling the MK series. The first lens in the line will be the brand new MK18-55mm T2.9. Let’s explore!
Let’s get the most obvious features out of the way right off the bat. The MK line is designed strictly for Sony E mount cameras such as the FS-700, FS7, FS5, etc. The first lens to be released will be a focal length most of us are familiar with – an 18-55mm with a constant T2.9 aperture throughout the range, although we did measure a minor degree of ramping (as we do with every zoom lens). It will feature an adjustable back focus, 200 degree focus rotation, 32-pitch zoom, focus, and iris gears, minimal focus breathing, accurate zoom tracking, and the ability to maintain focus throgh zooms. Basically, think of the MK line as Cabrio Lights.
In terms of performance, the MK line will match beautifully, right along side the current Cabrio line which consists of a 14-35mm T2.9, 19-90mm T2.9, 20-120mm T3.5, 85-300mm T2.9 and 25-300mm T3.5. The resolution, color, contrast, and overall characteristic of the MK line is going to play very nicely with the Cabrios.
We measured an easy 200 lp/mm in the center of the image at both the wide end of the zoom and the telephoto end with a taper down to about 120/140 lp/mm in the corners of the Super 35 field. The distortion is minimal but worth noting at 2.5% barrel at the wide end and 4.2% pincushion at the telephoto end. With the adjustable back focus, you shouldn’t ever have to worry about holding focus through the zoom since you can adjust to correct any error. However, keep in mind that adjusting back focus should be done properly in order to achieve the best results. As with most ENG-style zooms, you’ll find the Macro adjustment right behind the iris ring which will bring your minimum focus down to an impressive 1.2 feet from the film plane or a mere 5″ from the front element.
As for the mechanics of the lens – everything is well lubricated with nice firm stops and confidently repeatable movements. My biggest complaint, and possibly the first thing that most users will notice, is that the lens body (with the exception of the stainless steel mount) is made entirely of composite poly-carbonate. While it’s certainly not my first choice in a lens body, it definitely keeps the weight and the price down. The internals are still a nice blend of aluminum alloy cams and composite followers. But speaking of the price…
This lens is nesting right in with 2017’s wave of affordable cinema zooms like Sigma and Tokina with a very attractive price tag of “under $4,000”. So where does that put this lens in terms of customer base? If you are used to the standard focal lengths associated with DSLRs, you’ll be no stranger to the 18-35mm range. It’s essentially the Super35 equivalent to the classic 24-70mm focal length range, but now in a nimble, cinema-style lens. You may be wondering where servo unit is… Keep wondering. The MK series also keep the cost low by not including a dedicated servo unit. Fujinon doesn’t have any plans at the moment to offer one, but there are plenty of empty mounting holes for either Fujinon or a third-party to integrate such an accessory in the future. And honestly, you don’t want a servo grip on any of the current Sony bodies with this lens. It’s so compact that you’d be in a really awkward position. Stick with the third-party accessories and use external motors if your project calls for it, but you’ll most likely just be reaching for a quality follow focus and no remote motors. To each their own!
I had a good deal of hands on time with this lens on a couple of different Sony camera bodies as well as most of my own test equipment and I was pleasantly surprised by it’s usability. I genuinely thought I would be disappointed by the plastic body, but it’s done in a way that doesn’t compromise the performance or usability of the lens in any way that I could find. From a purist, or lens tech standpoint, I’m still on the fence… But it’s growing on me the more I use it. One of the other give/take features of the MK18-55mm is the focus scale. While the spacing is great and the rotation is generous, there’s no dumb-side witness or focus scale. The operator side features both metric and imperial marks on the same side. Again, another sign that this lens is really tailored to the lone wolf cinematographer. The lens includes a nice rubberized hood which you’ll recognize from any ENG-style zoom, as well as a support foot which, in my opinion, is a must if you’re not using one of Sony’s newer positive-locking style E mount cameras.
So who did Fujinon make this lens for? I believe this lens is a great option for documentary style shooters. Projects that run on the most skeleton crews that need to be agile with their gear. It’ll be right at home on a music video set or a web series looking for a classic zoom range.
The new MK18-55mm will go on sale shortly after you read this. ..BUT WAIT! There’s more. Why would Fujinon create a new lens family but only add one lens? Ah… The MK50-135mm will begin shipping this summer at a similar price with nearly identical specs. Same size, gear placement, features, etc. A perfect little family that’ll get you from 18mm to 135mm in a compact, lightweight duo.
For those of you who love spec sheets:
So you want to try out the new MK18-55mm? My sample model will be sitting at Duclos Lenses on Thursday, February 23rd along with a Sony FS7 for anyone to try out. We’ll have treats and refreshments and some Duclos Loot for anyone that wants to come get their hands on the new lens and give it a spin – anytime between 10:30am to 2:30pm Click this link to RSVP or head over to http://duclos.tv/mkzoom. If you’re convinced and don’t need to get a grip… Head over to DuclosLenses.com right now and Pre-Order the new FUJINON MK 18-55mm T2.9 which will begin shipping next month!