Chinese lens manufacturer Zhongyi has ported their photo lenses over to three new cine lens housings, much to the delight of speed freaks given the ultra fast aperture of their new T1 Speedmaster series. I’ll go over a bit of the history, product lines, and future of their latest line of cine lenses.
Let’s start with some of company details… ZY Optics (Zhongyi) is the working name for Shenyang Zhongyi Optical & Electronic Company Ltd.. They’ve been manufacturing OEM lenses and lens components for other lens companies for over 30 years but have only recently begun offering products under their own Mitakon brand. Their earlier lens releases were designed for smaller formats such as Micro 4/3. They set themselves apart by designing lenses with extraordinarily fast apertures of less than f/1.4.
My introduction to Mitakon goes back to the release of their 50mm f/0.95 Speedmaster for Sony E mount back in 2015. A friend travelling to the US from China was able to snag a few copies for me ahead of their US release. I immediately enjoyed the results I got with the 50mm on a Sony A7 but my real interest was in their next lens release… The Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 APS-C lens that I caught wind of being released for the Fuji X system which, if you’re a long-time reader, will know is one of my longest running camera affairs. I was able to get my hands on this lens ahead of its release as well and promptly paired it with my Fuji camera (at the time, an XT-1). I immediately fell in love with the small size, image quality, character, and so on of the 35mm f/0.95. That lens stayed on my camera for a solid six months until Mitakon released a Version 2 of that lens which was even smaller (!) and improved a lot of the spherical and chromatic aberration exhibited in the original design. Since then, that lens has rarely left my Fujifilm X-Pro 2 camera body.
Moving on to the new cine line – Mitakon has taken three focal lengths and retooled them to include integrated focus and iris gears as well as T-stop markings (instead of the original f-stops). This practice has become very popular over the past ten years since it’s a relatively simple adjustment to make during manufacturing but offers a more seamless solution for motion picture setups. The new lenses are as follows:
|Aperture Range||T1 – 16||T1 – 16||T1 – 16|
|Lens Mount||MFT||MFT||MFT, RF, E, X|
This makes for a nicely spaced mini-set of cine primes. All three lenses come in Micro 4/3 mount. However, the 35mm comes in Canon RF, Sony E, and Fuji X as well since it produces a larger image circle that accommodates Super 35 format cameras while the 17mm and 25mm will only cover a Micro 4/3 format sensor at most and therefor are only offered in Micro 4/3 mount. Naturally, the 35mm can still be used perfectly well on Micro 4/3 cameras as well which is why these are offered as a 3-Lens Mitakon Speedmaster M4/3 Set – a fantastic mini-set for all you Blackmagic/GH5 lovers.
Personally, I’m most excited for the 35mm in particular for it’s larger format (super 35). I really think this is going to be an absolute perfect pairing for the RED Komodo and it’s S35 sensor. I’ve absolutely loved shooting on APS-C with my still photo version and can’t wait to get some more time with it on Komodo. I’ll be sure to share some footage soon! In the meantime I’ll go over the image quality and character of the 35mm in particular since it’s the lens I’ve tested the most – both on metrology and camera. With a native Canon RF mount there’s no need for wonky, loose adapters. Ultra light and compact!
As I mentioned earlier, the Version 2 of the 35mm improved a lot of optical shortcomings of the original 35mm. However, that still doesn’t render it a “good lens” on paper. It still exhibits a pretty significant amount of chromatic aberration, even stopped down. This is the case with all three of the Speedmaster primes from Mitakon. If you enjoy some character and imperfection, perhaps a bit of a quirky image, then I would recommend checking these out. If you’re looking for a super clean, accurate image… Look elsewhere. As far as mechanical build goes I advise keeping your expectations in check as well. At the price that these lenses are offered it’s no surprise that they lack a more refined, reliable build quality. Consistency from lens to lens is a bit loose. A degree of contamination (dust, debris) is to be expected, even factory fresh. But all these issues combined are expected for a lens that costs 1/40th of a Zeiss cine lens. Seriously… I want to drive this point home. If you’re expecting the same quality of optics, mechanics, build, or consistency as a Zeiss or Sigma cine lens, you need to take a step back and accept some basic realities. Now that I’ve really beat that horse – I think it’s also worth noting how much I truly enjoy the image quality that the 35mm produces, notwithstanding it’s shortcomings. Here’s a small gallery of images shot on a variety of cameras, but all with the Mitakon 35mm Speedmaster.
As for the future of the Mitakon line, the next lens to be released will be another re-tooling of an existing photo lens – the Mitakon 50mm T1.0 Full Frame cine lens. This beast will be available in Arri PL and Canon EF mount and be among the fastest native PL mount lenses available. As noted, this too is a revised version of the latest Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 photo lens from Zhongyi which I’ve also had a good amount of time to play with. Pretty much all of the opinions stated above carry through with this model as well. This lens is available for pre-order and should begin shipping this summer.
After that, Zhongyi has laid out a loose roadmap for more cine lenses which should be pretty easy to decipher based on what is currently available and what is to be expected. Pretty interesting!