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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

SLR Magic Rangefinder Review: Any actual magic? yes. Eliminate breathing & give any lens a buttery smooth 240 degree cine ring.

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Yup It's true. The good folks at SLR Magic, magically solved lens breathing. If you've been waiting for a fix, it's here. 


The SLR Magic Rangefinder. 

I received a prototype pre-production sample from SLR Magic to test, so any conclusions found here might not be representative of the final product, scheduled for delivery at end of August-ish. 

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Trust my final packaging is going to be different :)

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Let's first get into what it is, it's an adapter with optical elements that goes in front of your lens, attaching via normal filter screw threads. Rear thread of the adapter is 77mm and front is 82mm so you can still use filters, therefore it can be attached to any lens ever made with a filter thread, using step-up ring. Here's the filter thread:

XGbSudw.thumb.jpg.402931b91e66f5d2d54754

 

First the positives:


So what does it to? after attaching it in front of your lens, you merely set you lens to infinity, and focus with the adapter optics, using its absolutely gorgeous 240 degree geared cinema focus ring, similar to CN-E ones in feel, with industry standard precise focus/witness marks (Infinity to 3'6) that can be rotated to either side for operator or 1st AC using a clever rotating ring. 

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So it first of all it gives all lenses a proper cine focus ring even a Canon 50mm 1.8 II, just to show you this most ridiculous set-up 

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Makes it ready for cine use :)

But aside from joking with this ridiculous set-up, the adapter is actually quite thin and compact, and fit very comfortably with normal size larg-ish lenses.

rBaM8Kx.thumb.jpg.bffcd9ebba71143eb9ca50

here courtesy of Andrew Reid a good picture that clearly shows how thin it is:

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Second and most impressively, since the focus does not change in the actual lens at all, the focus breathing of the lens is of course not included, and the breathing of the adapter focusing is non-existent, therefore it eliminates focus breathing from all lenses. 


Here's proof. 

Nikon old 50mm AI-S without the RG from infinity to close, major shift in focal length:

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After screwing the adapter on, no change whatsoever:

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Impressive ha?


''Andrew Chan from SLR Magic explains how it fixes breathing (paraphrasing here): since the taking lens is not moving focus at all, of course there is no breathing introduced by the taking lens, and the RG is just an optical block that focuses from 1 meter to infinity without breathing within the optical design (very little), so it does't literally fix the breathing of the lens, just overrides/stops the lens breathing and gives you its own minimal breathing. It's genius in that respect really. No breathing on any lens''


These two facts of having a smooth long throw ring plus no breathing gives even my cheapest lenses a cine-like focus pulls that are stable and smooth and accurate, a look cannot be achieved with ant stills lens at all, absolutely gorgeous. 


Third, The rangefinder is made of Ionized Metal, a tank, ready for the most rigorous cinema environments. it's an extremely precise piece of engineering. Even the lens cap and rear cap are a work of metal!

MxXNM9j.thumb.jpg.740f514568d7596a58dd47

 

 

So Let's get into the downsides, there's no such thing as free lunch of course and I'll go into more positives at the end:

 

1 -This adapter main purpose was to be used on anamorphic lenses, therefore the coating colour, shape, pattern, intensity, they actually spent months designing the flares carefully! so when used on normal lenses, you get blue flaring (It looks great in my opinion but others will disagree understandeably)


Intentionally searching for a spot where flare is over the top (on the 16-35mm 2.8 wide open)


Before 

Image1.thumb.jpg.8d055de06f0826a63991ff1


After

Image2.thumb.jpg.daf199b6512c226d6c0aace

 

This the most extreme situation where I searched for a spot where light hits at an angle, so keep that in mind and you will not get flares in most normal shooting situations, but when you get them they'll be anamorphic colour, bluish.


2 -Second annoying thing with the Rangefinder that I am seeing affecting me whilst shooting is how it fixes the minimum focus distance of all lenses at 1mm (3'6) (as marked on the barrel of course). I always shoot close, it's a liability to have on normal 24-50mm lenses, but with lenses that have a MFD of more than 1 meter, it brings it down to 1 meter, even a 600mm lens will focus on 1 meter with RG, so with those lenses it's an advantage. But for me, it's annoying to be limited at that particular MFD on my lenses that shoot closer with, so I find myself focusing the lens it self to MFD (instead of keeping it at infinity) which interestingly makes the MFD even shorter than the lens alone, but it's a two ring operation setup and misses the calibration and focus marks you set your lens to when calibrating and taping your focus ring. It's something to consider nonetheless if that will bother you or not.


The lens alone MFD

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With the RG @mfd and taking lens @infinity (as it's supposed to be used, calibrated and the marks are correct), this is closest (as marked on the barrel of course 3'6)

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But, when you miss the calibration and put both lenses at MFD, it gets even closer than normal, so it's not that bad, it can actually work as a high quality closeup adapter. 

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3 -Resolution effect, what you're probably most interested about:

First off, yes there is a resolution loss especially wide open at f/1.4-1.8 but it gets to negligble a stop down and vanishes closed more than a stop and half give or take, depending on the lens. Overall the loss isn't significant to put me off using it given all the benefits it has, I just stop down to 2.8 when I need the sharpest images while leave wide open prime 1.8 shooting for hazy dreamy stuff. The loss is nothing as big as I expected. these tests are in 4K GH4 so make it more apparent but at 1080p camera it's even less apparent. 


F1.8 wide open without RG:

I7bj0AN.thumb.jpg.1dc0949c1aeaaebfd086ab
F/1.8 with RG

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again f/1.8 without RG

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F/1.8 with RG

9J64mGV.thumb.jpg.f0c9f191b0f8037afaa457


These were the worst case scenario, soft Nikkor 50mm old, wide open, on a GH4 at 4K and cropped heavily to show the differences. Here it is In better normal scenarios stopped down a bit and/or not 1:1 4K viewing F/1.8

F/2.8 without RG

08jxdrr.thumb.jpg.0e04c5501c9eb4250f28c3
F/2.8 with RG

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F/2.8 without RG

SGPj7oK.thumb.jpg.c78a9474b4ed6610c229a8

F/2.8 with RG (notice focus is on slightly left side, look for sharpest area and compare, not center on both there images) 

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So that's the loss in resolution, depending on your needs only you can decide the significance, me, not much. It's a very small trade I'd take for the other benefits. I'll also go out and shoot some wide landscapes extra sharp to get a better example of how it looks in real life resolution.

 

Last negative aspect of it is in the design not the optical quality (these were covered above)

4- The focus ring extends while focusing towards MFD and the adapter is shortest at infinity.

At infinity:

vlzl7Ak.thumb.jpg.36ac68c19d42ce6d224157

At MFD:

JQcG4R8.thumb.jpg.7785e17b86f535af69e16a

This will be a downsides to follow focus users as it will require tweaks in some of your FF systems to get it working, and also having the focus ring at the end of the lens will make focusing with a mattebox a hard task, so that's the last negative of it.

 

To recapitulate:

 

Negatives:

1- Blue coloured Flare

2- Resolution/contrast loss (most prominent wide open)

3- Extends whilst moving focus,

 


The positives

1- Giving any lens a 240 degree geared cine focus ring 

2- Completely fixes lens breathing on stills lenses

3- Converting Nikkor lenses to the standard focusing direction + fix breathing (make nikkor old Ai-s glass a joy to use as cine lenses)

4- Giving all lenses hard stops at infinity and MFD (Canon L lenses will benefit hugely here)

5- Fixing fly by wire lenses, giving them mechanical focus rings just by setting them to infinity and attaching the RG, making these electronic lenses adaptable to other mounts using passive adapters -remember 85mm f1.2 ef (tried it on my 10-18mm focus by wire lens and it works a treat)

6- Fixing non-linear focusing lenses and making them fully-mechanical focus rings with ability to focus using muscle memory. (All Sony EF and Samsung NX lenses rejoice!)

7- Making fixed focus lenses normal focusing lenses (think vintage C-mount s16 where you focused by moving)

8- Giving focus rings to lenses without any (Nikon 1 lenses, even point & shoots!)

9- Acting as a viable substitute for expensively rehousing stills glass to get geared rings with the added benefit of breathing fix (but with the resolution loss too at widest aperture), plus one adapter can be interchanged between all lenses in seconds like a simple filter so no individual lens rehousing. 

10- The most important one for SLR Magic: Gives the first lowbudget viable anamorphic shooting solution. In budget anamorphic, shooters use a taking lens and an anamorphic adapter, and pulling focus requires moving dual rings, which makes them unusable almost in any focus shifting fast, and as these budget anamorphic lenses were created for projection on distant walls, they don't have close focus ability without attaching diopters in front of the lens. So basically you set your lenses to infinity, and pull focus with a cine ring on an anamorphic budget system with a 1 meter (3'6) MFD, instead of focusing with two rings for minutes before each take, and then attaching diopters to focus closer, a complete waste of energy which make affordable anamorphic a no go for a very long time. Now, it can be done, easily. 

I don't shoot anamorphic and didn't test that aspect of it so I can't speak much about it, I was more interested in its applications for non-anamorphic lenses as no one else reviewed/discovered that. If you're interested in anamorphic, these reviews cover it very well on EOSHD and Newsshooter:

 

http://www.newsshooter.com/2015/08/15/review-slr-magic-anamorphot-2x-and-rangefinder-with-the-sony-a7r-ii-can-we-finally-shoot-anamorphic-for-factual-programmes/

http://www.eoshd.com/2015/07/slr-magic-rangefinder-footage-kiss-goodbye-to-lens-breathing-kowa-anamorphic-goes-single-focus/

 


The SLR Magic Rangefinder adapter will ship in August with a price of £399 for pre-orders, then later for £549, there will be a budget version that's the same but without the focus marks as they require extensive precise calibration, for £299.

 

Official website and link: http://www.slrmagic.co.uk/slr-magic-rangefinder-cine-adapter.html


Again note, disclaimer: this is a prototype preproduction unit, unfinished, and any negatives/positives here might very well change.


Although I'm not participating in EOSHD forums anymore I promised you guys a review so here it is and I'd happily answer any questions you guys have and test anything you need below.

I'll also be putting together footage and final thoughts on it. 

Cheers.

 

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Thanks for the extremely detailed write up.  The photos are very usful at illustrating everything.  It does deem to have quite an impact on detail.  Im actually wondering if that would help with moire on the bmpcc without the need to get a mosaic filter.  The thing that seems most limiting from the newsshoter review is that he says it will vignette on wide lenses.

How come you are no longer participating on the forum?

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Matt: I have a lot of moire-ing cameras! Will test that for you tomorrow and will also test for vignette on wide lenses, if anybody's curious about anything else feel free to ask for it. 

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would needing a lot of step up rings (pushing the rangefinder further from the lens) mean that you need to make slight adjustments on the focus of the lenses themselves to use infinity on the rangefinder as infinity? if that makes sense? like would "whacking" the rangefinder change focus distance by itself? just curious. I figure that could easily add up to a nuisance if removing and adjusting it often

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

would needing a lot of step up rings (pushing the rangefinder further from the lens) mean that you need to make slight adjustments on the focus of the lenses themselves to use infinity on the rangefinder as infinity? if that makes sense? like would "whacking" the rangefinder change focus distance by itself? just curious. I figure that could easily add up to a nuisance if removing and adjusting it often

No. The rangefinder does not exhibit focus changing based on how far it is from the front taking lens element. However, the closer you get, the less IQ loss/issues you get, it's not a big difference though, but stacking ring is not recommended by SLR Magic, use one step up ring. 

how wide of a lens can be used with it?

The widest I tried is 14mm on APS-C (23mm FF) and it works fine. The RF is an enormous front piece of glass with 82mm filter thread, making it very compatible with wide angle lenses. 

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The focus ring extends while focusing towards MFD and the adapter is shortest at infinity.

This will be a downsides to follow focus users as it will require tweaks in some of your FF systems to get it working, and also having the focus ring at the end of the lens will make focusing with a mattebox a hard task, so that's the last negative of it.

Hello Ebrahim,

I hope the Lens-gears are wide enough to compensate for the extension and still cover the full range from 1m to infinity when using it with a standard Follow-Focus.

Or do you have to move/reattach the Folow-Focus after a half rotation of the Gear-Ring?

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Hello Ebrahim,

I hope the Lens-gears are wide enough to compensate for the extension and still cover the full range from 1m to infinity when using it with a standard Follow-Focus.

Or do you have to move/reattach the Folow-Focus after a half rotation of the Gear-Ring?

Focus travel is only 1 centimeter.

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Hello Ebrahim,

I hope the Lens-gears are wide enough to compensate for the extension and still cover the full range from 1m to infinity when using it with a standard Follow-Focus.

Or do you have to move/reattach the Folow-Focus after a half rotation of the Gear-Ring?

Ring travels = exactly one centimeter (0.4 inches),

Focus gear (ring) width = one and a half centimeters (0.6 inches).

So you measure how it'll fit in your FF gears. 

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