The SLR Magic APO HyperPrime CINE 50mm T2.1 is a soon to be released high end PL mount cinema lens. The expected price is $1999, less than half the price of a Zeiss compact prime.
The Cooke S4i Mini 50mm T2.8 is $7850 at B&H and the full set is around $45,000.
How do they compare?
The Cooke is the highest resolving lens I have and it has the best colour rendition I’ve ever had, from any piece of optics. Yet despite it resolving 8K easily, it doesn’t look too ‘crispy’ or harsh and digital.
Here’s one of my first shots with it…
My set of Cookes predates the S4i “Mini” branding by about a year so it has Panchro/i painted on it, but it’s the same lens.
My Cookes only cover Super 35mm and they don’t mount my 1D C either.
Step forward SLR Magic with their new full frame APO cinema lens. I tried a prototype at Photokina and it has a lovely character like all their lenses, but make no mistake this is a real cinema lens with the technical performance to back it up and a real competitor (even for Cooke!)
At an expected price of around $1999 the lens is less than half the price of a Zeiss CP 2 ($4500).
It’s also a full stop faster than my Cooke and fits my 1D C. Yes the lens is PL mount, but on order SLR Magic are doing conversions to EF mount for those that need it. It’s that version I’m shooting with here.
John Brawley is shooting with the PL version right now, you can see his experience with the lens here.
Let’s take a look at how it stacks up against a Cooke then, a mainstay of Hollywood.
Perhaps the most obvious difference in character is the bokeh. The “Cooke look” has that extremely crisp bokeh wide open and ninja-star blade-like bokeh when stopped down. In normal background blur this oddly shaped aperture creates a ‘brush stroke’ effect not too dissimilar to an anamorphic lens.
The SLR Magic has more aperture blades and it has a creamier bokeh when stopped down, as well as rounded edges to single points of light. Around these single points of light though, the edges are a little fuzzier than on the Cooke. It is creamier and more Canon-like in terms of bokeh, whilst the Cooke is more distinctive and a little more excitable.
This is an APO lens and it has extremely high end optics.
I tested at 6K raw (in stills mode on the A6000).
Only at 6K raw can you tell the difference between the Cooke and SLR Magic, and that’s at 100% (really pixel peeping it).
At 4K on my 27″ 4k monitor the difference is hard to see.
For the blog I have cropped out tiny 702 pixel wide 100% views of the 6K images so you can pixel peep, but it’s more representative to download the original 6K raw frames in my ZIP upload here.
The Cooke resolves more powerfully, but both will be well suited to 4K or even 8K so it’s not a concern. The SLR Magic is extremely sharp compared to a F2.0 photographic prime and aberrations are better controlled.
In short it is the best lens they’ve ever made.
The SLR Magic actually beats the Cooke for fringing wide open or at T2.8.
The APO design helps here. The Cooke has a surprising amount wide open at T2.8.
The SLR Magic has some wide open at T2.1 but it’s bluer and less pronounced.
Stop down to T2.8 there’s even less of it.
Distortion and colour
Given one lens is nearly $6000 more than the other, you’d be hard pressed to tell… However the Cooke looks a little brighter, with both set to T2.8. This is a difference I’ve noticed quite a few times. The SLR Magic is definitely a little darker than my other cinema lenses at T2.8. I also find it a little longer than the Cooke despite them both being 50mm focal lengths. These differences however, are absolutely minimal.
Another area where they are close is distortion. Neither of them have any detectable in the shots below, on Super 35mm. For the full review I will test the performance on full frame with my 1D C as well.
Again on that shot you can tell that the Cooke (top shot) is a little wider.
Here are the full versions of my purple fringing and sharpness shots (check out the tree branches).
This lens is a bargain. It’s the best performing cinema lens for the money you can get. Along with the SLR Magic 35mm T0.95 this is my favourite lens from them. It is a full 1 stop faster than my Cooke S4i Mini (Panchro /i) and covers full frame, for $6000 less. It’s also smaller and lighter, with less purple fringing at T2.8 and flares less. If you want a bargain Cooke, perhaps you don’t in fact have to search the second hand market.
The PL mount is Titanium, and build quality is exceptional. The conversion SLR Magic did on mine to make it EF mount is top notch and with Ciecio7’s new positive locking EF to E-mount adapter, I can easily use it like the PL version, it’s stable with a follow focus. I’ll have a review of that soon and the one for Nikon.
The lens adheres to all the specs of a PL cinema lens – 300 degrees focus travel for follow focus, clickless geared aperture ring, accurate focus scales in feet and build quality to withstand the demands of a professional crew. Focus is exceptionally accurate and the ring is smooth like butter. Obviously, it has hard stops unlike a modern Canon lens, you should definitely consider it for filmmaking work over an L lens with those silly floaty focus rings!