FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9 E-Mount Cine Zoom Announced – Hands-on & Footage

FUJINON, the optical devices division of FUJIFILM has just announced the release of two new E-Mount Cine lenses: the FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9 and the FUJINON MK50-135mm T2.9. Both lenses will cover a Super 35/APS-C sensor image circle and are aimed at the E-mount film crowd. There is also an X-mount version for the FUJIFILM X Series planned to be released later this year. 

We were lucky enough to get our hands on an early production sample and here is our review of the upcoming FUJINON MK18-55 T2.9 lens along with some real-world video sample footage. (For the lens technical review conducted by my colleague Sebastian, click here).

FUJINON MK18-55mm Cine Zoom Lens

Until not too long ago, the large-sensor camera market was badly suffering from the absence of a true “cinema” zoom lens to accompany the various capable cameras out there. If you, like me, cringed at the thought of shooting yet another production using a photo lens, then I’m sure you appreciate the latest trend in our industry, namely the production of “modestly priced high-quality cinema zoom lenses”. I write “cinema” as this has become a buzz word used by many different manufacturers, though I see these new lenses serving us greatly also on documentary-style shooting environments. For me, 2016 will be remembered as the year of the “affordable zoom lenses”, marked by the ZEISS 21-100mm T2.9-3.9 Lightweight Zoom LWZ.3, the Canon CN-E 18-80mm T4.4, the Sigma Cine 18-35mm T2.0 and Sigma 50-100mm T2.0, and the Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 just to name a few. And now, FUJINON, the optical devices division of FUJIFILM, is adding two newcomers to this growing market segment with their FUJINON MK18-55 T2.9 (available from March 2017) and the FUJIFILM MK50-135 T2.9 (available from summer 2017).

Clearly, if there is ONE common thing to all these new lenses, it’s their price. The sub $10,000 cine zoom lens arena never looked so promising. So, Angenieux, I hope you are listening…

FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9 vs. Canon CN-E 18-80 T4.4

MK18-55mm Lens Features

Manual Adjustments and Par Focal

Both lenses are made to complement each other. Together they cover a useful working focal range and both feature three rings for manual and independent control of focus, zoom and iris (aperture), all with a standard gear pitch. Unlike conventional photo lenses, these 2 new “cine” lenses are par-focal, meaning that they will stay in focus when changing focal lengths, i.e if you zoom all the way into your subject, focus, and then zoom out and re-frame, the focus point will not change.

No Breathing, No Optical Shift

Another key point that FUJINON addressed with these lenses – and one which is also common with some photo lenses – is the shift in optical axis while zooming. You may have noticed that the center of your framing attention is not always correct after zooming in. With these lenses, this phenomenon is a worry of the past. The high-performance lovers among us will also be happy to know that the lens does not “breathe”, meaning that the frame won’t be cropped when pulling focus and changing focus points, something you will have a hard time finding on a photo zoom lens.

Back Focus and Macro

Two more features have found their way into these new lenses that video enthusiasts may know from the broadcast world: back focus adjustment and a macro function. Back focus adjustment will allow you to perfectly adjust the lens with different kinds of E-mount cameras, ensuring perfect focus throughout the entire focal length, while Macro will help in achieving a greater minimum focusing distance. In practical terms, the minimum focusing distance of 0.85m/2ft 9in of the FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9 becomes 0.38m/1ft 2.9in in Macro mode, while the 1.2m/3ft 11in of the FUJINON MK50-135mm T2.9 becomes 0.85m/2ft 9in in Macro mode (measurements are for the wide end of the lens) . 

Last but not least, both lenses have an inner diameter of 82mm for easy filter attachment, and an outer diameter of 85mm for easy Matte-box placement.

FUJINON MK 18-55mm T2.9 on a Sony FS5. Photo credit: Doris Piller

Testing the MK18-55mm in the field 

It’s Friday, very early in morning. Freezing cold. My producer Doris Piller and I are heading to a very special place,  the “cemetery of the nameless” located in the outskirts of Vienna, alongside the river Danube. Our Sony FS5 is ready to capture the beautiful morning gloom and my expectations are high, especially as my camera is sporting the yet-to-be-released FUJINON 18-55mm.

The first thing I noticed is how easy it is to work with the lens wearing gloves. This may be a minor point for those living in warmer climates, but a major one when working during winter time under cold conditions. The focus ring is very responsive and easy to operate with its 200 degrees of rotation, making it perfect for a single operator to use single-handedly.

Another impressive point was its lightweight structure. FUJINON has done an extraordinary job in keeping both new lenses compact and under 1kg. However, in order to keep such slim dimensions, the manufacturer went for the following compromises: They reduced the maximum focal length, restricted the minimum T-stop and designed the lens to cover a Super 35 / APS-C image circle only. It is always a delicate balance between tradeoffs and overall performance, but for many large sensor shooters FUJINON probably got the balance right.

When it comes to optical performance, the lens provided a high-quality image throughout and the lack of breathing when changing focus points is impressive. What I did notice, though, was some lens distortion comparable to that of photo zoom lenses, which becomes visible on straight lines especially when changing focal lengths from 18mm to 33mm. On the other hand, the MK18-55mm lens is very sharp from center to corner, with minimal edge softness. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled too. My colleague Sebastian is covering these points in-depth in his technical review.

FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9 on a Sony FS5. Photo credit: Doris Piller

FUJINON MK18-55mm Strengths & Weaknesses

Pros (in no particular order):

  • Modestly-priced zoom lens for less than $4000
  • No focus breathing
  • Good optical quality
  • Par-focal, holds focus throughout a zoom
  • Nice, even bokeh
  • Compact and lightweight (980 grams)
  • 3 independent and easy-to-use rings (Focus/zoom/iris)
  • Macro function
  • Back focus adjustment function
  • Can be used on a full frame camera like the a7S/a7SII/a7RII by enabling Clear Image Zoom while in full frame mode and cropping by 1.4x in order to achieve good image quality and a wider field of view than the 1.6x crop in APS-C mode.

Cons (in no particular order):

  • Visible distortion between 18mm and 33mm
  • Maximum focal length of 55mm might prove to be a bit limiting in some situations, especially for documentary work

General information:

  • Super 35/APS-C E-mount lenses. X-mount version will follow later in the year.
  • Minimum aperture of T2.9 (F2.75).
  • Manual lenses with no servo zoom or built-in stabilization system.

Conclusion:

The new FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9 lens is a great addition for anyone using an E-mount camera for their professional work. Indeed (and thankfully) there are more lens options out there, but it looks like FUJIFILM has hit the sweet spot when it comes to lens quality, portability and price. For me personally, the maximum focal length of 55mm is a bit too short, but for others it may be perfectly OK. I also think FUJIFILM would be wise to offer the 2-lens set at a reduced price, providing a useful focal length coverage at an affordable price. All in all it is a great lens, the quality is right and knowing its limitations means having the ability to bypass them in order to achieve high-quality results.

For the above video:  

Gear used: Sony FS5, FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9. Shot on S-log2, edited in Adobe Premiere CC. Color correction: FilmConvert, FJ Velv 100 profile.

Many thanks to Doris Piller and Josef Fuchs

Music: By Art-list. Track: “Floating By” by Brandy & Wine

More information about the 2 new lenses can be found in FUJIFILM’s official press release

 
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