Recently I’ve been able to shoot with the new XEEN cinema lenses and I’m happy to say I’m very impressed. Here’s my first impressions.
At this price point the XEEN’s are exactly what I expected coming from the company behind the popular Samyang VDSLR primes… great value for money. However, one question seems to plague the minds of would-be XEEN buyers, so I want to address it right now.
Aren’t these just rehoused Samyangs?
Not really. The new XEEN’s may share the same internal optical design, but new coatings have stepped it all up a notch. You’ll see noticeably less flaring and better contrast. Everything else has been built from scratch.
Where Samyang “cinemized” their stills lenses with focus and iris gears, and de-clicked iris, the XEEN’s are purpose built cine lenses. All of the compromises you had to make with the crossover cine-style photo lenses are gone with the XEEN line.
The first review I read of the XEEN lenses before testing them myself was by Frank Glencairn on his blog: A first quick look at Samyang’s new Xeen Cinelenses
I basically want to say “what he said”, as my experience of these lenses is pretty much identical. I guess consistency is a good sign.
The first of the XEEN primes are the 24mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5 and 85mm T1.5, which I consider a great start as far as focal lengths are concerned. I’ve read the opinions of some that three lenses do not comprise a workable set, but I disagree. As far as I’m concerned an entire feature could be shot on a 24, 50 and 85. Sure, more options are fantastic, but when it comes down to it these cover the basic necessary focal lengths for most shots.
The XEEN housings are fantastic, built to precision tolerances of quality materials with a high-end finish. Markings are readable both sides. The position of focus and iris gears are unified across all lenses as is the 114mm front diameter making lens swaps fast and easy.
These lenses feel fantastic, there is no play whatsoever and perfect resistance in both focus and iris movement.
The 200 degree focus throw is a bit less than you’d expect from other cinema primes but it’s plenty. I really liked the responsiveness and smoothness of pulling focus on these lenses. As far as build and mechanics are concerned I couldn’t ask for more regardless of price.
These lenses are tack sharp. Like really, really sharp. Easily sharp enough for 4K+ and they will cover full frame. Saying that, they do have a very cinematic feel.
There is a bit of focus breathing. It was enough to annoy me, but that’s really just a personal thing. It’s not bad, and considering the price point and everything you get it’s forgivable.
All things considered, it’s easy to justify the added investment in a set of XEEN cinema primes over the less expensive but still hugely popular Samyang VDSLR lenses if you can make that jump.
XEEN have delivered on all that these lenses promised when the announcement first became public. These are some very capable professional optics for anyone wanting to purchase an affordable set of cinema primes.
I’d like to thank BHM Store in Dubai for the lenses to test, they distribute Samyang / XEEN in the UAE: www.bhmstore.com