Time Stood Still – An Extreme Low Light Video – Sony a7SII & SLR Magic 50mm f/1.1

This was supposed to be a normal comprehensive lens test/review of the new SLR Magic Cine 50mm f/1.1 made with a production unit we received from the manufacturer about 2 weeks ago. After working with the new lens, we’ve raised our concerns to the manufacturer especially about the softness of the image at the corners of the picture when shooting with a wide open aperture and setting the focus point to infinity. 

SLR Magic 50mm f:1.1

All was ready to be publish today when an e-mail from SLR Magic landed in my inbox. Here is an excerpt from their message:

From the two weeks of real life testing by several testers, we received 3 main concerns.
– Corner softness at infinity
– Sharpness at f/1.1
– Lens flare

We are currently making some changes within our capability to address the issues. The new changes would improve corner sharpness at infinity by approximately 20% but do not expect perfection after the changes. Sharpness at f/1.1 is not affected. Lens flare would be addressed with an optional lens hood.

It is encouraging to see a manufacturer who is taking action in order to make his product better after feedback from beta testers like us! 

As such, we decided to suspend the publication of the written review itself and wait for the new version to come, BUT, we also decided to publish the above video as it is a good example of what the combination of a fast lens together with the Sony a7SII can deliver in extreme low light situations. We will review and test the new lens soon. 

In the video above, I wanted to mimic a realistic documentary working situation. To my help came Tina Walzer who is the responsible historian for a very old close to the public Jewish cemetery located in Vienna. I was presuming it will be dark out there, at least at the heart of the cemetery with some light bouncing near its fence from the streetlights facing towards the street itself. Boy I was right! Even at a wide open aperture I had to tune the camera to a range of ISO 128,000 to 409,600. Below you can see a picture of “what my eye could see” vs. “what the camera saw in high ISO”. One of the reasons for those insigne high ISO values is my wish to expose correctly. If you would like to successfully work in Slog-2 during shooting in high ISO conditions, I advise you to do the same, otherwise you will be recording a lot of noise.

What my eyes can see vs what the camera can see

               What the camera can see on the left vs. what my eyes could see on the right


About this video:

Shot in 4K/25p, 100 Mbit, Slog-2, ISO 28,000 to 409,600, Edited on Adobe Premiere CC 2015, graded with James Miller’s DELUTs. NO de-noising of any sort was used. The “trick” is to use a LUT that can mask well most of it.

Music used in this review: Ghosts Seldom Stay In Their Graves and The Grave by Triads by Triads courtesy of themusicbed

A special thanks to Tina Walzer for helping me out in producing and executing this video.

SLR Magic

Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.com

Price not available

Watch it on Vimeo

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Mel Bourne

It’s pretty soft and there’s a bit of CA, bokeh is a bit meh.

Kinda expected for the money.

I’d like to see the focus breathing characteristics.

Lior Koren
Lior Koren

What do you expect at ISO 128,00-409,600? Sure it cannot be as sharp as shooting at much lower ISO.
At least, the A7sII can do it while most others cannot.
Beautiful work!


Steve Staffan

Sharpness is kept through high ISO.

 Lior Koren
Lior Koren

Camera noise reduction and sensor noise hurts sharpness. These are a very high ISO shots.

Martin Friedrich
Martin Friedrich

Pretty amazing, thanks for that Johnnie! Why did you choose to shoot S-Log 2 over S-Log 3 if I may ask?

Steve Staffan

S-Log 3 is not made for low light situations. It’s designed for harsh contrasted scenes, like a hard backlit window or something like that. Shooting low light with S-Log 3 introduces a HUGE amount of noise into the shadows.

 Alexandre Lopes

Thanks for sharing this..just noticed that yesterday at night scenes..started to use the A7SII coming from canon ;)

Christian Whitey Pokrywka

Oooh perfect timing! I’m considering this lens for an upcoming purchase.

Steve Staffan

Looks like poop lol. For that money theres way more options out there.

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