Lumix S 50mm f/1.8
The latest of the Lumix ‘cine quartet’ is the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8. It’s a very neat and lightweight option that makes an ideal partner for the Lumix S5, says Damien Demolder
This is the second of a set of four lenses introduced by Panasonic specifically for videographers using the S series of cameras. The full set will comprise the already-released Lumix S85mm f/1.8, this Lumix S 50mm f/1.8, a Lumix S 35mm f/1.8 and a 24mm f/1.8. Well at least those are the lenses so far announced – there may be more added to the series later, but we don’t know at this stage.
The concept of the series is to create a set of matched lenses that share physical dimensions, are lightweight and which have a common design. This means they will work well on a gimbal and focal lengths can be switched without rigs then needing to be adjusted. The focus ring will be in exactly the same position on each lens so follow-focus devices can remain in place when lenses are changed. These lenses also all have a 67mm filter thread and rely on body control for aperture adjustment.
As they are small and lightweight they are particularly well suited for use on the compact and lightweight Lumix S5, but as they have a regular L mount they will of course work very well on the other S series bodies and will help to reduce the total weight and size of your video kit.
In operation these lenses should all feel exactly the same, with only the angle of view showing the difference between them.
While the Lumix Pro series has a pull-back focusing clutch these models use an AF/MF switch on the barrel. Turning the focus ring while MF is enabled automatically activates the focus-assist display, which by default is a 3x Picture-in-Picture magnified view of the centre of the screen. Focus assist can be switched off of course, and it can be customised to show 6x magnification in Picture-in-Picture mode, or up to 20x magnification in full-screen mode.
Even with the lens set to MF touching the on-screen AF icon focuses the lens on whatever is under the AF point. This allows us to work with a mixture of auto and manual focusing methods without actually touching the AF/MF switch on the lens beyond moving it to the MF position.
When working in manual focus we have the chance to determine whether the focus ring reacts in a linear or non-linear fashion when we turn it, as well as the degree of rotation required to take the lens from its closest focus position to infinity. The close focus is 0.45m/1.48ft.
The lens is designed using 9 elements in 8 groups, with 3 aspherical lenses, one ED element and one UHR element in the construction. The aspherical elements aim to ensure high resolution and attractive out-of-focus highlights, while the Extra-Low Dispersion element reduces chromatic errors and the Ultra-High Refractive element helps to keep the lens small.
Nine blades are used in the iris, so out-of-focus highlights will appear rounded and we’ll enjoy smooth transitions from focused to out-of-focus areas of the scene.
The lens is sealed against dust and splashes, and is designed to continue operating right down to -10°C.
Compared to the Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4
Of course Lumix S users already have a 50mm lens, so might ask what’s so different about this one? The two lenses couldn’t be more different in fact, and actually share only a focal length and a mount as they are designed for quite different things.
The Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4 was designed to show off what the Lumix full frame range is capable of, and is one of those lenses that puts image quality above all other considerations. It is big, relatively heavy and it costs a lot more than the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8. It is well suited to the larger S1, S1R and S1H cameras as its size and weight balance well, and it makes an outstanding stills lens as it produces amazing image quality even when used wide open.
The sort of shallow depth-of-field f/1.4 apertures produce makes this aperture difficult, though not impossible, to use for video but easy when shooting stills. Videographers most often use smaller apertures as it makes hitting focus more likely, especially when using manual focus, so for the most part dramatic wide aperture lenses are less practical.
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