March 31, 2013

SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 Toy Lens

SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 on OM-D E-M5

Eric Flexyourhead lent me his most current acquisition, the SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 Toy Lens. I want to thank Eric first before anything else because this post won't be existing if not for him lending me the toy. Also, I want to note that this is not a review of this lens. This is a blog of my experience using the lens and I have to say I had so much FUN! All images in this post link to flickr. Click any image and you'll be able to see EXIF data and a larger version if desired.

So what is it about the lens that made it fun to use. For me it was about the unique images you can produce from this toy lens, size & weight (it was very light) and ease of use. The lens reminded me of how enjoyable it is to make photos when your camera and lens combo is light and comfortable. I'm using it on an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and a quick google tells me that it only comes with a M4/3 adapter. I believe it is a cine lens or a CCTV lens with C Mount. The SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 + OM-D E-M5 combo is swell!

SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 Toy Lens

Garden lamp
Garden Lamp
A BW Long Exposure example. Click the image to see more LE examples on my flickr account.
The lens is very easy to use. For me there's almost no getting familiar time with the lens and this is because I'm very comfortable with manually focusing lenses on my OM-D. Simply set the aperture and manually focus, that's it. If there's anything that you need to get familiar with on this lens it is with the results you will get, the output images. It's quite easy to focus using the E-M5's focusing assist (I do it by using the zoom option when manually focusing) and setting the aperture is also fun, why? This is my first time using a lens where the aperture ring doesn't lock or click. You basically just turn the aperture ring left or right and what I do is I look at the lens to see the opening. I suspect that with practice and familiarity with it one would be able to do it by feel. I did not pay attention to the aperture setting because the lens has no mark to set the aperture to. It has 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 8 and C marks on the lens but the numbers can't be seen anyway when you're turning them as it's oddly on the left side when the aperture blades are closed and when you set it to 1.4 the marks are at the bottom part of the barrel so you cannot see it. You will basically have to turn the camera upside down or look under the lens barrel to see it. I'm not sure if this is standard for this lens. Anyway, that is not very important for me. One might want to know the exact aperture but for a toy lens, I personally don't care.

SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 Toy Lens

Another thing I realized while using the lens is that it is fun to manually focus. I mean not all the time, but what I mean is it feels different. It would be nice to get some confirmation through automation but with toy lenses it's purely dependent on your eye :-). For me this is part of the fun too, manually focusing is fun!

So what is to be expected from this lens. Here's a list of what I observed after 4 days of shooting with it.
  • Chromatic Aberration (CA)
  • Barrel distortion
  • Vignette and it gets quite severe as you stop down and the corners tend to be whitish when shot wide open
  • Swirly blurry parts (part of the fun)
  • Sharp in the center but not when wide open
  • Flare - fortunately this was kind of non-apparent in the photos I made using this lens. I think mainly because I didn't shoot directly against light sources. I tried it on a street lamp but the results were fine so maybe this does not happen often.

SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 Toy Lens

If image quality from corner to corner is a concern then this lens might not be for you. I am a big fan of good quality images but I've been learning that it's not all about image quality. If you cannot make good photographs from this lens then what makes you say you can make good ones out of a Canon L glass, Nikon premium lens, a Zeiss or a Leica glass. Just some food for thought. Despite the flaws, the question is how you can make your photos from this lens desirable. CA and barrel distortion can be fixed in post easily. Vignette though is a different story, it is okay when you're shooting wide open all the time (or close to it) but if you're stopped down then it's very obvious. You may have to do some serious PS work or crop, and you may have to crop a big portion which is not good. Or like me, you can simply leave it. It is part of the characteristic of the lens and so in some cases I was able to use it well. See example images below particularly the Pourhouse Restaurant & Bar, Frenchies Diner and Copper lamps.

Here's an example photo that shows vignetting. This one is probably around f/11 to f/16. I also used LR's Lens Vignetting slider under Lens Corrections but the vignetting is still obvious.

Gastown scene

Swirly/blurry parts are something that will always be present and for me it's not a bad characteristic of the lens but rather a good one. It is what makes this lens unique and for me it is something that can be used to isolate your subject and enhance photographic story telling. Also, the swirly parts only appear on the sides most of the time so as long as you focus on the center or close to center then you're images are going to be fine.

Wall items
A lot of swirling
In all of my outings with the lens I never experienced flaring but Eric warned me about it. As you can see in Eric's photo below it can be wild or crazy. My guess is it can be prevented specially if you find out when it happens.

Chikako-san and Enoshima/Kamakura sanpo friends

Lastly, the lens is pretty sharp in the center. It is soft wide open but stopping down can produce sharp results. My overall conclusion is that this toy lens does MAGIC! It's a super fun lens to use and I'm quite impressed by it. That's what a toy lens should be, a lot of fun to use!

Ok, enough said. Let the photos do the talking.

SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 Toy Lens

The Station


Brooks bokeh
Bokeh from the SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 Toy Lens
Frenchies Diner
Frenchies Diner at Dunsmuir Street.
Pourhouse Restaurant & Bar
Pourhouse Restaurant & Bar in Gastown, Vancouver BC
High ISO example (ISO 3200) 
Copper lamps

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