REVIEW: Veydra MFT Prime Lenses

Veydra 16mm - the pick of the bunch.

How long have you dreamt of using Prime lenses that grace the most expensive movies, well thanks to the Internet and more specifically KickStarter stop dreaming and read on.

We’re getting used to seeing cool products for the film industry that start their lives through Kickstarter. Veydra lenses are just such a product – a range of prime optics developed for cine use, specifically for ‘Micro Four Thirds’ cameras.

Until recently, people wanting to film using Micro Four Thirds cameras have relied on the stills lenses designed for the format, or a variety of other lenses with adapters. Stills lenses have obvious limitations for cine use – focus breathing, short focus throws, click stops on apertures and so on. There are now a few budget MFT lenses for cine use, though the Veydra Mini Primes are the first (to our knowledge) to be designed from the ground up to be cine lenses.

Veydra supply their Mini Primes with the MFT mount, Sony’s E mount, or C mount and, of course, they are manual only. The lens bodies are very solidly built of aluminium with stainless steel bayonets, long throw focus rings (about 300º), and with standard gearing for follow focus and iris.

Veydra 85mm

At the time of writing, Veydra have produced focal lengths of 50mm, 35mm, 25mm, 16mm and 12mm. Each of the lenses has the same physical dimensions, making changing lenses very fast on a rigged up camera, particularly as the focus and iris ring gears are identically placed across the range. Each lens has an aperture of T2.2 to T22. The focus scale is available in metric or imperial, though there are no focus witness marks – calibrating the focus distance is a manual process that would make the lenses much more expensive, though you could always have them done yourself, if you wish.

The review kit consisted of all five focal length in a stout Pelicase – the retail price of this kit is $4699, and that represents remarkable value for money, given the build quality of these lenses. The feel of both focus and iris rings is excellent – ultra smooth and with just the right amount of resistance. The lenses feel solid – hefty even – and the engravings on the lenses are clear.

So Veydra’s lenses definitely score higher than the competition for build and professional features. Optically, in the main, the lenses live up to expectations. All but the 25mm are a little soft wide open, with the 50mm and the 12mm the worst offenders. The 25mm is remarkably good at T2.2 – it’s centre resolution only starts to fall off with diffraction at smaller apertures. The other lenses all peak in performance around T5.6, with edges softer than centre for the 25mm, 16mm and 12mm. These lenses have image circles that only cover the Four Thirds sensor, whilst the 50mm and 35mm will (just) cover S35. We took measurements on a MFT camera, so these edge results are not surprising. Diffraction limits the resolution of all these lenses on MFT cameras from T11.

The star of the show is the 16mm, exhibiting remarkable MTF figures if you stick around T2.8 to T8. These measurements were confirmed in practice – it’s an amazingly sharp lens.

As you would expect for lenses produced for the cine market, there is little focus breathing – where the angle of view of the lens changes with focus – so focus pulls will look as they should, with no distracting, inadvertent ‘zooms’.

As well as ensuring that the dimensions of the lenses are the same across the range, Veydra have continued the philosophy to the colour rendering. They are noticeably cooler than the kit zooms on the MFT cameras we were using, but there was very little variation between the focal lengths. You will, however need to use a good matte box, with appropriate mattes for the focal length, as the lenses all flare terribly. Even a bright, cloudy sky can produce veiling flare – it’s a shame in otherwise excellent image rendering.

That small flaw aside, the Veydra Mini Primes are beautifully made lenses, that perform – in the main – very well, at a price that won’t break the bank.

The Veydra Four Lens Kit - 16mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm

The Veydra Four Lens Kit - 16mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm

Posted on December 1, 2015 and filed under lenses, reviews.