Nov 152010
 

 

SLR Magic 35 1.7 Lens Review for the Sony NEX system

SLR Magic? What the heck is SLR Magic? Well, they are a company that sells some interesting camera gear on E-bay and one of those products is a lens that has been modified to work on the Sony NEX mount cameras. This lens is a 35mm f/1.7 lens and it comes with the lens, a sun shade, metal cap and rear cap for only $99. Yep, a fast 35 1.7 lens for your NEX camera for $139. When I started to read about this lens I thought...”For $139, this has to be some cheap piece of plastic that is useless”! But then I saw some samples from a few people online and I became interested in the lens. Keep in mind that the 35mm will become a 52mm equivalent on the NEX with the 1.5 crop factor. SO basically, you have a tiny, super fast 50 for the NEX. The question is, does it suck or is it useful?

I contacted the owner of SLR Magic through their E-Bay listing and within 3 days I had the lens in my hand. They sent me the lens, a cleaning cloth, and even one of their Leica M to Sony NEX adapters. When I opened the lens I was immediately drawn to the small size and I thought it looked super cool on the NEX-5. After some research I realized this lens was much like the Noktor 50 lens I reviewed a while ago (see review here) due to the fact that it is a cine lens converted to the NEX mount. SLR Magic also sells this lens for M4/3 mount. From what I hear these lenses can be found for $30 but then you need an adapter and you will not have the caps or box so to me, the $139 seems worth it to have one already set to mount on the NEX.

I was not terribly thrilled with the Noktor, especially at $799 but this little guy was only $139 so it HAD To be worth it, right? Well, you can not go wrong by adding this lens to your collection and I have to say that if you own a NEX camera, this lens is a must own just for those times you want to get creative and go for a special fun look. This lens almost reminds me of a lensbaby. The effects you get with this lens are dreamy, soft wide open, shallow depth of field and the Bokeh is better than the $799 Noktor I reviewed in the past though not up to exotic glass like Leica or Zeiss.

This is the kind of lens NEX and M4/3 owners have been begging for and is perfect for those who love creative lenses.

ABOVE: Sony NEX-5 and SLR Magic 35 1.7 Lens at 1.7

ABOVE: Sony NEX-5 and 35 1.7 SLR Magic lens at 1.7 – Click image for larger view

ABOVE: Sony NEX-5 and the 35 1.7 SLR Magic lens at 1.7. See how the edges  get soft and give you an almost diorama effect? Click image for larger view.

THE GOOD

The lens arrived FAST from Hong Kong (3 days) and it actually came in a nice box with the lens hood and rear cap. The packaging and presentation was nice and I was still surprised that this was only a $139 lens. The lens itself feels pretty good. Not anything like a Leica lens of course, but for the price, it is very nice feeling. This is an all manual lens meaning it is manual focus and you manually set the aperture. When using it, it’s almost Leica like in the fact that you have to take your time composing the shot because you have to get  the focus just right which usually means using the 7X or 14X magnification on the NEX. Luckily, Sony makes this easy because when you mount a manual lens the right rear button acts as the magnification button. If you want the magnification for a focus aid, just hit the button and  you will get a 7X or 14X view of the subject for critical focus.

The lens can be useful for portraits as it usually renders in a soft, glowing and dreamy type of way. I also like that the minimum focus distance is 0.3 meters, much closer than Leica lenses mounted to the NEX-3 or 5. The image above was shot at the minimum focus distance so for a 35mm lens, you can get pretty close. As I stated earlier, with this lens on the NEX camera you get a 52mm Equivalent so it’s like having a fast 50 on your NEX. Very cool, and for $139 it is well worth owning it just for those times you want that special look.

THE BAD

Well, a super fast 35mm lens for a really good price..there has to be something wrong with it right? Well, that depends on your state of mind and how you look at it. I knew going in that the lens would be soft at the edges and this is what drew me to it. The lens has a unique way of rendering a scene that you will either really enjoy or totally hate. To some, they will say this lens is useless do to it’s softness and weird edges but others will use that to their advantage. The lens can be super soft and if you miss focus it will look even softer, but when you nail focus its actually not so bad at all and sharp in the middle of the frame.

So what is the “Bad”? If I had to say anything I would say that the lens could be sharper but that would take away from its character. I could say that the lens could be built better, but this is a $139 lens, not a $600 lens. I could also say that it should be Auto Focus but nahhh, I love shooting manual lenses. This lens is a great addition to your Sony NEX collection because when you use it you will always get interesting results, no matter what you are shooting with it. Just keep in mind that this is no Leica lens and will not render images in that sparkly, super micro contrast way :) BTW, the SLR Magic lens is a medium to low contrast lens.

Take a look at the images below and you can see how this lens turned ordinary subjects into interesting photos…

One or two of these were not fully in focus and ALL were shot wide open at 1.7…

 

 

 

 

So the bad? For the cost, there really is no “Bad” on this lens. As long as you know what you are getting ahead of time then it should not be a disappointment. I’d buy this lens at the asking price in a heartbeat. Below you can get an idea of how small this little guy is, sitting next to the Sony 18-55 Zoom that came with my NEX-5.

 

 

BELOW: A video showing the SLR Magic 35 1.7 lens

 

SHOOTING THE LENS STOPPED DOWN. DOES IT SHARPEN UP?

So, does this lens sharpen up when you stop down the lens say to f2.8 or f4? Let’s find out! Below is a series of shots from F1.7 to F5.6 to show you how the lens sharpens up as you stop it down. Click on the images for a larger 1500 pixel wide view. I see that this lens remains somewhat soft on the sides/edges, even through f4. It sharpens up a bit at 5.6 but this lens is not about sharpness, it’s about the unique look you can get with it and that look is maximized when wide open at 1.7.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE SLR MAGIC 35 1.7 E-MOUNT LENS

I have to give applause for someone releasing a small fast lens for these small mirror-less cameras. Even though it is not a super sharp Leica lens, this little 35 1.7 is a great buy for $139. PERIOD! It may not be a lens you will use all of the time, but when you do use it be prepared for some interesting images. I consider  this a “Special Effects Lens” much like a Lensbaby but I’d highly recommend this lens if you are like me, and like shallow Depth of Field and a unique look to certain images. I found this lens can do good with portraits and everyday snapshots. I think it is good to have an arsenal of lenses  that do many things and the SLR Magic 35 1.7 is another lens that you could pull out on those days when you feel a but creative. I now own this one, and have been enjoying it and thats what it’s all about!

You can buy this lens from SLR Magic on Ebay HERE and their store is HERE. Thinking of buying into the Sony NEX system? If so, I’d buy mine at B&H Photo HERE.

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  75 Responses to “SLR Magic 35 1.7 Lens review on the Sony NEX-5”

  1. Looks like a really fun lens – something to put on list for my NEX-5. I still hope Sony introduces a F1.8 30mm or 35mm E-mount lens in the future. Until then, this guy maybe the ticket. Thanks for showcasing this great find.

  2. What a fun, creative little lens for a great price. These images have a pseudo holga look to me… Looks like a lot of fun for only $99. My favorite images are the low contrast close up portaits. You should keep it!

  3. very cool steve, glad you told us about it!

  4. Darn nice results there Steve. Love the soft corners. We pay good money for software just to get that effect and here this lens does it perfectly. Really amazed that this only costs $99.

  5. I agree that this lens should be a must own lens is I was a nex owner. A fun addition it must be.

  6. I would get this if i had a M4/3 or NEX camera for sure. Given that it covers APS in the NEX, it should work awesome for a lot of other cameras too if they make mounts for it.

  7. It appears this is just the lens I was looking for. I just posted a forum topic asking for the best budget 35mm prime lens for the E-mount! Guess I got my answer, huh? :-D

  8. Steve, please write a review for the pentax 25mm f1.4 C-mount….

  9. In the m4/3 version this would be equivalent to a 70mm f1.7, yes? And in that format the softer edges would be “trimmed” away.

    The ebay posting says that the aperture becomes square at f8. Could you post a shot with an out-of-focus highlight at that aperture?

    Incidentally, your super-models are adorable.

  10. Cool review of a cool lens, thanks Steve! It has the typical C-mount lens signature with the soft edges and low contrast, which reminds me of that little 25/1.4 lens I sometimes slap on my E-P1. Speaking of which – they also offer this lens (or a slightly different model, but with the same specs) in Micro Four Thirds mount!

  11. Steve, I’ve read some comments online that claims that the paint on some inexpensive lens adaptors have flaked off. If this is the case, I would worry about its effect on the sensor.

    I know you have used many adaptors before on the NEX and Olympus, have you ever experienced this yourself?

    Do you have any concerns that this SLR Magic lens mount might damage the NEX via flaking paint or some other way? Thanks. I would hate to damage my brand new NEX-5 because of a cheap product.

  12. This is why I read your site. Fun, creative ideas that keep the mind from going stagnate like a DPR message board follower :)

    Seriously though, pretty neat, economical idea. I’d be curious to see how you like it on the A33 where focus should be a little easier.

  13. Good stuff Steve! Sounds like you’ve found the perfect lens for RichardM8…

  14. Looks like a really fun lens. Would it fit on an M9 with some kind of adapter?

  15. check out the lens in use on a GF 1 for video here
    http://vimeo.com/groups/22825/videos/16890082

  16. WOW! I ordered one at about 1:30 in the morning on Monday, and it arrived today (Wednesday). These people are serious about customer service. (That’s with the expedited shipping, which raises the price to a crushing $140.00)

    To answer the questions about whether it will fit on other cameras: I got the m4/3 version; the mount seems to be a non-removable part of the lens, and even if you could mount it, it would not focus to infinity with a thicker camera like a leica.

    I’ve been walking around the house, taking pictures of everything (and everyone), and it’s a ton of fun, especially for the price. Thanks for the article, Steve.

  17. Note sure if I should post this but I might be trying to order this one instead of the SLR magic in view of the cost.

    While looking around some forums I was pointed out to another link
    http://cgi.ebay.com/25mm-f-1-4-C-Mount-CCTV-Lens-EP1-EP2-G1-G2-GH1-GF1-/290463256207?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item43a0f58e8f#ht_5308wt_778

    If you scroll below there is a lens for the Nex which looks almost exactly as the SLR Magic.
    Price is cheaper as well. Not sure if it works exactly the same though.

  18. Someone correct me if I am wrong but I have not heard of a C mount lens that covers the whole APS-C sensor and do expect to see extreme vignette when used on the NEX. But pls do share your results after you try the combination!

    • It would be pretty unusual if a C-Mount lens covered a APS-C sensor. The circle from most C-Mount would be just touching the edges of a APS_C sensor, causing considerable vignetting.

      C-Mount lens will usually cover very small sensors used in little handheld video cameras and CCTV system, some (this one being a good example) cover a larger area and are built of high quality glass, for snooping on people with CCTV at night! So can be turn into very interesting lenses on m 4:3’s cameras in particular. I have also used C-Mount lenses and a Canon 5 D and 1 D mk II….interesting effects, but not for everyday use!

      C-Mount lenses will work well on 4:3’s sensors and this particular one has a built in mount, so no adapter required. It shows no serious vignetting problems on my GH-1. Got mine today and trying it out. A really first rate lens for video (obviously) having continual aperture adjustment (rather than marked stops) which is a plus for video, but can be a pain for those used to setting aperture for stills by feeling for the click stops (there aren’t any).

      I must say the package you get from SLR Magic, a nicely mounted lens, lens hood, protective caps and even a nice cleaning cloth, all sent in a few days, make this a real bargain, specially if you haven’t already got a C-Mount adapter.

  19. Dear Steve,
    I think I told you to stop this in a previous posting, but now it really has to stop. Usually I end up buying a lens (via B&H link on your site – I do what I’m told) to fit a camera body. But now you do a lens review that makes me want to buy a camera! If I could afford a lawyer, I’d have her send you a cease and desist notice, but I’m now too broke to do that.
    Sincerely,
    Kevin

  20. Hmzzzz, 99 dollar lenses……..the I have overspend on my 90 euro 1.4 Nikon 50 for my GF1 :-)….I wonder how the chap feels who has just bought the 32.000 Leica kit though……:-).

    Greetings,

    Ed.

  21. Hi Steve,
    Does this lens works on aperture priority when mounted on the NEX 5?

    cheers
    ping

  22. Looks like a fun lens for my GF1. I went ahead and ordered it and got a message that it will arrive in mid December because of the volume of orders (which was kind of a bummer). I then received an email saying that I should receive the lens in about 3 days via UPS!

    Can’t wait to try it out.

  23. G’day Steve,
    Partly on your review and partly out of curiosity, I sent off for the SLR Magic 35mm lens, which arrived in two days (Hong Kong to Sydney via UPS).
    Based on limited use so far on my E-PL (Electronic Pretend Leica) 1 I am very happy with it and love the tactility of manually focussing again. And pulling aperture – it makes me feel in charge of the camera instead of just being a keeper pressing buttons and feeding it cards and a new battery when it gets hungry.
    However, I did notice two things and wonder if they apply to all of these lenses or just mine.
    The first is that it focusses well beyond infinity, which meanns you can’t just turn it until it stops for distant subjects. Perhaps this is because it’s not in the mount it was made for, although I thought it had been adapted for a Four Thirds camera..
    The second is that the focus point changes depending on the direction you’re turning the ring, which makes it harder to quickly focus on something. Once you’ve gone past the focus point, it is not the same distance back to it the other way. For quickest results you need to turn the ring in one direction only and stop when you think the image is sharpest. It seems to indicate some slack in the internal mechanism.
    However, it is a $79 lens and remarkable for what it does, so maybe these are things you have to accept. It certainly won’t stop me using the lens, or liking the results therefrom.
    I have e-mailed SLR Magic but not received a reply yet and was wondering if you or others had noticed these same ‘attributes’.
    There you go…
    David Perry.

    • Mine does the same thing…

    • I think you will find that many mounts for M 4:3’s cameras er on the side of over focusing.

      Certainly I have several (including the C mount used on this lens) that do. It is far better than the problems caused when the mount is to far from the focal plane of the lens as then infinity focus can’t be achieved (except by machining off some of the mount). With most adapters, if it really bothers you, you can shim them by removing the screwed on mounting plate and putting a thin piece of plastic behind it. You can’t do this with this lens as it has been permanently attached to a C Mount. However I don’t see it as a real problem, as the lens performs much better as portrait style lens and I would usually use it near fully open for the bokeh quality it produces. As a more general usage lens there are much better options, particularly quality lenses designed for the 35 mm format.

      As it is primary designed for video rather than still photography I find the focus works very well for pulling focus shots, lenses designed for fast focusing are not as easy to use for pulling focus on video. Using C Mount lenses on M 4:3’s cameras is just one of the many benefits of the design of this camera. I have always enjoyed using C-Mount lenses, because they are cheap and often produce great effects on images. On larger sensors the vignetting was a pain and on smaller sensors the depth of field just didn’t exist, so the 4:3’s format gives the best of both worlds. A sensor large enough for serious work, but small enough to allow the use of such lenses.

      I have used the lens for quite a bit of video on my GH-1 and it is great. I have also taken a few snaps with it, fully open and have been pleased with the results, which given the limitations of such lenses make it a worthwhile purchase, particularity for those who don’t already have a C-Mount adapter for their camera.

      • G’day Steve and Pete,
        I have received a reply from Andrew at SLR Magic and it is a function (if not quite a feature) of their 35mm lens that it focusses beyond infinity and the focus is a bit sloppy. He suggested using the magnification feature, which is what I have been doing when time allows. Otherwise it’s just a matter of reclaiming your not-forgotten manual focussing skills.
        He hopes to include a line-up dot on the M4/3 version in future.
        Interestingly though, he mentioned that the 26mm f/1.4 should be available around Christmas and next year there could be a “fast 12mm lens”.
        There you go…
        David Perry.

  24. on the NEX can you shut off the sound of the shutter?

  25. Hi Steve,

    loved your review! I just went ahead and bought one after reading what you had to say about it !

  26. Hi,
    is the mount of the lens made of metal or plastic?
    Thanks!
    Oliver

  27. Metal. Plastic lens mount…..don’t think so!

  28. Hi Steve,

    After reading your review I purchased immediately the lens! Expecting it to arrive this coming 27th of march.

    :)

  29. Steve
    I am a great friends of u and would like to share sth abt this lens :D
    I am from Hong Kong and indeed, this lens cost a mere $13 US to buy here…..

  30. Kind of a bummer that they got greedy and jacked up the price by a significant percentage now.

  31. It’s just a CCTV lens, there are many articles on the web showing shots with NEX and CCTV, and they look the same as yours. The only difference is the price: about 4 or 5 times more expensive!

    • Yes but remember this one already has been adapted for use on the NEX mount. If you buy the normal CCTV lens off of E-bay you still have to find the adapter. This one is more convenient and in one piece rather than two.

      • But back to the original point, at the time this was launched (and all the reviews, like yours, are still reflecting this), the price was $99. Then they jacked it up to $129 when I wrote my last comment, and lo-and-behold, now it’s $139.

        I know it’s a free market and businesses can sell things at whatever prices they can get away with, but I don’t do business with weasels. So I passed. Hopefully they’ll get the message if enough consumers cover their noses at the stench.

      • I bought the CCTV lens with NEX adapter, all possible caps and two macro rings, on eBay for $40, shipping included. I’m attaching a photo so you can help me finding the difference with your lens.

        [img]http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/2011-04-15_19-59-27_nex-3.jpg[/img]

        BTW, I found this nice lens by reading your article, so I thank you for this. I cannot afford expensive lenses like yours, so this is giving me some fun for a few bucks.

  32. [...] through eBay and ships directly from Hong Kong. Pricing is highly variable, so I paid 50% more than early adopters, but delivery was quick and the transaction was [...]

  33. I found this lens through this article while ago; I fell the need to comment cuz I’m really happy with it ! I’m playing more and more ( results are there for instance : http://is.gd/3bwvXO ) and I have to say that it’s fun …

    It happens a lot that when I’m in a party or meeting people I switch to this one to have really interesting shots, you can really express yourself through that … I’m not an expert at all, but this lens is definitely what I like ;-)

    Now I’m targeting the 0.95 noktor since your last articles I try to be realistic but I still wait until the results of the contest hehe

    Thanks for all your work and if you’re visiting Berlin drop me a mail, we’ll have a beer and I’ll show you some interesting places to shoot ;-)

  34. I’ve bought this lens from eBay, paid 40$ for it and that included the adapter for Nex, all the caps and a macro extension ring(can’t call that thing an extension tube).

    I was suprised to see that the lens is almost as sharp in the corners as its center, but they are usually just out of focus. If you point this lens to a flat surface with focus peaking switched on, you’ll easily see that you can get the corners in focus(and quite sharp) but just not at the same time as the center.

    The bokeh is a bit strange at anything other than wide open. The build quality is not the best, the focus ring is not as smooth as… well actually it’s the worst focus ring on a lens I’ve ever seen. Some places it’s a bit harder, some places it’s a bit smoother. It’s not really a problem, given the price of the lens. You just have to know that you can’t expect to make a surgical strike on the focus every time. Sharpness is not the best, contrast is not the best, colors are not truthful etc… You can go on for hours…

    But in the end, this lens can produce a beautiful picture, especially when used wide open. I prefer it to a Lensbaby Sweet 35, which looks to artificial to me. Also, it’s much and much cheaper. Even if they were at the same price(and exterior build quality), I’d prefer this lens to Sweet 35. Surely, a Sweet 35 with a Composer w/ Tilt Transformer would give you more possibilities with DOF games, but beware that it might give you too many settings to play with sp that you could easily lose yourself and stop making photos. On the other hand, this lens is just cheap, beautiful and inspiring.

    • But isn’t that a copy, not the real SLRMagic? As a low-tech product, I’m not surprised to see low quality copies like the one you bought, just that they don’t perform well, due to the lack of proper coating and such =)

      • I looked at them on EBay (both the SLRMagic & CCTV 35mm f/ 1.7) and to me they look like the same exact lens! Can anyone confirm this?

        Granted SLRMagic has the permanent C-mount to NEX converter… though for me, it’s a draw back. I’d rather have a versatile mount that I can use for other lenses.

        I’m seriously thinking of buying the SLRMagic but wouldn’t like to spend $140 if its the same $40 lens sold by CCTV

  35. Damn, I buyed analog of this lens (Fujian), but it’s focusing only at 10cm with my Canon DSLR

  36. [...] a very detailed review of the lens here. SLR Magic 35/f1.7 SLR Magic 35/f1.7 on Sony NEX 5 Related [...]

  37. Steve, I use this lens for my Ep2 and on that camera it is slight tele and that’s just fine for the tighter portraits. This lens is NOT FLAT FIELD, meaning when you focus in the center and reframe the subject, to the edge, it will appear unsharp. So you have to COMPOSE then FOCUS, rather than the usual opposite method. I think you will get more keepers that way. I used it for awhile, got fed-up that it was all so soft, then realized the aberration problem of non flat field…so now I am beginning to appreciate it a bit more.

  38. Hello Steve, I just bought this lens and tested it a bit. In the beginning I really liked it but later I found that it can’t focus to infinity (it has the infinity mark though), I think it can’t focus past 10meter at least (focusing in the middle), maybe even shorter. Also the focus ring seems a bit loose..

    Is this generally the case with this lens or do you think I have a bad example?

  39. Hey Steve,
    I found your website while doing some research on the SLR Magic 35mm for my Sony NEX3. Your review was very “real world” and just what I was looking for. I ended up buying this fun little lens and have had fun with it. I did a little write-up on my website – http://www.upatdawnphotography.com Take a look if you’re interested, I’d appreciate any feedback you may have (I included a link to your website in that post). I bookmarked this website and will be visiting often! Thanks again.

  40. [...] poison by unkle ..small cute lens SLR Magic 35 1.7 Lens review on the Sony NEX-5 | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS __________________ ✖Sarpork moi album~…thankyou~! I ish just a hobbyist~✖ [...]

  41. [...] that SLR magic sell a kit with the lens and adaptor, but I already have an adaptor coming lol SLR Magic 35 1.7 Lens review on the Sony NEX-5 | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS Much like my D3100, the 35mm lens will give an equivalent of around 52mm if it was a full frame [...]

  42. I bought the same lens from Rainbowimaging for $29 including the C-mount adapter for the NEX. It’s just a Fujian (or Fotasy…same thing) CCTV lens from China.

  43. put in CCTV lens and NEX in ebay search, and you can buy the exact same thing for $29 (shipping included). That being said, I would never be aware of this lens if not for this review, thanks.

  44. Mine was $21.99 including Nex adapter and shipping. This thing’s a lot of fun but I never would’ve paid $139 for it. Heck, I paid less for my Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AI-S

  45. Steve, I really enjoyed your review…thank you…. so decided to look for one….the eBay price was up to $149, so I decided to look for the $30 version you mentioned….I found one on Amazon for $30.29,including the NEX adapter….however, the name was not SLR Magic, although it looked the same – it came under the name of Rainbow Imaging…same specs though…I tried it out and found your review quite accurate – only downside is a hot spot right in the center of the image if I’m even close to shooting into a light source….don’t know if that’s typical of the breed, or particular to mine…..but as long as I avoid that situation, I love it …quite sharp in the center if focused correctly….they also sell a 50mm f/4…..thanks again for your review!

  46. […] this main image I printed the logo out on standard inkjet printer, then used the really really cool SLR Magic 35mm F1.7 lens, on my Olympus OM-D E-M5 to take the […]

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