Cinema lenses are the heart of cinematic storytelling, shaping the aesthetics and painting the tones that breathe life into each scene. Among the plethora of options in the market, the SLR Magic MicroPrime Cine lenses have surprisingly carved their unique place, offering an enticing package for filmmakers on a budget. I recently invested in the SLR Magic MicroPrime Cine lens set: the 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm, and it's been a refreshing revelation.
I recently shot a couple of projects with the set, including a short film (Until Taipei - now in post production as of the time of writing, and a commercial). Coming back into the edit here I am so pleased with how things turned out. Each shot has a really special feel that hearkens back to the film days without feeling at all mushy or lacking in detail. Long story short, these are keepers, especially for the price. For a more detailed breakdown, read on...
The first thing that immediately strikes you about the MicroPrime Cine lenses is their character. Each lens in the set, from the gorgeous wide-angle 21mm to the more portrait-friendly 75mm, brings a distinct cinematic personality to your footage. Take a look at the framegrab from my short film Until Taipei (above). Isn't there a lovely vintage feel? An organic touch that does not feel too digital or clinically sharp? I love it!
I also noticed that the SLR Magic MicroPrime Cine set maintains a level of resolution and detail that keeps your footage distinctly modern and professional. There were so many times on my last two projects where I caught myself smiling when I saw the image in my EVF. The imprefections in the lens set make it feel almost as if they have a life of their own, an opinion on how the scene should look. If you have ever been dissapointed with how clean some modern glass can be, this set is 100 miles in the opposite direction. Think Helios type character in a modern cinema housing (well, minus the swirly bokeh).
Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of these lenses is their colour rendering. The MicroPrime Cine lenses offer vibrant, rich and nuanced colours that are both accurate and aesthetically pleasing. The skin tones are reproduced naturally, maintaining the warmth and details which are critical in narrative work. The overall colour profile leans towards the warmer side like Canon and Cooke, bringing a sense of depth and atmosphere to the scenes. It is this unique balance between realism and cinematic colour grading that sets these lenses apart. These are are to Zeiss lenses as The Flash is to Reverse-Flash.
In terms of detail, the MicroPrime Cine lenses shine. They provide outstanding sharpness and detail with a fair amount falloff at the edges of the frame when wider than T2.8, which I tend to like.
The lenses do display some chromatic aberration which is a drawback, and show controlled levels of lens flare, but I think the character of the lens outweighs these negatives.
The bokeh rendered by these lenses is pleasingly smooth and rounded, adding a pleasing aesthetic to your out-of-focus areas. It's not overly creamy nor overly busy, but rather strikes an excellent balance that provides a natural yet cinematic look to your scenes.
One of the things I love the most about this set is that they are fantastic for use in low-light. On indie sets, this can save a lot of time and money (which we are always starved for!) as it means that we don't need to swing in as many lights to bring up the level.
They are rated as follows:
Of course, there are many reasons to love a fast set that go beyond simple shooting in low light. It's very useful to be able to isolate an actor in frame or paint a more romantic mood with a wide open aperture. When paired with a modern high sensitivity Sony sensor like in the A7SIII, FX3, FX9 etc, there is almost no situation too difficult for these lenses to operate in.
A Budget Cooke Set
For those familiar with the legendary Cooke lenses, you may be surprised at how closely the MicroPrime Cine lenses can mimic their look and feel. From the rich, cinematic colours to the balance between sharpness and organic rendering, the MicroPrime set offers a similar aesthetic on a budget.
While it's true that they may not quite reach the level of optical perfection that Cooke lenses are known for, the MicroPrime Cine lenses offer an aesthetic that is beautifully cinematic and undeniably professional. They allow filmmakers to achieve that sought-after 'Cooke look' without breaking the bank (you can buy them without taking a second mortgage).
Just Another Tool in my Storytelling Kit
The SLR Magic MicroPrime Cine lenses are far more than just budget lenses. They bring their own unique aesthetic to the table, offering beautifully cinematic footage that is rich in detail and colour.
While no lens set can be perfect for every situation, the MicroPrime Cine lenses offer a unique blend of characteristics that make them a great choice for filmmakers looking to create beautiful, cinematic footage on a budget. Their character, colour rendering and detail capture the essence of a 'budget Cooke set', making the SLR Magic MicroPrime Cine lens set an exciting and cost-effective alternative for indie filmmakers and cinema enthusiasts alike.
In the end, filmmaking is about storytelling, and the MicroPrime Cine lenses are tools that help us tell our stories with the depth, richness, and authenticity they deserve. And in that regard, these lenses are nothing short of magical.
I will post more framegrabs from projects shot with this set soon over on my cinematography page. Check pack for updates!
DC Brandon is an Edmonton, Canada-based film director and cinematographer. For booking inquiries, visit the contact page.