Page 1 of 3
Review by Markus Stamm, published December 2013
SLR Magic is an interesting young chinese lens brand. They are manufacturing manual focus lenses for various mounts including Micro-Four-Thirds and Sony NEX. So far most of their lenses were found on the cheaper end of the food chain but they are keen of delivering more prestigious products. One of their latest releases is the Hyperprime LM 50mm T/0.95, which is ambitious in two ways: it's their first lens to feature a Leica M mount with rangefinder coupling, and it obviously targets and competes with the "king" of that eco system, the Leica Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 ASPH.
Interestingly, SLR Magic provides a T-number in the lens name instead of a f-number. The T-number refers to the effective light transmission characteristic rather than the calculated f-number of the lens. Since a small amount of light is lost in transmission, the T-number is always a tad slower than the f-number. Or, in other words: the f-number of the lens is even faster than T/0.95, according to SLR Magic it is around f/0.92.
The Hyperprime 50mm T/0.95 is a build-to-order product, which is available in two different versions. There is the LM version, which features an M-mount with rangefinder coupling and thus is fully functional on any Leica M camera. This version of the lens currently retails for $4995.
The CINE version of the lens features identical optics, but no rangefinder coupling. It's targeted at videographers and users of mirrorless cameras (including full frame cameras like the Sony A7/A7r), which intend to use adapted M-mount lenses. Retailing at $2995, it is considerably cheaper, but due to the lack of coupling not usable on most Leica M cameras (with the exception of the latest M 240, which features a live view mode).
SLR Magic is still a very small company with a limited distribution (& service) network. Their products can be primarily ordered via their website.
To avoid some confusion: SLR Magic offers another 50mm f/0.95 lens, which they aquired together with the Noktor brand. The former Noktor lens is also called Hyperprime now, but it is a completely different design for APS-C and smaller sensors, available in MFT- and E-mount (Sony NEX) and completely unrelated to the full frame LM/CINE lens which is reviewed here.
The build quality of the SLR Magic is absolutely superb. It seems to have been carved from a metal block and considering the amount of large glass it is about as heavy. Both the aperture and focus ring operate extremely smoothly (dampened).
Since SLR Magic designed this lens also with videographers in mind, the aperture ring is stepless and features no half stop clicks, a rather unusual approach on an M-mount lens, which also takes some getting used to in the field. Since there is no tactile feedback, it is impossible to set the aperture without looking at the aperture ring.
As you can see in the product images above, the physical length of the lens increases slightly towards closer focus distances but the front element does not rotate.
SLR Magic did also implement a telescope-style lens hood. We’d really like to see more lenses with such a classic but very convenient approach. It would have been nice to be able to lock the lens hood, especially since the hood on our test lens developed a habit to follow gravity over time.
As already mentioned, the lens is quite large and heavy. On the M9, the combination is very front-heavy and a bit cumbersome and exhausting when used over longer periods or during lengthy shootings. In addition, due to the size of the lens a good part of the viewfinder image is blocked by the lens, especially when the hood is extended.
|Optical construction||12 elements in 7 groups, incl. 7 Tantalum elements|
|Number of aperture blades||12 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.7 m (max. magnification ratio 1:?)|
|Dimensions||73 x 95 mm|
|Filter size||62 mm (non-rotating)|