Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: Pentax 16mm f1.4 C-mount CCTV lens - tested on Micro Four Thirds & Pentax Q


Back in January I bought a bundle of 12 C-mount CCTV lenses from eBay. (The ad actually said there were 13 but the guy forgot to send me one of the lenses. Oh well.) I paid $85 for the lot and included were 2 copies of the Spacecom H3.5mm f1.6, 6 copies of the Rainbow S4.8mm f1.8, 1 copy of the Pentax 6mm f1.2 and 3 copies of this lens that I'm about to review, the Pentax 16mm f1.4.

I've seen a few C-mount CCTV lenses from Pentax (some are manufactured along with Cosmicar) being used on mirrorless cameras but I've only had a chance to shoot with about a handful of them. Some aren't so good on modern digital camera sensors while others are excellent. I wouldn't call the Pentax 16mm f1.4 a standout lens but it's one of the better C-mount lenses I've used, at least on the Pentax Q. Your opinion may vary if you're expecting to use this on a Micro Four Thirds camera.

(One of the lenses that I consider to be excellent (at least when using Micro Four Thirds cameras) is the Pentax Cosmicar 25mm f1.4 which I should do a review of at some point. Far from perfect technically but great in the areas that matter to me and the images look gorgeous. But anyway, we're here to talk about the 16mm f1.4!) 


DESIGN

Size-wise, this lens is pretty tiny when compared to other C-mount lenses that people have been using on mirrorless cameras. I'll cover how it handles on different cameras further down in this review. It's fairly light but the mount and other parts of the lens are metal so there's some weight to it. Focus and aperture rings are smooth and easy to use. The battery in the photo below is an AA battery.


COMPATIBILITY

Micro Four Thirds

The image circle doesn't cover the entire sensor, and you get heavy vignetting. You can still use it though if you're willing to crop your images later on or if your camera has a zoom/crop mode of some sort. Different camera brands use different names for this function but it essentially crops the middle portion of the image and you're only using the middle part of the sensor.

Shot normally on an Olympus Pen E-P3.

On my Olympus Pen cameras, it's called the 'Digital Teleconverter' and it's essentially a 2x zoom so the effective length becomes 32mm (or 64mm film/full frame equivalent). Not how I usually prefer to shoot but I thought I'd try it out anyway. You normally have to access it via the menu but I have it assigned to one of my Fn buttons.

Shot with the 2x Digital Teleconverter function enabled.

Pentax Q

The image circle safely covers the entire sensor so nothing to worry about here. With a crop factor of 5.6 on the Pentax Q, 16mm is like shooting with an 89.6mm lens on full frame. It's also like shooting with the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens on Micro Four Thirds cameras which I love in terms of the focal length as well as image quality. On the Pentax Q7 with its 4.65 crop factor, the lens should be about 74.4mm full frame equivalent.

Same scene as above but shot using the Pentax Q, just to demonstrate the field of view.

Nikon 1

I don't have a functioning Nikon 1 camera at the moment but I can confirm that the image circle covers the entire sensor. With the 2.7x crop factor of Nikon 1 sensors, the lens has a full frame equivalent focal length of 43.2mm. Pretty close to the Panasonic 20mm pancake on Micro Four Thirds cameras which is one of my favourite lenses to shoot with. Too bad my J1 has a broken SD card slot at the moment because I'd love to be able to shoot with this lens on it. If I ever get it fixed or if I get a new Nikon 1 camera, I'll update this post.


Sony NEX/Fujifilm X/Samsung NX

At the moment I don't own any of these cameras that use an APS-C sized sensor but if the Pentax 16mm f1.4 vignettes on Micro Four Thirds cameras then you're going to get much more vignetting on those cameras. If your camera has a digital zoom function then you might be able to get an image without any vignetting. It may not be worth your time though unless you can get this lens cheap or free and you already have a C-mount adapter.


ERGONOMICS

Micro Four Thirds

It's a bit too small for cameras such as the Olympus Pen E-P3 or the Panasonic Lumix GH1 but not ridiculously small. It feels nicer to use on the smaller Pen E-PM1 and possibly on the tiny Lumix GM1 (which I don't have but I think it's a little smaller than the E-PM1). You mostly don't notice the weight on any of those cameras.


Pentax Q

It feels just right when used on a Pentax Q, whether shooting one handed or using two hands. I like how balanced the combo feels on my hand.


IMAGE QUALITY

My findings apply to both Micro Four Thirds and Pentax Q unless otherwise noted.

There's softness wide open and the results aren't good when shooting a bright scene at f1.4 or possibly if you have a lot of bright lights in the scene. It's not bad though under soft light and it can look nice when shooting black and white. It sharpens up fairly quickly at f2 and it seems sharpest at around f4 on both Micro Four Thirds and Pentax Q. You may start to notice the diffraction creeping in at around f5.6 on the Pentax Q but nothing too horrible. I'm very happy with the sharpness in the centre of the frame.


Corners aren't as sharp but pretty good considering how this isn't one of the more expensive C-mount lenses out there. I'm not noticing any vignetting. Chromatic aberration is present but mostly confined to the corners. They show up in the centre but mainly on high contrast shots and only noticeable when viewing photos at 100%. If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see some noticeable chromatic aberration even at that size. That said, I had a hard time seeing it in any of my other photos without really examining it at the pixel level. It'll depend on what you're shooting.


There's some barrel distortion but it's a bit better than some of my other C-mount lenses and can be corrected fairly easily when post processing. They're mostly noticeable in the edges of the frame and not as noticeable on the Pentax Q since it's using a smaller part of the image circle. I haven't corrected any of the images in this review so what you see here is what you get regarding the distortion.

There's some noticeable distortion when viewing the bricks on the bottom.
I'm not noticing the distortion as much in this scene, maybe on the lower left and right corners.

There are 8 aperture blades and the bokeh is nice enough. You may see some octagons in the background depending on the aperture you're using and what you're shooting. I've noticed the onion ring effect in there too when shot wide open although it might just depend on the lights in the background. Sometimes it's obvious, other times not so much.


Below are some photos taken at different apertures.

f1.4
f2
f2.8
f4

I was hoping the minimum focusing distance would be pretty good on my Pen E-P3 given that I'm magnifying the image 2x but I'm getting a much better result with the Pentax Q.

Minimum focus distance on Olympus Pen E-P3 (with 2x Digital Teleconverter function enabled).
Minimum focus distance on Pentax Q.

VALUE FOR MONEY

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I got 12 C-mount CCTV lenses for $85 and there were 3 copies of this lens included. I consider this to be a good deal since I'd be willing to pay that much just for the 3 Pentax lenses alone (although I'm not the type to buy multiple copies of a lens unless they were sold as a bundle).


FINAL THOUGHTS

Looking back, I realised that I spent more time testing this lens on my Pentax Q than on my Micro Four Thirds cameras. That's because I'd rather shoot with some of the native lenses on Micro Four Thirds. But if you'd like to do a bit of experimenting with C-mount lenses and don't mind using the Digital Teleconverter function (which I was perfectly fine with) or cropping your image later on then you can do much worse. There might be some nice uses for it when shooting video.

As for shooting with it on Pentax Q... What can I say? I like it quite a bit. Not that I own or have used a ton of them but at this point in time, it may be in my top 3 favourite C-mount lenses for the Q. (I have a lot of fun taking fisheye shots with my Kowa TV lens 3.5mm f1.4. And I think there's another one that I can't remember right now.) I like the photos that I've taken with it and it feels good to hold the combo. I like to shoot from a distance and I'm able to do that when I have this lens on so I'm happy.

I have a Computar 12.5mm C-mount lens and while the focal length is okay, the lens itself is too big and not balanced to my satisfaction when used with the Q. I have several 25mm lenses but the focal length (140mm full frame equivalent) is too long for the most part. The 16mm focal length on the Q is just right and while the wide open performance is such that I mostly don't shoot it at faster apertures than f2, it's still a pleasure to shoot with on the Q.

 
ADDITIONAL SAMPLE PHOTOS

I've mostly been busy at work and I haven't gone out much as of late. All the photos in this review were taken during my walk to and from work, at and around the office, and at home. I'll try my best (no promises) to not be a hermit and actually go out so I can take more photos with this lens.


[Update 2014-03-15]

EVEN MORE SAMPLE PHOTOS

I went out at 4am on Saturday morning to take some photos. See below.

9 comments:

  1. Hi, nice review. In fact, I just bought one off eBay based on this post and I don't even have a Q7... Yet. Do you know if your copy is the 2/3 version?

    Thanks Again and keep up the good work,

    Glenn

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    1. Hi Glenn, thanks so much for the kind words! I think my copy is the 2/3 version but there might be more than one version of the 2/3 version. I'd love to get my hands on a Q7 but I think my wife would kill me if I bought any more cameras.

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  2. Haha, I shouldn't be proud of this, but I bought a Canon EOS M almost a year ago that my girlfriend is unaware of... What we do for our art.

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    1. Haha that's a dangerous game you're playing. Don't forget to erase your browser history :p

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    2. You're probably right, I don't think she can tell the difference between the t2i and eosm anyway, but I didn't think about the history... Doh. I think I am going to sell my t2i, I haven't used it since I got the eosm, and since I only use my cameras for video, the eosm is the better choice. I am really excited to mess around with the q7's manual video functions, they're pretty impressive for a small sensored camera. Not to mention, I love Pentax lenses, so it should be a good fit. Do you use any nd filters with these c mount lenses?

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    3. Sorry for the late reply! :( I eventually sold my DSLR when I went mirrorless so I can see where you're coming from. If the EOS M can do what you need it to do then you probably don't need the T2i. I used to shoot with a Canon DSLR too and it took me a while to sell it off. I think it took a year of not using it before I sold it. I loved them L lenses but just too heavy considering I just take photos for fun these days.

      I haven't used any ND filters on the C-mount lenses. I'm sure there have been times when I would've benefited from using one but I get a bit lazy. Let me know if you have any more questions about the Q system and C-mount lenses.

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  3. Hey Dan, I just noticed your reply. Sorry for the late response. I finally just picked up a Q7 this morning. I have been holding out for a cheaper price and finally found a great deal. It was getting frustrating because I had all these lenses I have been dying to test with Q7. I can't wait to test my set of Cosmicar C Mounts and some old Kern D Mount lenses I picked up last summer. While I was waiting for a deal on the Q7, I ended up getting a great price on a NEX 3n. The video quality is nothing short of amazing. Out of camera, with specific lenses, it looks like 70's cinema. Mirrorless cameras are awesome. Anyway, hope all is well and thanks for all your help.

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    1. Hi Glenn, nice to hear from you! I'd love to get a Q7 and try out my different lenses on it. I had an NEX 3n for a few months last year and I was really impressed with the video and even the picture quality considering it's just Sony's entry level mirrorless camera. I got some good pics out of it even with just the kit lens. You get a lot of bang for buck these days which is great.

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    2. Sorry for the delay by the way, been overseas and just got back a few days ago.

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