Time Stood Still – An Extreme Low Light Video – Sony a7SII & SLR Magic 50mm f/1.1

December 1st, 2015

This was supposed to be a normal comprehensive lens test/review of the new SLR Magic Cine 50mm f/1.1 made with a production unit we received from the manufacturer about 2 weeks ago. After working with the new lens, we’ve raised our concerns to the manufacturer especially about the softness of the image at the corners of the picture when shooting with a wide open aperture and setting the focus point to infinity. 

SLR Magic 50mm f:1.1

All was ready to be publish today when an e-mail from SLR Magic landed in my inbox. Here is an excerpt from their message:

From the two weeks of real life testing by several testers, we received 3 main concerns.
– Corner softness at infinity
– Sharpness at f/1.1
– Lens flare

We are currently making some changes within our capability to address the issues. The new changes would improve corner sharpness at infinity by approximately 20% but do not expect perfection after the changes. Sharpness at f/1.1 is not affected. Lens flare would be addressed with an optional lens hood.

It is encouraging to see a manufacturer who is taking action in order to make his product better after feedback from beta testers like us! 

As such, we decided to suspend the publication of the written review itself and wait for the new version to come, BUT, we also decided to publish the above video as it is a good example of what the combination of a fast lens together with the Sony a7SII can deliver in extreme low light situations. We will review and test the new lens soon. 

In the video above, I wanted to mimic a realistic documentary working situation. To my help came Tina Walzer who is the responsible historian for a very old close to the public Jewish cemetery located in Vienna. I was presuming it will be dark out there, at least at the heart of the cemetery with some light bouncing near its fence from the streetlights facing towards the street itself. Boy I was right! Even at a wide open aperture I had to tune the camera to a range of ISO 128,000 to 409,600. Below you can see a picture of “what my eye could see” vs. “what the camera saw in high ISO”. One of the reasons for those insigne high ISO values is my wish to expose correctly. If you would like to successfully work in Slog-2 during shooting in high ISO conditions, I advise you to do the same, otherwise you will be recording a lot of noise.

What my eyes can see vs what the camera can see

               What the camera can see on the left vs. what my eyes could see on the right

 

About this video:

Shot in 4K/25p, 100 Mbit, Slog-2, ISO 28,000 to 409,600, Edited on Adobe Premiere CC 2015, graded with James Miller’s DELUTs. NO de-noising of any sort was used. The “trick” is to use a LUT that can mask well most of it.

Music used in this review: Ghosts Seldom Stay In Their Graves and The Grave by Triads by Triads courtesy of themusicbed

A special thanks to Tina Walzer for helping me out in producing and executing this video.

SLR Magic

Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.com

52
Leave a Reply

guest
1
1
- 2
Filter:
all
Sort by:
latest
Member
December 23rd, 2015

Incredible work and review Johnnie. Love the look of this project– even the blurry edges, while noted as an issue, actually helped give the short project and nice look. Very curious about this noise masking LUT that you mentioned :) Because I am seeing some crazy noise when pushing past 25,000 ISO on my unit.

Member
September 19th, 2016
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Johnnie!!! I don’t know why, but I just saw your reply to my inquiry this past weekend and Wow! All I have to say is THANK YOU! It totally worked just like you shared and I’m enjoying the James Miller Luts even more now. The Basic Correction Slog2-SL-Profile was the secret sauce I’ve been missing! Much appreciated.

Alexander Tardif
Alexander Tardif
Member
December 21st, 2015

Johnnie – the lens is now shipping in the US. Any updates on your stated issues with the lens? I’m curios if things have been fixed at least with the corners. Thanks!

Member
December 8th, 2015

Wow! Thank you for not only doing a review, but telling a story as well!
I really like that approach and look forward to put that lens through its paces myself.
For that price its pretty impressive, although the sharpness is not that good it works with this story.
Thanks for all the work.

Member
December 4th, 2015

Johnnie,

Thanks for the footage. I’ve a few questions. How does it compare to the Rokinon 50mm? I love the Rokinon in all respects except is has a bit too much distortion on the edges.

Also, it’d be great to see how this footage would look graded for “night” – deep blacks, higher contrast, etc. If I were shooting it under these conditions, that’s probably the direction of the grade many of would go or we’d just shoot day or dusk. I’d like to see how handles noise, etc.

Member
December 21st, 2015
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

That would be great. I’ve a feeling the image is so bright that crushing it for “night” would yield something super clean.

BTW, I just returned my FS5 and ordered an A7S2. Need my night camera!

Caine Mitchell
Caine Mitchell
Guest
December 4th, 2015

Thanks for posting Johnnie.

By no means a crack at Johnnie’s work, but just a general point here…So the technology’s at the point where we can shoot useable content in the dark but do we really, really need it? Sure this ability can help out in a multitude of lower budget prods, the occasional wedding reception or event shots when u really need to cover them but IMHO it’s all a bit “uncanny valley” for me.

 Caine Mitchell
Caine Mitchell
Member
December 8th, 2015
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

I didn’t even think of ENG work, but yes you make a great point there Johnnie :-)

Member
December 3rd, 2015

Why did you shoot it inn s-log? Wouldn’t you get more info in the shadows using a different gamma curve?

Ref Alister Chapman’s lession og gamma curves.

https://www.cined.com/sony-fs5-features-in-depth-run-through-video/

Member
December 3rd, 2015

I know this is a lens review here so kindly pardon me but Oh!, this camera is devilish! wicked wicked wicked low light! wow! I can just imagine sony running out of stock under 2 weeks if someone comes up with a stable raw video hack like magic lantern for the canon, that would be mental.

Kepano Kekuewa
Kepano Kekuewa
Member
December 2nd, 2015

As with your other reviews, I enjoyed watching an actual documentary with a story as opposed to inanimate objects or a series of beauty shots. This was helpful. Thank you!

Michael Vincent Sarricchio
Guest
December 2nd, 2015

the track reminded me of a moment from the godfather

Bart van der Horst
Member
December 1st, 2015

It is beautiful, I so like your style And makes always enthusiastic to film more.

I was wondering with this low light that the
only that is missing.
Is the darkness. Or the feeling of darkness.

Member
December 1st, 2015

Is there any word on what T stop this lens is? Kina pointless to have an F stop on a “cine” lens.

Member
December 4th, 2015
Reply to  Jon Neely

If the difference between F and T is big (more than half a stop or so) than it makes sense to have F and T. T for exposure and F for calculating depth of field.

Anton Seim
Guest
December 1st, 2015

Really crazy to see her stumbling around not able to see what’s in front of her. This is a great test. I kept looking for grain and noise and it just wasn’t noticeable.

Christian Whitey Pokrywka
Guest
December 1st, 2015
Reply to  Anton Seim

I’m positive the footage was denoised with a plugin.

Christian Whitey Pokrywka
Guest
December 1st, 2015
Reply to  Anton Seim

I stand corrected – Johnnie commented on the Vimeo video that no denoting was done. The LUT used help conceal a lot of the noise. Pretty impressive indeed!

Greg Latham
Greg Latham
Member
December 1st, 2015

Have to say, I think this is great work, and pretty to boot. I’m really not a fan of flawless lenses, these types of issues (like the corner softeness) lend a lot of character to the film which I really, really like.

Soundtrack and sound work was also great. I saw no lav mic, what was your sound setup? I’m kitting up for a one man band documentary shooting early next year and I’m struggling a little.

Greg Latham
Greg Latham
Member
December 1st, 2015
Reply to  Greg Latham

Just found your sound setup at the bottom of the article, feel free to ignore!

Member
December 1st, 2015

Hi Johnnie, I red your article first and then looked at your video. I was expecting some soft footage, but instead I got something much better then expected, actually rather lovely stuff! Further more, I actually felt it very pleasing to my eye AND the “look” kept me in the story you where “telling” even more! What I am trying to say here is, yes, the lens might suffer from all the mentioned in your article, BUT it can work to your advantage depending on the story you are trying to tell! Thank you Johnnie for chosing to share this lens test with us instead of waiting for the second copy of the lens.

Christian Whitey Pokrywka
Guest
December 1st, 2015

Oooh perfect timing! I’m considering this lens for an upcoming purchase.

Member
December 1st, 2015

Looks like poop lol. For that money theres way more options out there.

Member
December 2nd, 2015
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

It’s nothing against the lens, it will have its time and place, but for the majority of film makers, having that blurry edge throughout just isn’t an option. Hopefully something can help that out a little bit.

Member
December 5th, 2015
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

I think it looks really great man, it shows what we can really do with this camera. Thanks for making this!

Martin Friedrich
Martin Friedrich
Guest
December 1st, 2015

Pretty amazing, thanks for that Johnnie! Why did you choose to shoot S-Log 2 over S-Log 3 if I may ask?

Member
December 1st, 2015

S-Log 3 is not made for low light situations. It’s designed for harsh contrasted scenes, like a hard backlit window or something like that. Shooting low light with S-Log 3 introduces a HUGE amount of noise into the shadows.

Member
February 13th, 2016
Reply to  Steve Staffan

Thanks for sharing this..just noticed that yesterday at night scenes..started to use the A7SII coming from canon ;)

Mel Bourne
Guest
December 1st, 2015

It’s pretty soft and there’s a bit of CA, bokeh is a bit meh.

Kinda expected for the money.

I’d like to see the focus breathing characteristics.

Lior Koren
Lior Koren
Guest
December 1st, 2015
Reply to  Mel Bourne

What do you expect at ISO 128,00-409,600? Sure it cannot be as sharp as shooting at much lower ISO.
At least, the A7sII can do it while most others cannot.
Beautiful work!

Lior

 Lior Koren
Lior Koren
Member
December 1st, 2015
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Thank you Johnnie, great work, never heard about this special place in Vienna.

Member
December 1st, 2015
Reply to  Lior Koren

Sharpness is kept through high ISO.

 Lior Koren
Lior Koren
Member
December 1st, 2015
Reply to  Steve Staffan

Camera noise reduction and sensor noise hurts sharpness. These are a very high ISO shots.

1
1
- 2
Filter:
all
Sort by:
latest

Take part in the CineD community experience