Schneider Variogon f/1.8 12.5-75mm lens test with the Digital Bolex

I’ve been looking for a fast zoom lens for my Digital Bolex D16 for months. I was very happy in receiving my Switar f/1.6 10mm prime lens. It’s a thing of beauty. But I wanted a zoom lens that gives me wide to long in one package for documentary work. I came across a Schneider f/1.8 12.5-75mm and love it.

Schneider2

The crew has lined up for my test shoot of the Schneider lens (photos by Stephanie Petrie):

Bolex-and-crew

Let’s face it–it’s tough finding a good C-mount zoom lens for the Bolex.
This Schneider glass is one of them if you need a zoom, but it’s not perfect.

It’s got weight and it easily screws onto the C mount of the D16:

Schneider-zoom-on-Bolex-up

Pros
It’s Schneider glass, and built like a tank. It does not feel cheap, but designed to last. Made in Germany.

It’s also fast: f/1.8 throughout the zoom range, with manual and smooth focus, aperture, and zoom (important for the D16 since there’s no automatic control of any of these). I also like the zoom range of 12.5-75mm–good for doc work. For a 2.9x crop (16mm), it’s go almost everything I need.

Schneider-lens-on-Bolex-down

Cons
It’s heavy, so it’s difficult to handhold as seen in the 75 and 50mm test shots in the film (below). It also has noticeable vignetting in 2K mode, so that option is out. In full HD (1920×1080), there is minor vignetting when shooting wide open and focusing open too much on the macro side.  The two times it occurred, I was easily able to crop them out in post.

Here is the test film:

Conclusion
This is a solid zoom lens for the Digital Bolex. I would have no problem using this lens in Full HD mode on a monopod or tripod, but never in 2K. I could probably do handhold work from 12.5-35mm. Plan to crop the edges when shooting wide under certain focus conditions.

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Kurt_Lancaster1_small Kurt Lancaster is the author of DSLR Cinema and Cinema Raw: Shooting and Color Grading with the Ikonoskop, Digital Bolex, and Blackmagic Cinema CamerasHe is also the author of Video Journalism for the Web: A Practical Introduction to Documentary Storytelling

He teaches digital filmmaking and documentary at Northern Arizona University, including a new Master’s emphasis in Documentary Studies (nau.edu/docstudies). Kurt received his PhD from NYU.

 

4 thoughts on “Schneider Variogon f/1.8 12.5-75mm lens test with the Digital Bolex

  1. Is the zoom parfocal? Also, how bad is the vignetting wide? I didn’t see you go all the way to 12.5 in the video. Very informative though. Thanks so much.

    1. Jonesy:

      It’s definitely noticeable. I switched over to the micro-four thirds adapter and use the Metabones Speedbooster with my Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 as my go-to lenses for documentary work. In the end, I didn’t like the c-mount lenses.

      1. Hi Kurt,

        How are you able to control the aperture on the Canon? Do you have to power the speedbooster seperately? Is it possible to power the speedbooster from the D16’s XLR power out?

        How about IS – did you get the canon’s IS to work with the speedbooster?

        Thanks
        Ben

        1. Yes, with an external battery for $10 (see http://www.amazon.com/Anker-PowerCore-Lipstick-Sized-Generation-High-Quality/dp/B005X1Y7I2/).

          You get no f-stop numbers, but the Speedbooster has the toggle that allows you adjust the aperture one stop at a time. I also use a 77mm fader filter for shallow depth of field work.

          I have not tried to power it through the Bolex, since you need USB to micro USB.

          Yes, the IS on the Canon lenses power up with the external battery.

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