Meet the new Saturn 35mm anamorphic lens from Sirui.
Made with a carbon fiber front barrel, it’s one of the smallest cinematic anamorphic lenses on the market today. And because it’s made from a mix of alloys and carbon fiber, this thing is light too. It looks and weighs about the same as a slim can of Coke at 415 grams. Light enough to use on smaller gimbals, rig up to FPV drones and car rigs.
So when Sirui asked if I’d like to test out this 35mm lens on my channel, I was a bit skeptical at first about such a small cinema lens made from carbon fiber. I mean, how good can this thing really be considering that cinema lenses are typically bigger and heavier than stills camera lenses because of certain aspects like larger precision focusing rings and high-quality optics? And considering Sirui’s other standard 35mm lens is twice as big and heavy, can this lightweight anamorphic lens actually perform as well? And where does Sirui place this lens in the filmmaking market? Let’s find out.
Sirui has marketed this lens towards handheld gimbal-style indie filmmaking and for capturing cinematic FPV drone footage. Since its lightweight body is designed to weigh only 415 grams, its actual physical footprint is wonderfully compact for its cinematic capabilities. The results are also pretty surprising.
Now when considering moving over from filming making with spherical lenses to the anamorphic format, you have to consider a couple of things: loss in sharpness, especially when your subject is positioned outside of centre frame; distortion towards the edges of the frame where the opposite of barrel distortion will occur; lens flare will be more prominent and distracting if used incorrectly. But of course, these are all things that can enhance that cinematic look and be the very reasons to buy one of these lenses. Those horizontal lens flares that you see in Hollywood blockbusters like Startrek or the Mission Impossible movies, or anything JJ Abrams directs and produces. Whether you’re a fan or not of the horizontal lens flares, you will be able to control those flares depending on your angle of shooting. Directly into a beam of light or the sun, then you’ll be compromising the integrity of the footage. However passing through the light sources, using the edges of objects or shooting at angles to the light will give you more creative control.
This 35mm Sirui lens comes in two versions of lens flare: the blue flare which is synonymous with sci-fi Hollywood movies, or the natural lens option which takes on the colour of the light source which is definitely the one I prefer.
When I took the lens out of its box - and it’s airtight seal - I could not put this thing down. My hands simply wouldn’t let me. It just feels incredibly well-built. The focusing ring and aperture ring have a lovely smooth action and resistance. Not too tight or too loose that you accidentally knock the shot out of focus. I’ve heard reports from other youtube reviews that the rings on Sirui lenses can be too firm. I’ve not found that to be the case. They both turn with exactly the same resistance. The lens consists of 18 glass elements in 13 groups and suffers very little chromatic aberration. Unfortunately, it’s not weather sealed on the lens mount which is a bit of a shame so you will have to take care when shooting in harsh environments. And this lovely carbon fiber front barrel, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it before the lens arrived, but I feel very confident about its strength and durability.
So let’s talk about the most important feature of this lens, the optics. Obviously, it’s an anamorphic lens designed around the full-frame format so it squeezes a 2.4:1 aspect ratio onto your 3:2 full-frame sensor. That means that the image will look pretty distorted on the back of your camera. However, if you have a field monitor, they usually have an option to view the feed in anamorphic mode. You’ll also be required to apply a de-squeeze factor in post-production of 0.635 in order to get the correct look in your footage, which you can apply across your entire project settings or individual clips. But you do end up with those cinematic black bars across the top and bottom of your footage. The 35mm anamorphic lens in effect gives you the same horizontal field of view you get from a 22mm spherical lens, so nice and wide for capturing background detail. The sharpness is actually quite good. When compared to its closest spherical lens - my equivalent 24mm sigma art lens which by the way is ridiculously sharp - I’d say very pleasing results from the Sirui. And you have to be aware that anamorphic lenses typically have a slightly softer look in your footage. Also, because this lens has a 1.6 squeeze factor, it produces better compression than the regular 1.33x factor lenses, which ultimately means blurrier background bokeh in those lovely oval shapes.
Speaking of the squeeze factor, it has a constant squeeze ratio which basically means that when you change focus from one object to another, it doesn’t change size. You might know this as focus breathing. Well, this lens doesn’t suffer from it. Very good news.
So we’ve seen some pretty impressive footage coming out of this lens. Are there any negatives to this carbon fiber 35mm lens? I’d say very few. If you’re used to shooting video using automatic focus lenses, then you will have to practice your manual focus-pulling skills. Get used to reading distance and dialing in those measurements which incidentally are very accurately measured in meters and feet. The infinity marking is not at the very end of the 120-degree focus dial, so you’ll have to be aware of that. But these teeth are beautifully constructed and spaced exactly the same on their entire lineup of lenses at Sirui.
The one major drawback on focusing is the minimum focus distance. A whopping 90cm or 3 feet so if you want to shoot those Breaking Bad style close-up wide-angle shots, then you’ll need to purchase a diopter close--up filter to attach to the front of the lens. Pretty cheap to buy, I think my kit cost me around £20. I think I mentioned the focus ring is 120 degrees around which gives you good control when focus pulling.
So all in all, it’s a very impressive lightweight cinema lens for those run and gun, indie filmmakers, FPV drone filmmaking, strapping to car rigs and handheld gimbals. A great step up from using spherical lenses and creating genuine cinematic footage on a budget. The lens comes in at a very respectable $1,299 when compared to other bigger budget brands. Short film producers and directors will be thankful that Sirui released this neat little lens. If you’re considering buying one of these lenses, you won’t regret it.