The Fujinon MK50-135mm T2.9 cinema lens is the second in Fujifilm’s new line of MK lenses designed for Super 35 and APS-C cameras. MK lenses are designed to appeal to the emerging production market, offering features and quality typically associated with more expensive cinema lenses at a price point that’s attractive to budget-conscious cinematographers. The MK lenses are based on Fujifilm’s excellent Cabrio line of cinema lenses (which cost $15K and up), and share the same coatings as well as a similar mechanical build, but at a cost just under $4,000 they’re more accessible to a lot of users.
I reviewed the first MK lens, the MK18-55mm T2.9, a few months ago and really liked it. Since the two lenses are designed to work as a set, they’re basically indistinguishable except for focal length, so if you want to read my detailed thoughts on how the MK lenses perform I recommend reading my earlier review, which for all practical purposes applies to both lenses.
If you’re not yet familiar with the MK cine lenses, you may be surprised to learn that they use Sony E-mount. Why? Fujifilm wants to address the growing market of independent filmmakers, small production houses, and other professionals who use the Super 35 and APS-C formats. Sony has a huge presence in this market thanks to cameras like the FS7, FS5, and even a-series mirrorless, and many users of these cameras adapt other lenses, such as Canon EF-mount, to their cameras.
What about Fujifilm’s own mirrorless cameras? The company has announced plans to release MK lenses in X-mount later this year so that Fujifilm shooters can take advantage of them as well.
When I tested the MK18-55mm lens earlier this year, I did so with a Sony FS7, a Super 35mm camera mounted on a shoulder rig with rails, a follow focus, and an accessory EVF. However, Fujifilm emphasizes that the MK lenses are also designed for use on similarly sized APS-C sensors, so this time I decided to go that route. Unfortunately, during our short window of time with the lens I didn’t have access to a rig for a full setup, so I was limited to basic tripod and handheld use.
When mounted the Sony a6500, it’s easy to see how large the MK50-135mm is compared to the diminutive camera. While it’s technically possible to shoot this combination handheld, it’s not terribly practical thanks to its large size and all mechanical controls.
The great news is that the video I captured looked beautiful, and the lens appears to deliver the same quality that we saw on the MK18-55mm.
I also tried using the MK50-135mm with the full frame Sony a7R II in Super 35mm mode. The size mismatch is a bit less obvious than with the a6500, however it’s no more practical for shooting handheld. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – chances are good that if you’re considering this type of lens, you’re planning to rig it in some way.
In fact, this lens works very well with both the a6500 and a7R II (in Super 35 mode), and would be a great lens to pair with either of them. With a basic set of rails and a follow focus, the setup would work just as effectively as with a dedicated video camera.
One of the reasons for using cinema lenses is that they often come in matched sets, and this is the case with the MK lenses. The MK18-55mm and MK50-135mm are physically identical, including T2.9 iris, gearing, dimensions, and even weight (right down to the gram). They’re also matched optically, meaning they can be interchanged seamlessly without changing the look of the resulting footage.
Why are matched lenses important? In a cine setup the lens is often mounted on rails, and likely has attachments such as a follow focus or matte box. Ideally, you don’t want to have to readjust every accessory each time you change lenses, and having physically matched lenses means you can swap them in and out very quickly without needing to readjust everything. The MK lenses are so similar that I would have a difficult time telling them apart without seeing the zoom range printed on the lens barrel.
When it comes to build quality, the MK50-135mm is very solid thanks to its all metal construction. As with most cinema lenses, it’s completely mechanical, and every movement feels well damped. It’s a pleasure to use and gives one the sense of using a high quality piece of precision equipment.
One thing that sets the MK50-135mm apart from most still photo lenses is the large 200 degree focus rotation angle. This offers a lot more precision than you’ll get with the shorter focus throw of a DSLR lens, or the unpredictability of focus-by-wire, so it’s easy to make very fine adjustments as your subject moves. The lens includes very precise distance marks, in both English and metric units. This is particularly helpful if you have a separate focus puller who is following the action in a blocked scene.
The MK50-135mm also has a parfocal design, meaning it can maintain precise focus while adjusting the focal length. As still photographers, we don’t usually worry about this capability since it’s easy to refocus after zooming. In contrast, when shooting video you may actually intend to zoom while recording, and you want to maintain focus on your subject through the entire transition. Losing focus during a zoom can ruin the shot.
I was really impressed with the parfocal performance on the first MK lens, and the MK50-135mm performed to the same standard.
Another common property of cinema lenses is that they resist breathing, a phenomena that causes the lens’s field of view to change slightly when focus is adjusted. This becomes particularly important when you’re doing something like racking focus between two subjects; you don’t want the field of view of the scene to change when you do this as it can be very distracting. The MK50-135mm suppresses lens breathing very effectively, which is not surprising given that the MK18-55mm did so as well.
Based on a couple days of use, I really like the Fujinon MK50-135mm lens, which – not surprisingly – is the same conclusion I came to after testing the MK18-55mm version. They’re both beautiful pieces of equipment that are a joy to use, and which deliver excellent results. The fact that there are now two of them spanning the entire 18-135mm range makes me want the set even more. If you’re a videographer using an E-mount camera, it’s really tough to go wrong with these lenses.
The MK lenses should also appeal to Fujifilm X-mount users. In particular, we found the Fujifilm X-T2 to be a credible 4K video camera, especially since it’s capable of outputting F-Log gamma over its HDMI port. We don’t yet know the exact release date for the X-mount versions, but Fujifilm tells us it will be later this year, and we saw prototypes at NAB in April.
The MK50-135mm T2.9 will be available in E-mount in mid-July for a price of $3,999, which is just slightly higher than the $3,799 MK18-55mm.