At the heart of this lens set is the now legendary vintage Russian 58mm f2 Helios. Its beautiful swirling bokeh and pronounced lens flares have given the lens a cult following among filmmakers and portrait photographers alike. Quite simply put, in the Clavius set, the 58mm is a rehoused Helios 58mm f2.
Richard Gale Optics then used the 58mm as the base lens for the rest of the set, building a 28mm, 38mm and 88mm each with the Helios 58mm at their core. Richard Gale Optics has been developing this lens set for years, and the latest housings are excellent. Long, buttery smooth focus throw, true internal focus, 95mm fronts, that work with all standard matte boxes, and PL mounts that will accept any brand of PL to EF adapter.
Significant SA, CA throughout. Cleans up around T5.6.
(yes, 18LP/mm) Significant SA, CA throughout. Cleans up around T5.6.
The best lenses nobody has ever heard of! If you want a unique look these are the lenses for you. Infinitely customizable with swappable rear lens cells (low contrast, color dyed, ground edge, etc.) and dozens of changeable iris disks to manipulate the bokeh. Or use them with the standard 1970’s rear cell and no inserts for that signature Helios 44look…swirling bokeh, low contrast, and just the right amount of barrel distortion. Once people see the images from these lenses, everyone will become a believer.
It's safe to say these lenses are like nothing else in this test. Honestly, they were a last-minute addition to the lens test, and we ran out of time to test the whole set, so sadly we only have the 58mm and 88mm in the Lens Library. The 58mm is where much of the story of these lenses begins. The 58mm quite simply is a rehoused vintage Russian Helios 44-2 58mm f2, in a modern cinema housing, with a PL mount and internal focus.
Where things get interesting is how the other 3 focal lengths were created. The 28mm, 38mm, and 88mm are made by adding additional elements to that 58mm design. Although the new designs are made using modern Schott glass elements, because the Helios is at the core of each focal length, each lens maintains the Helios' unique bokeh and flare character, making the set very consistent from focal length to focal length. The lenses are tough to explain, so it's really best to test them out for yourself. Although the lenses are great for super 35mm shooting, where you can really appreciate their unique character is on full frame cameras.I
f you are not familiar with the Helios, it has one of the biggest cult followings of any still photo lens. It's cheap, and was mass produced, but the lens lives up to its hype. It's a clone of the legendary Zeiss Biotar 58mm f2, and it delivers a unique image. It's sharp on center, and has little to no chromatic aberration. Where it gets its reputation is it's swirly bokeh, somewhat reminiscent of, though not as extreme as Petzval lenses, which are a favorite of many portrait photographers. Thanks to its simple design and old coatings, the lens flares beautifully and easily. Although the lens has always been popular for portraits, it's at home in any shooting situation.
Another interesting aspect of the lenses' housings, is that they accept drop-in iris discs in various shapes. A popular choice is their oval aperture discs, which give bokeh the look of anamorphic lenses, but with the convenience of shooting on spherical lenses. Keep an eye on these, as more focal lengths, and more ways to customize them will be announced.
Richard Gale's Clavius set are certainly one of the most unique in this test. They, like the BLACKWING7, allow the user to tune its mechanics to their liking. Regardless of what you choose, they bring a classic and vintage look with big flares, lower contrast, and fun bokeh. Not to mention the one-of-a-kind build. Definitely a must to check out!
The SIGMA Classic Primes are also a personal favorite of mine. I had long wanted to properly produced set of primes with little to no AR coatings. SIGMA delivered! Only the front and rear outward facing surfaces are coated (for protection) and the look these primes provide is very, very unique. The trend of polishing the coatings of one or two elements was a waste of time in my opinion.
Going full tilt like SIGMA did was a huge risk that I believe paid off. The images that these lenses produce are very unique and can be a powerful storytelling tool in the hands of the right cinematographer.