Schneider was one of the first lens makers to build ground up, Full Frame, cinema lenses. Unlike many of the lenses in the Full Frame lower-budget market, the Xenon primes are not based on still photography lenses.
The lenses are compact, and light-weight, and have excellent mechanics. Color and contrast are extremely uniform from focal length to focal length, as well as at all T stops. Focus breathing is also well maintained.
The wider lenses have unique bokeh and pronounced lens flares. Bokeh and flares are more subtle as focal length increases. They deliver very beautiful images despite their low price point.
Very subtle SA, Almost like a built in soft FX.
Intense SA, CA throughout. Most likely an early model
Heavy decentration. Abnormal.
Significant focus falloff in mid-field.
The Schneider Xenon FF primes deserve more attention than I think they receive. Part of the reason was that they were announced so many years before full frame cinematography was on everyone’s radar, and partly because it took quite a long time for them to be a complete set. They were first introduced as a set of three: 35mm, 50mm and 75mm. The 100mm and 25mm followed, and the 18mm finally was introduced years later. There were rumors of a 135mm, but it never really surfaced. If they were announced today, as a complete set, they would probably be well received, especially at their price point.
All lenses cover full frame, and their T stops, although not consistent across the range, are fairly respectable. They are sharp, and color and contrast is very consistent across the set. Keep in mind, these are purpose-built cinema lenses, designed to be a cohesive set, NOT rehoused still lenses. I really like their mechanics, and their relatively small form factor. I also love the generous spacing of the iris and focus gears, which makes it very easy to set up with a matte box and follow focus.
The images they produce have enough contrast to make colors pop, but they aren’t overly sharp or harsh, which makes them quite flattering on faces. Their flare/ghost character is nice, and they can flare big. Bokeh has some interesting stuff going on depending on what distance you set your focus to. Overall the look has elements that hark back to older lens designs, but with a look that is more refined and consistent from focal length to focal length. To me, the only real negative in this set is that a few focal lengths are particularly prone to chromatic aberration, and even stopping down doesn’t clean it up completely.
If these lenses were not on your radar until now, give them another look.
The Schneider Xenon FF Prime are an adapted design from the original Xenon designs from Schneider in the 1950’s onward. While they are a modern manufacture lens, they do have a lower contrast vintage type feel to them when used wide open.
I had the pleasure of helping to provide the design specification for these lenses during my time working at Schneider Optics. The team took a lot of the lessons learned by the team from the Cine-Xenar lens series and adapted them to the simpler design of the Xenon FF Prime.At the time of introduction in 2012 and 2013, these lenses were revolutionary for the price providing some stiff competition to the Zeiss CP.2 which was one of the only other full frame affordable cinema primes. The Xenons have a soft flare wide open that turns more clinical when stopped down.The lenses have significant CA wide open and are really best used at the T3/4 split. They are useable wide open however the CA makes it necessary to avoid strong backlit subjects.
Schneider was slow to release the 18mm in this series which is slower and significantly heavier than the others. The 35mm has the worst performance in regard to CA and focus breathing. All other focal lengths are relatively well matched.Schneider manufactured a large number of these lenses which many owners have sold for other choices that have hit the market since. The 2nd hand market is significant for these lenses making them an exceptional value for the budget minded shooter seeking full frame performance.
Schneider Xenon's have been in the FF game longer than most! This set is definitely one of the veteran "modern" sets of the bunch yet still holds up. They're sharp, clean, consistent and their price-point makes them an easy investment for any filmmaker!
The Xenon FF primes from Schneider were an early entry into the dedicated Full Frame cinema lens market. In fact, I believe these were the first FF cine primes that were designed from the ground up. Their predecessors; the Zeiss CP and CP.2 as well as the Canon CN-E primes were both based on photo lenses.
The Xenons were unique in that regard but fell out of favor when faster, high quality options became available. That doesn’t change the fact that they do produce a uniquely flawed image reminiscent of Angenieux zooms. Their slower speed can be overlooked in most cases, especially considering their size and weight.