Review: SLR Magic HyperPrime 12mm f1.6

November 12, 2011

Straight up. This is a fantastic lens. I love everything about it. It’s unique, tactile, involving, solid and damn fun. Would I recommened it to everyone? Well, that’s a tough call.

My version is the production version (black ring).
Photo from

Let me start here by saying that I’m by not means a “technically” minded photographer. I’ve been though film school, but for me photography is simply about having a solid camera that’s fun and mobile enough to have around at all times that produces images that really pop. My previous favorite cameras have been my beloved Nikon F3, a Panasonic Lumix LX3, and now, the Panasonic GH2.

So, here are my reasons for loving this lens.

It’s a film lens. Having spent time around motion picture cameras, handling this lens reminds me of glass we used to carefully pass around the set for an Arri 16mm. The rings are buttery smooth and offer a solid resistence. They’re also “geared” (as in the texture of the ring), as if to mate with follow-focus units, more evidence this is more video focused. For photography, focusing takes time and care. To overcome this hurdle, I leave it on inifinty, wide open and ISO on auto. A snap shot just requires a tiny focus adjustment if the subject is any closer than a few feet away. But part of the joy of photography for me is getting involved in the subject, up close and person. Another reason why the 12mm/24mm range is so fun for me. Although I do love shooting video (see my travelogue with the GH2 & 20mm 1.7), photography is what I spend most my time with.

The glare. Yeop. There’s glare. Try shooting towards a light source at f/1.6 and you’ll hear “Crimson and Clover” echoing in the distance. Stop is down just a tad, and the glare disappears. I like this quirk though.

Clarity and quality. Certainly not as crisp as my other favorite lens, the panasonic 20mm 1.7, but this is still a serious lens. It produces images that feel very intamite, sincere and cinematic. There’s distortion, but it all adds to the mojo.

Size and weight. The HyperPrime is a big, hefty, solid lens. My one complain about the construction is that there is some wiggle in the m4/3 mount that attaches the lens to the GH2. There’s a very tiny bit of play, and because turning the rings requires some force, you can feel it all the time. Perhaps this is just mine. If you have one, I’d like to know please!

All in all, this lens suits me and my approach to photography. It’s involving to use, opens up many creative options, forces you to really craft your shot and produces images that draw you in. It’s not for everyone, but for those it is for, this is truely a special lens.

Here are examples of my past week with this lens. All shot on the GH2 (setting on “Smooth”), enjoying in the fall wonderland in and around my city, Toronto.

(cick images to enlarge)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

frans franz November 15, 2011 at 4:28 am

yummy….. i’m sold
where did u get this sweet lens? i look to noktor web n didn’t find one.

Rinaldo November 16, 2011 at 6:59 am

Good review! But one of the things that doesn’t attract me in this lens is that its focus ring turns to the opposite side of most lenses (except nikons). I use my GH2 mostly for video and it’s a pain sometimes… So went to the oly12/2.. yes, more expensive but smaller and a joy to use too….

Jonathan Wong November 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I was directly in contact with the owners and they agreed to sell me one from their early batch.

Jonathan Wong November 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Yeop.. good point. If focus speed is an issue for you, then the Oly is for you.

Edwin Arnaud November 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Hey, nice review. I was fortunate enough to purchase this hyperprime recently. I received it three days ago. Regarding your comment about the play in the lens, I have it too. I mounted it on my EP2 and EPM1 with the same result. Other than the play, I’m really impressed with the lens so far.

Jonathan Wong November 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Good to know. I don’t have any other m43 cameras to test that out on so this is good to know. Appreciated!

Randy Robinson December 10, 2011 at 8:50 am

Hey guys, about the play in the mount. I’m gonna guess it’s because it is more for motion pictures and being hand held, because even hand held they are usually mounted on a rig with a follow focus, so they aren’t applying the same force as you are when you shoot hand held. Still it shouldn’t be there, but I think that’s inherent in a heavy lens on that kind of a mount. I have felt it with the 14-140 lens & the Voigtlander 25mm. I shoot mostly with the 14-42 & 20 mm pancake which I don’t feel that play with, I have only rented or borrowed the heavier lenses, but have noticed it on both lenses and on other GH2’s. But not when focusing with a follow focus just when mounting the lenses or handling the camera with those lenses on it or when focusing by hand and not the follow focus. But as long as they don’t fall off or affect the quality it’s no big deal, a little annoying that’s all. Am still planning on getting one when I can though.

Quentin Cooper February 27, 2013 at 1:57 pm

The “wiggle” as he calls it is a huge factor. NO lenses have wiggles in them, so why not wait until its sorted our before mass producing. I had this out with them when i bought one from them and then had to send it back. They said my camera was the problem. MY camera? (GH2) The people who invented micro four thirds were at fault that someone did not take the time to machine a lens correctly? Then there is the problem of lack of sharpness at infinity….again SLR Magic told me “the sensor in your camera needs to be calibrated” I mean for gods sake, “calibrated”? spend money sending the camera away to Panasonic to tell them they didn’t make well enough? then to modify it, pay for that and pay again to have it sent back all while you have no camera to shoot with? Why does my camera NOT need to be calibrated for any other lens except SLR’s 12mm half engineered mass produced prototype? WHY? this lens could be Soooooo good! And be sweeties and sell it with a lens hood (even if you have to charge an extra $20 for gods sake).

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