Setting up the Fujinon MK18-55mm T2.9 cine lens with the Sony FS7 and Zacuto rig. (I accidentally left the matte box back at the office. Shh... don't tell anyone.)

Fujifilm is a respected name in the photography world thanks in part to its highly regarded X-series cameras and lenses. However, Fujifilm is also a major player in the professional cinema market, producing cinema lenses with prices that reach upward of $90,000. The company is now extending its cinema expertise into what it calls the ‘emerging production’ market: users who need capabilities and features beyond what’s available in standard DSLR or mirrorless lenses, but who don’t have a budget to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single lens.

The Fujinon MK18-55mm T2.9 cinema lens is the first in Fujifilm’s new MK line of Super 35 lenses designed specifically for this market. It will be joined later in the year by the matching MK50-135mm T2.9 lens, giving users complete coverage of the very useful 18-135mm range of focal lengths. The MK line is based on the company’s Cabrio line of cinema lenses, which have prices starting around $15,000, and both lens lines share the same coatings and basic mechanical build. At $3,799, the MK18-55 is still a bit pricey by photography standards, but a relative bargain for a high quality cinema lens.

Sony E-mount on a Fujinon lens? Read our First Look slide show to learn why.

Despite being a Fujifilm product, this lens uses Sony E-mount. (We discuss Fujifilm’s reasons for choosing E-mount in our First Look slide show.) As a result, I tested the lens attached to a Sony FS7, a Super 35 camera that’s popular among this segment of users.

Shooting with the MK18-55mm T2.9

We only had a couple days to do our testing, so I threw together a quick shoot highlighting one of the Pacific Northwest’s favorite sports - climbing - and met up with local climber Jay Griffin at The Mountaineers climbing wall in Seattle. This scenario was perfect for shooting with focal lengths across the range of the lens, as well as for some good follow focus opportunities.

TL;DR - I really like this lens. In fact, I won’t even make you wait to get to the video, so here it is:

Video shot using the Fujinon MK18-55mm T2.9 cine lens and Sony FS7 camera. All footage was captured in DCI 4K/24p using Sony SLog3, edited in Final Cut Pro X, and graded using LUTs from Color Grading Central.

I chose to shoot the entire video shoulder-mounted, so I set up the FS7 on a Zacuto Recoil rig with rails, a Z-Drive follow focus, and a Gratical Eye viewfinder, along with the FS7’s remote grip. This is a fairly straightforward setup, but it takes a few minutes to arrange all the pieces so that everything works correctly and is ergonomically arranged for the camera operator

Setting up the rig highlighted one of the important features of the MK lenses: they’re matched. For this shoot I only had the MK18-55mm available, but later in the year Fujifilm will be adding the MK 50-135mm to the line as well; both lenses share the same weight and dimensions. In a two-lens shoot, it would be incredibly easy to switch between the two while leaving things like matte boxes and follow focus in place. Also, since both lenses have identical T-stops it would be easy to match exposure as well.

Using the lens was a joy. As with most cinema lenses, it’s completely mechanical, and build quality is outstanding. Every movement feels well damped, and one gets the immediate sense that it’s a high quality piece of precision equipment.

One place where this mechanical build is immediately noticeable is the focus ring. Unlike most modern DSLR or mirrorless lenses, which continue to spin after reaching the end of their focus range, the MK18-55mm has hard stops.

Working with a follow focus is a breeze thanks to the mechanical lens design and geared focus ring.

It was simple to set up the Z-Drive follow focus with the standard pitch gearing on the focus ring, and thanks to the 200 degree focus rotation angle it was easy to make precise focus adjustments, using peaking in the viewfinder as a guide. The large rotation angle made it easy to adjust for small movements or to follow Jay when he moved slowly. You don’t get this level of precision with the shorter focus throw of most DSLR lenses, and you certainly don’t get it with focus-by-wire!

I didn’t notice any obvious signs of lens breathing, a phenomenon that causes a lens’s field of view to change slightly as a lens is focused. Breathing is fairly common on stills camera lenses, and it rears its ugly head when you’re trying to do something like rack focus between two subjects. Cine lenses are designed to suppress lens breathing, and as far as I could tell the MK18-55 did so extremely well.

Like other cine lenses, the MK18-55mm has a parfocal design, meaning it should maintain precise focus during zooming. Still photographers often don't care much about this since it's simple to zoom and then refocus before taking a shot. For video work, however, you sometimes want the zoom to be part of the shot. Losing focus mid-zoom is a big deal.

Since I was using a shoulder mount rig without an assistant, it wasn’t very practical to test the parfocal performance of the lens with Jay. However, back in the studio I lined up the lens with our studio scene and confirmed that its performance is excellent in this regard; once focused, the subject remains in focus throughout the zoom range.

Shooting with the Fujinon MK18-55mm T2.9 lens and Sony FS7.

It should be pretty obvious by now that I really enjoyed using the MK18-55mm. In addition to finding it well designed and delightful to work with, I was very pleased with the footage I captured. Optical performance appears to be outstanding. Based on my brief experience I would have no qualms about shooting a full project with this lens. It’s exciting to see Fujifilm entering this market, and I’m really looking forward to future lenses in the MK line.

Now, bring on the MK50-135mm so I can use the set!