I can find no fault worth mentioning with the build quality and finish of this lens, it's sturdy, reassuringly heavy and well finished with smooth and perfectly damped focus and aperture rings. I suppose if I was being really picky I would say the geared rings were a little hard on the fingers but let's not forget this lens is optimised for video use with a follow focus.
In terms of sharpness the lens delivers a surprisingly good performance wide open for the price with resolution remaining strong towards the edges of the frame. There is some visible purple fringing and contrast can very a lot depending on the lighting conditions but both of these can be countered quite easily with modern software.
The lens delivers smooth bokeh apart from point light sources that can have quite a solid outline, I think this is the best of both worlds and it reminds me a lot of the bokeh I see in movies where out of focus lights are used to stylistic effect whereas everything else is just a smooth blur. Thanks to the hefty aperture blade count out of focus highlights remain circular throughout the aperture range.
The lens can be coaxed into producing some extraordinary flare wide open which also reminds me of watching motion pictures and which will either be drool worthy or an eyesore depending on your tastes but as I said before you can literally turn this flare off by stopping down just a tiny amount. The lens becomes sharper and more contrasty as you stop down and already by T/2.8 the optical performance is very strong with crisp sharpness and a minimum of aberrations.
Overall the lens performs very well wide open considering it's price and fast aperture, there are some weaknesses but they can be countered quite easily with software. Once you stop the lens down to T2.8 and beyond the optical performance is very impressive indeed but be assured that the lens remains very much usable at it's maximum aperture.
The only other issue I noticed was some slight distortion but again it was simple to remedy with software when necessary.
Compared to other options:
Thanks to the generous trade in scheme a lot of people will be upgrading from the SLR magic 35mm f/1.7 lens and will be wondering how much of an improvement this lens really is, I can comfortably say that you will instantly see a huge improvement in all areas, the sharpness wide open is a lot better and on the T1.4 this applies to the entire image and not just a tiny little blob in the centre of the frame as with the f/1.7. The new cine lens has no field curvature in comparison so subjects can be sharp at the centre and the edge of the frame at the same time. You will also find the bokeh to be much smoother and that it will remain circular because the T1.4 has many more aperture blades.
The 35mm F/1.7 remains a great little lens for the money and gives very unique and often pleasing results but as a serious tool for still photography and filming alike it just isn't on the same level as the new T1.4 lens.
The same applies to users of the fujian 35mm f/1.7 CCTV lens with which the SLR Magic F/1.7 shares a common ancestry and is an improved version of, the T1.4 lens is superior in every way and can be considered a "real lens" whereas the CCTV lens while capable of producing great images is very much a toy in comparison.
You may also be considering the Jackar 34mm f/1.8 lens but despite it's elaborate finishing and packaging, this lens also found it's beginning in the Fujian 35mm CCTV lens and simply can't hope to come anywhere near to the SLR Magic 35mm T1.4 for optical performance or build quality, it's just in a different league!
In conclusion I found this lens to be very well made and capable of delivering a high level of performance. The image quality is obviously at it's weakest wide open but is still very good and very usable with decent sharpness and a perfect balance between smoothness and character when it comes to bokeh. The lens just gets better and better as you stop down and from T2.8 onwards it performs on a very high level comparable to lenses costing a lot more.
I quickly became accustomed to being pleased with what I saw on the computer screen after a shooting session and the lens constantly impressed me with it's performance/price ratio.
For the price there is really no significant weakness, the lens represents amazing value for money and would make a great choice for still photographers or film makers alike!
Decent sharpness wide open that extends well into the edges of the frame.
Very high overall image quality in all areas when stopped down to T2.8 and smaller.
Bokeh that strikes a perfect balance between smoothness and character.
Highlight bokeh remains circular throughout the aperture range thanks to the hefty aperture blade count.
Very solid all metal build quality damped focus and aperture rings.
Warm and vibrant colours.
Very cool looking lens flare that can be used to great effect and which disappears quickly upon stopping down (Perhaps a con to some but not me!)
Purple fringing can be strong in some circumstances but quickly dissipates upon stopping down.
Contrast can be quite weak wide open under certain lighting conditions.
To cut a long story short, the lens is excellent value for money and performs very well even wide open, it has character without being a novelty item like CCTV based lenses. You can absolutely use this lens as a serious tool for picture and film making. In this price point the pros outweigh the cons several times over.
I highly recommend this lens for anyone needing the best balance between price and performance!
The SLR Magic 35mm T1.4 is available in Sony E mount, Fuji X mount, Canon EF-M Mount and Micro four thirds mount. The lens is not yet available on the website or their ebay shop but you can get ahead of the queue by ordering direct, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find my Flickr photo set of sample images HERE
You can find Part one of the review HERE and Part two of the review HERE