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XEEN 135mm Lens Review

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

Music via Musicbed: Makeup & Vanity Set – “Montages” 

This comparison is going to be…

We’re putting the Xeen next to the Canon Cinema Primes, the Zeiss CP2s, and the Cooke S4i’s—my benchmark lens.

We want to look at its color rendition and its bokeh (boca)—what it does to out-of-focus lights. We are also going to see what it does when we rack focus, and what it does to a face. Does it widen it? Does it make it thinner? Does it stretch it in one way or the other? And lastly, its contrast as well as its sharpness.

Whatever creation you have, that piece of glass is really the core. You see, it’s important to go through all these lenses, because they’re…

Let’s get this party started!

 

Here’s the rundown:

  • 135mm Xeen lens vs Canon Cinema Primes
  • 135mm Xeen lens vs Cooke S4s
  • 135mm Xeen lens vs Zeiss CP2

What you’re going to see color-wise is what I call my skin-tone LUT. This is on the RED Weapon. This is going to be our LUT of choice, and we will go through this systematically, both comparing and contrasting every lens and what I’m looking for when I see it on the monitor.

135MM XEEN

Right off the bat, I’m loving the color tone. There’s a slight green tinge still which we all saw in the full Xeen lineup, but we know with just a slight tweak of the color knob we’ll be able to get rid of that. The bokeh is almost round but it has a slight variance, so it’s not quite a circle. The contrast in the lens looks very nice and the sharpness is great.

When racking focus…

Which is awesome!

Now, with Xeen, I could definitely see it working for a nice period piece film. Immediately how it has that slight green-yellow tint, it’s going to fall right into a period piece look. The contrast is also a little flatter which softens the tones.

QUAD SCREEN COMPARISON

The Xeen, Cooke, and Zeiss have a very nice white, clean lower contrast. These are definitely seen in the same contrast range. But now, the color of the Xeen is far superior to the Zeiss. The Canon appears to have a magenta tint with a kind of pink hue.

The Zeiss seems to have a little more definition than the Xeen. The Canon maybe has a little more definition but not too much; in fact, I would say the Xeen and Canon are comparative in definition quality. The Cooke, however, has the most definition quality over the other three pieces of glass as well as resolving a more rounded face to Monette. While the Xeen and Zeiss narrow the face, the Canon and Cooke are the closest with rounding the face.

This is all at a T2.2 because that’s the wide open on our Xeen, so we wanted everyone playing on the same field.

XEEN vs. CANON

The Canon feels a little more 3-dimensional, like I’m pulling the face towards the lens ever so slightly.

And while looking at the Xeen, we can see how it has more of a flatter field in comparison…

The rack focus looks very good on both lenses—no breathing whatsoever, so that’s nice.

XEEN vs. COOKE

The Cooke is obviously a much more neutral piece of glass. In comparison, the Xeen has that slight tinge of green-yellow. The bokeh are more stop-signy with the Cooke; there aren’t enough blades. Again, we see nice bokeh with the Xeen.

There’s a little more of that 3-dimensional quality; but this is a $20,000+ piece of glass compared to a $2,500 piece of glass.

I think in our comparison with both lenses, the Xeen is holding up beautifully from a color and bokeh standpoint. While racking focus, just like our last comparison with the Xeen vs. Canon, both lenses rack focus exceptionally well without any breathing.

From a contrast, you’re going to see more into the shadows and it’s going to expand your latitude shooting with the Cookes compared to the Xeens. I’m also seeing more detail—I’m seeing more of the idiosyncrasies of Monette’s face—where with the Xeen, it’s not as sharp.

But again, we’re talking about an…

XEEN vs. ZEISS

We have almost the same amount of contrast between the Zeiss and Xeen. Color rendition-wise, I’m liking where the Xeen is coming out.

Now as far as bokeh, it’s pretty much the same across the board—both have the slight variance in their roundness. There’s a slendering quality to the Zeiss where it seems like there’s a little flatter feel to the Xeen.

However, zooming out while racking focus and then zooming in to rack to Monette, we saw how the Zeiss breathes a good amount.

Now, let’s go to a T2.8

Starting with the Xeen, I have to say, this is the sweet spot on this lens. The bokeh rounds out beautifully and the contrast and the sharpness of her skin really comes true. It really looks nice and has a good quality to it.

Now, when I go to the Canon, you can really see how it has the lower contrast that we all talked about compared to the Xeen, and it has the pink quality.

The Xeen and Zeiss match with their contrast level, but the Xeen’s color looks nicer.

XEEN vs. CANON

There’s definitely a little more 3-dimensional quality with the Canon. I don’t necessarily like the red, pinky tone.

Is that something we can dial out?

Just like we can dial out some of the green in the Xeen, but the $2,000 difference is something I can really get behind. Plus, the Xeen is performing very well overall. The Canon has less contrast than the Xeen.

XEEN vs. COOKE

Across the board, it’s just definition. Definition and clean—both are what the Cooke is delivering. The Xeen doesn’t have quite the same amount of definition and it’s more contrasty, but it has better bokeh.

XEEN vs. ZEISS

With the Zeiss, I just feel that it’s a wash in every way shape and form, where the Xeen is giving us good color contrast in all the different tonalities.

The contrast level on the Xeen and Zeiss seem similar.

Let’s take it to a T8…

We had to really crank up the volume on our light source to get it to an 8, and I wasn’t able to increase my fill level as much. As a result, the contrast is a little more extreme in this situation. You can see how the bokeh is really nice at a T8, and again, the color is holding true. That being said, the Xeen is not as creamy as the Canon or the Cooke.

XEEN & CANON

Obviously, the Canon at a T8 still has its pinky qualities and the Xeen has its yellow-green qualities. The Xeen felt like it did not let in as much light as the other three lenses.  

XEEN & COOKE

Both performed well at a T8, but the Xeen felt like it was underexposed about ⅓ to ½ stop and not a true T8.

XEEN & ZEISS

Once again, the Zeiss is just too yellow.

THE VERDICT

I would say the Xeen is the softer piece of glass, which is not a bad thing. I mean, I shoot specifically on softer pieces of glass, because I don’t like how sharp HD is. I feel the same way with how sharp 4K, 5K, and 8K is. So I’m always going to vintage glass.

The Cookes were made a long time ago, and they have the qualities I want when looking for glass. I’m not gravitating towards Leica Summilux because they’re just too sharp for me. But if there’s a feature film that wants the crispness, then that’s a great lens to go to. Instead I tried to use everything in my arsenal to get as close to the 1912 period piece that I was going after.

The Xeen really came to play during this test. It stood up to the expensive glass, and not only held its own, it even excelled in many ways. Now, let’s breakdown what we’ve learned:

  • XEEN
    • There’s a slight greenish tinge that can be removed
    • Bokeh is not quite a circle, but still round
    • Racks focus without breathing
    • Softer image
    • Affordable
    • Really good color, good bokeh
    • Almost same contrast level as Zeiss
  • CANON
    • 3-dimensional quality
    • Lower contrast overall
    • Racks focus without breathing
    • Great definition sharpness, second to Cooke
    • Puts out a magenta, pinky hue which can be removed
  • COOKE
    • More Neutral Tone
    • A nice, 3-dimensional quality, pushes background away from subject
    • Low contrast
    • Best definition and sharpness overall
    • Racks focus without breathing
  • ZEISS
    • Looks like a yellow wash and breathes when you rack focus
    • Good definition and sharpness, third to Cooke and Canon lenses
    • Nearly same contrast level as Xeen
    • Monochromatic

All videos were edited on HP Z840 workstations using HP Z24x DreamColor monitors.

Get The Complete XEEN Lens Test:

14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm

Our four RED Dragon cameras rigged up with the different lenses

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