If you like taking landscape images, a good wide-angle lens is your friend. Often when you get to the Ultra-wide category you have two choices; expensive or poorer quality. Recently, I heard about a Lens company, Irix a Swiss designed lens being manufactured in Korea. Irix began offering a 15mm wide-angle lens a few years ago and has been slowing growing in popularity. Irix offers their lens in 2 models. Both lenses have the same internal works, but it is the housing that makes the difference. Their base model, the “Firefly” has a composite plastic cover and is not weather sealed. Their “Blackstone” model is housed in anodized metal with a dull glass finish and is weather sealed. The difference between the Firefly and the Blackstone is about $200, with the Firefly being cheaper. The Blackstone is currently selling for $648. It is the Blackstone model that I tested and am reviewing.
Prior to testing the Blackstone, I have shot with the Canon 14mm f2.8 and the Zeis 15mm f2.8. Both of these lenses are good to excellent quality lenses, but the cost difference is substantial with the Canon costing 3 times more and Zeis almost 5 times more than the Blackstone.
By the way, if you’d to check out all the specs on this lens, click here
The interesting thing to note about the Blackstone is it is a manual focus lens with a chip allowing you to electronically control the aperture thru the camera.
It also will accept a 95mm filter on the front of the lens; something that cannot be done with the Canon lens. The Blackstone also has a mount on the bottom of the lens where it connects to the camera body that takes specially designed 29mm x 29mm ND filters. Surprisingly enough, a full set of clip in filters is just $12.50. Those haven’t arrived yet, so I may do a follow up to this review later.
It’s worth noting that the Irix Blackstone arrives in a carrying case inside a metal box, inside a cardboard box and includes an extra end cap. It’s an impressive looking presentation, which lets you know this is not some cheaply made lens.
It has a very professional feel to it and it is not a light lens, weighing in at 1.51 lbs. The neutrino coating with the dull, deep black glass finish adds to the positive feel. As you handle the lens, everything seems well designed. The lens hood can be locked on the lens in either direction. The focus ring is smooth, yet not loose. There is a noticeable click when you reach the infinity setting, and it is possible to focus past that point. As a side note, I read other reviews of this lens where it was mentioned that the infinity mark was not accurate. I did not find that to be the case. One thing I really like is the focus lock; it is located just in front of the focus ring. For landscapes, I set the focus to infinity and then locked it down. That is going to be very handy.
SO, . . . . . How does it do in Infrared?
Great! No hotspots. I tested it from 470nm to 720nm and there were no issues what-so-ever. So, we have an inexpensive lens that is good for Infrared.
Now, how’s the quality?
I was impressed.
I received the lens on December 30th in the evening, so I went out to test it on New Years’ Eve Day. I live in St Louis, Mo and we are fully into our Winter season, so I took a little ride to the Missouri Botanical Gardens to shoot some inside their Temperate Room and then try some outside landscapes. All images were made with a Canon EOS-R converted to Hyper Color, using a Super Color filter. The body has a converter ring for EF to RF.
In the Temperate Room, I came across a succulent plant so I decided to test the close focal distance. The specs say you can focus up to 0.92ft. I moved the manual focus to the closest setting and then moved in until it was sharp.
This is the image. I know this is a wide-angle lens, but it’s nice to see it’s close up capabilities.
This also gives the lens potential for portraits.
Here’s a shot inside the temperate room.
If you’ve shot with an ultra-wide-angle lens before, you know that side distortion is very common. This is where the Irix Blackstone is impressive. There is very little barrel distortion, and I found it to be unnoticeable.
Here’s a better example, shot outside.
Notice the trees on the left and right of the image are not twisted or distorted.
Here’s one more.
So, what are the downsides? Manual focus, if that is something you don’t like, but using the locking ring is an easy fix. Other than that, in my opinion it’s a great lens and it now has a spot in my camera bag. You can get the lens through most camera stores online, and here is a link to the Irix webpage.