Samyang 14mm f2.8 Ultra Wide Angle Review
Also known as the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 Ultra Wide Angle
I not too long ago picked up the Samyang 14mm f2.8 (Rokinon 14mm f2.8) after doing a ton of research and comparing it to other lenses. I even had the Canon 14mm f2.8L II ordered on Amazon that I was going to buy until I decided to cancel and go with this. For quality lenses, money should not sway your choices too much. A good lens is an investment to having awesome, sharp photos for the rest of your life.
But this lens compared to the Canon will save you somewhere around $1,600.
I bought my Rokinon 14mm f2.8 for only $400.00 on Amazon. And in this case I'm not sure if the extra $1,600 would be worth it unless you're a pro architecture photographer that makes a grip of cash off this lens. And if you are a pro architecture photographer you'd probably want the Canon 24mm TS lens anyway.
This lens goes by many different names. Samyang 14mm f2.8, Rokinon 14mm f2.8 , And I've also seen it as the Bower 14mm f2.8. I bought the Rokinon version. They are all built by Samyang just branded differently.
For current prices check on Amazon: Rokinon 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Angle Lens
The Samyang 14mm f2.8 Review
If you found this post chances are you were like me and looking to figure out what Ultra Wide to get. I've read a lot of bad reviews about this lens and a lot of good reviews. What I learned was the people giving the bad reviews were criticizing the lens because it was all manual. So are Zeiss lenses and many others, It's possible these people just didn't know what they were getting into, plus the lens can come with auto focus for Nikon users.
I also saw a few reviews, particularly one by kenrockwell who had a bad experience with his lens. I've seen people posting this review and discussing it and many people didn't buy this lens because of it. After my experiences I'm pretty sure the person on this site just got a bad copy. My lens does not exhibit the bad qualities they speak of which you can see in my test shots below. I actually love this lens.
And keep in mind when you see a lot of fine art landscape photography, the photographers are usually using top secret post processing sharpening techniques. I share some on my digital photography tips page that I used on the sample photos below.
Samyang 14mm f2.8 vs Canon 16-35mm f2.8L II
I also have a review you can check out of the Canon Ultrawide Zoom 16-35mm f2.8L II at that link which is probably my favorite lens.
Other common threads I saw was a comparison between the Samyang 14mm f2.8 vs the Canon 16-35mm f2.8L II. Instead of buying that Canon 14mm f2.8L II that I mentioned above, I actually decided to buy both these lenses instead. I even saved a few hundred bucks doing so.
To quickly compare them, I can say I really like the Samyang as a primary landscape lens. Just know that you will have to get a custom Lightroom lens profile to fix the annoying mustache distortion. You can Google search some of these and find them pretty quickly. Only drawback, I can't find a profile that will work when shooting jpg. Since I like to shoot a lot of my 5 shot HDRs jpg, this forces me to always use RAW. Which is better anyway just uses more space.
Optically I find the Samyang to be edge to edge slightly sharper than the 16-35mm f2.8L II, except at infinity the Canon is slightly sharper at the center. The Canon lens also has pretty bad chromatic aberrations in the edges when shooting in high contrast areas. Actually the edges are a mess compared to the Samyang. So taking these two things into account, mustache distortion on the Samyang that I haven't been able to correct when shooting jpeg, and the chromatic aberrations and optical inferiority of the Canon zoom, I've found these lenses to be usable in very different situations.
The Canon 16-36mm f2.8L II has become more of my walk around, for the moments when I'm not sure where I'm going or what's going to happen. The auto focus is really nice for this as well. On the other hand, the Samyang 14mm has become my fixed landscape shooting lens. The 14mm is noticeably wider than 16mm. It's just able to reach out and grab more of the scene. So when I'm going somewhere where I know I'm shooting landscapes or architecture I'll throw this on and shoot primarily with it, plus it's pretty small and light so it's easy to carry around as a 'just in case' lens.
The catch! The Samyang is not weather sealed like the Canon nor does it have a front mounting threads. So when shooting in harsh environments, like the beach or the desert, I'd pick the Canon since it also accepts front screw on UV or ND filters that can protect the lens or creates cool effects. Pretty nice if you're shooting seascapes and wants to get the smooth water effect.
To sum it up I really like the Samyang. I'm really glad I bought it. For the price it's an amazing landscape lens or just a fun lens to play with. Make sure you get a good copy and you'll love it. Full manual isn't really that bad but it does take some getting use to. Just finding infinity focus at night can be hard since you have to use live view and there is a ton of grain in live view at night. And remember the distance focus marks on the lens cannot be trusted, I usually just make mental notes of where infinity focus is and go from there.
Few Things to Consider Before Buying - This is My Disclaimer
If you've read this review and you've seen how much I like this lens there are a few things you should consider.
This lens is not easy to use!
Like any lens it requires a lot of "Getting Use To." It took me awhile to figure out how to shoot good photos with this thing. Like I said earlier I didn't like it at first. But after spending $400 dollars on it, I stuck with it and kept using it until I figured out how to make it work for me. This lens by far had the steepest learning curve for me.
The reason I say this is because I get a lot of emails from people who buy this lens, then take a few shots around their living room or in their backyard then aren't happy because the lens isn't perfect. And this lens does have flaws. But I also have a $2,000 dollar Canon L lens that has the exact same problems and even more. This lens will give you very minor chromatic aberrations. Nothing Lightroom can't fix. And you do get some corner softness, but not nearly as bad as my $1,500 16-35 f2.8L II. This lens is also tricky to focus if you're shooting around your living room and backyard. It's best used for landscapes where you can find that infinity point and shoot at an f16 to keep everything in focus.
Recently I've started to notice that my focus points are shifting around. What use to be infinity is now no longer infinity. The focus ring must be getting loose causing it to slide around I assume. I've heard of people adjusting their focus ring postion before. I'll now need to look into that to figure out why my focus points are shifting.
Here are a few tips for shooting with an Ultra Wide Angle Lens
-Don't shoot wide open on this, you'll loose a lot of corner sharpness and overall quality.
-When shooting landscapes keep in mind where your ground or foreground objects are. Don't let the lens be too close to the ground while trying to focus on something in the distance, the ground will always look like crap, or rubbish (if you're English). Think about it, if you're shooting something 20 feet away, say on a beach, and you have the beach sand right below the camera which is 2 feet away, it will not be sharp or in focus. And this lens does not have a beautiful "out of focus" feel to it. If you see my photos below you'll notice I try to keep the scene at a relatively consistent focal distance. So when I shoot at an f13 the whole scene can be in focus including corner objects.
-Master post sharpening techniques. I have a few posted on my Photography Tips page. I always either use the High Pass filter or the Find Edges technique. Post processing is absolutely essential in enhancing photographs taken with mid range quality lenses.
-This lens really seems to like somewhere like an f8 to an f13. That seems to be the sweet spot. I'll go as high as f16 sometimes, but things start getting weird anywhere above that.
SAMYANG 14mm f2.8 / ROKINON 14mm f2.8 SAMPLE PHOTOS
Here are the test or sample of photos I've taken with my Rokinon 14mm f2.8 on the Canon 5Dmkii.