Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC mini-review

Started Aug 29, 2010 | Discussions thread
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marco1974
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Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC mini-review
Aug 29, 2010

Hello,
I thought this might be of interest to some.

I have recently bought this little Korean lens (the latest Ultra Multi Coated version), in my long-standing quest for a good wide prime for digital Nikons (and Fujis).

To set some context, I have tested it on DX (Fuji S5 and Nikon D200) and compared it to the following lenses: Tamron SP AF 14/2.8, Zeiss ZF 18/3.5, Nikkor AF 18/2.8D, Nikkor AIS 20/2.8, Tokina AF 12-24/4 (the only DX lens).

To cut to the chase: the Samyang is a ridiculously good lens for the price (350€ retail in Europe), MUCH MUCH better than it has a right to be! I am thoroughly impressed.

Specifically:

BUILD QUALITY: nice fit and finish, with good quality plastics and no play in either the (nicely damped) focus or aperture rings. Not quite up to Zeiss standards, but nothing to complain about.

SHARPNESS: outstandingly sharp all over, straight from f/2.8. The sweet spot is f/5.6-11, with f/16 still very good. This level of sharpness in an ultra-wide angle design is really remarkable, and it is insane at this price level! To provide some context, the Samyang is leaps and bounds ahead of the Tamron 14mm prime and the Tokina 12-24 at 14mm. Astoundingly, it is also a hair sharper than the Zeiss 18mm prime (believe it or not), and unsurprisingly it is way better than both Nikkor primes (which are really nothing to write home about on digital).

CHROMATIC ABERRATION: None whatsoever! This is the second, astonishingly good trait of this lens! No other wide-angle lens I have ever tried has pulled this off, not even the ZF 18 (which shows traces of CA in the corners). Kudos to Samyang.

FLARE & GHOSTS: Even putting the sun directly in the corner of the frame only produces some mild ghosts, with no visible veiling flare. This is again very good performance in general, and outstandingly so for such a wide-angle lens, especially one with such a large bulbous front element. The similarly shaped Tamron 14mm fares way worse here, and from what I have seen and heard, so does the huge (and expensive) Nikkor 14-24 zoom.

VIGNETTING: On DX there is only some mild vignetting at f/2.8, reduced by f/4 and gone by f/5.6. I assume vignetting will be more visible on FX.

DISTORTION: This is probably the only downside to this otherwise almost perfect 14mm prime. I know, I know, big words, but I still can't get over how good this little lens is - I have been literally swept off my feet! Distortion is pretty heavy and easily visible when the frame contains straight lines near the edges (e.g. architectural shots). The good news is that on DX it is almost pefectly barrel-shaped, and can be removed completely using Photoshop's correction tool (+8 setting) with negligible loss of resolution. On FX this might be more of an issue if (as is probably the case) the distortion pattern reverts to a 'moustache' shape in the far corners. I have read that PTLens has a specific correction profile for this lens already, though, so it might prove a non-issue there too.

All in all, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
A few samples below.

at f/16:

at f/8:

at f/4:

at f/2.8:

 marco1974's gear list:marco1974's gear list
Fujifilm X-E1 Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 R Fujifilm XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 R
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