Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera

Started Nov 9, 2012 | Discussions
tashley
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Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
Nov 9, 2012

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about my first six months experience with the D800 and concluded that, amazing though it is in many ways, I was still not in love with it. I had a lot of messages from people who felt similarly.

One of my issues, coming to it from medium format digital, was that there seemed to be a real problem in finding wides for landscape that could do what I was used to when using a medium format back on a field camera: get everything from toe to mountain top, edge to edge and corner to corner, sharp. I have reviewed the 28mm f1.8G and concluded that it is brilliant but 'tricky' and that very intimate knowledge of it is required before knowing how to combine aperture, point of focus and shape of subject field in order to get good results. I like the lens a lot but am not surprised that so many people have sent theirs back: it takes a lot of mastering.

Having canvassed opinions from an awful lot of other shooters, and read every review going, I realised that the lens I really want probably doesn't exist. No one (yet) makes a lens like, for example, the MF Schneider 35XL or one of the wide Rodenstocks: a lens that can make a vast print which is crystal clear everywhere. I really hope that someone makes a 'wide landscape lens', say an F5.6 thru F11 only, about 18 or 20mm. If such a lens were made brilliantly, I'd pay very handsomely for it. Retrofocus wides are very hard to make without field curvature, and trying to get a large-ish maximum aperture into the package usually makes that impossible. That's why I want a lens that has an F5.6 max aperture.

But I thought I'd take a flyer and order two new wides in the meantime and BANG, I am 95% happy, which for me is saying something because I am quite picky!

One of them, the Zeiss 21mm F2.8, is a semi-obvious choice. I had been put off it by the fact that MTF wise it is not as sharp as the 28mm 1.8G I already have and by the reported corner colour shifts and the fact that its real strong point is being extremely sharp wide open on centre, which is of limited interest to me. But then I read that it had only limited field curvature so I thought I'd give it a go.

The other is the Samyang 14mm F2.8, which is ridiculously cheap. About £300. So cheap that it can't be any good. But boy, is it... and some.

Some shots and comments:

The Zeiss takes a little bit of learning. It does have some field curvature and if you want the near foreground sharp at head height shooting, with far distant subjects sharp to the edges, then you really have to shoot at F8 (and focus fully at infinity) that means giving up a smidge of resolution on centre. Only a smidge. But though this lens has technically less resolution than the 28mm f1.8G, it has that incredible Zeiss micro-contrast and it has great colour, though there is a slight cyan/blue shift at the corners sometimes. Nonetheless, used right it gives me results within close spitting distance of what I was getting on MF and that is just great news.

Here's a couple... I am going to review it in full soon with full-sized shots of scenes that put it through its paces more scientifically, so these two are just for fun, and excuse the slightly gaudy processing: I was having fun.

F8, ISO 800, handheld at 1/80th, D800E

F6.3, ISO 100, handheld at 1/200th, D800E

Now to the Samyang. This thing is astonishing. It is very sharp all over, has great micro-contrast (very nearly Zeiss levels in fact) and very low aberrations for such a wide and fast lens. It is small, light, cheap, well made and has beautiful MF action. And it has full electrical connection to the camera, apart from for focus. It has only two downsides: it has a bulbous front element which means filters are a problem, and it has quite a bit of distortion (including a moustache that Freddy Mercury would be proud of) BUT that is easily fixed with PTlens, either standalone or as a plugin for PS or LR and only $25.

Here's a 'before and after' shot to show the distortion and the correction:



F8, ISO100, 1/250th, D800E

as above, corrected with PT Lens as LR External Editor

And here's just one shot that shows how, even at F4, you can get amazing sharpness from near to far.

F4, ISO200, Handheld at 1/60th, D800E

Now it is certainly true that there is field curvature here too but after a couple of days of shooting I have found an exact focus setting that, at F8, guarantees that anything you can throw at it will be sharp as hell, across the frame. I will write that up in detail when I blog review it. But really folks, buy yourselves a Thanksgiving present: it is the cheapest way you can find amazing new depths to D800 photography and it is a LOT of fun! It's the most fun I've had with a lens cap off for quite a while 

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Nikon D800 Nikon D800E Panasonic Lumix DMC-F5
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d3xmeister
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to tashley, Nov 9, 2012

If all posts would be as usefull, dpreview will be a better place :). Thank you for this information, I was thinking of getting a D600 and trying to think of a lens setup.

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Reilly Diefenbach
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to tashley, Nov 9, 2012

A couple of useful lenses for sure, but falling well short of making the D800e a "new camera." The problem I have with these two for active outdoor photography is that the Samyang won't do 24mm, and the Zeiss 21 won't do 14mm.  The 14-24 does both as well as necessary for any purpose on the D800e, andthe convenience of the zoom vs futzing around with lens changes in the field is case closed for me.

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u007
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to tashley, Nov 9, 2012

I would definitely be interested in a 14mm 2.8 review

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tashley
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to d3xmeister, Nov 9, 2012

d3xmeister wrote:

If all posts would be as usefull, dpreview will be a better place :). Thank you for this information, I was thinking of getting a D600 and trying to think of a lens setup.

Thank you! Starting with the Samyang costs very little compared to most of the options...

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tashley
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to Reilly Diefenbach, Nov 9, 2012

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

A couple of useful lenses for sure, but falling well short of making the D800e a "new camera." The problem I have with these two for active outdoor photography is that the Samyang won't do 24mm, and the Zeiss 21 won't do 14mm. The 14-24 does both as well as necessary for any purpose on the D800e, andthe convenience of the zoom vs futzing around with lens changes in the field is case closed for me.

I get that, it is a totally valid choice: but for around the same money (here at least) you can have both, and put a lovely 8 stop ND filter on the Zeiss to boot, which you can't do on the 14-14. In the end, for me it's about the micro-contrast. I am a total sucker for it. Oddly, and I didn't mention this in the OP, the colour renditions, especially of the Zeiss, really turn me on. They do that thing that Nex-7 people love with blues and greens.

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tashley
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to u007, Nov 9, 2012

u007 wrote:

I would definitely be interested in a 14mm 2.8 review

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And you shall have one sir - quite busy on the blog with other stuff for now, plus I like to work with a lens for somewhat longer so I can give a really practical guide, but gimme a week or four 

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user_name
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In reply to tashley, Nov 9, 2012

Well written and informative.

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user_name
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to Reilly Diefenbach, Nov 9, 2012

I agree.  The 14-24, when used correctly results in some great pictures and at 21mm is about as close to the Zeiss 21 as you can get.

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tron999
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to tashley, Nov 9, 2012

Very informative with good samples!

Thanks for your effort!

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primeshooter
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to tashley, Nov 9, 2012

tashley wrote:

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about my first six months experience with the D800 and concluded that, amazing though it is in many ways, I was still not in love with it. I had a lot of messages from people who felt similarly.

One of my issues, coming to it from medium format digital, was that there seemed to be a real problem in finding wides for landscape that could do what I was used to when using a medium format back on a field camera: get everything from toe to mountain top, edge to edge and corner to corner, sharp. I have reviewed the 28mm f1.8G and concluded that it is brilliant but 'tricky' and that very intimate knowledge of it is required before knowing how to combine aperture, point of focus and shape of subject field in order to get good results. I like the lens a lot but am not surprised that so many people have sent theirs back: it takes a lot of mastering.

Having canvassed opinions from an awful lot of other shooters, and read every review going, I realised that the lens I really want probably doesn't exist. No one (yet) makes a lens like, for example, the MF Schneider 35XL or one of the wide Rodenstocks: a lens that can make a vast print which is crystal clear everywhere. I really hope that someone makes a 'wide landscape lens', say an F5.6 thru F11 only, about 18 or 20mm. If such a lens were made brilliantly, I'd pay very handsomely for it. Retrofocus wides are very hard to make without field curvature, and trying to get a large-ish maximum aperture into the package usually makes that impossible. That's why I want a lens that has an F5.6 max aperture.

But I thought I'd take a flyer and order two new wides in the meantime and BANG, I am 95% happy, which for me is saying something because I am quite picky!

One of them, the Zeiss 21mm F2.8, is a semi-obvious choice. I had been put off it by the fact that MTF wise it is not as sharp as the 28mm 1.8G I already have and by the reported corner colour shifts and the fact that its real strong point is being extremely sharp wide open on centre, which is of limited interest to me. But then I read that it had only limited field curvature so I thought I'd give it a go.

The other is the Samyang 14mm F2.8, which is ridiculously cheap. About £300. So cheap that it can't be any good. But boy, is it... and some.

Some shots and comments:

The Zeiss takes a little bit of learning. It does have some field curvature and if you want the near foreground sharp at head height shooting, with far distant subjects sharp to the edges, then you really have to shoot at F8 (and focus fully at infinity) that means giving up a smidge of resolution on centre. Only a smidge. But though this lens has technically less resolution than the 28mm f1.8G, it has that incredible Zeiss micro-contrast and it has great colour, though there is a slight cyan/blue shift at the corners sometimes. Nonetheless, used right it gives me results within close spitting distance of what I was getting on MF and that is just great news.

Here's a couple... I am going to review it in full soon with full-sized shots of scenes that put it through its paces more scientifically, so these two are just for fun, and excuse the slightly gaudy processing: I was having fun.

F8, ISO 800, handheld at 1/80th, D800E

F6.3, ISO 100, handheld at 1/200th, D800E

Now to the Samyang. This thing is astonishing. It is very sharp all over, has great micro-contrast (very nearly Zeiss levels in fact) and very low aberrations for such a wide and fast lens. It is small, light, cheap, well made and has beautiful MF action. And it has full electrical connection to the camera, apart from for focus. It has only two downsides: it has a bulbous front element which means filters are a problem, and it has quite a bit of distortion (including a moustache that Freddy Mercury would be proud of) BUT that is easily fixed with PTlens, either standalone or as a plugin for PS or LR and only $25.

Here's a 'before and after' shot to show the distortion and the correction:



F8, ISO100, 1/250th, D800E

as above, corrected with PT Lens as LR External Editor

And here's just one shot that shows how, even at F4, you can get amazing sharpness from near to far.

F4, ISO200, Handheld at 1/60th, D800E

Now it is certainly true that there is field curvature here too but after a couple of days of shooting I have found an exact focus setting that, at F8, guarantees that anything you can throw at it will be sharp as hell, across the frame. I will write that up in detail when I blog review it. But really folks, buy yourselves a Thanksgiving present: it is the cheapest way you can find amazing new depths to D800 photography and it is a LOT of fun! It's the most fun I've had with a lens cap off for quite a while

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Tim, heard so much about the 14mm 2.8 and I think I'll pick this up when I have money at some point. I'd be even more turned on if it wasn't a bulbous lens and could take screw on NDs. However,iIt just looks amazing for the price, I shouldn't even say for the price because it beats the Nikon 14mm and gives the 14-24 a run for it's money. Which one did you buy and where from? AE version for exposure metering and aperture / manual mode? Are you in the UK?

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tashley
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to primeshooter, Nov 9, 2012

primeshooter wrote:

Tim, heard so much about the 14mm 2.8 and I think I'll pick this up when I have money at some point. I'd be even more turned on if it wasn't a bulbous lens and could take screw on NDs. However,iIt just looks amazing for the price, I shouldn't even say for the price because it beats the Nikon 14mm and gives the 14-24 a run for it's money. Which one did you buy and where from? AE version for exposure metering and aperture / manual mode? Are you in the UK?

I got it from Amazon, in the UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004SH6OSI

It's fully linked for exposure, aperture, metering, just like using a Zeiss ZF.2 series... it is the single best value piece of kit I have ever purchased, and that really is saying something!

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DANdeMAN
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to tashley, Nov 10, 2012

The Samyang 14mm is one of my favorite lens. Got it for $485 incl. a 3 year warranty.

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user_name
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Tooting your horn, I see.
In reply to DANdeMAN, Nov 10, 2012

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Illumina
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to tashley, Nov 10, 2012

i've just bought Samyang 14 AE and yes it's really good..

color rendering is awesome..

has anyone compared it to Tokina 16-28?

i'm tempted in buying AF because i'm not used to MF actually..

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orchidblooms
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to tashley, Nov 10, 2012

how do you think this affordable Samyang 14mm F2.8 will stack up to the zeiss 15 2.8?

i ordered one in march... not here yet - had a zeiss usa loaner for 5 weeks - loved it... but at this point am wondering if it will show up...  i could add the 21 + 14 for less than the 15...

as to nd's... with mu d800e i have not need to use any gnd's used a 3 stop once and big stopper a few times...

not sure how much an issue the nd's are for... d800 owners...

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inasir1971
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to orchidblooms, Nov 10, 2012

orchidblooms wrote:

how do you think this affordable Samyang 14mm F2.8 will stack up to the zeiss 15 2.8?

i ordered one in march... not here yet - had a zeiss usa loaner for 5 weeks - loved it... but at this point am wondering if it will show up... i could add the 21 + 14 for less than the 15...

as to nd's... with mu d800e i have not need to use any gnd's used a 3 stop once and big stopper a few times...

not sure how much an issue the nd's are for... d800 owners...

Here's a comparison that I came across a while ago:

http://3dkraft.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=127:uwa-comparison&catid=40:camerasandlenses&Itemid=2

Wonder what the holdup with the zf2 15mm is - the ZEs are readily available...

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mistral2
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to inasir1971, Nov 10, 2012

Thank You for posting! Most useful.

Do look forward to your review!

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inasir1971
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
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Astrophotographer 10
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Re: Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
In reply to inasir1971, Nov 10, 2012

Nice pics and your impressions of these lenses.

My comment about Samyang lens is poor QC. You may get a good one, you are more likely to get a bad one and need to swap it.

I got a 24mm F1.4 and it was in focus on the right but out of focus on the left in the same image.

I bought on Ebay from dwidigital and they have a 14 day return policy from date of invoice - but they took 6 weeks to deliver it to me. So I hope they aren't playing games with a pretend return policy which is not actual.

Greg.

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