Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount

Started Jul 21, 2013 | User reviews
Tom Schum
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Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
Jul 21, 2013

The Samyang 300mm F6.3 Reflex telephoto lens will work on numerous cameras besides the Fujifilm X series. This lens is the version for the Fuji X-mount, since I own a Fuji X-E1.

Nominal price US$300, as of July 2013.

The lens seems to be well built out of high quality plastic for the most part, with metal in critical locations. X-Mount is machined aluminum. Focus is the only control on this lens, and the rubber ribbing is wide and very easy to grip. It is not very heavy, and very small considering the focal length.

This lens is slightly smaller than the Fuji 18-55 zoom, and the plastic 58mm filter thread is really more like 58.3mm, so my 58mm filter threaded onto it loosely and tended to bind up as I was unscrewing it. I'll be using this lens without a UV filter, but you should feel free to add a 58mm filter if you like. Filter thread size is NOT specified in the lens manual.

The maximum extension of this lens is at closest focus.  The fully extended 18-55 reaches out further yet, as shown. Since the Samyang 300mm lens is manual focus (set X-E1 focus selector to "M"), and has a fixed F6.3 aperture, the exposure controls on the X-E1 consist of only shutter speed and ISO. With the exposure dial set to "A", the camera will adjust the shutter speed to achieve correct exposure, within the limits of the ISO speed you have set. F6.3 is a good aperture for wildlife shooting in daylight.

This would be an ideal stealth telephoto lens if it were vibration-stabilized. Since it isn't, use of a rock-solid tripod is virtually essential when using this lens. Even then, the slightest motion of the camera during exposure (such as from the operation of the focal plane shutter in the Fujifilm X-E1) may impart motion blur to your capture.

I don't have a really rigid tripod, so that will be next on my list of gear purchases. At the moment my tripod is a low-cost flimsy one bought years ago for my first digital camera which had a leaf shutter. All my imaging tests were done with this tripod, so the images are not optimally clear, but fairly close.  Resolution is not up to the standards set by the 16 megapixel sensor in the X-E1, but entirely usable and a very good value for the price.

Regarding stealth, you can sit across the street with a tripod, and few people on the other side of the street will notice you, so it might have significant potential for street shooting. I have not yet tried this however.

I recommend also setting shutter speed to faster than 1/500th second, and frequently this will mean using high ISO settings in the X-E1, and paying the penalty of less than maximum image quality. The alternative is blurry but high quality images. Hobson's choice, sort of…

The front of the lens rotates through about 150 degrees while focusing (the focus ring is most of the lens, including the front), hence Samyang provides a tubular lens hood as well as a nice soft pouch for storage. I did not use the lens hood during any of my shooting for this review. Also, all my images were JPGs from the camera, post processed with Photoshop Elements 9. Most sample images below are available in full-res in my gallery, and a few HD downsized images have been thrown in as well.

Focus ring rotation is very smooth and well-damped, but on my lens there is a very slight amount of play in the angular response, that is, if I rotate past the point of ideal focus then I have to turn back about 1 degree before the focus will change in the other direction. I believe this is normal play in the focus mechanism.

Generally, focus has to be extremely precise for good clarity of the target (in this case, our cat). Fortunately she was staring down the camera and was completely still during this portrait, so I could focus on her eyes. Regardless of environment however, focus is always critically important, and the lens is unforgiving.

Close focus performance is pretty good, without a trace of chromatic distortion and good clarity edge-to-edge. This shot is of a 60mm-wide piece of magazine ad at a distance of about 0.95 meter. I didn't take care to perfectly align the image plane with the object plane, so you will see the focus dropping off toward the top of the image.

Depth of field remains shallow regardless of shooting distance and here are a couple shots showing that.

High-contrast edges seem to acquire a slight haze around them, which disappears for the most part after downsizing. Overall image contrast is slightly low compared to the excellent Fuji 18-55 zoom, but this is easily corrected during post processing.

Close-focus performance outdoors is quite good, although in this shot you will see swimming donuts in the bokeh, a characteristic of the reflex optics:

It is possible to avoid the worst of this in many shots, so it is only an annoyance, offset greatly by the small size of this lens:

Finally, even in situations where donut bokeh might be expected, the lens can surprise you!

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Tom Schum

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newlens
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to Tom Schum, Jul 21, 2013

Thanks for your review.

Where did you purchase the X mount lens?

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AlbertInFrance
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to Tom Schum, Jul 21, 2013

Thanks for the review. However, I have a comment and a question.

Tom Schum wrote:

This would be an ideal stealth telephoto lens if it were vibration-stabilized. Since it isn't, use of a rock-solid tripod is virtually essential when using this lens. Even then, the slightest motion of the camera during exposure (such as from the operation of the focal plane shutter in the Fujifilm X-E1) may impart motion blur to your capture.

Comment:

I use a 70-300mm Sigma zoom with my X-E1. I certainly don't have too much trouble holding it still. Can post examples if you like.

Question:

Traditionally one of the drawbacks to mirror lenses was the 'doughnut' bokeh that was most apparent in out of focus point highlights. In your sample images I can't see any cases where this would show up. Have you any pictures with stuff like reflections off ripples that would test this issue? Something like this would do the trick.

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Albert
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Most people are more interested in the picture than the image.

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Tom Schum
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to newlens, Jul 21, 2013

newlens wrote:

Thanks for your review.

Where did you purchase the X mount lens?

I pre-ordered it from B&H.  I was surprised to receive it so soon.

They also have the other mounts.

Here is a link:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=samyang+300mm&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=

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Tom Schum
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to AlbertInFrance, Jul 21, 2013

AlbertInFrance wrote:

Thanks for the review. However, I have a comment and a question.

Tom Schum wrote:

This would be an ideal stealth telephoto lens if it were vibration-stabilized. Since it isn't, use of a rock-solid tripod is virtually essential when using this lens. Even then, the slightest motion of the camera during exposure (such as from the operation of the focal plane shutter in the Fujifilm X-E1) may impart motion blur to your capture.

Comment:

I use a 70-300mm Sigma zoom with my X-E1. I certainly don't have too much trouble holding it still. Can post examples if you like.

Question:

Traditionally one of the drawbacks to mirror lenses was the 'doughnut' bokeh that was most apparent in out of focus point highlights. In your sample images I can't see any cases where this would show up. Have you any pictures with stuff like reflections off ripples that would test this issue? Something like this would do the trick.

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Albert
Every photograph is an abstraction from reality.
Most people are more interested in the picture than the image.

If anything, the mirror lens seems to be even more vibration sensitive than a standard 300 mm lens but I don't have an explanation for "why".

I do have some shots that show the donut bokeh, and have pointed out one in the review. The flower shot shows some, and there is more in the turtle shot. Strangely, the shot of the geese in the pond does not show any!

I have more shots (it is easy to bring out the donuts) but ran out of storage space in my DPR gallery for this month. The limit is 200 meg, and I posted a fairly big number of hi-res images for the review (total posting was 107 meg for the review shots).

At the first day of August I get 200 meg more, so maybe I can add a donut bokeh shot then. Meanwhile I'll try posting one from my computer but it might not work (It did work!):

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AlbertInFrance
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to Tom Schum, Jul 21, 2013

Thanks, Tom. I missed the comment nestling between the pictures. Yes, the flower does show it.

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Albert
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Al Valentino
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to Tom Schum, Jul 21, 2013

Thanks posting this. At first the shots do not look sharp but then i went you your gallery and they were much better - DPR compression (:

It is tempting and the price is reasonable.

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PeterPrism
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to Tom Schum, Jul 21, 2013

Thanks for the complete review!

Here we can see the typical "ring-effect" out of focus of the catadioptric lenses.

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Tom Schum
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to PeterPrism, Jul 22, 2013

Yes the ring (donut) effect in the bokeh is a big characteristic of this type of lens but I think it is not a big annoyance most of the time.  Sometime it can be artistic (not artistic in this mushroom shot however).

It depends on whether or not the viewer likes it of course, especially when one is going to try to sell a photo or two.

Yes, if you go looking for it you will find it everywhere, but I do not see it in the center of interest.  Again, artistic preference.  It does make the bokeh unnecessarily busy.

I intend to keep my copy of this lens. I think there is a lot of potential here.

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Tom Schum

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BasiliskPhoto
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to Tom Schum, Jul 24, 2013

Tom Schum wrote:

If anything, the mirror lens seems to be even more vibration sensitive than a standard 300 mm lens but I don't have an explanation for "why".

It's physics. Light objects are more subject to high frequency vibration than heavy ones. Put a traditional heavy 300mm lens on, or strap a brick to your camera, and it will become more steady.

I have used a 500mm mirror lens on my NEX5N and the vibration can be very tricky. A monopod is enough to make a big difference, and ideally you need fast shutter speeds - shorter than 1/500 - to  avoid shake being a problem. Unfortunately, these lenses have poor maximum apertures, and low light transmission, so not ideal handheld for cloudy days or interior shots.

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imsabbel
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to Tom Schum, Jul 24, 2013

Well, all those shots are basically useless, because they are so damn noisy.

Why would anybody shoot at ISO 1600 in broad sunlight? Its impossible to gauge sharpness that way, in particular as that ISO 1600 looks pretty crappy.

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Tom Schum
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to imsabbel, Jul 27, 2013

imsabbel wrote:

Well, all those shots are basically useless, because they are so damn noisy.

Why would anybody shoot at ISO 1600 in broad sunlight? Its impossible to gauge sharpness that way, in particular as that ISO 1600 looks pretty crappy.

Yes, it is something of a compromise:  vibration sensitivity requires either a rock-solid tripod or a high shutter speed, and of course a high shutter speed at F6.3 frequently requires a high ISO unless you have full sunshine.

I can do good handheld shots at 1/2000 sec or faster.  With the tripod (a flimsy low-cost one) I can get good results at 1/500 sec.

I have my eye on a pretty good tripod and a very nice little tilt/pan head, but it goes for over $300 and weighs about 8 pounds, and at the moment I just can't justify spending the money.  I am hoping for a bonus at work, and that might cover it.

I prefer to shoot my X-E1 with noise suppression turned off, which accents the grain (noise).  Then, in post processing I like to push the sharpness, which also accents the grain (noise).

If you are using another camera such as the NEX or PEN, and/or you have different settings for noise suppression and you don't like as much sharpness as I do, you are more likely to get smoother images.

Another way to get a good image might be to take a time exposure at low-ISO.  But then you want a rock-solid tripod.

My review was just an attempt to show people generally that the lens works and the shortcomings of the mirror lens design are not as blatant as some have said.  I took a few pictures earlier today and I can report sharpness is excellent across the frame when imaging far objects.  It's really an excellent value for the money and the size is simply amazingly small too.  Too bad the 300mm focal length in this technology is not available for regular APS-C DSLRs (500mm looks like the minimum).

Again, I'm glad to admit I don't yet know how to get the best out of this lens.  But I'm having a lot of fun with it.

I also have a Samyang 8mm F2.8 fisheye for my X-E1 and that's a great lens too.

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Tom Schum

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Tom Schum
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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to imsabbel, Jul 27, 2013

imsabbel wrote:

Well, all those shots are basically useless, because they are so damn noisy.

Why would anybody shoot at ISO 1600 in broad sunlight? Its impossible to gauge sharpness that way, in particular as that ISO 1600 looks pretty crappy.

Here's one I got earlier today, at ISO 200

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Re: Samyang Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS for Fuji X mount
In reply to Tom Schum, 11 months ago

Hi Tom,

Thanks for writing a good and timely review.   I've been waiting to buy one of these until I could see some sample shots, so thanks again.

Dave

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Tom Schum
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Resolution: Indoors, low light, with flash
In reply to Tom Schum, 11 months ago

I was surprised by this shot: excellent sharpness caused by the brief flash of the X-E1 built-in flash.  Shutter speed in very low light was quite slow, so the flash determined the exposure.  Distance was about 4.5 meters.  Handheld.

Handheld, low light with on-camera flash determining the exposure

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Tom Schum
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Long telephoto shot, turned out well in a print
In reply to Tom Schum, 11 months ago

This was shot from a distance of almost 2 miles: Washington monument (with scaffolding for structural repairs) and the dome of the Jefferson memorial in the foreground.  Taken from Gravelly point, just north of Reagan National Airport on the same side of the Potomac river.  I was looking across the river into the national mall.  It was a good day, not too hot, so there isn't too much distortion from thermals.

It was a sunny bright day and for the first time I noticed the heavy vignetting this lens has under these conditions.  Never noticed it before!

On a few shots not seen here, I tried correcting it but ran out of color and luminance resolution: they ended up with a pattern of concentric circles in the center part.  I might do better if I processed the raw image instead of the JPG.

This shot was OK even with the vignetting, and the print is spectacular.  I used my Epson R2000 printer and Museo Max matte 13x19 paper.  The best part is the sun reflecting off the scaffolding at the top, really gives it a special punch!  Funny it does not look as good here on the monitor but the print is great!

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