Samyang 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC A-mount lens review by tjack
|tjack#11486 date: Nov-16-2013
flare control: 4
|I own this lens
|Tokina 17mm f 3.5 (full-frame)
Tokina 11-16 f 2.8 (APS-C)
|339 USD (new)
|Unbelievably sharp --and flat plane
Great build (for the price, especially)
Almost no chromatic aberrations or other need to defringe
While there is a lot of moustache distortion, it can be corrected post-processing
|Lousy focusing scale in terms of accuracy
Need to be careful with rear lens element (protrudes beyond mount) as well as front lens element
|What an amazing lens! On a full-frame, it is really wide. And it is sharp, almost corner to corner, from f 2.8 onward. (It just destroys my film-era Tokina 17 mm f 3.5, as well as—on an APS-C body—the digital-era Tokina 11-16mm f 2.8 at 14 mm.) While mine might have a very slight amount of decentering, it is simply amazing to me how flat the field of focus is, meaning the edges don’t decline a whole lot from the center, even wide open.
With any lens this wide, there will be “issues.” First, distortion. There is a lot of “moustache”-like distortion. It can be removed post-processing (using Lightroom, most successfully for now with a Nikon Adobe Lens Profile Download—I’m working on my own, but so far it isn’t as successful as the existing Nikon), so I can live with that. [My rating for distortion is relative to the "class" of 14mm lenses and the ability to fix it.] There is also vignetting—as with all really wide-angle lenses—which I generally think needs to be removed manually (as attempting to do it through Adobe runs into the obstacle that the EXIF information doesn’t know if you are shooting at f 2.8 or at f 8). [But there is remarkably little chromatic aberrations, so that really isn’t a problem—my Tokina 17mm f 3.5 has a large amount of chromatic aberrations and even more “purple defringing”; compared to the Tokina, this Samyang is a gem in that respect.]
Anyone buying one of these should also be aware of a couple of other issues. First, the focusing scale sucks. Even going past the infinity “mark”—and even the infinity “symbol”—was necessary to get the lens to focus accurately at infinity. (Others have had the exact opposite problem, so I assume there is a fair amount of “tolerance” in the initial set-up in this respect.) Even at 14 mm—with its huge depth-of-field--this makes a difference (at least if you are pixel-peeping). Second, that matters, because on my a850, it is very hard to figure out the right focus (I have not “chipped” the lens, as I have done with my 85 mm f 1.4 Samyang, which brings into play the focus confirmation). I’ve learned the adjustment I need to make from the scale, so I can live with that. [Figuring out whether focus is OK is easier on my a77, with focus peaking and magnification.] Still, with this wide of an angle lens, it would almost be easiest to set the focus manually, and the mis-match of the scale with the actual focus makes this something you need to learn, rather than just do.
Second—and I’ve seen little reference to this. The rear lens element sticks out beyond the mount. That means, don’t stick the lens facing “upwards” on a surface without the rear cap! And beware of stray fingers.... (It isn’t only the front element that is exposed.)
All that said, for the price it is one amazing lens. Sure, it doesn’t auto-focus (but I’m not sure how accurate auto-focus is with such a wide-angle lens—and thus, why one really would want it). And, yes, it doesn’t give you EXIF read-out data, but you can use it in “A” mode, because the exposure meter in the camera reads out the amount of light coming in, which you adjust on the lens’s aperture ring. W/o a chip, it won’t do IBIS perfectly, either, but I’m not really sure that makes a huge difference with a 14mm lens (I rather like the chip I put in my 85mm lens, for that reason). And the front element—and lens cap—makes using filters all but impossible.
But the amazing wide-angle perspective, the detail, and the general feel of the lens make all of these “learning experiences” more than complaints about things that could be fixed—without vastly increasing the cost of the lens.