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Practical Review: Samyang 14mm f/2.8 Ultra-Wide Angle Lens - The Ultimate Value-for-Money Find

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is real. Hence we find ourselves prowling online looking at new gear, even if we know we are not going to buy. It is a bad thing most of the time as we are tempted into unplanned purchases, but sometimes it also reveals lucky super-bargains. At R2 100 ( US $113), this was a bargain of note!


Above: A roughly edited shot to test the Samyang. I was a little too late as the sun was already almost fully above the horizon, but nonetheless the quality of the lens was demonstrated decently. Not an award winner by any means (this image), but for all intents and purposes, it does the job. Nikon Z6ii + FTZ + Samyang 14mm f/2.8, two-shot blend for exposure bracketing.


I have a few places that I constantly browse online for the sake of keeping up with and checking out new gear options. The first is on Facebook groups (not marketplace, that can be dodge), the second are the used gear and sale sections of established camera stores (mostly Cameraworld and Kameraz) and lastly, the 'new' section of camera store pages as well as the used sections of some stores that I know are going to be too expensive for me anyway. The latter is more of an exercise in "If I won the lotto, what would I get?"


In terms of lenses, geared mostly toward landscape and nature photography, my ideal toolkit would have an ultrawide, a midrange zoom and a telephoto zoom. It's the typical holy trinity of 'landscape lenses.' I did not have an ultrawide on full frame up until this point. It was the lowest priority for me. My 24-70mm f/4 does a pretty decent job down to a wide enough 24mm. I did have one or two experiences where I just ran out of space to fit in a waterfall, but it just forced me to think out of the box and change composition. I was satisfied with that compromise at the time. I more recently upgraded my telephoto zoom as well, so that was taken care of. I had no intention of actively searching for an ultrawide angle lens just yet, but of course, if a 'luck' were to come by, how could one just let it pass?


And so the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC made its way into my life.


My understanding is that Samyang and Rokinon are interchangeable brand names from the same Chinese manufacturer. I had been researching 'best budget ultrawide lenses' for a while, so the Samyang was on my radar. It has a few peculiarities, which by the time I was ready to pull the trigger on the lens, I had decided to accept. I was quite satisfied they would not be a problem for me.


Above: At just over 500g and small enough to fit in my palm, this Samyang is a welcomed addition to my hiking bag, without too much additional strain on my back.


Compromises


I was fully aware that there would be no AF with this lens. It is a purely manual focus lens. That did not bother me. I almost exclusively use manual focus for landscape shots anyway. Plus, most modern mirrorless cameras have focus peaking, which I use on the Z6ii.


One of the big 'issues' that the online reviews report with this lens is that it has no electronic contacts. I Googled the life out of it and found nothing to the contrary. Alas, at two-grand, I was okay with this. So I was expecting to have to set the aperture on my Z6ii with another lens, then switch to this one, and adjust manually if I wanted the EVF and screen to display light changes correctly. Well, that's what I expected. I also expected there to be no EXIF data recorded since there was no electronic communication between the lens and camera body.


A Welcomed Surprise


Oh, I forgot to mention that this is the older F-mount version. Samyang has recently launched an upgrade that comes in a Z-mount. I think it's a similar story for Canon EF and RF mounts.


Anyway, to my surprise, when using it on my Z6ii with the FTZ converter, it asked for the aperture ring on the lens to be set to fully closed (f/22) and, in doing so, allowed full electronic control of the aperture through the camera body and the display correctly reflected the change in light as the aperture was adjusted.


So basically, the only manual thing about this lens is the focus which is absolutely fine for landscape photography. Let's be honest, any ultrawide lens at this focal length is going to be a two-trick pony. Either sweeping vistas or creative perspective shots. That being the case, I would not justify spending mega bucks in the ultrawide focal range. This lens, at its price, does an excellent job of ticking all the boxes. It is decently sharp, I feel, even at wide open. As we stop down, the sharpness consistency across the frame is really good. I am talking practically as a photo is viewed here, not by lab test.


In dusk, dawn and daylight, you would not be shooting landscapes wide open, so the corner sharpness is really not anything to worry about. At typical landscape apertures (f/7.1-f/13), it is great across the frame. I am eager to try it on astrophotography, which is where I am led to believe the f/2.8 aperture really shines. I doubt the corner sharpness is going to be much of an issue in this niche. I have shot with an f/4 mid-range zoom and gotten decent Milky Way shots but had to pump the ISO pretty high. I can only imagine that this Samyang will do really well in that scenario and allow for a much lower ISO.


The obvious concerns with a bulbous front element on these ultrawide lenses are lens flare and distortion. The latter really is not that bad, and we all use editing software that can easily correct for distortion anyway. In terms of lens flare, it is not as bad as I expected. You will see a little in the image below that I left intentionally for us to see. Pixel-peeping reviewers are critical of the distortion, but I think they are either being over-analytical or just using terms like 'barrel distortion' and 'pin-cushion distortion' to sound knowledgeable. As much as those are real things, at the end of the day, it is the final image that matters.



Above: A tiny lens flare can be seen on the yacht deck. The lens comes with a built-in petal lens hood that helps with stray light a little, obviously limited in size by the wide angle of view.



All the Letters


"Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC". Lots of fancy things are attached to the Manufacturer's name, focal length and maximum aperture. The rest...Erectile Dysfunction Initiates Feelings In Few Unsuspecting Men Capriciously, perhaps? Well, no. After much Googling I found the meaning of each, but that was after having bought and used the lens. Basically, all those things don't really matter to me. The lens was cheap, and it works really well for my uses, so all those specifications don't bother me. I don't much care how the lens achieves good images, just that it does. If they do bother you, this is what they mean:


ED - Low dispersion

AS - Asymmetrical

IF - Internal focusing

UMC - Samyang's coating that they say reduces flare and ghosting (Ultra Multi Coated)



Above: Straight out of the camera, no corrections or editing applied. RAW with 'Adobe Colour' profile. Nikon Z6ii + FTZ + Samyang 14mm at ISO 100, f/9, 1/60s. Distortion is not that bad, I feel.


A Small Home Modification


A little trick for those doing night and astrophotography when focussing in the dark can be difficult. One option is to set the ISO or shutter high enough to light up a scene to focus, then back off to the required settings for the shot. Some lenses come with a focus lock that is nice, but this one doesn't. So my solution is to deface the lens a little.


I am a believer that aesthetics fall second to function. I have had this view with guitars too. The marks, dings and scratches are all testament to the item's story and add character. It is also a great excuse for my clumsiness 😅. However, in this case, the graffiti I suggest is reversible if it really bothers you. The other problem is that the focus ring is not tight on this lens, so keeping focus at a specific point that you set during the day, for example, is almost impossible.


My solution is to find the infinity focus point during the day and mark it. I used a touch of paint that would clean off if I really wanted to but allows me to align with the focus indication already on the lens. Unfortunately, the infinity focus point is not at the factory-marked point on this lens, hence the need for my marking system. The focus position is also very sensitive, so there is not a lot of flexibility in the amount of rotation of the focus ring, at which the focus point is maintained.


Above: The infinity focus mark I made is above the '1:2.8', whereas the factory-indicated infinity focus point differs.


Above: My paint-marked infinity focus point aligned with the focus indicator on the lens.




Conclusion

A luck of a find if there ever was one! Thanks to the guys at Camerworld for an excellent condition used lens at a great price!




Until next time...


You Bipolaroid Photographer 😁📸

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