A Beast of a Wide Angle Lens
I recently purchased the Rokinon (also called Samyang) 14mm Wide Angle Lens for my Canon 6D. I had previously owned the 8mm Fish Eye for my Olympus and loved it so I knew I couldn’t go wrong with its big brother for the Canon Cameras. When I purchased this lens I had a few thoughts in mind that I would like to share with you prior to the review.
- I already owned the Canon 17-40 mm lens and was looking to trade it in and up for the 16-35 mm lens. In the end this would have cost me about $1000. My whole reasoning was not for the extra 1mm, but for the f/2.8 as I would like to shoot some Milky Way photography in the near future and that 2.8 is critical for getting the shot.
- The Rokinon 14mm is an f/2.8 lens which would satisfy the need for the 2.8 and give me an extra 3mm on my Wide Angle.
- I new I only wanted this lens for a very specific purpose, wide landscape and Milky Way shots. This lens @ $297 when I purchased it would save me the hassle of finding a buyer for the 17mm, buying the 16mm, and in the end saving me $700.
What you need to know about this lens…The Review:
It Is All Manual…
The biggest deal breaker for those looking to purchase this lens is that it is all manual. However, before you go running for the hills, this lens is a BLAST to use!
I come from the old days of film, my first camera was a Canon AE-1 that I still love dearly. 35mm Cameras operate very similarly to Digital cameras with a few exceptions. The aperture is dictated by a ring on the lens not by digital numbers on a screen. In many cases there was no auto focus, you had to do that all manually with the focus ring on the front of the lens.
The Rokinon 14mm functions the same as a 35mm film lens, you set the Aperture on the lens itself. You can still use settings like Aperture Priority Mode to shoot for HDR, however, your Aperture will not show up on the screen or in the exif data of the photo (at least it does not on the Canon 6D). This makes it critical to know what aperture you have set on the lens. If you are an exif data junkie, you may need to carry a notepad with you to take notes on the apertures you were using as well as a description of the scene. It will show up as f/0 with a Focal Length of 0mm!
Focus is very much the same as the Aperture, it is manual. This can be tricky to get used to since we are all about hitting auto focus these days and letting our cameras do the hard work. With Wide Angle lenses it is especially difficult to get crisp focusing using your eye manually. This is because the scene is so vast and while the image may look in-focus in the viewfinder, you have to remember that view finder is very small. When you open that image up on the big screen you will see very quickly how out of focus it is if you didn’t get it right in the camera.
With this lens I prefer to use Live View Focusing. It goes a little something like this:
- Place your camera on a tripod.
- Switch from Viewfinder to Live View Mode
- Press the Zoom button on the back of the camera. Sometimes you can press this twice, once for 5 times and another for 10 times (this depends on your camera model).
- You should be seeing everything really close-up now.
- Use the focus ring to ensure the image is tack sharp.
- You should be able to depress the shutter button while zoomed in and the camera will take your pictures (it does on the 6D and Sony a6000).
While this live view method is generally the best method for tack sharp images on many lenses, it confines you to a tripod. This is not a problem for avid HDR shooters like myself, but try photographing a child on a bicycle with this lens. You have to be really quick and spot on with the focusing. Even with him sitting still (which is an anomaly) it took several shots to get him even remotely in-focus.
One problem that is common with this lens is that the focus measurements are off. On my copy Infinity focusing is achieved at the 2-3 meters (8-9 ft) mark instead of the intended infinity mark. This is not much of a problem for me as Live-View focusing is my main go-to for this lenses primary application; landscape photography.
This lens is a 14mm Lens, it is not considered a Fish Eye, it is an Ultra Wide Angle lens. On a full frame camera this lens is a true 14mm, however, on an APS-C (1.6x crop factor) camera this would be ~22mm and on a 4/3rds camera (i.e. Olympus, 2x crop factor) it would be 28mm.
Focal Length Equivalent
1.6x Crop (APS-C)
approx. 22 mm
This lens at 14mm will cause some distortion in your images, this is to be expected with any extreme wide angle lens. It is easy enough to fix in post-processing using either the Lens Correction in ACR or Lightroom or the Lens Correction Filter in Photoshop. I prefer the look of a wide angle shot with no correction, but that is a personal preference.
Typically, wide angle lenses can be littered with Chromatic Aberration (CA) especially at f/2.8. Chromatic Aberrations manifest themselves as Cyan and Magenta or Purple and Green lines around areas of high to low contrast in your photos. I despise CA! With wide angle zooms. CA can destroy a great photograph if not handled appropriately in post.
Luckily, this lens is a prime 14mm focal length, it boasts much less CA than the 17-40mm Canon L lens. Below is an example of a 400% zoomed in area where CA would normally run rampant. This image has not been altered in any way and is from the unedited original RAW capture.
I am thoroughly impressed by this lenses ability to capture a sharp RAW image with very little sign of CA.
Use of Filters
So you have a bad-ass 10 Stop ND “Big Stopper” or, even better, a 16 Stop ND filter and you want to throw them on the front for some amazing waterfall images… Good luck getting them to work on this lens unless you know an engineer of some sort that can rig one up to a spare Rokinon Lens cap. Looking at the shape of the lens you can see it is a very large-bulbous shaped piece of glass with a built-in lens hood to reduce flare. Many filters either screw directly onto the lens or they have an adapter that screws onto the lens and the glass slides into the adapter. With this lens neither option is possible right out of the box.
There is a company called Fotodiox that makes a filter holder system for this lens. I do not have one, therefore I cannot discuss how well it works, but here is a link provided by Frank in the comments below. Thanks, Frank!
Blake’s Bottom Line
- Tack sharp with good Manual Focus Practices
- A sweet Ultra Wide Angle Lens that causes minimal distortion to the scene and allows A LOT of image into one frame.
- Very little sign of Chromatic Aberration in the final images.
- f/2.8 Maximum Aperture, great for those Milky Way shots!
- The price!!! Only 300 shells, wow!
- Apparently it holds its own against the Canon 14mm 2.8 L lens that costs roughly 6 times more! Read More here
- All manual may be a deterrent for many beginners.
- No way to protect the bulbous lens.
- All Focusing measurements are off by quite a bit, on my copy infinity focus is achieved at ~2.5 meters or 8-9 ft.
If you are looking for an awesome budget Wide Angle Lens, this is it! With some practice with the proper focusing techniques with this lens you can achieve some amazingly tack sharp images for a fraction of the cost of many L series lenses. I think this lens @ ~$300 is a win-win all around. It feels well-constructed and solidly built, it is sharper than all get out, and can handle chromatic aberrations like a boss all while satisfying the Ultra Wide Angle obsession. I do enjoy this lens and can’t wait to get out and shoot some Milky Way shots (I am waiting on a New Moon). I am sure I will have more on this lens as I use it on my HDR images.
Don’t let the words ‘Manual Lens’ stand in between you and this lens. Manual practices WILL make you a better photographer as you will begin to understand the functions of the lens and just how important it is to have good focusing and aperture settings.