This review originally appeared in my column at Digital Photo Pro, and has been edited for this site.
lens comes from the relatively obscure Korean company Samyang and can be found both under the Samyang and Rokinon brans. The company primarily makes lenses for SLR cinema purposes, but the 14mm Ultra-Wide is part of their still photography line.
This lens is available for a wide range of lens mounts, but caveat emptor only has electrical contacts, which means that the lens provides on-camera aperture control on some systems and manual aperture settings on others. On the Sony system the lens mount is mechanical only, which means the lens has to be focussed manually and used in the M shooting mode, with aperture settings performed on the lens.
Since the Sony a7 can display the results of the selected aperture and shutter speed combinations on the viewfinder and LCD screen, this isn’t such a big deal. Instead of turning the aperture dial on the camera users simply turn the ring on the lens barrel. The camera’s focus peak display also aids in dialing in a great shot.
The result is a cumbersome lens (on a system as small as the Sony) and one that doesn’t produce images much better than the Sony 10-18mm. That surprised me as I’d heard some really nice things about this piece of glass but my tests resulted in some very lackluster images
With the Nikon version there’s a chip on the lens that confirms focus, performs auto white balance and auto exposure which isn’t available on the Sony. The body is the size of a typical SLR wide-angle lens (not surprising since it also works with Nikon and Canon) so losing the compact size of a typical lens without gaining focusing abilities is a big consideration.
The result is a cumbersome lens (on a system as small as the Sony) and one that doesn’t produce images much better than the Sony 10-18mm. That surprised me as I’d heard some really nice things about this piece of glass but my tests resulted in some very lackluster images. I had expected edge softness and distortion (after all this is a very aggressive wide angle) but found issues with center of field sharpness too.
There is a lot of chromatic aberration with this lens, I found pretty significant purple fringing on the edges of the images at high contrast areas, such as hark machinery against a bright background. This was incredibly noticeable and reduced the practicality of using this lens significantly.
I also found that the lens tended to exaggerate the “noise”of the sensor at higher ISO values—the Rokinon seemed to produce grainy images at around ISO 800 while the 35mm f/2.8 didn’t seem appreciably noisy in the same lighting situation until around three stops higher.
With a $400 price tag and a relatively unknown manufacturer, most people wouldn’t expect much from this lens, though online reviews have really praised this price/performance combination. I’ve read a number of forum posts that seem to show people either love or hate this lens, with the conclusion being that many of the units are sharp but a number are soft and inaccurate. It’s possible that my test lens is one of the unfortunate failures, but it definitely didn’t live up to the hype.
[Updated to reflect correct information on focus and chip for Nikon systems.]…