Samyang SY14MAE-N 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Angle Lens for Nikon AE
In preparing for the trip to Norway and Iceland, I was thinking of getting a wide angle lens, something as wide as 14mm would be my preference. I’ve had the Nikon 16-35mm F4 before, which I had sold, then bought it again for the trip to Balkans. First time I sold the 16-35mm was because I was dissatisfied with its quality at 16mm and 35mm focal points. At 16mm, it has too much distortion and most of all, the thing that really turned me off was its smearing of details at the corners when doing close up of foreground subjects (some says the “coma” issue – Link to Wikipedia for explanation). So either I had to crop the edges or putting up with that. Before I went to the Balkan trip, I decided that I might need a wider angle than my Nikon 20mm F1.8, therefore I acquired it again. Again, I was disappointed with its performance at the wide end. This is especially when some of my excellent wide angle images were created using my Zeiss 35mm and Zeiss 50mm Makro lenses that I had with me, using Pano-merge in Lightroom 6. Sold it again.
To be clear, the Nikon 16-35mm has good sharpness, and the distortion that I’m talking about wouldn’t be an issue if your foreground subjects are at least 10 feet away or further, and I did get some excellent shots using the lens during my Canada trip. If I didn’t have the Zeiss 35mm F2, I would think the range from 16-35mm would be useful, however, with the Nikon 20mm F1.8 and Zeiss 35mm F2, I almost got that range covered, and the 35mm focal point is a also a weakness of the Nikon 16-35mm.
Back to the Samyang 14mn F2.8. Since I have decided that I will need something wider than my Nikon 20mm F1.8 for the Iceland/Norway trip, I was thinking of the Nikon 14-24mm F2.8, which is the standard in which most of other wide angles are judged against. However, I also remembered the reasons why I didn’t even consider that lens since I got serious about this hobby: The weight and its requirement to use special set of filter system. Price is a factor, but not as much as the two mentioned. So what other option?
I’ve read a lot about the Samyang 14mm F2.8 (or the same one with different branding Rokinon). All of the users’ feedback on Amazon, B&H are favorable. A lot of these users use this lens for night/star photography. I’m not into it yet, but thinking that if I have a chance I will try it out. Most of what I want to use it for is mainly landscape. You might ask why would I need a wide angle lens when I’ve talked a lot about using my Zeiss 35mm and 50mm and panoramic to cover the wide angle territory successfully so far? Well, even though I’d like to use those lenses and the pano method as the first option, however, I’m not going to be pretending that they do have challenges. However, these challenges have not been insurmountable for me. With adequate skills with Photopshop, most of the results have been fine. However, there were a few that were not easily overcome and also not as perfect as I would like them to be, and did require some more post-processing work to look their best. With that being said, I prefer the natural rending of perspective from the pano’s created by these 2 lenses (Zeiss 35mm/50mm) over the super wide angle like these 14-24mm or 16-35mm.
So why am I thinking about the super wide angle lens like the Samyang? These are some of the reasons:
- To take backup images after I get my usual pano images from my Zeiss lenses. Keep i mind also that with my Zeiss/Nikon lenses, I have a set of filters to use with, and the Samyang doesn’t have any filters. These images taken by the Samyang 14mm are backup’s for my main pano’s in case I’ll need to use them.
- For close range foreground subjects on which I want to focus for dramatic effects.
- Some night photography if I have a chance, even though my current Nikon 20mm F1.8 should do fine. This is not what I’m buying the Samyang for, just another plus.
When I first opened the box of the Samyang, I was surprised of the built quality of the lens. It is a solid lens. I’m sure that the body is made of plastic, but the lens doesn’t feel nor look cheaply made and the lens mount is metal. The finish of the lens looks quite expensive and doesn’t look any worse than the newer NIkon lenses, such as the 20mm F1.8. The front lens hood is also very well made and when you take it off and put it on, it has a reassuring motion and you know that it is on correctly. When I compare the Samyang to my more than twice the price Nikon 20mm F1.8, I think the Samyang is made even better than the Nikon, to be honest.
The positive points of the Samyang 14mm F2.8:
- Nice focus ring feel. It feels almost like the Zeiss. There is no play at all in the focusing ring, again, similar to the Zeiss, but the Zeiss is a bit smoother, but it is also 3 times more expensive.
- Relatively light weight (1.22 lbs). Small size (length 3.78″).
- The letters and numbers on the lens are clearly marked and easy to read.
- Looks quite good on my Nikon D800E (not an important factor but doesn’t hurt either).
- The focus ring is large and easy to grab even without looking at it.
- I can control the aperture thru my Nikon control and don’t have to turn the ring manually. This helps to change the aperture quickly.
- Less “coma” issue at the corners than the Nikon 16-35mm and less chromatic issue compared to the Nikon 20mm F1.8.
- Very sharp. I don’t want to compare to the Zeiss or the Nikon lenses because they’re all sharp enough, but to my eyes, after post processing, I would say, I have nothing much to complain about.
The negative points:
- The electronic focus confirmation doesn’t work that good and can’t be trusted. There is a big range of movement with the focus ring where the focus light indicates that it is in focus, when it is not. I confirmed it by using the live-view to check the sharpness after I’ve gotten the focus light on inside the camera. It is a hit and miss indicator and can’t be trusted. I would recommend that you should always use live-view if you’re serious about your results. More than likely I will do lots of image stacking technique with this lens for close range foreground subjects.
- Of course with any wide angle lenses, you’d see distortion. However, I’m glad to say that the distortion is not as bad as the 16-35mm at 16mm. I know that the 14-24mm @14mm has the least distortion, however, by seeing images taken by others @14mm, I would say the Samyang is not much worse. The Samyang also has very minimal chromatic issue compared to the Nikon 20mm F1.8, and less coma issue than the Nikon 16-35mm. It is also a lot cheaper price than both of these Nikon, I would say that the Samyang is doing very good in the distortion and coma areas. So this might not be a minus here.
- Needs a special filter system and filters (145mm kind). These filters and filter mount themselves cost more than this lens. I don’t think I will buy any filters for this lens.
- Of course you know before you buy the lens that it is a manual focus lens. For me I’m used to using manual lenses, so it is not an issue. With that being said, there are times, with auto-focus, it is easier and quicker with AF, especially when you need to do a series of pictures for stacking and you need to focus on different areas of the frame. There are always trade-off’s with anything that we buy, especially when cost is a consideration.
- If you are in the same boat as I was, I think it is an easy answer, just buy this lens and use it, you will enjoy it, since it is so inexpensive and the lens performs so well in some situations and even though I’ve used to using the Zeiss lenses, I don’t feel compromised when I use it. However, the real test is when I take it to my Iceland/Norway trip soon. Even if you’ve used it a while, this lens on the used market is so hot, that you can sell it and lose just some change. I’ve seen used ones that sold for up to $280 and they were gone in a couple of days listed on the market. There is basically nothing this wide, inexpensive and perform as well like this lens right now.
- Should get DXO Optics. This software is so good at auto-fix the raw images of the Samyang that you’d be shocked to see the before and after images using RAW. All of these images that I show below were processed using DXO Optics 10 and without any post processing afterward and just resized in Photoshop and converted to JPG. I compared the post-processed images between DXO and Lightroom 6.5, and DXO clearly has the advantage.
- This lens is a special purpose lens and will create some beautiful images but probably will not be used often as other lenses. I only recommend using this lens strictly for landscape and star/night photography and not for architectural subjects or anything with lines or proportional shapes. If there are such subjects in the frame, place them in the middle of the frame if possible to minimize the distortion, and I believe you all know about this.
Updated July 4, 2016:
Well, after using it on a trip to Iceland, I would say that this lens is a very good lens and for the money, it might be better than some expensive lenses from Nikon or Canon. The only caveat is that I wish that I could use the regular filters, i.e. the 82mm filters that I’m using, instead of having to buy the special filter adapter and filters, which cost as much or more than this lens. But the price, the size, weight and image quality are outweighed this drawback.
Here are some images that I took using this lens, and the first image was used hand-held. Click on the image to expand it.
To buy this lens, you can either use the link to Amazon or B&H below: