- Feb 21, 2012
- NYC Area
- Real Name
- Napier Lopez
Rokinon/Samyang 12mm F2 Review: First Impressions and Comparison with Olympus 12mm F2
Slightly blurry, but handheld at 0.6s and ISO 400
Slightly blurry, but handheld at 0.6s and ISO 400
Micro Four Thirds has built up one of the strongest set of lenses out there, but one area it's been lacking in is high quality, bright, wide lenses; users have essentially been limited to the Olympus 12mm F2. Unfortunately, that one costs $800, so in comes Rokinon/Samyang (they're the same thing) with their own 12mm F2 at just $399 MSRP. Sure, it's manual-focus only, but that shouldn't be a huge problem at wide angles. So does it deliver the goods on a budget?
I've had both 12mm lenses with me for review, so I've been able to compare them a bit. Unfortunately, it seems either both of them are exhibiting some sort of decentering towards the left of the frame, or that there's an issue with my E-M5, so I'll refrain from making detailed sharpness comparisons for now, and will update this post or create a new one when I can perform better tests. In the meantime, there's plenty to talk about.
Build and Operation
The Rokinon 12mm is designed a bit oddly. Most of the barrel is pretty narrow. It's only slightly wider than the Olympus 12mm, and significantly narrower than the Panasonic 25mm. However, it ends in this large hood-like shape, presumably to keep out incident light for the ultrawide coverage on the APS-C sensors it was originally designed for. It ends up taking 67mm filters, the same size as those on the Nocticron 42.5, despite being a much smaller lens overall. In practice, the lens takes up just a little bit more storage space than the 25mm F1.4, although if you factor in their respective included hoods, the Rokinon ends up being smaller, as the Rokinon's hood is actually reversible. It's noticeably bigger than the Olympus 12mm, but not at all what I'd consider "large". It makes you wonder how small the lens could have been if it were designed specifically for Micro Four Thirds.
Construction is solid. A combination of plastic and metal parts, it doesn't feel as good as the Olympus 12mm or other high end lenses for Micro Four Thirds like the Nocticron or Voigtlanders, but it's also much cheaper; it certainly feels more solid than any AF lens in its price range. The metal construction makes it a bit heavier than many M4/3 primes, but it's still pretty light at 260g. But again, the Olympus is much lighter, at 130g.
The lens is manual-focus only, something which I normally have no issue with and which should matter less at this focal length where depth of field is quite deep. In fact, I tend to like a good MF lens just as much as an AF one, or sometimes even prefer it. After all, one of the highlight features of the Olympus 12mm is its snapping focus ring with a distance scale to allow you to imitate the feel of a real MF lens. However, the Rokinon has one serious usability issue for my tastes: the focus ring is way too stiff. Whereas the Olympus 12mm only requires a light touch to move, the Rokinon requires a lot more torque to turn its ring across its short throw.
I suspect this is because in reality this is supposed to be an 18mm equivalent lens rather than a 24mm one; at that field of view there's generally little focusing you need to do. It may come in handy for dedicated landscape photographers, as you're very unlikely to accidentally knock the lens out of its focus position. But I like the 24mm equivalent field of view for more than just landscapes at hyperfocal; it's a great walkaround and street photography perspective. Unfortunately, I found the Rokinon to somewhat complicate things for my style of shooting; it's just harder to make quick adjustments or follow subjects than I'd like. Not a dealbreaker, but I haven't gotten used to it yet. If you shoot at hyperfocal or zone focus, however, you should be fine. Conversely, I wish the aperture ring were a little stiffer.
As noted above, I can't provide terribly useful sharpness tests, but I can provide preliminary impressions of the lens otherwise.
Firstly, and somewhat to my surprise, the Rokinon's field of view is actually a little tighter than the Olympus'. Even adjusting for the differences between the respective positions of the two lenses' front elements (as the Rokinon is physically a bit longer), and focusing at or near infinity, the Rokinon consistently shows a slightly tighter angle of view. It might not be enough to make a difference, but worth noting.
The following are SooC Imports into Lightroom. The Rokinon first, followed by the Olympus:
Speaking of distortion, the Rokinon displays no significant amount of distortion in the field, which is nice to see on a completely analog wide lens like this.
A 24mm equivalent lens isn't generally one you go to for bokeh, but I thought the Rokinon rendered out of focus areas pretty smoothly, all things told:
Other things to note are that fringing/longitudinal CA levels are pretty normal for a fast Micro Four Thirds lens. Meaning it's present, but should be generally easily fixable in post. Certainly seemed about on par with the Olympus 12mm. I also found the lens to be good at resisting flare, with no huge loss of contrast neither with the sun in front or at odd angles with the lens.
SooC @ F4 or F5.6:
Center sharpness seems to be very good right from F2, perhaps a hair sharper than the Olympus, but that's as far as I'm willing to talk about sharpness until I can confirm any problems; stay tuned for more.
In the meantime, feel free to download the SooC JPEGs and/or RAW files linked below if you want to inspect for yourself.
Dropbox - Rokinon 12mm F2
So far my impressions of the Rokinon are positive. It's built solidly, and though not as compact or light as it could theoretically be if it were designed for Micro Four Thirds only, it's still within a comfortable carrying range for me. Is it noticeably better than the Olympus 12mm? As far as I can tell at this point, no. But it also doesn't seem to be significantly worse. If you can live with the lack of AF, stiff focus ring, and somewhat larger size and weight, the Rokinon seems like a great option at half the price of the Olympus. For my own casual uses, it already seems good enough. But if you're a dedicated landscape shooter looking for the best performance, you may want to hold out until a more detailed sharpness analysis can be made. I'll likely be posting some images onto this lens' sample image thread, if you'd like to follow along.
The Rokinon 12mm F2 is available for $399 (B&H, Adorama), and seems like a strong option for anyone looking for a fast, wide lens on a budget. And hey, at least Rokinon includes a hood!
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Blurry, but hey, handheld at 1.3s
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