Rokinon/Samyang 12mm F2 Review: First Impressions Review and Comparison with Olympus 12mm F2

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by napilopez, Apr 18, 2014.

  1. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    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

    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.

    Image Quality

    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

    Preliminary Thoughts


    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!

    Please note that purchasing any of the products linked to in this review (or throughout other posts on the website) earns us a small affiliate commission and helps us continue growing; your price remains the same. Your help is appreciated.

    Blurry, but hey, handheld at 1.3s
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2016
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  2. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2011
    Ellicott City, MD
    Real Name:
    Thanks for the comparison. On the subject of field of view, I compared the Olympus 12mm to the Pan 12-35mm at 12mm. Focused at infinity, the Olympus is noticeably wider than the Panasonic at 12mm.
  3. mrjr

    mrjr Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 25, 2012
    Solid review, Napi. Thanks. This covered all the important points for me: size, weight, feel, and aberration characteristics. I'm sure an average copy of this lens would be plenty sharp enough.

    Your impression of the feel of the focus and aperture rings exactly matches my experience with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye: perhaps not enough "clicky-ness" and resistance in the aperture ring, and definitely a little too stiff on the focus ring. It does spoil the feel (at least a little) of an otherwise quality-built lens.

    I wonder if the focus ring stiffness will hinder usability of MF for video, which is the main application that attracts me to the lens. That quirk, and the large front portion (with large filters) is making me less interested in purchasing. Particularly with used Olympus 12mms ~$500 and fast zooms for a couple hundred more. Glad to have the option, though, without a doubt.
  4. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    Two de-centered samples? Hmm... On APS-C I see a lot of promise for this lens. On m4/3, I'm not so sure, especially when the Olympus 12/2.0 is under $500 secondhand. I guess video would be one obvious application.
  5. New to Mu-43

    Nov 22, 2013
    Hmmm....I have the Oly I am probably going to stay with that because I already own it, it has AF and is a pretty damn nice lens (especially since it has a wider field of view than the Sam Yang). Oh..if only it were the sexy limited edition black model..... Is this Sam Yang 12mm the same lens that is being released for APS-C cameras with an MFT mount?(if so we get the sweet spot in the center of the image circle). i.e. this lens was not designed specifically for MFT? If is damn small for an APS-C 12mm, no?
    Very smart looking lens. Will be interested to see what you think of the sharpness comparison when you get the issue straightened out with your camera, (if that is the problem?). This definitely looks like another plus for the MFT lens quiver, any way you look at it, though!
  6. macalterego

    macalterego Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 10, 2012
    Lawrence, KS
    Real Name:
    Jeffrey McPheeters
    Thanks. I'm looking forward to the additional testing results. I suppose, with my Olympus gear and 12-40/2.8, and loving the 7.5mm fisheye, and buying a Metabones Nikon to m43 speed booster, I'm more inclined to pick up Roki's nikon mounts and adapt them. In this case, I'd have a 17mm/1.4, and great for astrophotography.
  7. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Real Name:
    Napier Lopez
    As a note, I'll likely be updating the Rokinon's sample image thread as I go along, so feel free to follow if you're interested:

    I do wonder about that my self. I don't do enough video to know if the dampening would be an issue; on the one hand it's very stiff, on the other, it has a short throw and DoF is deep anyway,

    Well, both my Samyang AND olympus lens seem to be decentered, just to be clear, not too copies of the Samyang(in case that's what you meant). And both of them specifically on the left side (bottom in portrait orientation, though in most of those DoF means it's hard to notice), which is why I worry it may be an issue with my camera, even though I haven't noticed anything wrong with my other lenses so far (but I haven't used those since receiving these). It's quite obvious if you look at the the two sets of FoV comparisons with the Olympus 12mm I have above, although the olympus seems to exhibit much less of it.

    I wonder if somehow the IBIS system or mount on my E-M5 became slightly misaligned. I'll be testing them on my G3 soon enough.

    If you have the Oly 12mm, there certainly is no nead to go for the Samyang unless you really want an MF feel for video, like you suggested, or if the Samyang proved to be sharper when tested properly.

    And yep, it's the same exact one as the APS-C ones other than the mount, as far as I can tell. On APS-C, it's tiny! Either way, it is indeed another great option to have
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  8. nagual

    nagual Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 25, 2012
    Thank you for your comparison test Napier, I have a question almost unrelated to this article.
    Wrist strap on your E-M5 looks like it should be much more comfortable than Gordy's strap . Can you point me where you got it?
  9. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Thanks for the review, Napier! The Rokinon seems to be pretty badly decentered, whereas the Olympus seems to be performing within expectations.
  10. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Real Name:
    Napier Lopez
    Sure thing! I rather obsessively searched for a decent looking blue camera wrist strap, since for some reason it's hard to find any nice ones at a budget price. Then I came across this one on ebay:

    It ships from China, so it might take a few weeks to get it, but it's easily the most comfortable and well-built wrist strap I've tried so far. Have had it for several months now through the rain and rough daily usage, and there's no sign of it wearing at all. I think it was a little stiff at first, but it quickly softened up and feels great now.

    The olympus seems to be showing some amount of issue too:



    Definitely not as bad as the Rokinon, but the left side on these is definitely softer. Just odd that it's always the left!
  11. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    Wondering if this would be a better option for inexpensive wide angle instead of fussing around defishing the Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye. If the price on one drops to where fisheye is right now, it will be tempting.
  12. yekimrd

    yekimrd Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 14, 2012
    Cincinnati, OH
    Real Name:
    Thanks for the review, Napi! On a separate note, where did you take that first skyline shot? Were you on a boat? At a FOV of 24mm FF equivalent, you looked awfully close to the buildings.
  13. slackercruster

    slackercruster Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 18, 2012
    NE US
    A stiff focus ring is what street shooters want. We zone focus and want the setting to stay put. I have to use gaffers tape on my Fuji 14 as it moves if you blow on it.
  14. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Real Name:
    Napier Lopez
    Nope, it's a little pier/park area in downtown NYC that juts into the hudson. I was pretty close to the buildings overall. Basically as far into the water as a boat may be, but still on solid ground.

    I'm sure it will come in handy for many folk! I'm not a fan of zone focusing though, so I wish it were looser. Still, I haven't gone out on the streets enough with it to be sure whether it will be a problem.
  15. tosvus

    tosvus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 4, 2014
    If by "this" you are referring to the Rokinon 12mm, a speedbooster would actually make it a 8.5-9mm 1.4 or so, not the other way around. The other problem is that I think this is created specficially for APS-C, so you better wait and see if anyone are successful in adapting it without massive vignetting before going that route. (It may or may not work).
  16. Jay86

    Jay86 Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 26, 2012
    Thanks for the review OP. Eh, pass on this lens for me. Still waiting for that elusive 8mm f/2.8 rectilinear wide prime for the M43 system built in line with the small/light ethos of M43 (that takes filters!!!). <<< Not too much to ask is it? :tongue:
  17. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Exactly my thoughts too.
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  18. duke

    duke Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 4, 2010
    Tulsa, moving to Houston
    Real Name:
    I don't think the problem would be that it is made for aps-c since people are getting good results with the sigma art zoom. The problem is that it was made for mirrorless systems so there isn't enough room to make a speedbooster type adapter, aka no room for more glass between the lens and the sensor.
  19. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Real Name:
    Hi Napier,

    Thank you very much for doing the review of the Rokinon/Samyang 12mm f/2 against the Olympus, because this is actually a lens I'm thinking of getting for to complete my trio primes (12mm, 17mm and 25mm) and I look forward more to your tests.

    Incidentally, I looked at the motion blur B/W cityscape shot you took with your Rokinon 12mm and I do notice more softness on the left side than on the right and seemingly with the distance you took, probably more than 5 meters from the camera, I think the softness of the left is more attributed to out of collimation on the lens element rather than the bent mount. If the mounts were bent, the image of the cityscape would be sharp because of the infinite DOF. This is not the case here.
    There will always be a slight deblur (softness) on the left hand side or sometimes the right of most great lenses and it is difficult to get perfect symmetry between both sides of the optical axis unless you are willing to fork out an extravagant amount of moola. Even my best expensive Nikkor lenses have asymmetry issues if you look very close enough, but hardly noticeable in print but shows greatly with the Nikon D800. But this Rokinon/Samyang problem is too severe that I would call it acceptable. Are you getting an exchange from your source to re-do a review again or are you going to press ahead as I would be interested to see how the second copy of the Rokinon fair if you do get a replacement.

    Thank you!
  20. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    For casual use (Facebook, small prints) defishing the 7.5/3.5 is probably okay, but for anything more serious, any of the non-defished wide angle options are a big step up - the Samyang 12/2, the Panasonic 14/2.5 + GWC-1, the SLR Magic 12/1.6 etc.