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Rokinon (Samyang) 12mm f/2 Lens Review for Mirrorless Cameras

rokinon samyang 12mm f2

In this review, you will get my opinion on the Rokinon 12mm f/2 lens (I own it for Sony E-Mount).  Internationally it is sold under the brand Samyang, by the way.  It’s a prime lens that I use regularly as my go-to ultrawide angle on my mirrorless camera system.  The lens is also available for Fuji X-Mount, Micro Four-Thirds, Canon M-Mount, and Samsung NX-Mount.  In this review you will just get my honest opinion of what I like and what I don’t about this lens.  First, we’ll cover the basic specs:

Rokinon (Samyang) 12mm F/2 Specifications

  • Minimum Aperture: f/22
  • Maximum Aperture: f/2
  • Format: ASP-C
  • Field of view:  98.9°
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 7.87″ (20 cm)
  • Elements/Groups: 12/10
  • Weight: 8.64 ounces (245 grams)
  • Approximate Dimensions: 2.85 x 2.33″ (72.5 x 59.1 mm)
  • Filter size: 67mm
  • MSRP (U.S.): $499.00

Need-to-Know Info

The Rokinon 12mm f/2 lens, also listed under the brand Samyang, is an ultrawide angle prime lens specifically built for APS-C (crop-sensor) mirrorless cameras.  Like the camera bodies it attaches to, this lens has a small footprint.  It weights in at a half-pound, and comfortably fits in a coat pocket.  When attached to a mirrorless body, the entire setup is minuscule.  Not quite the size of a point and shoot camera, but almost.

With a maximum aperture of f/2, this lens is fast!   Image stabilization is not included, so you can’t handheld at shutter speeds below perhaps 1/20 of a second.  There is no autofocus, so you better be comfortable with focusing manually.

Comes with a lens hood and a neat little felt carrying bag.

What I Like!

  • WEIGHT: First off, this lens is tiny!  The biggest reason why I went mirrorless (full article here) was to cut weight while hiking.  Throw this little guy in my bag, and I barely notice that it’s there.  In comparison, the Sigma 10-20mm zoom that I used with my APS-C dSLR weighed 1.1 pounds, about twice what the Rokinon weighs.
  • SIZE: In terms of dimensions, this lens is just about perfect.   Of course it isn’t as small as the “pancake” lenses you see for mirrorless cameras, but those lenses sacrifice photo quality by cramping the lens elements together.  This lens achieves a reasonably small size without that sacrifice!  This lens fits in a coat pocket with ease, and if you wear cargo pants or a baggier pair of khakis, you can even fit into your pants pocket while your out shooting without it being a major burden.
rokinon 12mm size comparison

The Sigma 10-20mm lens for APS-C dSLRs is nearly twice the size and nowhere near as sharp as the Rokinon / Samyang 12mm f/2.

  • APERTURE: It’s fast, really fast! I’m a landscape guy so I’m content using a tripod in low light, and I’m not too concerned about hand-held shots.  Rather, I love the fact that I can let in tons and tons of extra light when I do long exposures of the night sky.  A wider aperture means a lower ISO, which in turn means less noise!  Going as wide as f/2 makes this by far the fastest ultrawide lens available.
  • SHARPNESS:  This is a prime lens, which are typically sharper than their zoom counterparts.  As should be expected, the corners are soft when shooting wider than f/4.  For night photography, which tends to be a bit fuzzy anyway, it’s still acceptable.  For most of my uses, I shoot it at f/8 and it’s fantastic.  From what I’ve seen come out of my camera, I am 100% satisfied with the image sharpness that this lens provides.  There is an additional item of note for those that shoot on the micro-four thirds format.  Because of the crop factor on Olympus and Panasonic cameras, shooting this lens in micro four-thirds eliminates some of the soft corner areas, making this lens to appear even sharper for images straight out of the camera in that format!  Check out this video my friend Davin over at Lavikka Photography for in depth dissection of the sharpness of this lens.
  • BUILD-QUALITY:  This is solid.  It’s not the absolute highest build quality, nor would you expect it to be at $499.  The bulk of the body is metal, with plastic on the focus ring and front of the barrel.  No complaints!
  • CARRYING BAG:  I’m not exactly sure what to call the material it’s made out of (felt?) but it’s a great little bag.  It won’t make the lens unbreakable, but it’s a nice lightweight layer of protection for when you are out and about.  I think it’s perfect and I wish I had one just like it for every lens that I own!
rokinon 12mm carrying case

The Rokinon 12mm F/2 secured within its small, simple and practical felt carrying case.

What I Dislike!

  • LENS HOOD/LENS CAP:  Neither fits quite right and there’s lots of give after slapping them on.  As such, both tend to come loose and fall off.  In fact, I no longer have my lens hood because it fell off the lens and over the edge of cliff while I was out shooting one day!
  • CHROMATIC ABERRATION:  You’ll probably see some purple fringing along horizons, tree branches, buildings, ect., especially in the corners.  From what I’ve found however, I’m able to correct it easily enough in post-processing.
  • NO AUTO-FOCUS:  It’d be nice to have!  However, I’m sure the lens would cost more if it had it.  I do a lot of manual focus anyway so not a deal-breaker for me.
  • NO EXIF DATA:  This lens does not communicate electronically with the camera body so there is no exif data transmitted to your digital images.  If you really want to remember the exact settings you used, you better keep some field notes!
  • SUNSTARS:  Having 6 rounded apertures blades, this lens produces sunstars that are not super attractive.  I’ve found that I like how they look a little more when I shoot portrait.
Sonoran Desert Sunrise Sunset Landscape Cactus

Sunstar in the Sonoran Desert using the Rokinon 12mm set to f/16. Not the best looking sunstar, but still usable in the right compositions and lighting situations.

The Bottom Line

For me, the pros far outweigh the cons for the Rokinon 12mm f/2.  I mainly use this lens for landscapes shot on a tripod where I would manual focus anyway.  I love the image sharpness, I love the small size, and I also love the price.  For only $499, it’s a great buy in my opinion.  I even got mine (new) on-sale for $320, so keep your eye out for those deals.

How does it compare to the competition?

Versus – Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 (MSRP: $999):

zeiss sony 12mm touit lensThe Zeiss might be a bit sharper in the corners at open apertures.  Chromatic aberration is also less evident.  However, the Rokinon is one full stop faster (f/2 vs. f/2.8).  For myself, the enticing part of the Zeiss is the 9 diaphram blades that produce fantastic sunstars!  The Zeiss also has autofocus which probably a deal-breaker for most photographers.   If you are budget conscious, I think the Rokinon is still the winner.

 

 

Versus – Sony 10-18mm f/4 (MSRP $849):

sony 10-18mm lensThe enticing part of the Sony is the ability to zoom.  I’ve found personally that in the wide-angle category, I physically move the camera to change the shot rather than zooming.  And zooms usually are not as sharp, as is the case here where the Rokinon definitely has the edge.  The Rokinon is also much faster.  I’d only go with the Sony if you really need to have the ability to zoom at wide-angle (video perhaps?)

 

Additional Mirrorless Camera Resources

If you are looking to buy a new mirrorless camera for landscape photography, we have the best resource available!  Check out our article:

Best Mirrorless Cameras For Landscape Photography

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