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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.  It’s a prime lens that I use regularly as my go-to ultrawide angle on my Sony 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.

 

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

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!

Small Size and 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.

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.

 

Fast 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 for APS-C formats like Sony E-Mount or Fuji X-Mount.

Sharpness

First off, the sharpness of this corners of the frame are determined by the format you shoot. If you shoot this lens on micro four-thirds, you will have sharper corners than on an APS-C camera from Sony or Fujifilm.

As might be expected, the corners are very soft when shooting wider than f/4.  At f/5.6, this lens has it’s sharpest from center to edge, with excellent results across the board. Stop down past f/10 and diffraction starts eating away at the sharpness again. Once again, micro four-thirds shooters will see sharper corners on their images.

To be, one of the best purposes of this lens is night-time astro-photography. Night images are never as sharp as daytime shots, so the soft corners at f/2 really don’t matter too much, making this an awesome lens for shooting night skies with aperture wide open.

From what I’ve seen come out of my Sony cameras, I am satisfied with the image sharpness that this lens provides.  I mostly shoot it at f/5.6 or f/8, and the corners like fine to me. As such, I think this lens offers an incredible value for tack sharp images it is capable of producing.  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 its price point.  The bulk of the body is metal, with plastic on the focus ring and front of the barrel. Generally speaking, I have no complaints in this department.

I did have an incident where a tripod malfunctioned and dropped the camera and lens on the ground. The Rokinon 12mm f/2 took the brunt of the fall, and a piece of the plastic on the front of the barrel did chip off. Fortunately, the damage does not affect the functionality of the lens. Although I do not blame this on poor build quality, it does show that this lens is not altogether indestructible.

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! No matter the price point of a lens, I do think that a properly fitting hood and/or cap should be expected.

Sunstars 

Having 6 rounded apertures blades, this lens produces sunstars that are not super attractive.   I’m quite a sunstar connoisseur myself, and this is probably my only real qualm with this lens. All other things being equal, I’m willing to pay some extra bucks for a wide-angle lens that produces quality sunstars. As such, I’m about 95% happy with this lens, but when it comes shooting into the sun, I usually switch to a different lens.

I have found that I like how they look a little more when I shoot portrait (see below).

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.

What I am Neutral About

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. If you are a novice that is not very comfortable with manual focusing, I recommend you practice and get better at it! Getting foreground-to-horizon depth-of-field often requires use of manual focus. Buying a manual focus only lens like this one might even force your hand at becoming a better photographer. If you really want that auto-focus, you will have pay some extra money for a 1st party lens.

Chromatic Aberration

You will probably see some purple fringing along horizons, tree branches, buildings, ect., especially in the corners. Add on a polarizing filter and the fringing can be intensified further. From what I’ve found however, I’m able to correct it easily enough in post-processing. To me, the chromatic aberration here is not a deal-breaker, but is definitely a characteristic of this lens that the photographer should keep in mind, especially when shooting sunsets or with trees set against the sky.

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! At least this lens has a fixed focal length, so that part of the data is easy to figure out. To me, this is not a huge deal.

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.  It’s a great buy, in my opinion, especially if you can grab one on sale. There may be other, better options depending on what format you shoot with, but this lens definitely has the chops to be a go-to ultra-wide angle lens for any photographer.

Also check out the section below to see how this lens stacks up head-to-head against its wide-angle competition.

grand canyon photo workshop bannerHow Does it Compare to the Competition?

Versus Sony E-Mount Lenses

Versus – Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8

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

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?)

 

Versus Fujifilm X-Mount Lenses

Versus – Fujifilm Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 OIS:

fujifilm 10-24mm ultrawide lens

The Rokinon has some steep competition to deal with in the Fijifilm 10-24mm. The Fujinon is generally sharper in the corners, and is amazingly sharp in center at 18mm. The ability to zoom is also super-handy. To boot, the Fuji is also image stabilized, which isn’t as much of a benefit to have on a wide-angle lens, but is still a nice feature. Oh yeah, the Fuji also has auto-focus. Of course, the Rokinon gains a little ground with its fast f/2 aperture versus the Fuji’s max of f/4. The Rokinon is also much smaller and lighter in weight. If you really want the fast aperture, or just are really on a budget, get the Rokinon. Otherwise, this Fujifilm 10-24mm is the definite winner.

Versus – Fujifilm Fujinon 14mm f/2.8

fujifilm 14mm f2.8

This is the Rokinon’s most direct competition in the Fuji X-Mount world. The one real pro for the Fuji is the included autofocus. The 14mm might have an edge in sharpness, but nothing noticeable to the naked, in my opinion. The pros for the Rokinon are that it is slightly wider (12mm vs 14mm), slightly faster (f/2 vs f/2.8), and a few hundred dollars cheaper. If you like the autofocus or keeping the 1st party brand name, get the Fuji 14mm. Otherwise, I think the Rokinon is the way to go if you need a fast ultrawide here, having slightly better features (minus autofocus) and similar performance for a better price.

Versus Micro Four-Thirds Lenses

Versus – Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2

12mm olympus f2

The most direct comparison for the Rokinon 12mm f/2, this little Olympus has the same focal length and same fast aperture. The sharpness profiles of the two lenses are nearly  identical. The one real difference, the Olympus has autofocus, the Rokinon does not. Of course, the Rokinon is also a few hundred dollars cheaper. Once again, you have to ask yourself if you think autofocus is worth the extra cost. One consideration is that 12mm on micro four-thirds is a 24mm equivalent on full-frame, so autofocus is a little more valuable at this focal length, but is pretty easy to manual focus as well. I give the edge to the Rokinon 12mm here, but the Olympus is also a great lens worthy of consideration.

 

For micro four-thirds, the true ultra-wide angle lenses to consider are:

Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8

Panasonic 7-14mm f/4

Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 

Panasonic 8-18mm f/2.8-4

Versus Canon M-Mount Lenses

Versus – Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6

11-22mm canon ef-m

As of this writing, Canon’s lone ultra wide offering for M-Mount. It’s a great little lens that is very sharp, and pretty comparable to the Rokinon. It’s also a zoom lens that, of course, supports autofocus and is pretty reasonably priced. To me, the only real reason to go for the Rokinon 12mm f/2 here is if you need the fast aperture. The Canon has a nice feature set and excellent performance that won’t break the bank.

 Versus Samsung NX-Mount Lenses

Versus – Samsung 12-24mm f/4-5.6

12-24mm samsung nx

Samsung’s lone ultra-wide offering for their APS-C format NX cameras. It’s a great lens that produces exceptionally sharp images, definitely having a bit of an edge on the Rokinon in that respect. It also has a nice focal range, although it seems a bit pricey for a slow, variable aperture lens. I still like the Rokinon a little more for the price with a super-fast aperture. If it’s a question of autofocus, the Samsung has an edge there.

Additional Mirrorless Camera Resources

Best Mirrorless Cameras For Landscape Photography

Best Sony E-Mount Lenses for Landscape Photography

Best Fujifilm X-Mount Lenses for Landscape Photography

Best Olympus Micro Four-Thirds Lenses for Landscape Photography

Best Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds Lenses for Landscape Photography

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