Samyang/Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC
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September 24, 2013
by William Brawley
The Rokinon 14mm ƒ/2.8 IF ED UMC is an ultra-wide angle, fully manual lens designed for both full-frame and sub-frame DSLR cameras, and comes in a wide variety of lens mounts including Canon, Nikon, Sony Alpha, Pentax, Samsung NX and Olympus 4/3rds. Introduced as a replacement for the briefly-available “MC” version, this “UMC” models aims to improve issues with ghosting and flare thanks to new multi-layer coatings.
Being a manual lens means there’s no autofocus, as well as no aperture control from the camera. Shooters must manually adjust the lens’ aperture with a clicked ring, similar to early film SLR lenses.
Eschewing typical modern niceties like autofocus, image stabilization and even electronic circuitry for communication with the camera body*, Rokinon is able to focus purely on optics and sell this lens at a bargain-basement price. At around $330, the Rokinon 14mm ƒ/2.8 stands in stark comparison, for instance, to Canon’s $2,200 14mm ƒ/2.8 L-series lens while still producing extremely sharp images.
The Rokinon 14mm ƒ/2.8 IF ED UMC is currently available and ships with front and rear caps, instruction book and soft pouch. Note: the lens hood is not removable.
*Note: there is a version for Nikon DSLRs with a chip that adds support for auto exposure and focus confirmation.
The Rokinon 14mm ƒ/2.8 lens produces very sharp images on both full-frame and sub-frame cameras, even wide open. Although we saw a bit more uneven sharpness across the frame on the full-frame camera, it was overall fairly minor. Stopping down a bit to ƒ/5.6, you begin to see some extremely sharp images from both cameras. In our tests, the sharpest aperture was ƒ/5.6 on the full-frame body, and from ƒ/4-ƒ/5.6 on the sub-frame one. Diffraction softness was very well controlled and even at ƒ/22, it was minor.
The Rokinon did extraordinarily well at controlling chromatic aberration, on both full-frame and sub-frame bodies. Other than some extremely minor variations, the average CA on a full-frame camera was very low through all apertures. On the sub-frame camera, there was a little more CA on average between ƒ/2.8 - ƒ/5.6, but it leveled off and stayed fairly constant for the rest of the apertures.
If you’re looking for a lens with good vignetting control, this Rokinon 14mm lens is not the one for you. Especially with a full-frame camera, the Rokinon 14mm exhibits severe vignetting at ƒ/5.6 or wider. In fact, at ƒ/2.8 and ƒ/4, the amount of light falloff is literally off our charts. At ƒ/4, we saw close to 1.5 stops of light loss and at ƒ/2.8, it was closer to 2 stops (1.8). At ƒ/5.6, we get just shy of 1 stop of light loss, and it decreases further as you stop down. However even at the smaller apertures of ƒ/16-ƒ/22, there's still over half a stop of light falloff.
It’s a much better story on the sub-frame camera, although you understandably miss out on the “ultra-wide” framing with this combo. At ƒ/2.8, we see over 0.5 stops of light loss, and it quickly decreases to around a quarter of a stop by ƒ/5.6, and holds steady as you stop down through the rest of the apertures.
It appears Rokinon put a priority on chromatic aberration control over both vignetting and distortion. Being an ultra-wide angle lens, some distortion was inevitable, and with this one in particular, the barrel distortion in the corners is off our charts with a full-frame camera. The average distortion for the rest of the frame is still very high at around a full 1 percent. On the sub-frame camera, things are a little better. Corner barrel distortion is just shy of 1.5% and the average is around 0.8%.
There is no autofocus operation with this lens.
While this lens is far from a dedicated macro lens, it does have a minimum focusing distance of 0.9' (28 cm) for very good close up wide-angle shots.
Build Quality and Handling
The Rokinon 14mm ƒ/2.8 lens has a nice, solid heft in what amounts to relatively small lens, that nevertheless weighs in at around at around 1.2 lbs. The first thing you notice is the big lens cap that surrounds the large, bulbous front element and thick, built-in plastic lens hood. There are no filter threads on this lens due to the rounded protruding lens element, so fans of screw-in filters like circular polarizers should be aware of this.
Optically, the lens is comprised of 14 elements in 10 groups, including two ED lens elements, one hybrid aspherical lens element and one glass aspherical lens element.
The barrel appears to be constructed of metal, and the lens mount definitely so. The large manual focusing ring is silky smooth to rotate with just the right amount of soft resistance. It’s very easy to rotate and does not feel loose. It also has a very long focus throw, at about 250 degrees of rotation, with hard stops on either end of the focusing scale. This allows for much easier fine focusing adjustments. The focus ring is about 3/4 of an inch wide and covered with a soft rubber grip with deep ribs. The aperture ring, which controls the 6-bladed aperture diaphragm, is made of plastic and is much thinner than the focus ring.
Cosmetically, the lens has a matte black finish that looks similar to numerous other DSLR lenses, and overall looks and feels very high quality. The focus ring does have a focus scale, however there is not a depth of field scale. The aperture ring has clicks between the various aperture values, ranging from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22, however there are no intermediate aperture clicks between ƒ/16 and ƒ/22.
This lens can be challenging to use and fun at the same time. Being such a wide lens, the depth of field is very deep, even at ƒ/2.8. It can be difficult to see if you’ve manually focused precisely just by looking through the viewfinder. Using Live View makes focusing much easier, but that can be more awkward with a larger DSLR. However, if you’re shooting with a tripod or don’t care about critical focus, this lens can produce some very interesting and unique shots.
There are quite a few options for ultra-wide angle prime lenses for full-frame cameras from the major lens manufacturers, but nothing comes close to the bang-for-your-buck of the Rokinon 14mm. On the Canon side, there’s the Canon EF 14mm ƒ/2.8L II USM, which includes many fancy features like dust- and weather-sealing and autofocus as well as very high image quality and low distortion, however it’ll set you back a cool $2,359.
For Nikon, it’s a similar arrangement with their Nikon 14mm ƒ/2.8D ED AF Nikkor lens. Although not as high a performer as the Canon model, based on our test results, the Nikon nonetheless is priced much higher than the Rokinon with a current street price of $1,718.
Another option for a full-frame ultra-wide, fast prime is the Carl Zeiss 15mm ƒ/2.8 Distagon T* lens. Similar to the Rokinon in that it’s a manual focus lens, the Zeiss does have electrical contacts on the mount, so the aperture can be controlled via the camera. The rub? It’s by far the most expensive alternative with a whopping $2,950 price tag. Although we haven’t tested this lens yet ourselves, the Zeiss 15mm lens seems to get rave reviews based on the user reviews we’ve seen.
The Rokinon 14mm ƒ/2.8 IF ED UMC is a surprising hidden gem of a lens. Producing very sharp images with great chromatic aberration control and good build quality, all for the unbelievably low price of around $330, the Rokinon 14mm lens is a fantastic value. The lens is a bit more difficult to focus without resorting to Live View due to the lack of autofocus and a very wide depth of field. It also shows some crazy barrel distortion and vignetting, which seems like a conscious decision on Rokinon’s part as a trade-off for better chromatic aberration control. Given that the competing lenses cost around 5-9 times as much, and unless you’re a professional photographer or demand weather sealing and autofocus, the Rokinon seems like a fantastic choice for a full-frame ultra-wide angle prime lens that would be perfect for landscapes and astrophotography.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Samyang/Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by larslentz (4 reviews)low cost, excellent sharpnessdistortion
This low-cost lens works well on my APS-C camera for shooting night photos. The wide aperture allows a lot of light in while the aspherical elements of the lens minimize coma around points of light (stars). It beats the higher priced Canon lenses, for example.reviewed June 5th, 2015 (purchased for $220)
The drawbacks are that there is no autofocus, no image stabilization, and no electronics in the lens to identify it to the camera (and software in post-processing).
Manual correction of distortion is mandatory in any post-processing of images, as the lens distorts the view quite a bit.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by nighthunter (2 reviews)Sharp,Seems good buildVert small distortion in corners,just crop.
Image i shot in New Zealand with this lens.reviewed January 22nd, 2015 (purchased for $350)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by titi_elsass (7 reviews)Very sharp at all aperture, price, build quality, ultra-ultra wide!Distorsion but easily correctable with lightroom, only 6 blades
Used on 5D classic and 5D Mark II.reviewed July 11th, 2014 (purchased for $250)
An unexpensive & very specialized tool giving great results!
The first main important thing: if you don't use software distorsion correction, it's a odd idea to buy it. Distorsion is huge and complex on full frame, but with some lens correction software (lightroom profile for example), it's very easy to correct.
Apart from this point, the image quality is very, very impressive. I found it to be as sharp or sharper than my precious Canon 24mm TS-E II ! I really like the "look" of images taken at f/2.8 (with important vignetting). Very low chromatic aberrations.
The build quality is very good and better than the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 I had some months.
The only thing which could be better is the blades number. There is only 6 diaphgram blades. 7 would be great for sun or night city shots!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by joebat (1 reviews)Low cost, good colors, wide, sharp, good constuctionno AF
I have this lens since January and I use it on a d3100. Because of the large depth of field it is not difficult to manually focus. The colors this lens produces, even at an entry level, are simply amazing. The distortion is easy to improve with DxO and PTLens. I use the lens mostly for landscapes, architecture and people succeed also nice.reviewed April 23rd, 2014 (purchased for $510)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by keydet (5 reviews)Wide, fast, sharpNo AF
Even without considering how inexpensive this lens is, it is a very good ultra-wide prime. Consider the cost and it is an exceptional value.reviewed April 6th, 2014 (purchased for $300)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by CW (1 reviews)Affordable, decent construction, extremely sharpBarrel distortion and vignetting, not weather proof.
Other posts complain of distortion, low contrast, etc. The review points out that it has barrel distortion but it is easily corrected in Adobe Photoshop using the Warp function. As for low contrast, perhaps wide open but perfectly acceptable at F4 or higher, and you can easily add contrast with any photo software.reviewed March 30th, 2014 (purchased for $360)
I previously owned the Canon L series 17-40 and 16-35 lenses. This lens is easily sharper than either of those at any F stop, regardless of what others may say.
If you have trouble manual focusing then this may not be the lens for you because the deep depth of field even at 2.8 may make it difficult. But after you do some tests and learn where to set the focus ring it all falls into place.
As for the-digital-picture.com and Ken Rockwell being the only two accurate reviews of this lens, that is pure BS. DXOMark and Photozone.DE have both highly rated this lens. If one can't work around the known weaknesses of this lens, then get another hobby because you certainly aren't a professional.
A highly recommended lens.
3 out of 10 points and not recommended by uforias (3 reviews)CheapUnsharp - Too much Distortion - Huge Vigneting - Low Contrast
I have bouth this lens after reading a few very positive reviews regarding its performance comparing to i.e. Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II, which I own. Unfortunately I have been able to prove myself that these so called reviews are not true. The only true review that I have seen from this lens is image quality tests from http://www.the-digital-picture.com/ and Ken Rockwell review. My findings go in line with these two tests. Too much distortion, huge vigneting and poor contrast; Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II blows this lens away wide open in terms of image sharpeness. If you are on a budget, this lens might be a solution, otherwise avoid it.reviewed February 22nd, 2014 (purchased for $350)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by m-ex (3 reviews)Sharp, f/2.8 really sharpmanual focus, manual aperture control, strange distorsion
Surprisingly sharp even at f/2.8reviewed October 14th, 2013 (purchased for $320)
Love this lens on FF, super wide, best money/performance.