Sunday, September 15, 2013

Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED

An ultra-wide angle lens for full frame Nikons. Surely, it's for the budget-minded, it's a third-party (very third party!) lens, but do I still recommend it? Read on, and you might be surprised! The review was made with a D700, I did not try it with a DX camera (or with the D700 on DX mode), as it makes little if any sense to use it with DX. (For DX users: get the Sigma 10-20mm, it's a no-brainer)

+ ultra-wide angle, FX-compatible, at a very competitive price.
+ Image quality is...*drumroll*, very good!
+ great ergonomics, focus ring is great - thank goodness.

- manual focus only, but that's really not an issue with an ultra-wide angle lens.
- complex, wavy distortions. This is not a lens for architecture (then again, you'd be mad to expect something like that from an ultra-wide)
- resell value is fair. Better to get a used one, don't buy new

Very good resolution stopped down to f/8. Even wide-open, it's fine in the center and pretty OK in the corners.

Although not without distortions (like all ultra-wides), it doesn't mean you can't use it with straight lines. Just watch your positioning/orientation.

Intended Users
Great for:
  • FX users that look for a good value ultra-wide lens.
  • landscapes, obviously. Perfect for cloudscapes.
  • tight spaces. But carefully with orientation, or you'll be getting some pretty crazy distortions!

Not for:
  • images where straight lines are critical - then again, you'd be insane to expect such a requirement from an ultra-wide.
  • group photos of people. Those near the corners might appear as if sucked in by a black hole, while those in the center might look about to disintegrate!
  • people who fret over brands, autofocus, and other non-photographic issues. If you're such a person, by all means spend over $1000 for a Nikkor.

Final Verdict
A great lens, I loved it! It's amazing value, as it can be found for less than $300 used, and you don't have to make many compromises. Basically, it boils down to brand and autofocus. You pay less because it's a Samyang and it because it's manual focus. Fair enough, the distortion can be pronounced in certain situations (although not in normal use, especially with landscapes), but the resolving power of the lens is very good (I should admit, however, I don't know how it looks with the MP monster, the D800), its focus ring and feel are great, and even the construction quality inspires confidence. All in all, for such a price, you really can't go wrong!

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