I began to be interested in ultra wide lenses before my photo tour to Norway. I wanted to shoot the Aurora Borealis and I could not leave without a wide lens (minimum f/2.8). On the other hand, I could not afford to invest too much in the photo kit. I’m not a big fan of third-party lenses, but in this case a compromise was inevitable because the cost of an original lens (Canon in my case) exceeded by far my budget.
Several lens manufacturers have speculated this niche on the market and have indulged us with ultra wide targets with good performances and competitive prices.
Samyang were among the first, followed by Irix and Venus Optics.
The Koreans from Samyang have even a tradition in the world of wide lenses, giving us 5 variants of the 14 mm focal length:
Samyang 14mm f / 2.8 ED AS IF UMC – is the full manual version
Samyang 14mm f / 3.1 VDSLR ED AS IF UMC – is identical to the first variant, but specifically designed for videographers
Samyang 14mm f / 2.8 ED AS IF UMC AE – allows adjustment of the aperture in the camera plus a focus confirmation
Samyang 14mm f / 2.4 XP – it’s the premium variant, offering better, brighter image quality with f/2.4
Samyang 14mm f / 2.8 AF – is the autofocus option
I chose the basic version, which is also the cheapest one.
Let’s see how was Samyang’s 14mm f / 2.8 ED AS IF UMC behavior.
Specifications Samyang 14mm f/2.8:
Optical construction: 14 elements in 10 groups
Focal length: 14mm
Diapharam: f 2.8 – f 22
Number of lamellas: 6 rounded
Minimum focus distance: 0.28m
View field: 115.7 grades
Dimensions: 87mm x 96.1mm
The body of the lens is metallic, compact and does not give the impression of a cheap lens, or vice versa. The focus ring moves smoothly with a fairly long stroke. The aperture ring has a classic feel and can be adjusted between f/2.8 and f/22 with clicks every ½ stop. The markings are clearly visible but unfortunately the distance scale is not factory calibrated.
It is fitted with a fixed, plastic lens hood that protects the front part of the lens with a large and prominent diameter. The protective cap fits firmly over the lens hood.
Unfortunately, the lens does not support either screw in or gel type filters, but a 100mm filter adapter can be purchased.
It’s a very sharp lens, starting from f/2.8 the images are very pleasant. Only in the extreme corners I noticed a slight deterioration in clarity.
At f/5.6 the lens achieves its maximum performance, which it maintains even at f/16. As expected, the diffraction effect appears at f/22.
The contrast is good, the colors have a slight cold tint, do not approach the vibrant colors of the L series, for example.
Here Samyang is not good at all. We have complex mustache type distortions. I have encountered problems even when creating panoramas with this lens. Due to distortions, the software simply did not manage to “stick” some frames.
There are some unofficial correction profiles for Lightroom that do pretty good at the center of the image, but it seems to me that the edges become even more elongated.
The lens is vignetting at f/2.8, but it is a common problem for this type of lens. At f/5.6 the problem disappears and we have constant illumination throughout the frame.
Flares and chromatic aberrations
As far as chromatic aberrations, the lens is OK. And the flare is quite well controlled, despite the bulbous front element . It seems that UMC (Ultra Multi Coating) treatments are doing their job.
For astrophotographers, the good news is that the “coma” effect is almost non-existent, the stars look good even in the extreme corners without looking like comas, pigeons, or who knows what other geometrical figures.
It’s not easy to get it for this focal point. When the subject is very close, the minimum focus distance and aperture at f/2.8, you can still get a shaded background that looks decent.
Samyang 14mm f/2.8 strenghts
Excellent price/quality ratio
High quality images
Reduced size, balances well on the body
Weaknesses Samyang 14mm f/2.8
Complex distortions, difficult to correct
It is difficult to clean because of the small distance between the bulbous front element and the non-detachable lens hood
Does not accept normal filters
Since the aperture is manually controlled, the viewfinder becomes very dark if an aperture is used over f/8. Fortunately, the manufacturer offers us the electronic aperture control
The distance scale is not factory calibrated. However, it can be manually calibrated. You only need a 1mm straight screwdriver. The tutorial can be found online. I personally postponed it for a while, but after I did it, I was sorry I did not calibrated it earlier.
I recommend the lens for:
It’s a much more versatile lens than I thought. I recommend it for astrophtography, landscape, travel, concert photography. For photo reportage, especially when we have a subject to be photographed in a small space.
In sport photography it can give us some spectacular angles if we can get close enough to the subject.
The manual focus does not have to scare us, at 14 mm with f/8 and the focus set at 2m everything will be sharp.
I do not recommend the lens for:
I do not recommend using it on the crop sensors because the 14mm focal length becomes 22.4mm which is no longer so wide. There are other better alternatives for crop sensors, such as Samyang 8 mm.
Due to strong distortions, I do not recommend it for indoor photography and architecture. Even used with correction profile. At the moment, there are better alternatives on the market specifically designed to minimize distortions.
I bought it for a precise purpose, my photo tour to photograph the Northern Lights. The initial plan was to sell it after the trip to Norway. But after more than two years this lens is still in my photo kit, and it accompanied me in countless trips since then.
Having such a wide angle, it is an lens that does not forgive you in certain situations. So, for me, it did have a teaching role, and it helped me a lot to be more careful when framing.
Even if it’s almost 10 years since it was launched, Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC is still a competitive lens, worth considering when we want to choose a wide-angle one.
In addition, it has demonstrated that a full manual, without any electronic component, can find its place in an era where everything is digitized and over-automated.
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