Samyang 14mm f2.8 Lens review (Bower, Rokinon)

 
I had heard some very good things about the Samyang 14mm f2.8 a.k.a. Bower and Rokinon. It is a rather inexpensive manual focus ultra wide-angle prime lens made in Korea and comes in a Nikon and Canon mount. The Nikon mount lens comes in 2 versions, totally manual and one with the pins to work with Nikons auto exposure cameras. The AE version will control the aperture. It does not have filter threads due to the bulbous front element and has a built in hood that the lens cap fits over much like a lid. I am writing about the Nikon mount version.
I had read some discussion it might be as sharp or sharper than the Nikon ultra wide-angle zoom 14-24mm f2.8. I also read it had some distortion of the mustache type. Since I don’t have a 14-24mm, I cant compare them, but I did test it against my Nikon 16-35mm f4.
I have been jonesing for 14mm for quite some time after being at locations I could have used the extra 2mm over my widest focal range on my Nikon 16-35. I didn’t want to hike with 2 wide angle zoom lenses and even though the Nikon 14-24 is very good, it is very heavy. Who needs 2 heavy zooms. The Nikon 16-35 is a very sharp lens and it takes filters as well as having a more useful focal range so it is my main landscape tool. A prime 14mm however would fit in my pack and compliment the 16-35 quite nicely. The old Nikon 14mm f2.8 prime doesn’t seem to be that good on modern digital cameras compared to newer lenses and is prohibitively expensive. After doing a little research I decided to check out the Samyang (the Rokinon version) 14mm prime. I wasn’t all that concerned about the distortion it reportedly had because distortion is rarely noticeable in most landscape shots. I probably correct about less than 2 percent of the landscape shots in post processing I take with my Nikon 16-35 that has distortion of the barrel kind.
In my research, I read Ken Rockwell had tested one and he was disappointed because it was very soft, seeming to be the opposite of what many others were saying. Well… I ordered one and when it arrived at my doorstep it was early enough in the day for me to set up my test scene and start shooting. I use the same setup to test all my lenses for consistency. The lens is very well built, the focus ring is very smooth but I immediately noticed it was very soft compared to my Nikon 16-35. Hmmm… Ok, it is a manual focus lens, maybe I need to work on my manual focusing skills. Never mind that I manually focus my Nikon all the time. I spent the next 30-45 minutes making sure I was focusing the 14mm correctly. No joy, this lens was soft. Looked like Ken may have been right. But, knowing sometimes there are bad copies of a lens, I returned it and had a replacement sent.
The replacement arrived and I went about setting up my test again. I took a couple shots… Yes! I could tell right away this one was going to be better. I didn’t even need to look at the shots on the computer. Of course, I did, comparing it to the Nikon 16-35 that I was hoping it would compliment in the field. All testing was done with my D3x on a tripod, using live view for focus, mirror lockup and a remote cable release. But what is a comparison without pictures:
Larger versions of images found here: http://www.pbase.com/ddietiker/samyang_14mm_f28  
This is the test shot of the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 at f8. The mustache distortion is quite obvious.
samyang-14mm-f8
The shot below is the Nikon 16-35 f4 at f8. Notice there is quite a big difference in the type of distortion and also how much wider just 2mm is compared to 16mm.
nikon-16-35-16mm f8
One of the first things I noticed is the Rokinon (Samyang) has no real noticeable chromatic aberrations. The Nikon is very good, but the Rokinon is better. This next shot is the focus point of the Rokinon f8
samyang-14mm-focus-point
Followed by the focus point of the Nikon f8
16-35-focus-point
The next shot is the Rokinon (Samyang) upper left corner at f8. Notice how little CA there is and the corners look pretty good.
samyang-14mm-left-corner-f8
Followed below by the Nikon at f8. The Nikon is not at it’s best in the corners at f8, and the Nikon cleans up much better at f11.
16-35-16mm-left-corner-f8
The shot below is the Rokinon (Samyang) at f11. Not much improvement, but it doesn’t need much, it is already pretty good at f8.
samyang-14mm-left-corner--f11
Followed below by the Nikon at f11.
16-35-16mm-left-corner-f11
So after getting a very soft Samyang 14mm, the second is much better and appears to be as good as my main landscape tool, the Nikon 16-35. Maybe there is something to people saying it is as sharp as the Nikon 14-24 at 14mm. I will be hanging on to this Rokinon. Now I need to get out and actually use it for landscape shots. If you order one, make sure you test it, since there do appear to be some soft  copies. For those getting the new Nikon D800, this lens will definitely deliver with those 36 megapixels.

Larger versions of these images can be found here: http://www.pbase.com/ddietiker/samyang_14mm_f28


Updated. The picture below was shot with the Samyang 14mm. You cant see it in this size and I wont post a larger version for obvious reasons, but the 14mm may be the crisp/sharpest lens I have used. It got more detail out of my camera than I was expecting.

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Why color calibrate your monitor?

I have seen and heard this question asked many times, “Why bother? When most everyone viewing my images isn’t using a color calibrated monitor anyway?”

Here is a thought, if you don’t calibrate your monitor, you have no way of knowing how far off the colors are. If your monitors colors are off by quite a bit, picture someone else viewing your image with an uncalibrated monitor which is off also. The colors wont even be close to what you think they should be.

If you have a color calibrated monitor, at least there is a greater chance that what the viewer sees is close to the intended colors.

Nikon D800 as leaked early by Brazilian site.

Along with some pictures, a Brazilian site leaked early the press release information about the soon to be announced Nikon D800. It has since quickly been removed. Here is a cut and paste of what was up briefly:

The new Nikon D800 surpasses all expectations with its 36.3 megapixel resolution ensures maximum fidelity and unsurpassed

The new release of the Nipponese company offers unparalleled features to please all demanding professional photography, videographers and filmmakers.

Sao Paulo, February 6, 2012

Nikon introduces its long-awaited release, the HD-SLR D800, which offers resolution never seen before, amazing picture quality and valuable video resources, still optimized for professional multimedia photographers and videographers. With unparalleled balance between precision and functionality, the Nikon D800 brings innovations such as the CMOS sensor 36.3 megapixel FX-format, 91,000 pixel RGB sensor, advanced Scene Recognition System and many other new features.

Exceptional Image Quality

The new 36.3 megapixel CMOS sensor (7360 x 4912 resolution) and FX format (35.9 x 24mm) is the largest in terms of resolution so far developed by Nikon, and come meet nikonzeiros numerous requests from around the world. It is ideal for situations where you can not compromise the fidelity, such as weddings, photo studio and record landscapes. A resolution of this magnitude gives the photographer the ability to portray even the smallest details with stunning clarity. Every aspect of the sensor of this model was designed to ensure clear images in low light, so it has enhanced features like OLPF converter and a 14 bit A / D to minimize the noise around the picture.

The D800 lives up to Nikon’s reputation of being the sovereign ability to capture in low light thanks to the standard range of ISO 100-6400, expandable to 50 (Lo-1) and 25600 (Hi-2), which helps create gradient amazing colors when shooting JPEG or RAW.

All these image data are directed to a channel of 16 bits for maximum performance. Photographers can also take advantage of the lenses in FX format lenses for more options and increased focal range (1.5X), while still maintaining the clarity and detail in high resolution of 15.3 megapixels (4800×3200).

The D800 has an advanced Scene Recognition System with its array of colors (3D Color Matrix Meter III), which provides precise measurement in the most challenging lighting conditions. At the heart of this system is the innovative RGB sensor that analyzes each scene meticulously, recognizes factors such as light and bright and then compares all the data using the unique database of 30,000 images from Nikon. This new sensor still has the ability to detect faces with high accuracy even when shooting through viewfinder. The Color Matrix Meter also prioritizes the faces detected, allowing the right exposure even when the subject is backlit.

Novelty is also the exclusive image processing engine Nikon’s EXPEED 3, which controls the entire system and is the catalyst behind the responsiveness of the camera’s auto focus and performance. The new Nikon image processing engine is capable of processing huge amounts of data, with perfect color and tone perfect. 3 The EXPEED also contributes to energy efficiency, allowing the user to use the camera for longer.

Featured in the new and improved white balance system of this model that more accurately recognizes both the sources of natural light and artificial ones, and gives the user the option to retain the warmth of ambient lighting.

Users can also capture a greater dynamic range with the HDR function and enjoy the benefits of Active D-Lighting for balanced exposures even in backlit scenes. In addition, the camera offers a dedicated button for quick access to Nikon’s Picture Controls to adjust the parameters of photo and video in real time, such as color, sharpness and saturation.

True Cinema Experience

The Nikon D800 is a compact and lightweight which is ideal for the production environment. Its features are very practical and functional usable by both filmmakers in the field and in the studio or filmmakers. Filmmakers have the option of multiple resolutions and frame ranges, including Full HD 1080 and HD 720 30/24p to 60p. By using the method of data compression B-Frame, the user can record video in H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC up to 29:59 minutes per clip. The optimized CMOS sensor reads the image data on rates incredibly quick results almost instantly.

The D800 also allows videographers to keep the resolution high definition (1080p) regardless of the selected scene mode. Users can also compose and easily check critical focus for HD LCD monitor 3.2 “and 921 000 pixels with reinforced fabric, automatic control of brightness and wide viewing Anglo.

For professionals, it is important to have a camera that has digital recorders and external monitors. With the D800 is possible to transmit an uncompressed HD signal directly off the camera for an HDMI output (8 bit, 4:2:2). This signal can be transmitted to a display, digital recording device or routed through a monitor, eliminating the need for multiple connections. The image can also be viewed simultaneously on the LCD screen and an external display screen while excluding the state data of the camera for streaming media.

The D800 also includes features to enhance the audio quality, as a specific output for headphones used to monitor the audio levels during recording, which can be adjusted within 30 steps. Have the onboard microphone can be adjusted with up to 20 steps of sensitivity for the faithful reproduction of sound. To complete the recording can be configured to be activated via the shutter button.

Shutter speed and performance with amazing accuracy

The autofocus system Advanced Multi-Cam 3500 AF is the next generation of the proven 51-point AF system Nikon. The fully customizable system offers users the ability to capture fast moving subjects in focus and accurately track, or select a single AF point with absolute precision in detail. The focus system uses 15 sensors of the type AF Crusaders for accuracy and the system also emphasizes human faces even when the viewfinder is used. The D800 also employs 9 cross-type sensors fully functional when used with compatible NIKKOR lenses and teleconverters aperture f / 8 or smaller.

For maximum versatility in different situations, users can also select multiple AF modes, including normal, expanded area and tracking of faces and objects / people, even the optical viewfinder.

Ready to shoot in less than 0012 seconds, the Nikon D800 can capture files in FX mode and resolution up to 4 fps, or up to 6 fps with DX mode with the optional battery pack MB-D12 battery and compatible. To further improve the speed of the camera and the overall workflow, the D800 uses the new standard USB 3.0 for fast transfer.

Format and operability

The structure of the Nikon D800 is designed magnesium alloy for maximum durability and reliability. The camera body is closed and sealed with gaskets to resist dust, moisture and also to electromagnetic interference. You can easily picture of the composition through the viewfinder of course, which offers 100% coverage of the scene.

The shutter was tested to withstand 200,000 cycles, ensuring maximum durability, while the sensor cleaning is made by the vibration of OLPF. The self-diagnostic shutter unit also includes a mirror balancer to minimize the residual impact of the “bounce”, improving the AF and zoom viewing time. Furthermore, the display is coated with a new finish protection thermal which serves to resist to overheating during prolonged use. For storage, the D800 has dual card slot for CF and SD cards, offering the user the possibility of recording up when a card is full, recording RAW / JPEG, separately, and the added option of recording still pictures to and video card to another. For recording and transfers at high speed, data can be recorded on the latest UDMA-7 and the cards SDXC/UHS-1.

The D800 also features built-in flash, and is compatible with the acclaimed Creative Lighting System Nikon, including the Command Mode for embedded control Speedlights wirelessly.

Get out of my shot…

A pretty common occurrence at popular scenic viewpoints, someone is standing with their tripod setup right where you want to be. Other photographers wander through and sometimes even setup right in front of you without looking. I can think of a couple ways to avoid that, go mid-week or get there when everyone else is sleeping or has gone home. Or better yet, find a different spot with a different perspective on the subject, you go home with a shot no one else has.

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But here is something a little different, YOU get in your own shots. What… you ask  while scratching your head?
It took me a while to start thinking about this before I arrived at a location. Of course, none of these things ever happened to me Winking smile.
You wander around looking for a great composition and when you finally find the perfect spot, set up your camera and look through the view finder only to see there are great big clown size footprints right in the middle of your composition. Ok, who was the idiot that walked right through here??? Looking around only to find you are the only one there… Oops, way to go smarty pants. It helps to think about where you might setup ahead of time, preferably before you walk through that snow or sand.
How about this one, you are shooting in portrait orientation with the ultra-wide angle lens. You get some outstanding shots, at least so the camera LCD says, and cant wait to get home and see these beauties on that great BIG custom calibrated monitor you spent a month researching information on the internet before you bought. So there it is, The shot, but wait, what is that at the very bottom of the frame? Could that be a tripod foot? Doh… You didn’t even think of checking the bottom of the view finder while positioning your camera. This last one usually isn’t a problem unless you are using something wider than 17mm on a full 35mm format camera of 12mm on a cropped sensor camera. Of course, like I said, this has never happened to me.

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Geez, and all I thought I had to do was get to a pretty location at the right time of day and snap the picture. Now you want me to think about where I walk, or double check the view finder all before I have had my morning coffee?
Next you’ll be asking if I remembered to charge my batteries…
About the pictures; the first was shot using a Nikon D3x and the AF-S 24-120 f4 at 38mm using a Singh-Ray circular polarizer to help cut some of the glare from the water and rocks. The second was shot with the Nikon D3x and the AF-S 16-35 f4 at 16mm.