Those of you who follow my Twitter account will know that I bought the Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4 lens for Astrophotography a couple of weeks ago. Since when we’ve had more or less 100% cloud cover in the UK. C’est la vie! Astrophotography images will follow once I get back to Spain.
Rokinon vs. Samyang
Before we dive into the detail, there is one thing that appears to be widely misunderstood. Rokinon and Samyang lenses are all manufactured by Samyang. They are effectively the same lenses with different branding. Rokinon is a brand name for Samyang lenses marketed in North America by Elite Brands Inc. The lenses are identical except for the packaging and branding. I have read reviews claiming the Rokinon version of this lens is superior to the Samyang version. These reviews are either ignorant of the facts or based on minor differences between the particular lenses they used for testing. I bought the Rokinon lens because at the time of purchase it was marginally cheaper than the Samyang, even in Europe.
SP vs XP
Branding again. SP describes the Rokinon Special Performance Lenses, XP describes the Samyang XPert line. They are the same lenses rebranded. The principal difference between this lens and the cheaper 14mm f/2.8 is the electronics in the SP/XP. So Aperture Control is done via the camera. Note for Canon owners, the lens registers f/2.5 as the widest aperture. Rokinon says this is a camera characteristic and the lens is actually open at f/2.4mm.
Inside the Lens
The Rokinon SP 14mm lens is designed to support 50Mp cameras such as the Canon 5Ds and below.
The lens is designed around 18 high precision glass elements in 14 groups. Four types of special lens elements (2 Aspherical, 1 Hybrid Aspherical, 2 Extra-low Dispersion and 3 High Refractive Index) are used to reduce colour fringing, aberrations, and distortions. This delivers superior clarity, sharpness and colour accuracy comparing very favourably to the Canon equivalent (14mm f/2.8L). Make no mistake, the Rokinon is a superior lens in that it is sharper across the entire field of view and vignetting is less pronounced.
Rokinon Ultra Multi-Coating is also employed on the glass and the built-in lens hood suppresses lens flare and ghosting for improved contrast when working in bright, direct lighting conditions. Close focusing is possible at 11″. Is there nothing this lens cannot do?
This is a manual focus lens and this does introduce another challenge. Because of the extreme wide-angle, it’s very difficult to set focus through the viewfinder closely enough to take advantage of the superior sharpness the lens is capable of delivering. I use live view on a tripod with the image magnified to the max so that I can see the detail I need to be sharp. Having said that, in landscape photography, because of the wide-angle almost everything in view will be in sharp focus from around 2.5 feet to infinity f/5.6, so it’s less of an issue than for architecture.
If you use DxO PhotoLab, you’ll find there is no lens profile for the 14mm SP. I use the Samyang 14mm profile instead and that seems to work fine. Lightroom users will be unaffected.
What are Ultrawide Lenses For?
The Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4 is an ultra-wide lens that is designed for Architecture and Astrophotography. The extreme wide-angle produces perspective distortion that lends itself to a fine art approach to architecture in particular.
If you’re interested in the differences and characteristics of lenses commonly used for landscape photography, check out The Best 3 Lenses for Landscape Photography
How to Shoot Ultrawide
Shooting at such wide angles introduces compositional challenges that we don’t normally have to consider. Distraction at the edges being the main culprit. Always look at the corners and edges when using this lens to make sure the attention is drawn into the image rather than out. Particularly if you are using a full frame camera like the Canon 5D. If you’re using a crop frame camera you’ll be shooting at 22.4 mm equivalent. (Multiply the focal length by 1.5 (Nikon) or 1.6 (Canon) depending on what camera you have to calculate the equivalent for any lens).
The lens is sharpest around f/5.6 where vignetting is also least pronounced, but even at f/2.4 remains acceptably sharp in the centre, albeit with noticeable vignetting in the corners.
The lens is increasingly popular with Astrophotographers because of its superior clarity and sharpness. Additionally and most importantly for astrophotographers, the lens handles coma exceptionally well. Comatic aberration or Coma is the stretching effect you find in the corners of ultra-wide lenses. In astrophotography that produces stretched stars instead of pinpoint sharp.
This lens is no slouch when it comes to colour, I used the wide-angle to emphasise the leading lines provided by the yellow flowers.
I’m very firmly in the Canon camp with lenses. However, comparing the characteristics of this lens to the nearest Canon equivalent tells you that you are buying a superior lens for literally half the price. That’s a no brainer.
The one niggle is the lack of weatherproofing on the Rokinon. That’s not an issue for astrophotography, quite simply, if it’s raining you’re not shooting stars! However, it might be an issue for wide-angle photography at the seaside and that is a much more common use case. I use the ThinkTank Emergency Rain cover to protect my lenses, but at a pinch, a shopping bag and a rubber band will do just as well!
If you’re in the market for an ultra-wide lens, then these links are from Amazon.co.uk – they were the cheapest prices I found in the UK at time I bought the lens.
If you’ve found this post useful, you might also check out The Guides. They are comprehensive “how-to” articles for photographers who want to experiment with different types of photography.
I don’t write a lot of lens reviews for the simple reason that nobody lends them to me! One I purchased recently though is worth a review. It’s not ultrawide, but ultra-long. The Canon 100-400m f/4.5-5.6L IS II. Very long, quick to focus and very little visible distortion or vignetting. Worth a look.
Also, check out my review of the Best ThinkTank Camera bag. I’ve only ever used two other types of bags and I’ve been with ThinkTank for over ten years!
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