Samyang XP 14mm f/2.4 lens review
Lens review: Samyang XP 14mm f/2.4 manual focus
Testing and using Samyang’s 14mm ultra wide angle lens
Also known as the Rokinon Special Performance (SP) 14mm F2.4
Keith has been trying out the Samyang XP 14mm f/2.4 ultra wide angle lens on the 50MP Canon 5Ds.
A few years ago Keith reviewed Samyang’s older 14mm lens which performed well at its price, but the new lens is much more solidly built, with a wider f2.4 maximum aperture and rather more complex design.
Samyang are claiming that the new lens is designed for 8k video and 50MP – how does it perform and can we compare it to Canon’s much more expensive EF11-24mm f4L?
This review mainly concentrates on actually using the lens to take photos rather than tables and charts of lab testing – to do that well needs multiple copies of the lens and a well set up test lab, neither of which we possess…
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Samyang XP 14mm lens – what do you get
The lens I tested was supplied by Intro 2020 in the UK, who are the main distributers for Samyang products.
A visit to the woods [+]
(images with a [+] will open at larger sizes if you click on them)
Do note that in other regions, Samyang lenses have been sold under the Rokinon brand, although Samyang seem to be more directly promoting their brand now. In the US for example it’s also known as the Rokinon Special Performance (SP) 14mm F2.4
The lens was in pre-production packaging, so no box shots…
It has a distinctive smooth curved design with a fixed lens hood, protecting the curved front element.
If you are into filters, you’ll need some contraption on the front to hold them (95mm width)
The lens cap fits securely and didn’t come off by accident at any time during my testing.
It focuses down to 28cm.
Note the electronic contacts on the Canon EF mount.
The lens is manual focus, but unlike the older 14mm I tested, communicates with the camera for setting the aperture, and allows for focus confirmation.
Although the lens is f/2.4, it registers on my 5Ds as f/2.5. Samyang say that this is a Canon only foible and that it is really f/2.4.
At infinity, there is no hard stop, so you will need to take care that the lens is set correctly for distant focus. The lens is internal focusing.
The distance scale is much more reliable than the old 14/2.8 too.
I’m used to this with my manual focus lenses, such as the TS-E17mm I use a lot for my architectural work, but it does require a bit of care if using the lens for star photos. Lenses such as this with more exotic glasses can be more temperature sensitive in respect of focus points. Given how sharp the lens turned out to be, it would be careless not to get accurate focus…
Two features that stand out here are the nice soft rubber focus ring and the lack of any depth of field (DOF) scale.
In normal use I found the slightly curved focus ring gave a good feel and no slip.
For the DOF scale, I say good riddance … they have long given a false sense of focus accuracy and usable depth of field, that becomes increasingly inaccurate as sensor resolution rises.
For more about this see my article about why hyperfocal focusing is often a waste of time
When you get any manual focus lens, take time to go out and experiment to learn what DOF you have at different apertures – it will improve your photography in many ways, even when you put an auto focus lens back on the camera.
At 14mm focal length, you have enough usable DOF at say f/7.1 that setting the lens at infinity will cover an awful lot of use. I’ll come back to DOF issues when I look at some close focus example shots.
Samyang themselves promote this lens from a technical POV [Samyang]
It has the unprecedented resolving power, matched with 50 megapixels photo and 8K video productions. The resolving power contains abundant pixel information, allowing photographers the freedom in post-production to create unique image of own. It enables you to capture life-long memories in everlasting image quality. Bokeh, out-focusing, starburst effect creates unforgettable image.
14mm F2.4 takes no compromise for the image quality. It is consisted of 18 glasses in 14 groups including four different special optics: two aspherical lenses, one hybrid aspherical lens, two extra-low dispersion lenses and one high refractive lens. This optimal performance creates impressive image quality from centre to corner of image. Also, the minimised aberration enhance the clarity of image, creating more impressive image than your eyes can see.
Aluminium alloy metal is adopted for maximum durability. With a sleek yet unprecedented design with flowing curves, this signature line-up is a one-of-a-kind lens. The usability is maximised with considerate diameter in 95mm.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of more advanced optical elements. The internal construction diagram for the optics shows where.
I’ll show comparisons with the older 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC I reviewed later [14mm review] but it’s safe to say that the XP14mm is in a whole different league quality wise.
The MTF charts suggest that aberrations are well under control and vary relatively smoothly across the field, but MTF charts are not photos…
No big bumps and line crossings though.
A simple shot across the street where I live at f/4
Those TV aerials should show up any chromatic aberration.
Well, at 600% zoom (on a 50MP image), there is indeed a bit of colour.
This is very quickly dealt with in Adobe Camera Raw – the lens is too new to have any correction profiles, this should change pretty soon.
The CA is tiny, and less than I get with my EF 11-24
The old 14mm had a quite complex ‘moustache’ style of distortion that needed more complex profiles to fix.
A quick shot of a nearby wall (at f/5) will give an idea of how the XP 14mm performs.
The XP14mm shows a bit of barrel distortion, but easily fixable in ACR – a lens profile will do better, but this looks pretty simple
As an aside, here are 100% crops from that shot, showing detail in the centre (very little RAW sharpening applied)
and in the corner…
Softness is very amenable to ‘fixing’ with software such as Piccure (review)
It takes sunlight directly shining on the lens to get very obvious flare, and even then it’s relatively subdued.
More detail shows some veiling and more ‘blobs’ of flare.
The same shot shows some starburst for bright lights (@f/6.3)
For real stars, I went out of the city and captured this shot at f/2.5 (5Ds, 15 seconds at 3200 ISO)
Not a good night sky with a big city a few miles away, but far more stars picked out than I could see visually. [+]
A 100% detail towards the top RH corner shows relatively small amounts of coma [+]
I’d note that with 15 seconds of exposure, there is also a small amount of trailing of the images here (it’s a 50MP image) so for star photos, it looks quite reasonable.
This shot [+] was taken in the woods near Loughborough (hand held 1/200 at f/7.1) and has had some very slight deconvolution sharpening and correction for CA
Let’s look at the detail [+] at 100% in the centre of the frame
and now up in the top LH corner [+]
That’s pretty good detail for the corner of a 14mm lens.
What about the bottom? [+]
I’m seeing some -slight- softness, but remember that the foreground is probably only a couple of metres away from my camera.
I’ve got the focus set at infinity, which means that using my ‘DOF rule of thumb’ (focal length divided by aperture – 14/7.1) I’ve got an effective ‘resolution’ of just under 2mm. If this way of thinking of DOF is unfamiliar to you, see my article about why I don’t use hyperfocal focus settings. If you’re unconvinced, get a wide lens, go outside and take a load of test shots and see for yourself – remember that actual experiments trump internet perceived wisdom every time ;-)
14mm is a very wide lens on a full frame camera and takes quite a bit of practice to get a feel for how subjects are represented. Additionally, this lens is manual focus and has the option of a relatively wide f/2.4 maximum aperture.
The sample images I’ve collected here represent a few short trips out from my home in Leicester in the UK and try to show some of the ways that such a wide angle lens can be used. Web size images are never going to show quite what I’ve taken, even those that you can expand to view [+] but I hope they give a feel for what the lens is like to use. After these shots, I’ve a few more in the conclusions that give a feel for how the lens compares with some others I’ve looked at and own.
Just down the road from my house is Narborough road [+], with the most culturally diverse range of businesses in the UK [C4] – If I can’t find a cooking ingredient here, it’s going to be a tough job…
Keeping the camera level means that buildings don’t lean too much, but at 14mm it’s easy to be slightly off (all these samples are hand-held).
Just off to the right is the River Soar – here straightened and doubling as the Grand Union Canal
Looking north, I note the new Vijay Patel building at DeMontfort university
I’m shooting these shots at f/6.3, which reduces vignetting, gives a reasonable depth of field and (from other testing) gives good results with the 50MP sensor of the 5Ds.
A slightly different view [+] shows how strong lines in the foreground have a powerful impact on the overall look of images shot at 14mm.
Remember though that keeping the camera level keeps verticals straight, and with a 50MP image I’ve quite a lot of latitude in cropping, such as this view a bit further along the canal.
The new Vijay Patel building at DMU has some interesting angles in its design, and a lot of staircases.
With the camera level, it’s the sort of view the architect favours.
Tilting up give the sort of view web and brochure designers prefer (it helps to remember who is paying the bills for your architectural photography)
The stairs make for interesting angles internally – on a ‘paying job’ I’d also take some additional shots with people on the stairs, giving more of a sense of flow for the space.
Looking down from the top floor, I can see out towards the river.
or out onto the roof area [+].
A view of the back of the VJP building from the river
I’ve often cycled along the tow path – some bridges you do have to get off and walk under…
Further along the river, a lot of old disused industrial buildings are finally being given a new lease of life – this area is due for a lot of regeneration spending (there are photos of similar scenes from Dec. 2013 in the previous 14mm review)
Friars Mill [+]
A 100% crop [+] just to remind me how much detail you can get.
Another more modern canal bridge – this is uncorrected. Any slight barrel distortion is hardly noticeable.
On the way back from my walk I stopped off at a local coffee shop.
Time to see what sort of depth of field you get at f/2.4 and close up.
It took quite a few shots of my coffee [+] to get the cup properly sharp.
Modern DSLR focus screens are really not very good for manual focusing at wide apertures. One annoyance of the 5Ds is that I can’t swap focus screens like I could with my old 1Ds and 1Ds mk3.
The out of focus lights [+] – 100%
Detail of my coffee [+] – 100%
Some more examples of what you get at f/2.4.
A view of bluebells [+] in woods near Loughborough
or cropping to square (still a 30+MP image) [+]
Out in the fields, we’ve an early crop of Oilseed Rape (aka Canola) [+] (f/7.1)
Cl ose up and at f/2.4 gives a very different view [+]
I’ll finish off with this view [+] if you look at the pylons in the corner (and the buildings) you’ll see the distinct lean you’ll get when pointing a 14mm lens upwards, however the wind turbine’s central position means that it’s still straight.
It’s been a few years since I tested the 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC lens and the differences are quite clear from the moment you pick up the lens.
The old one had a solid but plastic feel to it, whilst the new one feels heftier (790g vs 550g)
From a design point of view, the new lens (18 elements in 14 groups) is rather more complex than the older one (14 element in 10 groups).
In fact the two lenses are so different that any thought that one was a newer version of the other is simply not a fair comparison.
The old lens is still available and quite a bit less expensive, so what are you paying for, apart from a bigger lens?
The new one has pretty minimal distortions compared to the old one – no wavy moustache curvature of straight lines.
The slight barrel distortion is easily fixable, whilst coma and other off axis distortions such as chromatic aberration, seem very well controlled.
At f/2.4 (or 2.5 as my 5Ds tells me) there is noticeable vignetting, as these two views show.
by f/4 the vignetting is much less obvious
My rather expensive EF11-24 f4L shows ‘wide open’ vignetting at f/4, but has more chromatic aberration and less geometric distortion at 14mm
I don’t have multiple copies of lenses and a test lab, so I’m disinclined to go into detailed comparisons, but by f/6.3 I was tempted to give a slight edge in corner sharpness to the Samyang 14mm over the Canon lens at 14mm. Then again the Canon had very little barrel distortion, is a zoom, has autofocus and is much more expensive… (see also my recent Sigma 12-24 review for more comparisons and discussion).
I’m afraid I don’t have my old EF14mm f2.8L II here any more to compare, but looking at shots of mine from the past, it’s definitely showing its age against the Samyang XP 14mm – it’s a lot more expensive just for AF.
I did notice that for several shots the Samyang lens seemed a (small) bit warmer than I was used to with the Canon lenses – nothing untoward, just slightly different when looking at RAW files.
The XP 14mm f/2.4 is a great wide angle manual focus lens.
Its image quality is excellent with sharp images across the field, probably surpassing my old Canon EF14mm and noticeably better than the Samyang 14/2.8
In the UK it’s listed at around £900 compared to ~£280 for the old Samyang 14mm/2.8, so about three times the price. The Canon EF14 2.8L II is ~£1900 and the EF11-24 F4L around £2400
So, the question is – do you really -need- autofocus?
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