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Aug 04

Review: Rokinon (Samyang) 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS (Sony E-Mount)

Samyang Optics has been around for over 40 years, but has gained recent acclaim in the past decade by releasing some truly outstanding lenses for SLRs and mirrorless cameras that provide high-end image quality at bargain prices, under a variety of brand names including Rokinon, Bower, Walimex and a few more.  The company has been active in the mirrorless space over the past few years, starting with excellent manual focus fisheye lenses.  While they’ve also released most of their SLR lenses in native mirrorless camera mounts, the new 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS is the second non-fisheye that has been specifically designed for mirrorless cameras (the other is their 300mm f/6.3 mirror lens).

The 12mm f/2 is available for Sony E-Mount, Fujifilm X-mount, Micro 4/3, Samsung NX and Canon EF-M mount.  On the APS-C cameras, the 12mm f/2 has a field of view similar to an 18mm lens on full frame, and the lens is still rather wide on Micro 4/3 (24mm equivalent).  What’s remarkable about this lens is the ultra-wide-angle focal length combined with the very fast aperture of f/2.0.  Making an f/2.0 ultra-wide of this width is no easy feat of optical engineering, especially given the modest price of $399.

We’re looking at the Rokinon-branded Sony E-Mount version here, but the findings should hold for all the APS-C mirrorless mounts, as the optics are identical.

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS UC on the Sony a6000

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS UC on the Sony a6000

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting. 

Construction and Handling

The Rokinon 12mm f/2 is constructed of a mix of high-quality plastic and metal. The bottom portion of the lens including the mount flanges is metal, while the remainder of the exterior is plastic.  Samyang has upgraded their plastic a bit in the past year, so the outer shell is very solid and the finish is rather durable.

The Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 with and without the included lens hood

The Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 with and without the included lens hood

The lens is rather small for an ultra-wide-angle, especially so when considering the f/2.0 maximum aperture.  In length and size it’s roughly the size of the Fujifilm 14mm f/2.8, and notably smaller than the other 12mm lens available for mirrorless cameras: the Zeiss 12mm f/2.8.  The Rokinon 12mm has a narrow barrel that is actually slightly narrower than the outer rim of the E-mount itself, and it flares to the somewhat wide 67mm filter thread.  The front element is bulbous, almost spherical, and juts out a bit, but stays back enough so that standard screw-in filters can be used.

Samyang includes a good size petal hood that is reversible, and while the plastic quality on the hood isn’t quite as nice as the lens itself, it secures firmly on the lens and provides some extra protection and shading while in use.  Having used the Zeiss 12mm f/2.8, it was refreshing to see the more modest proportions on the Rokinon 12mm.  The Zeiss 12mm felt somewhat unwieldy due to the huge flare at the end, and the Rokinon manages to keep things small and manageable, even on a small body like the a6000.  The lens is also rather light weight considering the width and speed.

The 12mm f/2 is a fully manual lens, and as such you will need to perform stop down metering and manual focus.  Stop down metering isn’t an issue, as the EVF of mirrorless cameras can compensate in dim environments for the working aperture when stopping down.  Manual focus is also not generally an issue, especially when shooting outdoors.  The focus setting you see on the lens in the pictures above is the ideal setting for outdoor shooting.  This puts the lens extremely close to the hyperfocal distance at f/2, allowing you to simply set your aperture and shoot.  When stopping down to f/5.6 or f/8, this gives you a nice sharp field of focus from around 3 feet to infinity.   If you’re shooting at wider apertures and closer subjects, it may make more sense to focus at f/2 while zooming the view and nail the focus, then stop down.  You will absolutely have to do this when shooting near the quite close 8 inch minimum focus distance.

The aperture ring features nice solid detents every half stop and the focus ring is well damped and smooth, allowing for precise manual focus and helping to prevent accidentally knocking it out of the set focus point accidentally.

Continue: Image Quality

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

6 comments

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  1. Per K

    Also have this lens and agrees with Jordan’s findings; this lens has quality and personality! Also use it on my A7R. Gives me a 19,4 excellent mpix image, equally great results even printed at A2 size (420x600mm)

    1. Fred

      I am VERY interested in your observation regarding the use of this lens on the A7R. Specifically, I would wish to sqeeze out an effective 15mm or 16mm equivalent field of view, set up for landscape subjects, on any current or future full frame camera to which this lens can be mounted or creatively adapted. Stopping down within this lens’s sharp range of aperture settings before significant diffraction limits set in is no problem. Can you advise me if gaining this ‘bonus’ utility from the Rokinon 12mm would be a practical option, on occasion, for IQ-sensitive subjects? Thanks!

  2. vince

    I agree, I think its a great lens….good image quality like the 8mm fisheye lens, which I also have, but without the distortion. I posted some examples on DPReview recently. If you put the work in with this lens the results are great.

  3. Chris

    Hi Jordan, I wonder whether you had the opportunity to compare it with the SEL1018 which can be had used for about 600 Euros? Regards, Chris

  4. Adrien

    Hi, I need advice please, I’d like to create a bokeh effect so that my subject can pop using this lens.
    I found very often myself in fairly small rooms let’s say 5m by 5m. I need a very wide angle because I’m using the apsc of my newly purchased a5100. I’m shooting video and I have to add to that that there is crop on movie mode on the Sony camera which is weird, but anyway, since I want to shoot myself as the subject framing the shot using the smart remote control app I need a very wide angle not to worry about going out of frame and focus on my task as the subject.
    Using a calculator I found 12mm is already enough at 1.5m of the subject. In fact a 14mm work be good enough. I’ve also calculated that I get out of focus elements at around 3.5m with this f2 lens.
    How far should the background elements be in this configuration to get a slight bokeh. Can you obtain this effect indoors with such a wide angle? If not how wide should the lens be?
    Thanks a lot

  5. Bstrom

    There has been a lot of response to this lens since its release in 2014 – and rightly so. As a fully manual sub for the pricey Zeiss optics, the Samyang outperforms wide open and with more lens speed – just what we look for in a superwide. As an 18mm on my a6300, it is becoming a ‘normal’ lens for my urban landscape shooting. Set at f5.6-8 and infinity, I can concentrate fully on the composition. Watch your foregrounds unless you plan to crop toward a panorama perspective.

    I slipped a wide rubber band around the focus ring to make it easier to finess close focusing. Otherwise, this lens is faster and sharper than most, light and compact for extended walks and easy to correct in LR.

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