I'm curious to hear what VSL readers think of the various lenses made by Samyang (Rokinon). Do you use them? What has been your experience?

From Zach Theatre's production of "Mary Poppins." 
(Taken with a Sony lens)

I'll go first. I bought my first Rokinon lens a few years back when I was using the Sony a99 cameras. It was the 85mm t1.5 Cine lens. As I understand it the first cine style lenses were optically the same as the contemporaneous non-cine lenses and the only benefit, besides the marginal benefit of the "unclicked" aperture ring, was the addition of geared rings for aperture and focus. The gearing allows for the use of follow focus mechanisms and aperture shift mechanisms popular with video camera operators. 

I'm a sucker for a good, fast 85mm lens and, for the price at the time, my attitude was that if the lens isn't great it's not a big deal. But, in fact, the 85mm lens I got was very good and I did lots of work with it even though I owned Sony's Alpha 85mm lens as well. I got such good results that I eventually bought the Rokinon 35mm t1.5 Cine lens as a compliment to it. And that lens was a good performer as well. 

The other lens that intrigued me was the 14mm t3.1 Cine lens. It's the same as the 14mm f2.8 lens but with the added cine paraphernalia. Once I found a good profile for geometric corrections in Lightroom and Photoshop I was also quite happy with this one as well; even though I find that my style of shooting rarely calls for much extreme wide angle work. Still, for around $300 it's nice to have the option to shoot crazy wide...

All of those lenses were purged during the shift to the Nikon system but I had come to value the utility of the 14mm and the 85mm so much that I bought them again, but in the Nikon dedicated mount. Even though I have shifted to the Sony mirrorless cameras now I have kept these lenses and have been using them with adapters. A few days ago I found an 85mm cine lens in an E mount for a small price (used) and bought it as well. I shot with it during an assignment to photograph the chancellor of a major university system in Texas and was again reminded of just how good the optics of that particular lens is. Very sharp and very easy to nail focus with using the focus peaking and focus magnification systems of the A7ii camera. 

So, next week I have an assignment that will call for shooting small products (less than two inches on a long end) on a white, tabletop background and I started looking for a good macro solution. I have a basic solution that consists of a Nikon 55mm f2.8 Macro lens, along with a macro bellows, if needed, but I was interested in getting a bit more working distance and so started looking around at 100-105mm macro lenses from various makers. 

The logical one would be the Sony 90mm  f2.8 OSS FE lens which features image stabilization and AF but I generally use lenses like this on tripods and nearly always use manual focusing. I also stumbled a bit at the $1200 price tag. That led me to the Rokinon 100mm f2.8 macro. The optical formula looks interesting and the reviews are sparse, but that's never really stopped me from at least giving the unknown a try. 

I ordered one from Amazon and it should arrive tomorrow. It will be here in time for the shoot next week. I'll test it out tomorrow and make big assessments and, if it passes the general tests, I'll take it with me next week along with the Nikon Macro as a known safety. 

I would curious to know if you have used any of the Rokinon/Samyang lenses and what your opinions are. I am also interested in the 50mm f1.2 - which I understand is only for the cropped frame cameras. The next big thing on my list would be the 50mm f1.4 for the full frame cameras so let me know your experiences with that one too.

Another fun week over, another fun week coming up. I'm really enjoying having the boy along as an assistant. It's a fringe benefit of being the boss. 


Mohammad Shafik said...

I have three of them. First one was the 7.5mm fisheye for MFT, and it is a superb lens in every sense is the word. With the correction profile installed into Lightroom, I can de-fish its images anytime.

The other two are the 85/1.4 and the 135/2. I had the 85 first because it was so cheap. I used it with both Sony A7 and MFT cameras. It has a smooth focus ring, good image quality, but not so much bite even in the center wide open. But what made me really hate it is the quite long minimum focusing distance. It frustrated me many times.

I sold it and bought the 135 instead. I like longer focal lengths. I use the 75mm Olympus (150mm eq) as my portrait lens. The 135 is a beast of a lens, both in weight and length. Totally dwarfs my cameras and not very practical on a tripod without external support. Image quality is truly superb. Very sharp wide open, extremely smooth background rendering, and very little purple/green fringing. It is in effect better than Canon's legendary 135/2L, apart from auto focus. My only complain apart from size is the grindy feeling of the focus ring, especially compared to the buttery feeling of the 85. But it seems to have smoothed out with use.

I can show you pictures if you want.

Kirk Tuck said...

Mohammad, Thanks very much for the good information and the feedback. I've been eyeing the 1235mm as well. Nice to hear from you!

Marshall said...

Hi Kirk -

I have a 14 I bought on a lark. Though I have an OEM 16-35, which I use a fair amount, and always when I need the AF, I find the 14 more fun. It doesn't correct perfectly (such bulbous distortion), or maybe I don't have the best profile for it yet, but I do enjoy it. As with most really wide stuff, I like it more for getting close and having depth than just for including a lot.

I don't do architecture work, but I actually do like it for some people shots as long as they're not filling the frame or running around the edges too much. I've also used it and cut some panoramas out of the middle that I quite like (can't always stitch).

But since you've worked with the 14 and it's the only one of those lenses I've used, I may not be able to add much you don't know. Enjoy...

Antonio Ramirez said...

I just picked up a used 14mm 2.8 in Nikon mount. Have not had the opportunity to use it yet, though. I am curious as to how to get the profile for Photoshop you mention. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk.
Not sure if you've seen Sonyalpharumors but there's a story on there comparing the sony and samyang 50 1.4 lenses. http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/big-new-50mm-lens-battle-zeiss-50mm-f1-4-fe-versus-samyang-50mm-f1-4-fe-surprising-conclusion/

May be of interest to you.

Daniel Walker said...

My travel kit use to consist of a tiny Sony RX 1 (fixed 35mm) plus. Pany. GM5 with a Pany 35 to 100mm. Recently I returned from a cross country National Park adventure and used Sony a7 ll and a a6300 with 24 to 70 and 16 to 35 zooms. I was really impressed with the image quality. However my next travel trip I am really going to have to travel much lighter and now I am over 70 and every additional oz weights like a ton. So rather than travel with two cameras I am going to take only one camera, my a6300, a 16 to 70 (24 to 105mm) plus a Rokinon 12mm f2 for inside shots. I may be wrong but I hope this is the perfect compromise for quality and wight and size.

Silas Fisher said...

the sigma 105mm macro is exceptional


roger fisher

Craig said...

I have the Rokinon fisheye lens for Fuji's X-mount cameras. I'm quite happy with it. The images are very good, and I don't really miss autofocus because with a fisheye you can pretty much just set it to the hyperfocal distance at f/8 and forget about it.

Bootz said...

I can only speak for the fisheyes, which you don't seem interested in, for a couple of systems (mFT & Sony ASPC).

Beautiful bangs for the bucks.

Dr. Singer said...

Hey Kirk,

I actually bought a whole set of the Rokinons based on your recommendations on the VSL in 2012, almost all in Sony A-mount (because of the ease focus peaking on the A77ii and four A57's that I still use for multi-cam video). I have the 8mm/3.5 APS-C for Nikon mount, 16/2.0 APS-C for A-mount, 35/1.4 (A-mount), 50/T1.5 cine for A-mount, 85/T1.5 for A-mount, and Samyang 135/T2.2 for A mount. For macro work, I prefer the 16/2.0 because it has a very close focusing ability, that beautiful paper-thin DOF that all of the Roks are known for. I have a full set of Nikkor primes, like the 55/2.8 AF Micro-Nikkor and have even used the 35/2 AF-D for macro, but they do not match the characteristics of the Rokinons. So why did I mix standard and tele Rokinon Cine primes with normal wide angle? Because of the way I shoot, I generally need much more manual control over the DOF at the longer focal lengths than shorter lengths which often require opening and closing aperture to the same stop, whereas I tend to "tweak" larger aperture settings with the three longer focal length lenses. You can see my macro work with the 16/2.0 in this Exposure post...https://ivansinger.exposure.co/why-a-dragon-fruit

Peter Marquis-Kyle said...

I'm an architect who specialises in conserving historic buildings. Historic lighthouses are my particular speciality. I often have to photograph inside cramped and constricted spaces.

My main camera is a Canon 5D mark II with a variety of (mostly wide) lenses. The camera is generally on a tripod and my working methods are slow and methodical. I have one Samyang lens -- the 14mm f2.8. I am often surprised and delighted by the images I get from it, once a Lightroom Lens Profile has been applied.

I was initially concerned about the mechanical robustness of the lens. I treat it gently and, so far, nothing has gone wrong. If it was lost or stolen, would I buy another? Yep, without hesitation.

John F. Opie said...

A while ago I did a series of macro photos of watch movememnts. I was using the Oly 35 f 3.5 which does 1:1, but I was working far too close to the movements and lighting them was difficult at best (heavy diffusion over LEDs to avoid specular highlights on the movements within a light tent).

I ended up using a Leica 100 f4 Elmar-R macro lens on the Leica bellows (not the Leica APO Elmarit-R!) which I picked up on eBay for a song (my serial number placed manufacturing date of 1974!) which, while giving outstanding results, really needs a serious tripod because it's a bear (Manfrotto 028b with big ball head) to work with. NOT a field solution!

But the results were really outstanding, even stopped down with diffraction results...

I don't have to tell you that it's the equivalent in focal length when converted to the coverage in 35mm of a 200mm macro lens. Nice working distance, epecially after I added an LED ring light to perk up the depth of the lighting (heavy diffusion is so flat, after all...

ianroqc said...

Hi Kirk,
I have both the 14mm and the 135mm. On the A7RII i find the 14mm to be 'OK'. uninspiring and not technically very good anywhere near wide open. I'm aware that it is a very different focal length but my Batis 18mm is the nearest fl i have. The focal length is the only thing that could be compared - optically the Batis is in a totally different league. (price wise too).
I mention the Batis comparison because I tried out both the Zeiss 135 f2 and the Samyang 135 f2 before buying one. To my surprise I much preferred the Samyang. As mentioned in one of the other replies the Samyang is big and heavy but its rendering wide open is really beautiful. It is one of those rare lenses which manage to be extremely high resolution without shouting !SHARP!. It has a subtlety to it and a really endearing progression to OOF. Skin colours are also very nicely rendered. The focusing ring on my copy is stiff and smooth with absolutely no overshoot - just the way I like it.

A final comment... I also tried the Sony 85mm f1.4 - very lovely when it works, but I found the Samyang 135 more consistent and I actually prefer the longer focal length.


Steve Mack said...

Not a comment on cameras, but the play "Mary Poppins" looks like a really wonderful stage play!

With best regards,


Nick in Mass. said...

I have the 8 mm f 2.8 Samyang and 12 mm 2.0 Rokinon in the Sony E-flavored mount i've been using with an NEX-7. Can't really find any fault with the 12 mm which is used mostly for landscape work. The 8 mm fisheye is really a specialty lens, only used occasionally. Aside from some magenta tinting in the corners (correctable in processing), no issues with that one either.

For macro, i've been using the 55 Nikkor micro when shlepping, and, if weight isn't an issue, an ancient Vivitar Series 1 90 mm macro. Adding the 1:1 adapter, it's even huger and heavier, but it would seem the results are comparable to more current lenses costing much more.

Len said...

Kirk, I use the 7.5 MFT lens. I am not really a fan of the length, but the lens is easy to use once I figured how to focus it hyperfocally. It is now set and forget focusing. The results are outstanding. I can't believe the great value for money this lens is. Stunning. It goes in my recommended MTF lenses list.

Joel said...

After reading your newest blog, I see that you have already jumped on the 135, which is the lens I came on here to mention. I have had the 85 1.4 in the past but I never really used it. I purchased the 135 f2 a few months back and it is amazing on the a7rii.

After reading some of the comments on here, I am intrigued about both the 14mm and the 100mm macro since both of those are gaps in my current setup.