Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye Review

Introduction

The introduction of the Samyang 12mm 2.8 fisheye lens in 2014 was quite exciting, as it remains the widest full frame diagonal fisheye prime lens. I certainly don’t name my lenses, but if I did, this one would be ‘the comedian’. It’s just crazy wide, wider than anything else. Forget using a tripod, be mindful of where you put your feet, this lens sees all. As ever, I use this lens on a full frame 5D Mark III.

The Canon 8-15mm f4L fisheye zoom lens also remains diagonal around 13-15mm, however the Samyang is actually wider thanks to a unique stereographic image projection.

3K9A2188

Samyang 12mm 2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye

Stereographic projection was first used in the highly regarded Samyang 8mm f3.5 fisheye lens for APS-C cameras. Samyang was the first to patent such a design.

 

Projection 1

Fisheye lens projection – Credit: Lentip.com

 

Most fisheye lenses give a 180 degree field of view, but the Samyang 12mm 2.8 lens achieves this at a wider focal length due to the stereographic projection. This means that the lens manages to squeeze in more in the horizontal and vertical planes also. See the above diagram – stereographic is the pink curve. It shows at what focal length the different projections reach an angle of view equal to 180 degrees. You can see that the Sterographical projection achieves the smallest focal length, and is therefore the widest. – Credit: Lentip.com.

projection equisolid Projection Sterographic

 

The projection is also more subtle than ‘normal’ fisheye projections such as equisolid angle, which is commonly used in other fisheye lens designs. The images are more flat with less bulging in the middle of the frame. See the diagram above which illustrates different projections. – Credit Wikipedia.

There is a great video done by Christopher Frost Photography, which demonstrates the Samyang 12mm 2.8 character. I highly recommend that you take a look at his video below.

 

Mechanics and Handling

First thing to understand about this lens is that its fully manual. There is no auto focus, no auto aperture, in fact there is no communication between the lens and body at all. The lens can be used in aperture priority mode or in full manual on a Canon DSLR. I believe there may be some metering issues on Nikons entry level bodies, but the lens should work fine on all canon EOS bodies.

First thing to understand about this lens is that its fully manual.

The lens itself is quite small, measuring approx. 77x70mm. The lens weighs 515g, so its nice and compact. The lens has a plastic aperture ring, where you can set the aperture from 2.8 to f22 in half stops, except between 2.8 – 4, which is one click (full stop). The focus ring is nice and smooth, and the lens has a minimum focus distance of 0.2m, or 200mm from the sensor.

The lens comes with a cloth bag, front and rear caps. The hood can be removed, but I’m not sure why you would bother. See below for full specifications;

Focal Length

12mm (19mm on APS-C)

Aperture

f/2.8-22

Angle of view

180 degrees (118 on APS-C)

Min. focus distance

20cm

Elements/groups

12/8

Aperture blades

7

Autofocus

No

Auto aperture

No

Dimensions

77 x 70mm

Weight

515g

 

3K9A2186

The build quality of the lens is quite nice, and feels solid in hand

 

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The lens cap is plastic. It fits a bit loose, but it works pretty well

Image Quality

Elements MTF

 

The Samyang 12mm 2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens is quite sophisticated, and has two aspherical elements, as well as three extra low dispersion elements. The lens even features Nano crystal coating on one element. All this should add up to good image quality, and that’s exactly what the lens delivers. I find the lens very sharp in the centre from max aperture, and quite sharp in the corners as well. The lens has good colour and contrast.Some reviewers have said that the lens has some CA issues, but I have not encountered this after a year of ownership. I would say its not field relevant.

At close focus distances you can even get a bit of bokeh out of the lens when used at large apertures. See the sample with the cigarette carton.

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12mm 2.8 shot wide open. Bokeh is possible

 

A fisheye lens is not for every occasion, and can be difficult to use well. Don’t expect great results in every photograph. You must be very close to your subject to get the maximum ‘WOW’ factor – the lens can easily be over-used, the photographer must be wary of this.

Still, no other lenses can match the field of view of a fisheye lens. Some shots (usually in tight spaces) beg for a fisheye lens.

3K9A2049

The images produced are sharp and crisp

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A fisheye lens lends itself well in tight spaces

Autofocus

This is a fully manual lens, and as such there is no auto focus. Sadly, there is no AF confirm chip either. It wouldn’t be much for Samyang to add a chip in their lenses, I’m not sure why they don’t, because they really should.

Having said that, this has to be the easiest lens to manually focus. The focus throw is relatively short, and the distance scale is reasonably accurate. Due to the short focal length, the focus ring can basically be set, and forgotten. See the below table which I have quickly wiped up using a depth of field calculator app on my phone. It shows that if you use f11, you can set the focus ring to 0.5m and everything will be in focus. Even at f2.8, you can achieve infinite depth of field at a focus distance of just 2m.

This has to be the easiest lens to manually focus…

It’s really only at very close distance where you need to be careful with your focusing. This is often where the best photos are captured, and Liveview helps in such a situation. You may think, as I did, that a tripod would make it easy to get close distance shots sharp.. but half the time the tripod legs shows up in the picture as well…

Focus Distance

0.2m

0.5m

1m

2m

5m

Aperture

2.8

2.8

2.8

2.8

2.8

Depth of Field

4.29cm

29.77cm

1.62m

infinite

infinite

Hyperfocal Distance

1.77m

1.77m

1.77m

1.77m

1.77m

Aperture

5.6

5.6

5.6

5.6

5.6

Depth of Field

8.88cm

78.95cm

infinite

infinite

infinite

Hyperfocal Distance

0.89m

0.89m

0.89m

0.89m

0.89m

Aperture

11

11

11

11

11

Depth of Field

20.15cm

infinite

infinite

infinite

infinite

Hyperfocal Distance

0.45m

0.45m

0.45m

0.45m

0.45m

 

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The distance scale is reasonably accurate, and I use it for focusing

 

Conclusion & Recommendations

 This is not the sort of lens you use everyday. Its only for special occasions. Knowing this, it was easy for me to decide on this lens. If I were getting a fisheye, then lets not mess about, the Samyang is the widest, with great image quality. I really didn’t care about the manual operation. I felt that in most cases, I would probably want endless depth of field, and by using f11, you really don’t need to focus. The other thing that was important to me with this lens was price. I didn’t want to spend a lot on a lens like this. The Samyang fits the bill nicely. Its well priced, has advanced optics, is super-wide, and has a nice projection. For me, its a great lens! Some alternatives are:

The Samyang is the widest, and with great image quality. I really didn’t care about the manual operation…

Samyang 8mm 3.5 Fisheye

  • Very similar to the Samyang 12mm 2.8, but for APS-C cameras giving a FOV of 12mm.
  • Slightly slower at f3.5
  • Great optics – similar to the 12mm 2.8.
  • Great value, cheaper than the 12mm 2.8.
  • Best option for APS-C users
  • Does not focus as close as the 12mm 2.8 lens 0.3m

Canon EF 8-15mm 4L

  • The Canon is more versatile, being a zoom lens.
  • The Canon also works great on APS-C sensors
  • The Canon is sharper than the Samyang, particularly in the corners
  • The canon has autofocus, and a closer MFD, 0.15m compared to 0.2m.
  • The Canon has better build quality, and is weather sealed.
  • The Samyang is a full stop faster at 2.8
  • The Samyang is much cheaper, nearly 4 times cheaper

Sigma 15mm 2.8

  • The Sigma is the lightest (370g) and most compact of all Canon options.
  • Sigma has AF and auto aperture
  • Sigma has a better MFD than the Samyang, 0.15m vs 0.2m
  • Sigma is nearly twice the price of the Samyang 12mm 2.8.
  • Samyang is quite a bit wider, and has sterographic projection.
  • The Sigma is quite an ancient design, and uses a micro AF motor.

Nikon 16mm 2.8 D

  • Nikon full frame fisheye lens from around 1998.
  • Respected lens for Nikon users. Small and sharp.
  • MDF worse than the competition, at 0.25m
  • Very small and light (292g). Lightest option for Nikon users.
  • A bit dated, comes with film style filters (warming and cooling..)
  • Quite pricy.

Canon 15mm 2.8

  • (Was a) Great lens… been discontinued..

 

 Samples

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