Now, a new lens has popped up, the Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f/2, which is fast, and quite compact in size:
From left: Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f/2, Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 (my review) and Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 (my review) set to 12mm.
How do they do it? It is not because the Samyang 12mm lens only covers the Four Thirds sensor. It is designed to cover also the APS-C sensor size, coming in versions for Sony E mount and Fujifilm X mount, and many more.
The reason why the lens is so small, is that it is designed for mirrorless system cameras only, with a shorter register distance than DSLR cameras. The shorter register distance allows making smaller wide angle lenses, as exemplified with the Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 circular fisheye lens.
It is natural to compare the Samyang 12mm f/2 with the Olympus 12mm f/2, as they both have similar specifications:
|Lens||Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f/2||Olympus 12mm f/2|
|Minimum focus distance||0.25m||0.20m|
With the 2x crop factor of the Micro Four Thirds format, the lens has an equivalent focal length of 24mm. This makes it a quite wide angle lens.
So what's the lens like?
The lens comes in a fairly large, padded box. A hood, and front and rear lens caps are included, as well as a cloth pouch:
The lens is made from metal materials, and gives a solid, high quality feel. Both the front and rear lens elements are quite large, and domed. As you would expect, the lens bayonet mount is metal:
The focus ring is very well dampened, allowing for a very precise and smooth focus operation, well suited for video use. The focus assembly is of the traditional kind, where all the lens elements move back and forth while focusing. This is the traditional way of designing the focus for manual lenses: Internal focus is mostly used with mirrorless autofocus lenses.
The focus goes all the way down to 0.20m. Keeping in mind that the focus distance is measured from the sensor plane, this means that the working distance is close to 0.10m, that is the minimum distance between the subject and the front of the lens. The focus scale appears to be accurate.
The aperture ring is also well dampened, and has click stops for half stop apertures between f/2 and f/16, and one click stop at f/22. This is a quite common arrangement.
Both the focus ring and the aperture ring have nice ridges, which makes it easy to grip them. There are no rubberized surfaces, though.
The Samyang lens is a purely mechanical lens, and has no electrical contacts. This means that the camera does not recognize that the lens is mounted at all, and certainly cannot read off information about the focal length or aperture.
It also means that you need to set the "SHOOT W/O LENS" option. Otherwise, the camera will not operate, as it believes that no lens is mounted at all. Here is the "SHOOT W/O LENS" menu option from the GH2 camera:
The camera will still store EXIF data in your image files, however, the information about focal length and aperture is never passed to the camera, and will be missing when using this lens.
To evaluate the image quality, I have taken pictures with both the Rokinon 12mm f/2 and the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8, which I think is a truly stellar lens:
To compare the image quality, here are some 100% crops from various apertures from the centre of the image:
And from the lower left corner:
What we see here, is that the sharpness of the Samyang 12mm f/2 is quite impressive, already wide open. As one would expect, the sharpness improves a bit when closing down to f/2.8. But it is certainly very useful also at f/2.
Here is another image quality comparison, taken at a closer focus distance, and with a higher contrast. I kept the wire, and the bamboo sticks, in the focus plane:
Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 12mm f/3.5
This test is much harder to do. Due to the lower light, focusing is more difficult. Also, the focus is much more critical at close distance. Finally, a small tilt of the camera will make the focus plane wrong. So take this test with some grain of salt. Anyway, here are 100% crops from the centre:
And from the left lower side:
As you would expect with these modern lenses, they are all very sharp in the centre, also wide open. In the corner, the Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 is probably the worst performing lens, but it is still useful. It may appear that it has a somewhat spherical focus plane.
The Samyang lens is quite respectable in the corner, but a bit dull wide open. And as I have come to expect, the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 is very good indeed.
This is a wide angle lens, so you would probably not think about out of focus rendering when you consider it. However, at close focus distances and wide open, it does render the background very blurred. Here are some example images:
Here is a closeup:
The bokeh sure looks very good with the Samyang 12mm lens. Here are two more examples taken at the minimum focus, f/2. Click to enlarge them:
It is very good to see that Samyang has started designing lenses specifically for mirrorless cameras. That makes them much smaller, faster, and better.
The Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f/2 is a classic Samyang design: Very good mechanical quality, tight, well dampened focus ring, a proper aperture ring. The image quality is very good.
The lens appeals to both traditionalists, who enjoy a classic mechanical lens with metal materials, and to video makers, who need a smooth, well dampened focus operation, free from focus breathing.
Relatively inexpensive, good for video, with a smooth focus ring, no focus breathing due to a traditional focus mechanism
Autofocus is good to have when making close up pictures of moving objects, e.g., kids or pets
Comparatively large and heavy
Lumix GH4, ISO 200, 1/800s, f/2:
Lumix GH4, ISO 200, 1/200s, f/2.8:
Lumix GH4, ISO 200, 1/1300s, f/2.8: