Although street photography is my passion and indeed I teach workshops on this very subject for photographymasterclasses.uk, it’s commercial photography that mainly pays the bills.
Recently I was asked to photograph a large property for Dreamview Estates a real estate agent in London, England. This type of work is something that I had previously shot with my Canon 5d system. However as in my last article, my Fuji X-T1, which although I had originally bought for street photography, I now find myself using more and more for commercial assignments. However the widest lens I owned was the 18-55 kit lens and I knew from experience with my Canon, that this wouldn’t be wide enough for property interiors. So obviously I first looked at the Fuji lineup of lenses. My choice appeared to be either the 14mm f2.8 prime or the 10-14mm f4.0 zoom. Both excellent lenses, but I felt I didn’t really want to make such an investment for what was potentially a one off job. I had heard about the Samyang range and in particular the 12mm f2 lens. It retails for an incredibly low price of less than £300, mainly I guess because it’s a manual focus lens only. So after some research I decided to go for this lens and it’s turned out to be one of my better buys.
In use there are a few things you need to bear in mind. Firstly you will need to delve into the menu and change a couple of settings. You need to tell the camera that you will shoot without a lens fitted. This can be found on the 3rd shooting menu tab at the bottom. This is because there is no information transmitted from the lens to the camera body so the camera assumes there is no lens fitted and normally that would stop it taking a picture. Secondly you also need to tell it manually in the menu that a 12mm lens is fitted. This can be found again conveniently on the 3rd shooting menu tab second from last option, called “mount adaptor setting”. Select this then change the lens 5 option to 12mm. Setting this will mean that at least the correct focal length will show up in the embedded exif data. However the aperture you set will not be transmitted and will always show up in Lightroom etc as f1.0. So remember to make a separate note of the aperture used, if this is important to you to refer back to later.
If you do use Adobe Lightroom to edit your photos then also be aware that there isn’t a lens profile for the Samyang range as of yet. However if you select the Zeiss lens range from the drop down menu then they have a 12mm Touit lens that will help correct lens flaws etc. (By the way this Zeiss lens is also nearly twice the price of the Samyang and only opens up to f2.8 in comparison)
In use the lens is very well built and comes complete with lens bag, lens caps and a lens hood. The filter size is 67mm, which is quite large as filters go, but most types are readily available. The aperture and focus rings are nice and stiff but still smooth in operation. Focusing is very easy on the Fuji system using any of the cameras built-in manual focusing aids. In particular focus peaking or the focus assist zoom in option. Also because the lens has a focal length of 12mm (18mm equivalent on a full frame sensor) the depth of focus much longer than on a standard or telephoto lens, so focusing doesn’t have to be that precise. Metering also proved to work faultlessly with the Samyang.
I’m not a pixel peeper but from my results, when stopped down a couple of stops it’s a really sharp lens and even wide open at f2 it’s really useable and at this aperture makes for a great lens to use in dimly lit conditions. So much so, that I now use it at weddings for the first dance, cake cutting etc.
So, in my opinion, the pros and cons of the Samyang 12mm f2.0 NCS CS lens.
- Great value (compared to other Fuji XF lenses)
- Very well built (metal)
- Great contrast
- Great focus and aperture rings
- Very easy to use
- No digital contacts (so no aperture exif data)
- Manual focus (I didn’t find this a problem but some may do)
So to sum up, all in all I am very satisfied with my purchase and it has become a lens that always travels with me on my assignments. In use it can prove to be more versatile than you would think. I’ve now used it for weddings, property interiors, landscapes, street photography and even macro photography!
I recommend it to anyone looking for an extreme wide-angle lens, with a fast aperture and whose budget doesn’t run to one of the Fuji range of lenses.