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Samyang 12mm f/2 vs Samyang 14mm f/2.8 on the Sony A6000 & A7

Apples to Oranges again, but as Thom Hogan has said well, photography is a balance of "Chasing Perfection versus Balance". That's exceptionally true for those of us doing expedition photography where weight is of paramount importance. Especially since I really only use the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 for shooting starscapes as it has so little coma. Today a quick side by side look at the petite new Samyang 12mm f/2 on the A6000 and the more well known Samyang 14mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7. Really the only two modern, cheap and fast ultra wide angle rectilinear lenses. The aperture difference helps the sensors come near equal as the A7 is about one stop better in low light. Of course the 12mm f/2 on the A6000 comes out to ~17mm in full frame so it's not exactly equal. Neither is the weight or size as can be seen above. Plus the 12mm f/2 can take 67mm filters, a nice advantage.  Both focused to infinity with cameras set to sunny day white balance and exposure matched at ISO 100.

Rokinon, Samyang, Bower, Vivitar, B&H and a few other names, these are all the same lenses of Korean make. I wouldn't put too much stock in color rendition because the Sony Zeiss Zoom side by side shows the A7 and A6000 have very different color casts.

I have never reshot a test so many times. It's hard to get consistent performance out of these lenses wide open. Perhaps that's due to adapter variability with the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7 too. I ended up switching through a few adapters and chose the best results. I was quite happy with my original Samyang 14mm f/2.8 on the Nikon D700 and D600. Then one day everything was off with it, and I returned sent it in. Samyang was kind enough to send a new copy of the lens, but I've never been quite as pleased with the performance of this one, probably just because they don't seem to do as well on the Sony A7 as on the Nikon cameras. I will say that all the Samyang lenses just don't "snap" into focus like a lot of the older manual focuses lenses, making them very hard to nail focus. Given time it seems easier to nail manual focus on a terrible Nikon AF-D lens with minimal focus throw. Why, I'm not sure, the Samyang focusing is just a little detached and sluggish. I've experienced this with their 85mm f/1.4 and especially the 35mm f/1.4.

This test is currently in pause until I get a version of the Samyang 12mm f/2 that is not decentered. As it is the left side is soft at all apertures.

Wide open on the same scene the two are about dead on for exposure. The 14mm has considerably more vignetting, much of that hidden but look at the top right. The nano coating benefit on the 12mm f/2 is also apparent, although both have ghosting issues inherent to the Sony A7 series. This makes me miss shooting my Nikon D700.

14mm f/2.8 15" ISO 1600 & 12mm f/2 15" ISO 800

Look at the telephone pole detail on the 12mm f/2.

Coma in the top right extreme corner.

Closed down one stop they both have their flare issues with bright lights on the A7.

Both lenses near the center one stop down, the 12mm showing better contrast and detail.

One stop down in the left corner the 12mm f/2 is far behind the 14mm f/2.8

In broad daylight the 14mm f/2.8 is about 1/2 stop behind the 12mm f/2 probably due to massive vignetting. The 14mm also has a deserved reputation for a lack of contrast wide open in bright light. Then again who shoots an ultra wide angle at f/2.8 in the middle of the day?

12mm f/2 pulled back .5 to match exposure. 100% unsharpened crop. 

Corners wide open.

Now one stop down in the center.

Left edge one stop down.

This time I'm going to skip the next aperture. You don't use f4 / f5.6 in low light or in landscape use. It's the 'tweener aperture on a wide lens. So on to f/5.6 for the 12mm f/2 and f/8 for the 14mm f/2.8. Even at these apertures the 14mm f2.8 is a half exposure behind the little sibling.

Left border three stops down.

By f/8 and f/11 respectively the 14mm f/2.8 is only .25 exposure behind the 12mm f/2 but has less vignetting. Center crops.

Left side, the 12mm f/2 is finally looking decent.

What's the take away? If you need center resolution the Samyang 12mm f/2 is always better than the Samyang 14mm f2.8, especially wide open. Their NCS nano-coating gives the lens much more contrast wide open. On the other hand the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 is always better on the sides and in the corners - a much more well rounded experience. Personally I was hoping the Samyang 12mm f/2 would replace my 14mm f/2.8 for travel, as I rarely shoot anything outside star scapes with the 14mm f/2.8, yet the coma and soft edges of the 12mm hold it back. That size though...it's a tough call.


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