I’ve had one of Samyang’s 14mm f2.8 photo lenses for some time and it really is a fantastic lens. It’s one of my favourites for shooting the Northern Lights as it nice and wide and pretty fast for such a wide lens. In addition it stays nice and sharp even when wide open. When I heard that Samyang were bringing out a range of budget cine lenses with integrated 0.8 mod pitch gears it was music to my ears as I have been looking for some decent cine lenses for a long time, but didn’t want to fork out a small fortune on expensive PL glass.
Up to now, for my own projects, I have been using a mix of Nikon fit and Canon fit DSLR lenses. Mostly Sigma Nikon fit lenses as these focus the “right” way and have manual aperture rings. For my larger budget commercial projects I then hire in PL glass to suit the project.
The Samyang’s arrived nicely packed in decent looking boxes and each lens comes with a soft carry pouch. There’s the usual petal shaped lens hood and lens caps. The lenses I chose have the Canon EF-S mount, but you can also get them with a Nikon mount. Because they have proper manual iris rings there is no problem using these lenses on cameras like the Sony PMW-F3 where you don’t have electronic iris control.
Out of the box the lenses really look the part. The black finish is very nice and there is an attractive red metal ring around the camera body giving them a quite classy look. One thing though is that there is a lot of plastic in these lenses. The lens mount is metal and it appears that the core of the lens body is metal, but it appears to be shrouded in plastic. Certainly the iris and focus rings are plastic and front shroud around the lens is plastic, but it does appear to be a good quality plastic. The large amount of plastic does make the lenses feel cheaper than a decent PL mount lens but it’s no worse than the plastic Sony PL mount lenses that cost 8 times as much and you do have to remember that these lenses are really well priced, really, really well priced.
The 0.8 mod pitch gears are nice and proud from the lens body and I had no issues using them with my Genus follow focus controls. There is no click stop on the iris ring as there would be on a conventional DSLR lenses and the movement of the iris ring is very smooth and has just the right amount of resistance for smooth aperture changes during a shot. The iris scale, marked in T-Stops is clear and easy to read and the travel reasonable. You don’t get as much travel as many PL mount lenses, but there is plenty of travel and getting an accurate exposure is easy. Having T-stops is great as you can change lenses and your exposure will remain constant because T-stops are the lenses f-stop plus any other light losses in the lens, making exposure more accurate and consistent from lens to lens.
The focus rings on both the 24mm and 35mm lenses rotate through about 160 degrees. This is a lot compared to most other modern DSLR lenses. My Sigma 20mm f1.8 lens only rotates about 90 degrees and my 24-70mm lens only rotates about 45 degrees. This extra throw on the focus ring really helps with accurate and precise focus and makes these lenses a pleasure to use. The focus scale is in both feet and m. I do find the brown “ft” scale a little hard to see, especially in low light, but this is a minor complaint.
So overall these lenses are really nice to use compared to most other DSLR lenses, in fact I would say they are pretty close to many much more expensive PL lenses. But handling is one thing, what about the image quality? Well I wasn’t disappointed. Both lenses perform very well. Edge to edge sharpness is very good, contrast is very good, these lenses produce lovely crisp images with very good neutral colour. I didn’t test them with charts. Instead I used them (and am continuing to use them) on a range of shoots in Hong Kong and the UK and compared them with some of my other lenses out in the field. Image wise the 24mm produces an image very similar to my 20mm Sigma, if anything I feel the Samyang is the sharper of the two, even when wide open.
The 35mm Samyang performs at least as well as my favourite 35mm f1.8 Nikkor. My only small concerns are that the 24mm softens a little at T1.5 (the 35mm also softens a little but not quite as bad) and that both lenses do suffer from a bit more lens flare in some situations than my Nikkor’s. I suspect the coatings used on the Samyang’s may not be quite as good as those on the Nikkor’s but by using a deeper lens hood, matte box or flag to stop strong light sources from shining directly into the lens this flare can easily be controlled or eliminated. If you have a strong light source coming into the lens slightly off axis the lens flare exhibits itself as a slight raising of black levels and as a result a reduction in contrast. Most lenses suffer from some flare and this isn’t a deal breaker provided you are aware of it.
I really like these lenses. Not just because they are cheap, but because they perform very well and they really handle like baby PL mount lenses. I think you have to see them to believe them because the images are really very sharp. I’d much rather use these than most conventional DSLR lenses on my video cameras. The Samyang 24mm T1.5 is an excellent wide angle lens for video applications. The 35mm is a great “standard” lens and will probably be my “go-to” lens for most shoots. The field of view you get from a 35mm lens on a Super 35mm video camera is very close to our own human field of view, so your shots look very natural and true to life. At T1.5 these are fast lenses so achieving a very shallow depth of field is easy. I probably wouldn’t use the 24mm at T1.5 unless I really needed to, but at T2 the image starts to sharpen up nicely. As well as the 24mm and 35mm lenses Samyang have 8mm T3.8 and a 14mm T3.1mm cine lenses and an 85mm T1.5 lens will be coming at the end of the year. All they really need is to add a 50mm to create a really complete lens set.
Initially I approached Samyang UK and asked for the loan of the 24mm and 35mm lenses for review. After using them I decided to buy them, so now I’m the happy owner of the Samyang 24mm and 35mm Cine lens. All I need to do now is sell of some of my other Canon and Nikon lenses so that I can get the 8, 14 and 85mm Samyang Cine lenses. They also do an interesting 24mm tilt-shift lens!