Quick thoughts on the Samyang 14mm f2.8
Lets get something out of the way first, with some practice, 14mm makes everything look epic and exciting. For those of you who are new to this, 14mm is not like a fisheye lens which intentionally distorts everything, 14mm lenses are typically “rectilinear”, which means it produces images with straight lines and very very little barrel or pincushion distortion. They’re great for travel photography and at f2.8, great for tight low-lit spaces. They’re fun and I’ve wanted one for a while, however the cost of entry has always been prohibitively expensive if you’re shooting with a full frame camera body.
I’ve always been on the fence with Samyang’s 14mm, and their entire lineup in general. Their lenses cost a fraction of what Nikon’s cost, and they’re all manual focus only, no autofocus. I don’t mind at all the lack of autofocus, it’s when something is this inexpensive that I get concerned about the tradeoffs. I read the praise for this lens and I’ve seen the samples. They were all very positive despite the cautions about distortion and vignetting. One thing that was eating me though was the character of stars generated by very bright points of light. While Nikon’s offerings produce beautiful pointy stars due to the design of their aperture blades, the samples I saw from Samyang produced chunky bursts of light. On top of that, the 14mm has some really funky distortion that I was not sure how to correct. This is really what kept me from picking up a copy, the question of whether I would still be satisfied by something with these two hinderances.
With luck, I found one second-hand in reasonable condition and went for it. Been very happy ever since. The distortion is very easy to correct using PTLens which you can buy here.
Here’s an example, you start with a photo like this.
Open PTLens and you get a dialogue box like this.
Unless you messed with your EXIF, by default PTLens will already have read it and selected the camera body and lens. In this case though, there are two types of Samyang 14mm lenses, and since the one I’m shooting with is the UMC version, I had to choose that from the lens menu rather than the other version of this lens. I highlighted this menu area with a pink border in this example. If you only want to correct the distortion, click “OK”. This is what the result looks like.
Here’s an animated version so you can more easily compared before and after.
I have yet to try it with long exposures at night, but will share some samples and thoughts soon.