I needed something wider than 18mm for the X-E1 to take pictures whilst doing safety inspections of heavy machinery. The choices were my superb Sigma 12-24mm in a Nikon mount, the Fuji 14mm and the Samyang 12mm f/2.0. The Sigma is slow at f/4.5 and quite large, and the Samyang is half the price of the Fuji.
The loaner Samyang arrived today, and after an hour's use my first impressions are quite positive:
- Nicely packaged; not luxurious but not the bare minimum either.
- Nice looking lens.
- Smaller and more compact than I expected for a relatively fast lens. With hood reversed the camera with lens attached will fit in a Lowepro AW50 on my belt.
- Well made; not quite the Fuji XF, but good finishing, well polished and feels substantial. However the plastic lens-hood and focus collar feel like hard plastic of a type I've known to break on other types of equipment, but this is a subjective observation.
- Printed lettering, not engraved.
- Substantial metal mount with three screws
- The aperture ring clicks are audible and feel positive, with two clicks per stop. The aperture stops are clearly marked on the top of the lens.
- The focus ring is fairly tight on a warm day (mid twenty deg C), with no chance of creep. From near-to-far involves just over a 90 degree twist, and the focus mechanism is internal and rear elements do move. Distance scale is on the top of the lens in feet and metres, and is quite legible but printed on.
- There are no depth of field scales on the barrel.
- The hood is large and reversible, and does obscure the popup flash so much of the bottom half of the image will be in shadow. Clicking into place is positive, but it may become quite loose over time. The camera rests almost flat with the hood attached
- The front element does not protrude past the body of the lens, so you could stand the camera face down without the hood on a flat surface like a desk (not that I'd recommend it).
- Optics are coated, with a purple sheen on the front element and amber-purple at the rear.
First impressions on performance are also good:
- I haven't taken any images of brick walls, but distortion seems managed and not fish-eye. Lines through the middle of the image are straight, and along the edges the distortion seems to be a simple curve and not complex moustache.
- Colour is neutral and not yellow as some Sigma lenses can be.
- Bokeh is smooth, but I haven't tested it on point sources yet.
- There is minor purple fringing on the edges of the frame in high contrast areas (i.e. twigs against white cloud). This seems better to the centre of the image.
- Drawing is pleasant and neutral.
- There is some vignetting, but it's not particularly obvious.
- Depth of field ranges is enormous at narrower apertures and at the long end, but it does have a narrow depth of field at the other end. Close up at f/2 took me by surprise. Maybe 15mm of depth is usably sharp at closest focus, 15cm of depth at 1m away.
- Resolution appears good and sharpness too.
And the lens is very easy to use:
- It is manual focus only. For snaps just use focus peaking and hyperfocal distance and the X-E1 gets it every time.
- Use the camera zoom function for close work and wide apertures.
- It is much easier to focus than the Sigma 12-24, because one had to be careful with such a wide field to focus carefully or the lens would hunt a bit (also to do with aperture).
- Small enough to be convenient, but not too small for my hands (not the biggest, but not small either)
My verdict is that this is a keeper. I will take some interesting images over the next few days and add them to my impressions.