When it comes to Sony’s APS-C systems, it seems like wide-angle lenses are a dime a dozen, but most really aren’t that great.
However, over the years, the Rokinon 12mm F2.0 (also branded under Samyang) has made quite a name for itself, with some photographers even claiming it’s the best astrophotography lens for a6000 series cameras.
In this review, I’ll be deep diving into this lens to determine whether or not it’s actually as great as the hype makes it out to be.
Let’s jump in.
Looking for just a quick summary before jumping in?
- Great astrophotography performance (coma)
- Sturdy yet compact build
- Fun and precise manual focusing
- Just an overall great value
Size & Weight
To start this off, as I do with all my reviews, I’d like to talk about the size and weight of the lens. It’s tiny!
Coming in at just 2.3 inches (5.8cm), this thing feels incredibly small when paired with my also-small a6000. It’s literally pocketable.
As for weight, it stays pretty light, clocking in at around 8.6oz (245g).
Overall, quite compact and a very good fit for a small APS-C body. It even fits perfectly in my Tenba BYOB 10 for storage.
Is the lens well-built?
So, it’s small and fairly light, but is it well-built? Despite that it falls squarely into the “budget lens” category, I’d say yes.
The Rokinon 12mm F2.0 is made up of primarily high-quality plastic with a metallic lens mount.
Overall, as I mentioned earlier, it feels strong and sturdy, despite its small size.
Hood & Caps
The only complaint I’d say I had was that the lens hood (petal-shaped) feels a bit cheaper and has a little bit of play when attached, though it is possible I just got a bad copy.
The lens includes, as you’d expect, run-of-the-mill standard plastic lens caps.
Unfortunately, the lens doesn’t offer any sort of protection against dust or moisture.
That being said, we’re looking at a low-priced, manual focus lens, so this isn’t a surprise.
Built to last?
So is the lens built to last? I’d say yes. Despite the lack of weather sealing and the slightly wobbly hood, everything feels really solid and well put together.
I have no doubts that the Rokinon will continue working just fine for many, many years. It’s not G-series level of quality, but it feels good enough.
Ergonomically, the lens is quite comfortable to handle for an extended period of time. Given that small size and light weight, I didn’t really experience any sort of hand fatigue when out shooting.
The part of the lens where the focus ring meets the hood makes for a nice gripping point, allowing the lens to be carried around on multi-hour shoots without much discomfort.
Aesthetically, Rokinon certainly put some care into how the lens looks. The barrel itself has a nice focusing scale separated by a sleek red bit of metal from the aperture ring.
This, combined with the large petal-shaped lens hood offers a rather premium appearance on what is actually just a budget APS-C lens.
Next up, let’s talk about the fun part: sharpness! Just a warning: my lens tests don’t tend to get very scientific, I typically just pixel peep so don’t expect any MTF graphs or anything too complicated.
To start, shooting wide open (F2.0) shows fantastic center sharpness with only a very minor bit of fall-off near the corners.
I found that even despite this softness, it was still quite sharp enough to use for landscapes. Though, everything considered, you’d probably not shoot much at F2.0 with this lens anyway.
Stopping down is when the lens really starts to shine. Even at F4.0, corners are almost perfectly sharp, and at F8 (a typical aperture for daytime landscapes), everything in the frame is fantastic.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the sharpness of the Rokinon 12mm F2.0. Usually, ultra-wide lenses have a bit of a sacrifice in quality to get their desired focal length, but there really don’t seem to be many compromises made here.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
With all that being said, the lens does suffer from a few optical quirks and flaws. Let’s talk about: distortion, vignette, CA, and flare resistance. We’ll talk more about comatic aberrations and the like later in the astrophotography section.
First off, distortion, by virtue of being a wide-angle lens, is fairly strong.
However, it’s mostly barrel-shaped, and can be largely fixed in post-processing.
In addition to the distortion, vignette also presents a bit of a problem when shooting wide open.
It’s not terrible, but there’s a noticeable darkening of the edges of the frame at F2.0. Stopping down fixes it, otherwise, a single click in post should do the trick.
Next up: chromatic aberrations. The lens handles CA quite well, and I didn’t find many issues.
Even in one of my typical “extreme” tests (branches against a sunlit sky), I found it to perform quite well.
Finally, let’s talk about flare resistance. When shooting straight into light sources, you’ll see moderate loss of contrast and a bit of ghosting.
However, the lens hood does a pretty good job of preventing this (and, additionally, protecting the front element from bumps and scrapes).
Overall Optical Performance
Overall optical performance is pretty damn good, especially when you consider the price point.
Sharpness is great (no complaints there) and, despite some manageable distortion and flaring, the lens doesn’t suffer from any glaring flaws.
Already interested in buying?
Alrighty, it’s time to talk about astrophotography. As I alluded to earlier, this lens is known by many as the best astrophotography lens for a6000 series cameras, so… yeah.
Wide Aperture & Wide Angle
First off, obviously, the lens offers a wide aperture and a wide-angle focal length.
As anyone who has ever tried to photograph the stars can tell you, these two factors are huge pros for astro.
Second, coma control (don’t know what coma is?) is absolutely fantastic.
Stars at the edge of the frame look like perfect, sharp little dots. No tails or stretching here, even during longer exposures.
Lightweight & Small
Finally, the lens is just lightweight and small.
I understand compact size isn’t necessarily a requirement for astro shooters (looking at the Sigma 14mm for full-frame…), but it’s always nice to have a small kit when you’re trekking through the darkness in the middle of the night.
Focusing & Aperture
Next up, let’s focus on focusing (see what I did there?). As I stated earlier, and as you likely already know, this lens is entirely manual focus.
While this may scare off some people, it’s important to remember that with such a wide focal length, you won’t have to refocus much. Most things will be at infinity focus anyways.
In any case, I found the manual focus experience to be an absolute pleasure.
The focusing ring is plastic, but it has good grip and rotates very smoothly. It takes roughly 1/4 of a turn (focus throw) to get from minimum to infinity. Feels great.
On the Rokinon 12mm F2.0, the aperture is not controlled electronically.
That means, like a vintage lens, there’s a nice little aperture ring on the lens itself. Instead of switching your F-stop in the camera, you just spin the little dial which makes a lovely clicking noise every half-stop.
I love this personally, and I wish more lenses (even AF lenses) had a physical aperture ring.
My Final Thoughts
Great for Astrophotography
Overall, I’d suggest the Rokinon (Samyang) 12mm F2.0 primarily to those who do astrophotography (the astro community seems to love it already).
Otherwise, it’s also just great for wide-angle landscape shots, and could perhaps even be used for street photography if you’re looking to really switch up your style to something extreme.
It’s small as heck, which is super nice for hiking or, of course, dragging it out into the middle of nowhere at night to photograph the Milky Way.
Additionally, it’s solid, durable, and ridiculously sharp. What more could you want out of a lens?
If you’re interested in picking one up yourself, I’ve included purchase links below. Thank you for reading.
This lens earned a spot on one of my best lens lists.
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