Ever wanted to use your camera to warp reality into an incredibly distorted circular shape? All you need is an ultra-wide fisheye lens!
Jokes aside, today we’ll be looking at the fully manual Rokinon 8mm F2.8 II fisheye lens, featuring a roughly 180 degree field of view. Rokinon has also rebranded this under the “Samyang 8mm F2.8 II“, but both are identical.
This review will be covering the Sony e-mount version, but this lens is also available for Canon M and Fuji X mounts.
So, is this wacky little fisheye even a good lens? Can I bend reality into a circular shape through my photographs? Let’s jump in and find out.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Actually pretty sharp
- Super tiny and light
- Great astro performance
- An overall fun lens
Size & Weight
So, first up, let’s look at the size and weight of this wacky little lens. As with many other fisheye lenses, this thing is absolutely tiny.
Even with the (tiny) cute little lens hood attached, it only measures about 2.5 inches (6.3cm) long.
As for weight, this little guy weighs a rather respectable 10ozz (283g). While this may not seem very heavy, it’s actually fairly hefty given how small the lens is. This is due to the rather impressive build quality it offers (more on this in just a minute).
The small size yet decent heft makes it a natural fit for my already compact Sony a6000, balancing quite well on the small camera. Plus, it’s easily pocketable!
Is the lens well-built?
As I had alluded to earlier, the Rokinon 8mm F2.8 actually feels surprisingly durable.
As with many of Rokinon’s lenses, along with many low-budget manual glass, this one offers a full metal barrel.
Even if it is a reasonably cheap lens, I always enjoy seeing the inclusion of metal in builds. It does so much to make a cheap lens feel high quality.
Hood & Caps
Not everything is metal, however, as the lens caps and hood are made of plastic.
Speaking of the hood, it’s small but does a fairly good job of protecting the (very bulbous) front element from scratches and bumps.
Moving on. As you might expect, this lens doesn’t offer any sort of moisture or dust resistance.
This is really no surprise, given the price point and that it’s built for APS-C bodies, which rarely offer substantial weather sealing themselves.
Still, it’ll hold up against light conditions, just don’t take it under any waterfalls or into sandstorms!
Built to last?
It should be noted that Rokinon (along with many other Chinese manufacturers) generally have fairly poor quality control. While my copy was just fine, there are reports of other customers who have had weird issues like inconsistent sharpness, wobbly barrels, etc.
For that reason, I’m hesitant to say that this lens is built to last. While it may feel hefty and strong, Rokinon doesn’t have a flawless history in terms of quality control. So, time will tell if this lens actually holds up.
Ergonomically, I really have no complaints. The focus ring is awkwardly tiny, but considering this lens is so wide angle, you’ll rarely have to refocus anyway (everything is almost always at infinity).
Overall, it was comfortable and enjoyable to use during a long shooting session and I didn’t suffer from any sort of hand fatigue.
As for aesthetics, the Rokinon 8mm F2.8 II is a pretty decent-looking lens. I realize beauty is a subjective thing, but I really like the red ring in between the focus/aperture ring. It also comes in silver!
The small petal-shaped lens hood is hilariously small, but it adds a bit more of a nice flair to the tiny body and really ties in the whole look.
Next up, let’s talk about sharpness. Just a warning: I don’t tend to get very scientific in my reviews, I typically just pixel-peep. So don’t expect MTF graphs or anything too convoluted here.
When shooting wide open, centers are razor sharp, but corners definitely fall off a little bit.
This isn’t a huge problem as you likely won’t often be shooting this thing at F2.8 anyways.
Stopping down is where it gets good. Surprisingly, the lens actually performs incredibly well when at F5.6, F8, or F11.
Centers are razor sharp, and corners aren’t far behind. Really impressive actually.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
So sharpness is better than expected, but how does the lens deal with optical anomalies such as distortion, vignette, CA, and flare resistance?
To start, distortion is obviously insane because… well, it’s a fisheye lens. That’s literally what it does. If you’re looking to get the full distorted “fisheye vibe”, you found the right lens.
With that being said, you can actually “defish” images (correct distortion in post processing) to create some really decent ultra-ultra-ultra-wide-angle shots.
For flare resistance, you’ll experience some pretty brutal ghosting when shooting directly into the sun. Seriously, JJ Abrams would be proud of this lens flare.
The hood does a little bit to mitigate it, but you’re really best off trying to avoid shooting directly into the sun.
However, do note that this lens actually produces some really nice sunstars when stopped down.
Finally, the Rokinon doesn’t suffer at all from vignette or chromatic aberrations.
Even in some of my more “extreme” tests (branches against a sunlit sky), I really couldn’t see any noticeable CA.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall, shockingly strong optical performance. Flaring is insane, but the lens is largely free of any other issues.
Sharpness was quite impressive and, as a bonus, you’ll rarely miss focus as almost everything is in infinity focus anyway.
Already interested in checking it out?
Focusing & Aperture
So, let’s talk about the manual focus experience for the rare occasion when you actually need to refocus this lens.
The focus ring is small but has plenty of little grips to grab onto. In the vast majority of cases, you’re good to set the lens at infinity and forget about it. However, you’ll need to refocus for anything closer than 3.5 feet (106cm).
When you do need to use the focusing ring, it’s actually pleasant. Fairly well dampened with a good focus throw, so no complaints from me there.
Footnote: never used a manual lens and are intimidated? Feel free to check out my full guide on manual focus for a6k series cameras. It’s a wealth of knowledge that’ll teach you anything and everything you’d ever need to know about mastering manual focus.
Next up, the Rokinon 8mm, by virtue of being a lens with no electronic connections, features a physical aperture ring.
I’m a sucker for aperture rings, even on modern lenses. This one in particular works quite well, and it’s clicked!
Finally, just a few other notes and random things to cover about this lens.
Lastly, many photographers would probably consider this lens for astrophotography. Ian over at lonelyspeck.com has a much better astrophotography review for the Canon variant, but I’ll try to summarize my findings here.
Coma performance is great with only a few hints of stretched stars at the extreme edge of the frame, way better than most lenses I’ve used when (attempting) to photograph the stars.
I’m an astrophotography noob, but Ian notes in his article that when “defishing” (distortion correcting) images he is able to get up to 60-second exposures without star trails. That’s insane.
Do note that, if you’re looking for an astrophotography beast, Rokinon’s 12mm is incredible.
Speaking of distortion correction, this lens actually becomes pretty solid as a “serious” piece of glass when you take away the heavy distortion in post-processing.
8mm is an incredibly wide focal length, and correcting the fisheye in post opens up a lot of really interesting possibilities for ultra-ultra-ultra-wide shots. Just something to consider.
My Final Thoughts
Usually, I list alternatives at the bottom of each article, but I really haven’t reviewed any lenses that are direct competitors to this one. What I have tried though, are a few ultra-wide (not fisheye) lenses, so I’ll list those below.
Rokinon 12mm F2.0
As mentioned earlier a few times in this post, the Rokinon 12mm F2.0 is an epic wide angle and, frankly, one of my favorite manual focus lenses.
It’s a little more pricey, but the optical performance is absolutely phenomenal and it’s a favorite among astrophotographers. I’ve, personally, seen so many photographers out in the (metaphorical and literal) wild using it.
Laowa 12mm F2.8
My second suggestion, if you’re considering photographing architecture or any other straight lines, would be the Laowa 12mm F2.8.
This one is a little weird, as it promises “zero distortion”. It almost lives up to that claim and is an epic lens for any sort of wide-angle work. Plus, it’s sharp and built like an absolute tank.
Otherwise, if you’re dead set on the wacky fisheye vibe, the Rokinon 8mm F2.8 II really is the way to go.
This lens is sharp, tiny, and pretty fairly priced. Plus, if you want to get some “normal” images out of it, you can always play around with distortion correction.
If you’re interested in picking it up yourself, I’ll drop purchase links below. Thanks for reading, folks. 🙂