In the Sony full frame market, it seems there’s virtually no shortage of ultra-wide lenses. Most are great, some are iffy.
The Samyang AF 14mm F2.8, in advertising, at least, promises a 114-degree field of view, sharp images, quick AF, and a compact build at a fairly budget price tag.
In this article, we’re going to deep dive into this (small) lens and see if these claims are true. How does it compete against more expensive competitors in the crowded ultra-wide space?
Let’s jump in.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Quick & Reliable AF
- Robust & Strong Build
- A great low budget ultra wide prime
Size & Weight
First up, let’s talk about size and weight.
For a full-frame lens, the Samyang is actually fairly compact, measuring roughly 3.2 inches (8.1cm). At this size, it feels like it fits just right on my a7iii.
Weight-wise, it runs about 20.8oz (590g). This is actually decently heavy given its compact size, and that’s due to build quality…
Is the lens well-built?
Speaking of which, build quality is actually pretty good.
Perhaps not up to the standard of a high-end Sigma lens, for example, but still pretty nice given the reasonably budget price tag.
Almost every aspect of the lens is made entirely of metal.
Every single inch of the barrel is made of metal, even down to the focusing ring.
No plastic here, which is great!
Heck, even the petal-shaped lens hood is made of metal.
Speaking of which, the hood is pretty tiny, but it should do an adequate job of protecting the bulbous front element from bumps and scratches.
As for lens caps, front and rear caps are included. The front cap, however, isn’t a typical snap-in kind. It’s large, and actually fits over the lens hood (once again, due to the curved glass element).
For those hoping this lens offers weather sealing, I am sorry to disappoint. It doesn’t.
Generally, you won’t find many lower-end lenses that offer any sort of dust or moisture protection, as those features cost manufacturers a lot more money to implement.
Built to last?
So, is the lens built to last? I don’t have any particular reason I’d say no.
Sure, it may not match up to GM glass, but it’s still very solidly built. Plus, unlike some other low-budget brands, Samyang typically doesn’t struggle as much with poor quality control.
When it comes to ergonomics, I find the lens fairly comfortable to use.
As mentioned prior, it’s fairly small, but also somewhat hefty. It balances incredibly well on my camera, and I don’t really suffer from any hand fatigue when out shooting.
Finally, aesthetics. I understand beauty is subjective, but I kind of dig the look of the Samyang 14mm.
It’s minimalist, clean, and the small red accents actually look pretty nice.
Next up, let’s cover what everyone was waiting for: sharpness!
One quick note: my lens tests don’t tend to get very scientific. I generally just pixel peep, so don’t expect any MTF charts or complicated graphs.
To start, sharpness at F2.8 is pretty much on par with what you’d expect.
That is to say, centers are razor sharp, but corners fall off quite a bit. This isn’t a surprise.
Stopping down is where the lens really starts to shine. At F5.6, we see nearly consistent sharpness from edge-to-edge.
At F8, however, is where the lens peaks. When shooting landscapes, I generally couldn’t find a flaw. The frame is razor sharp all the way to the extreme corners. Really good stuff.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
So, sharpness is killer, but what about optical quirks such as distortion, vignette, CA, and flare resistance?
First off, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: distortion.
As with most wide-angle lenses, the Samyang does suffer from a pretty strong amount of mustache distortion.
Mustache-shaped distortion is, unfortunately, not as easily fixed in post-processing. As a result, I’d be cautious about using this lens to shoot architecture or anything else that requires flawless, straight lines.
As for vignette, we do see some minor darkening of the corners when shooting wide open, but stopping down remedies it.
This is largely a non-issue, because even at F2.8 it can be easily removed with a single click in post.
Chromatic aberrations are, once again, another non-issue.
Even in some of my extreme tests (branches against a sunny sky), CA was very mild and barely noticeable.
Finally, flare resistance is spectacular.
Usually, lower-cost lenses suffer from insane loss of contrast when shooting into the sun, but not this one.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall, I found the optical performance of the Samyang AF 14mm F2.8 to be spectacular. It really punches above its weight (or cost, rather).
Images are tack sharp (when stopped down) and, besides the rather heavy distortion, the lens is otherwise largely free from any other issues.
Next up, let’s focus on focusing.
There’s not a lot to say when it comes to autofocusing. Most modern lenses perform, “good enough” and this one is no exception.
It plays incredibly well with Sony’s excellent AF systems, such as EyeAF and AF-C (tracking). It’s quick, quiet, and reliable. What more could you ask for?
For video shooters, performance is similar. The lens is quick, and quiet, but it does have one issue: focus breathing.
When refocusing, breathing is noticeable. I don’t think it would be a dealbreaker for most video shooters (considering how good of a value this lens is otherwise), but I thought it was important to note.
By the way, as a sidenote, the lens is also not stabilized. Not an issue for most people, but still worth mentioning for those still using unstabilized bodies.
Finally, let’s talk about manual focus. The lens is, as with almost all modern glass, focus-by-wire.
It’s not perfect, but the ring is large and decently well-dampened, so I can’t really complain.
My Final Thoughts
So, I more or less sang the praises of the Samyang AF 14mm F2.8, but let’s look at a few alternatives before rounding out the review.
Sony 14mm F1.8
The most obvious competitor would be the godly Sony 14mm F1.8, an absolute beast of a lens.
The Sony is superior in literally every single way except one, and that is price. Expect to pay multiple times more for the Sony.
Laowa 12mm F2.8
The other big alternative is rather weird, and that is the Laowa 12mm F2.8. Why is it weird? Because it promises zero distortion.
Feel free to read my in-depth review on it to learn more. It’s a great lens to consider if you’re doing a lot of architecture work, however, you do lose autofocus.
So yeah, in case it’s not obvious, I really like the Samyang AF 14mm F2.8. While it’s not the most exceptional lens on the market, it offers fantastic value for the price.
Sure, would a Sony GM lens beat it out? Yes, but the Samyang packs a big punch without burning a hole through your wallet.
If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, I’ll leave purchase links down below. Thanks for reading!