Review: Samyang 16mm F2 (Canon EF)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials The Urban Explorer (3 of 11)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 2.8

Samyang’s 16mm f2 is the company’s second lens dedicated to APS-C DSLRs. That doesn’t mean that you can’t mount them on a full frame camera though–you’ll just get a lot of vignetting. The lens is characterized by some sweet and smooth manual focusing, a manual aperture ring, and a functional distance scale just like most other lenses from Samyang and Rokinon. And like all of the others, we don’t recommend them for the person that shoots with their DSLR in auto mode.

This lens is priced very affordably, and because of its APS-C sized sensor design, we also believe that its cinema version, the 16mm T2.2 might just be the best damned wide angle prime that someone can spring for when using the Black Magic Cinema Camera.

Editor’s Note: Want more from Samyang and Rokinon? Check out our guide to their lenses.



Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials The Urban Explorer (1 of 11)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 5.6

Pros

– Super smooth manual focusing

– Very sharp optics

– Affordable price

– The Canon version is actually an EF mount, not EF-S. So it can be mounted onto a full frame camera if you choose

Cons

– Only for APS-C

Gear Used

We’re tested the Samyang 16mm f2 with the Canon T5i and the Canon 5D Mk II.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing.

Performance
Focal Length 16 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 25.6 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Canon EF-S
Format Compatibility Canon (APS-C)
Angle of View 79.5°
Tilt/Shift None
Minimum Focus Distance 7.87″ (20 cm)
Groups/Elements 11/13
Diaphragm Blades 8
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus No
Tripod Collar No
Environmental
Operating/Storage Temperature Not Specified By Manufacturer
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 77 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.39 x 3.52″ (86 x 89.4 mm)
Weight 1.28 lb (583 g)

Ergonomics

This section was taken from our First Impressions post

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (17 of 17)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 5.6

Samyang’s 16mm f2 lens has a big front element, and you’ll want to keep that in mind when you attach the petal style lens hood that is included. This is very typical of wide angle lenses though, but you’ll still want to keep it in mind when you’re walking about or just generally using the lens.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (14 of 17)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 5.6

Like all Samyang/Rokinon lenses, it is characterized by a giant manual focusing ring that is smooth feeling when focusing. The exterior of the lens is comprised of plastic which can sometimes be off putting to the feel of the lens otherwise. Additionally, this lens has a textured exterior that gives the user a better grip.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (15 of 17)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 5.6

The other critical parts of the lens are the depth of field scale and the aperture ring. Samyang and Rokinon lenses are the only major manufacturer that includes this with their lenses. As the lens is stopped down, your viewfinder will become darker–which can sometimes make focusing with this lens difficult.

Build Quality

Samyang’s 16mm f2 is fairly solidly built. When you grip it, you feel a substantial lens and part of this has to do with the giant manual focusing ring equivalent to the most beefy cut of steak that you’ve probably ever had. To protect the lens’s front element, Samyang includes a lens hood with it.

When focusing, some Rokinon and Samyang lenses have felt a little bit like the ball bearings inside were grinding against each other a bit. But we had no issues with this unit.

Ease of Use

Samyang and Rokinon’s lenses aren’t for the inexperienced and instead require a user to be extremely careful when using them. The reason for this is because of their manual focusing characteristics and the fact that you then need to pay very careful attention to where you are focusing in the viewfinder or on your LCD screen if you are in Live View mode.

During my testing phase, we let a couple of other journalists from other publications play with it. The ones that knew how to manually focus very well nailed using this lens easily. Those that didn’t, well, had a bit of a learning curve.

If you’re in low light and need to stop the lens down, your viewfinder will become darker due to the stopped down metering. We strongly recommend using the LCD screen at that point.

Focusing

As we’ve stated before in this post, the Samyang 16mm f2 is a manual focus lens. The Canon version doesn’t have AF confirmation but Nikon’s versions do. If you need extra assistance besides what you see in the viewfinder, you can switch to live view and focus that way or stop down and use the depth of field scale. However, we wish that there were more focusing markers on this scale. It would have made zone focusing (ie hyperfocal length shooting) much easier.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 review images (4 of 9)ISO 1001-80 sec

While Samyang and Rokinon lenses may sometimes be called very cheap quality, something that you absolutely cannot deny (and we’re not sure anyone does) is the fact that the image quality is amongst the highest out there. Every lens that we’ve tested has had awesome image quality throughout the entire frame and some of the lenses that we’ve seen even seem to have a bit of micro contrast to them. But the 16mm f2 doesn’t. However, we really can’t make a complaint about the quality of the files that it gave us.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 review images (6 of 9)ISO 1001-100 sec

 

Getting bokeh on a lens this wide should be nearly impossible, right? Well, it wasn’t that tough when you’re focusing closely. The overall quality of the bokeh is somewhere in between creamy and hazy–but for a lens this wide we think that the bokeh is quite excellent. Folks who go after this lens will most likely be over the stage of their photography that is all about just getting nice bokeh. Instead, they’ll focus on actually creating better images and using bokeh as a creative method of story telling will yield you attractive images.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (5 of 17)ISO 1001-50 sec

 

We’re really not sure if there is anything for APS-C sensor DSLRs that can beat the sharpness of this lens. The detail that this lens is capable of resolving is astounding–but Rokinon and Samyang have special things about their elements that make the images look like they have film grain on them. However, you have to really look for it. Otherwise, the 16mm f2 gives quite a bit of pop to your images because of just how sharp it is.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 review images (8 of 9)ISO 25001-160 sec

 

Out of camera color rendition is extremely true to life with this lens. While other Rokinon/Samyang lenses have maxed up the saturation, this lens instead will give you exactly what you see. If you’re a concert photographer using this lens (and it is totally possible to shoot a concert while manually focusing) then you’ll want to keep this in mind if you want to do a lot of color manipulation afterwards.

If you’re the type that prefers true to life colors, then spring for this lens. On a personal note, I prefer the color rendition of Rokinon/Samyang’s other lenses more. They have almost a Zeiss-like quality to them and we’re not sure why the company wouldn’t have put that into this lens.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 review images (7 of 9)ISO 20001-60 sec

 

Any color fringing that might be in a photo wasn’t super visible to us. Modern lenses seem to have nearly eliminated this problem and unless you crank your contrast up in post-production you probably won’t see any at all.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 review images (3 of 9)ISO 2001-60 sec

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 review images (2 of 9)ISO 64001-40 sec

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 review images (1 of 9)ISO 32001-80 sec

The view on a full frame camera with this lens

The view on a full frame camera with this lens

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (9 of 17)ISO 1001-320 sec

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (10 of 17)ISO 1001-250 sec

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (8 of 17)ISO 1001-640 sec

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (6 of 17)ISO 1001-1600 sec

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (4 of 17)ISO 4001-4000 sec Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samyang 16mm f2 first impressions (2 of 17)ISO 4001-320 sec

Conclusions

Samyang’s 16mm f2 is the lens that someone looking for a great wide angle prime for an APS-C sized sensor needs to spring for. There isn’t really anything terrible that one can state about this lens, but we have to admit that it isn’t for everyone. Most folks that own APS-C DSLRs don’t like to deal with manual focus work. However, if they own a higher end camera like a Canon 7D, Sony A77 or a Nikon D7100 then they might be a bit more flexible. This is the lens for those folks–the ones that have worked their way up, honed their photography skills, and want to work with a tool that will truly help them carefully compose and create better images. The reason for this is because of the fact that you slow down a lot when working with this lens and it makes you pay attention to more critical details.

With that said though, we’re not sure why the company didn’t use the color rendition from its other lenses. Additionally, we really wish that the focusing scale had more markings for better accuracy.

In the end though, you’re really not getting such a bad deal.

Recommended Cameras

Nikon D7100: Nikon’s D7100 is perhaps the best APS-C DSLR that we’ve tested in a while. The Samyang 16mm f2 is very sharp and when attached to the D7100 it will be even sharper due to the lack of a low pass filter on the D7100.

Seriously, get it if you’re a time lapse shooter.

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