Review: Rokinon 20mm f1.8 (Sony E Mount, FE)

Rokinon has for a while been the maker of affordable lenses capable of delivering very high quality photos–and the new Rokinon 20mm f1.8 continues to hold the company to that very tradition. Like many of the company’s other optics, you can expect some incredibly sharpness from this lens. For many years though, Rokinon lenses have had a special character to them that I feel is lacking here. The image quality that it is capable of outputting feels like something very standard and clinical–and in some ways that’s how I feel it differentiates itself from the likes of both Sigma and Zeiss.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A budget friendly lens with excellent performance
  • Smooth focusing
  • Feels nice

Cons

  • Big on the Sony E mount lineup of cameras
  • Though this won’t be a con to lots of people, it’s a very standard lens that is very clinical in its image creation. Personally, I need some character that helps me to create photos that don’t look like everyone else’s.
  • Why no depth of field scale?

Gear Used

We tested the Rokinon 20mm f1.8 lens with the Sony a7.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from our original news post

• Focuses to 7.9in / 0.20m
• Rokinon Ultra Multi-Coating
• Circular Aperture with 7 Blades
• Super Wide 94.8° Angle of View
• Non Rotating 77mm Filter Mount
• High Strength Aluminum Alloy Housing
• Quiet, Damped, and Smooth Focusing Control
Additional Cine DS Features
• Geared Focusing and Aperture Controls
• Dual Right and Left Side Distance and T-stop Scales
• Calibrated In T-Stops to Provide Accurate and Consistent Exposure
• De-Clicked Aperture Control for Smooth, Seamless and Silent Adjustment

Ergonomics

For a while now, the ergonomics on Rokinon lenses have always been a let down in comparison to many other brands. They’re built well, but they feel kind of cheapish. Not at all low quality–but instead sort of like their lenses were made in the 1990s. Their newer lineup promises metal and rubber where this has plastic and rubber.

Either way though, for the price point I’m not sure that I can totally be angry at the Rokinon 20mm f1.8. It’s characterized by a two massive controls: aperture and focusing.

The front element is pretty large and in practice works best with circular filters vs square/rectangular filters. You’ll see more of this in our review a bit later.

What you’ll be working with the most are these two rings: focusing and aperture. Since this is a manual focus optic, you’ve got no switches to worry about.

Build Quality

As I’ve stated before, Rokinon’s lenses haven’t always been up to what the other manufacturers output. They’re not badly built, but they feel a bit cheap. This comes with the texture and a whole lot more.

It’s also ginormous on a Sony E mount body.

This lens isn’t weather sealed and has no electronic contacts. So be just careful and use focus peaking.

Focusing

Focusing with this lens is done manually. If you’re using a DSLR, I suggest that you have either phenomenal eye sight or you use Live View. The same goes for mirrorless camera users: focus peaking will come in a lot of handy here.

All of this ties into the ease of use section.

Ease of Use

If you’re using focus peaking, then this lens will be a breeze to use. Just point, patiently wait for your hand to go around the massive focus throw, get something in focus, and shoot. That’s fairly simple but Rokinon forgot to do one big thing here: add a depth of field scale. What wide angle does doesn’t have one especially when it’s a manual focus optic?

That part really makes no sense to me.

Image Quality

The Rokinon 20mm f1.8, despite all my gripes about the build quality and the ease of use, is capable of delivering some seriously good, albeit clinically sterile image quality. Like a few other wide angle lenses that I’ve seen though, this may be exactly what that crowd of photographers want.

Bokeh

Though I’m sure that this crowd of photographers doesn’t care much about bokeh, you should know that it’s there. Coupled with the very close focusing abilities of this lens, it’s also very creamy due to the wide f1.8 aperture.

I really, really like it.

Chromatic Aberration

Remember earlier on how I talked about the front being so wide that it’s tough to mount filters on it? Well, here you go. See how the sides are taken in?

Either way, there isn’t a whole lot of fringing that I’ve been able to find in my sample images.

On top of that, the distortion here really isn’t bad. This almost medium format level quality when you consider it.

Color Rendition

This is the least saturated Rokinon lens I’ve seen in a while with the exception of the company’s 85mm f1.4. Again though, this will be good for landscape photographers who do most of their work in the processing.

Sharpness

Lastly, what I’m absolutely floored by is how sharp this lens is even wide open. At f1.8 you’ll get plenty of sharpness but when you stop down to something like f5.6 you’ll be flabbergasted.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Affordable price point
  • Solid image quality for this audience

Dislikes

  • Build quality.

The Rokinon 20mm f1.8 lens is a good one. Though I’m not a major fan of its build quality or its ease of use, it more than makes up for this with its image quality for that specific audience. Personally though, I’d probably reach for Zeiss or Sigma.

The Rokinon 20mm f1.8 receives four out of five stars.