Explore Your City: Samyang 18mm F2.8 Lens Review

With the Samyang 18mm f2.8, photographers can get unique image quality at an affordable price.

My intro to our review of the Samyang 18mm f2.8 is the last section I’m writing. It’s possibly because I don’t really know how to start it. Why? Well, the Samyang 18mm f2.8 is sort of a one trick pony. It delivers solid image quality on the Sony a7r III. The colors and the contrast are lovely. Couple that with the amazingly low price point and you’ve got everything the Samyang 18mm f2.8 embodies. Yet, if you want the best autofocus performance out of it, you need to buy the Samyang dock. Further, it lacks weather sealing, and that limits you from shooting in the rain (which is honestly one of the best things you could do). So for what it is, the Samyang 18mm f2.8 is pretty decent, but I wouldn’t spring for it.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Nice contrast
  • Nice colors
  • Pretty sharp
  • It’s $329

Cons

  • A few initial issues with this lens and the Sony a7r III that were fixed by basically pulling the battery
  • I wish it were built a bit better
  • It’s got the Zeiss 18mm f2.8 Batis profile in Capture One

Gear Used

We tested the Samyang 18mm f2.8 with the Sony a7r III.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the official product page

Model NameAF 18mm F2.8 FE
Aperture RangeF2.8 ~ 22
Lens opticalConstruction9 Elements in 8 Groups
Special lensASP 3, HR 2, ED 3
CoatingUMC
Minimum Focusing Distance0.25m (0.82ft)
Magnification Ratiox 0.09
Diaphragm Blades7
Filter Size58.0mm
Maximum Diameter63.5mm
MountSony FE
Angle of viewFull Frame100.1˚
APS-C76.2˚
Length60.5mm
Weight145g
AF MotorLinear STM

Ergonomics

The Samyang 18mm f2.8 is a pretty small lens. It’s smaller than your standard Chapstick. And you’ll be happy to know that it’s got only a 58mm filter thread on the front. That, of course, hearkens back to the fact that it’s part of what Samyang calls the Tiny series.

On the outside, there aren’t any buttons or controls other than the focus ring. That’s it.

Build Quality

The Samyang 18mm f2.8 isn’t weather sealed at all, so don’t take it out into the rain. At the price point, I guess we can’t ask for all that much, though I believe every lens should be weather sealed at this point. Tamron has a 20mm f2.8 lens that’s weather sealed for not that much more money. Further speaking to the build quality, the body is very plastic feeling. In real life tests, it survived everything we threw at it with normal use. That means basically being in a camera bag and getting tossed about with normal commutes. But I’d still treat this lens pretty gingerly.

Ease of Use

What’s nice about the Samyang 18mm f2.8 is that it’s super simple to use. Attach it to the camera, turn the camera on, point, focus, and shoot. That’s all you need to do. It’s pretty awesome. This is like many other lenses for the Sony FE system. If you want to use it for something like street shooting, I wouldn’t recommend autofocusing. Try to zone focus using the parameters you get using the back LCD screen. And if you’re shooting architecture and stuff, you’ll have lots of fun.

Autofocus

Focusing with the Samyang 18mm f2.8 on the Sony a7r III is pretty fast. But then again, this is a wide angle lens with an f2.8 aperture: that’s not hard to do. What is very impressive is that it maintained accuracy, though I don’t think I was able to use the full potential of Sony’s autofocus. However, Samyang has a dock that can be used to update the firmware and fine tune the autofocus on the lens. It’s best adjusted that way.

Image Quality

I’ve heard mixed things about the Samyang 18mm f2.8, but in my experience I found it to work just fine. With higher megapixel bodies, I can’t be too sure how it will perform. But I can tell you that from my experience, it was overall very good. Have I seen better? Sure. Would I complain for the price point? No way. If anything, I’d just spring for a higher-end lens.

Bokeh

There isn’t really any sort of major bokeh with this lens. I’d recommend that you don’t even bother. It focuses to under a foot, but at f2.8 and 18mm I wouldn’t expect much of anything. It’s not going to be creamy.

Chromatic Aberration

Thankfully, we didn’t find any problems with CA in our tests. As stated, when you import the images into Capture One, it does the same thing as Zeiss and Vilitrox lenses. It recognizes this lens as a Zeiss 18mm f2.8 Batis lens.

Color Rendition

Now here’s where I’m most in love with this lens. The colors! Samyang colors have always been saturated and contrasty. They look and feel very unique and this is no exception at all.

Sharpness

Samyang’s sharpness has always been very good. While they may not win DXO awards, I’ve never had a reason to complain about what it can resolve. Granted, we didn’t test this lens with the Sony a7r 4, so that could vary.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Light weight
  • Colors
  • Contrast

Dislikes

  • Build Quality
  • I wish Samyang were a licensed Sony partner so I wouldn’t need the dock to take full advantage of the autofocus

The Samyang 18mm f2.8 isn’t at all a bad lens–let’s get that out of the way first. It’s got unique colors and contrast, which are the strongest things it has going for it. It can also perform very well. Personally speaking, I really prefer weather sealed lenses. That’s just me though. If you don’t care, own an older camera body, and just want something fun, then spring for the Samyang 18mm f2.8. It’s really affordable.

The Samyang 18mm f2.8 receives three out of five stars. Want one? Check Amazon.