Once you’ve made the decision to purchase a fisheye lens, then there is the option of which type. The extreme wide-angle view and distorted characteristics are a given, but fisheye lenses also have different projections. In the case of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC, this is a stereographic viewpoint which essentially compresses the vertical axis.
The Rokinon can provide the same 180-degree viewpoint, or 118 degrees on a crop sensor camera, as other fisheye lenses, but the stereographic view makes it almost unique. Add in the reasonable price point and at least on the surface, there’s a lot of glass here for the money.
Therefore, let’s delve deeper into the specific attributes of this lens and see how it measures up in the real world.
From the off, the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC feels like a serious lens, weighing in at 515g with its all-metal lens barrel. The lens is useful on both full-frame and crop sensor bodies, providing a focal length of 19.2mm for the latter. Essentially, this means that the Rokinon works far better on full-frame camera bodies.
Being a manual focus only lens means there is a generously sized manual focus ring, along with an aperture ring that clicks with every half stop. Although this is a strictly manual lens, Nikon versions feature an AE chip that can be used in Auto/P/A/S modes. For manual only workings, at least the aperture has an infinity hard stop for sharp distant shots.
For the optic setup, the lens includes three low dispersion ED glass and two aspherical lens elements, along with Nano crystal and UMC coatings. As with most fisheye lenses, you can’t exactly fit a regular front filter, but at least the lens comes with its own lens caps and an easy to fit petal-shaped lens hood.
As far as general build quality goes, the lens feels rock-solid and although there aren’t any official weatherproofing stats, the Rokinon feels sturdy enough to take the odd drop of rain.
The Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC in Use
Given that fisheye lenses need a large amount of optical correction to achieve respectable levels of image quality, the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC packs in a lot of features for the price. The overall resolution of the Rokinon may not have the same levels on paper as top-end lenses, but it’s not far behind in reality.
With the aperture wide open at f/2.8, center sharpness is very good, but there is also evidence of softening in the corners. Stopping down to f/4 brings in far more sharpness across the frame, with f/8 providing the sharpest results overall. In fact f/8 is the sweet spot across the board on the Rokinon for overall sharpness with the least amount of lens anomalies.
Dropping images from the Rokinon into the likes of Photoshop to produce a rectilinear viewpoint, clearly shows the sharpness in the central areas of the frame. This means that if you need a more traditional wide-angle image, the lens can be sharp where it counts.
Chromatic aberration is a common sight with fisheye lenses and the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 follows suit in this department. At f/2.8, blue and purple fringing can be clearly seen on high contrast areas, but at least this is minimized by stopping down to f/8. This means that although the lens isn’t the best option for the most detailed of images, it’s still worthy of its price point.
Ghosting and flaring are well maintained, with a complete stopping down of the aperture providing respectable sun stars, when light is directly in frame. Flaring is an inevitability with a fisheye lens, which is evident here, but at least it doesn’t look blotchy or overwhelming to the point of spoiling an image.
How Does It Compare?
While it’s possible to spend a good deal more than the Rokinon on a fisheye lens, one example in the same price bracket is the Zenit MC-Zenitar 8mm f/3.5. This lens also provides a 180 angle-of-view, is manual focusing only, and has an impressive close focusing distance of 5.9 inches.
The Zenitar renders its images as a circular fisheye viewpoint, which is also a deciding factor with these types of lenses. Optical qualities are on par with the Rokinon, with the more traditional fisheye view.
One main consideration is that the Zenitar has a 12.8mm equivalent focal length on APS-C camera bodies. This means that it’s got a far wider viewpoint than the Rokinon, making it a better option for crop sensor cameras.
|Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC||Zenit MC-Zenitar 8mm f/3.5|
|Optics||12 elements / 8 groups||8 elements / 6 groups|
The Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC is an interesting proposition as a fisheye lens, not just because of its stereographic projection, but also for its reasonable price point.
The f/2.8 aperture is an aspect you would have to pay premium prices for on a fisheye lens elsewhere, such as the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM. The Rokinon may not operate at its best at this wide aperture, but at least it’s there for general use. If you don’t mind stopping down to at least f/5.6 and generally f/8, then sharpness levels and overall lens artifacts are very good for the price.
Build quality is also respectable with the all-metal construction and if you factor in the good quality optics, the Rokinon is a good solution as your first fisheye lens or as a low-cost alternative for a semipro. There’s also the factor of the unique geometry, which can give a slightly different perspective than other types of fisheye lenses.
In total, the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 has respectable optics for the price and when used on a full-frame camera body, has plenty of resolving resolution. It may not be as cutting edge as more expensive options, but considering its price point, this lens delivers good quality fisheye images for the money.