It really does feel strange recommending a prime lens such as the Rokinon SP 35mm f/1.2 over other third-party versions or even same-make offerings. Traditionally, I’ve always thought of Rokinon stuff as budget-friendly alternatives, but those days have long since gone.
This is basically the same scenario as what happened with Sigma and Tamron lenses years ago. Third-party alternatives that are now considered equal or even better than same-make versions in some circumstances.
Rokinon may be producing great glass these days, but in the 35mm arena, they have lots of competition, from both high-end optics and the more affordable range. This means that it’s not just a case of the Rokinon SP 35mm f/1.2 being a nice upgrade to previous models, but it also has to equal or even better the competition.
This manual only focusing lens has taken some design hints from the hallowed optics of ZEISS, with a plain and simple barrel and focusing ring design. This is no bad thing, as it makes the lens look rather elegant and high-class (I know it’s vanity, but don’t underestimate how good a lens can look strapped to a camera).
The lens barrel itself is made from aluminum and although it doesn’t seem to be officially weather-proofed, it feels sturdy enough for regular use. This is a very substantial feeling lens, weighing in at 1106g.
Although this lens is fully manual, on Sony cameras it is helped out by focus peaking. While on Canon versions, a built-in auto focus confirmation chip is at hand, along with an electronically controlled aperture and the ability to transfer EXIF data.
As for the optical characteristics, the lens is wrapped around an arrangement of 12 elements in 10 groups, with two aspherical, three high refractive index and an extra-low dispersion element. An Ultra Multi coating has also been applied to all elements to reduce the likes of ghosting and flaring, along with improving clarity, contrast and color. Also, the front filter size comes in at the nice huge size of 86mm.
The lens has a reasonable minimum focusing distance of 34cm and a maximum magnification of 0.17x. Plus a viewing angle of 64.5 degrees to round off technical proceedings.
The Rokinon SP 35mm f/1.2 in Use
With a high-quality prime lens such as the Rokinon SP 35mm f/1.2, the first things that are begging to be tested out are the sharpness levels and bokeh. An f/1.2 aperture is wonderful in low light conditions, but it’s also very much needed for very shallow depth of field portrait shots.
When discussing the sharpness levels of the Rokinon, it is only just a touch behind the 50mm version of this lens. The center of the frame has a very good level of sharpness at f/1.2, producing the best results at f/2.2 across the whole frame.
In reality, even if you shot all day long at f/1.2 you would be more than satisfied with the sharp images this lens can produce. For scenarios such as landscapes shooting at f/8 and above, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much detail this lens can throw out.
Bokeh or background blur is equally wonderful, with a smooth degree of colors and no signs of jerky transitions. Highlight balls can show evidence of onion rings at f/1.2, but these are usually on very high contrast areas.
As this is a manual focus only lens, it’s not a great solution for fast-moving subjects, but with a bit of practice, the inbuilt autofocus confirmation helps to nail the focus. Manual focus won’t be so much of a problem for those who shoot predominantly landscapes or very still subjects, but for fast action, it’s not always a prime candidate, pardon the pun.
Colors and contrast are well-rendered, with a nice neutral, as-you-see-it look. Ok, it’s not to the ultimate sumptuous quality of a ZEISS lens, but it’s still up there in the high-end bracket considering its price point.
As for general lens anomalies, the lens does display some vignetting at f/1.2, but quickly goes away by f/2.8 as with any evidence of chromatic aberration. Luckily, these aspects can be corrected in post processing very easily.
There is a small amount of barrel distortion with the aperture wide open. This means that the lens may not be the best solution for mission-critical architectural work, but will more than suffice in every other area.
How Does It Compare?
When we talking about third-party 35mm prime lenses, a good solution is the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. In this matchup, the Rokinon really has to flex its muscles as the Sigma has won over many fans for its high-quality optics.
The Sigma may not go as wide as the Rokinon, but it does have autofocus, plus it can also produce ridiculously sharp images at f/1.4.
As is the case with most prime lenses, it’s really down to its end application for which one you choose. If you need the extra low-light capabilities and don’t mind a manual focus lens, the Rokinon is a good option. But the Sigma is definitely a hot contender in every other respect in the 35mm lens camp.
|Rokinon SP 35mm f/1.2||Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art|
|Optics||12 Elements / 10 Groups||13 Elements / 11 Groups|
To some, forking out the same amount of money on a Rokinon lens as other well respected third-party offerings may seem like a leap of faith. But it only takes a short amount of time for the word to get around for how useful this lens is in reality.
The low-light capabilities of an f/1.2 aperture make the Rokinon highly useful in many different shooting scenarios. It also has very little to complain about in terms of optical qualities. Basically, for this price point, the Rokinon is a great solution for portraits, landscapes, and general photography, if you don’t mind it substantial weight.