The Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5 or Rokinon was released earlier this year and boasted to be the world’s widest rectilinear prime lens for full-frame which is distortion free. The Photography Show 2019 gave everyone a chance to try out this new lens and to see if the reality lived up to the hype.
Samyang has been traditionally known for budget optics, but like many of the third-party makers, they now see the worth in hitting the top end of the market. This premise is reflected in the Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5 and from the off, it’s clearly a very well made lens with a matte finish, which expands into an integrated petal lens hood. The hood is definitely needed to protect that bulbous front element. A simple, plain exterior look seems to be the fashion of top end lenses these days and the Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5 is no exception. Apart from the distance scale, this lens has a very clean design, echoing its simple functionality.
Being manual focus only, the focus ring is mechanical, but is very smooth and has a long range of travel to more accurately hit focus. Apertures are also set on the lens itself which means a camera needs to be in aperture-priority or manual mode. This may seem an initial disadvantage in a world of autofocus, but this lens is more optimized for landscapes, architecture and street photography where you’re most likely to use manual mode and focus anyway. The lens also may look fisheye-like at the front end, but its nature is rectilinear, so lines should still look straight in images while still getting that ultrawide view.
Internally, the lens is made up of 18 elements in 11 groups, which includes three aspherical lens elements, three extra-low dispersion elements and one high-refractive element with an aperture range of f/3.5 – f/22 and seven diaphragm blades. The angle of view on a full frame sensor is 130 degrees and on an ASP-C 104 degrees, which is as wide as you can get without going totally fisheye. Everything here weighing in at an average balance of 731 grams. Samyang also says the optics are good enough on a 50+ megapixel camera and even for 8K video. With this quality of glass, it’s a clear sign that Samyang is hitting the top end of the market without compromise.
It’s still early days to do a complete and thorough test on this lens, but we had long enough with the thing to get a good idea of what this lens can and can’t do. Being very wide-angle and rectilinear, the image fills the full frame, unlike a fisheye which can end up like a big circle. Lines are straight throughout the frame even right out to the edges. This would be very useful for architecture to give a towering appearance to everything and also good for ultrawide landscapes. maybe not so good for portraits unless the subject stood right in the middle of the frame or you wanted them to look like they are in a space warp with an overemphasized appearance. Basically, perspective distortion can come into play as what is inherent in ultrawide lenses.
Stopping down definitely improves image quality. Images aren’t the sharpest when the lens is fully wide open, but this is almost to be expected when the aperture starts at f/3.5 and the lens is this wide. At f/8, images come out super sharp and have a good rendition of color and contrast. One advantage of a lens this wide is the minimum focusing distance is only 0.26m (0.85ft), so you can get really close up to a subject. Plenty of creativity here for some mad perspectives of the very near and far.
As per typical of a wide-angle lens, it can suffer from flare and ghosting. The lens hood counteracts this a little, but it’s best to try and stay away from direct sunlight.
The lens at this stage looks like a very good option if you want an ultrawide angle lens and you live in the Canon world, as only the Canon EF mount is currently available. A Nikon F mount version should be available soon.
How Does the Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5 Compare?
The Canon EF 11-24mm f4L USM costs over twice the amount but has the added benefit of being a zoom and with autofocus.
The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D ultra-wide angle lens is cheaper but is not as wide. Two millimeters does make a difference in this range, so the choice depends if the extra reach of the Samyang is worth the extra money to you.
|Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5||Canon EF 11-24mm f4L|
|Elements||18 Elements in 11 Groups||16 Elements in 11 Groups|
|Angle of view||130 degrees||126 degrees max|
The Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5, when used in the right context and when stopped down, can produce fantastically sharp images. It’s not going to be the cheapest wide-angle lens out there, but that’s not the point here, as the lens line is now ‘premium’ rather than budget, third party. It’s advisable to try one of these lenses out first in light and dark situations and with a variety of subjects as this will give you an idea of how much fun a wide-angle lens can be.