Samyang 12mm f/2.8 AS NCS Fish-eye lens
Despite a few handling issues, Samyang’s 12mm f/2.8 AS NCS fish-eye lens appears to be a good performer for its type.
It should also come with an affordable price tag when local retailers stock it (we couldn’t find it listed on local re-sellers’ websites when this review was posted).
If you want extra wide angle coverage and own a ‘full frame’ Canon camera, it will provide wider-than average coverage plus some interesting distortion effects.
Introduced in September at Photokina, Samyang’s 12mm f/2.8 AS NCS Fish-eye is a manual focus fisheye lens designed for digital reflex cameras with ‘full frame’ sensors and the company’s widest 35mm format lens. It covers a diagonal angle of view of 180 degrees and is available with Canon EF, Nikon F and Sony E mounts.
Side view of the Samyang 12mm f/2.8 AS NCS Fish-eye lens without its lens hood. (Source: Samyang.)
The optical design of this lens is similar to the 8mm f/3.5 lens, with 12 lens elements arranged in 8 groups, with three elements made of low dispersion ED glass and two aspherical lens elements included. This lens is the third Samyang lens with nanocrystal anti-reflection NCS coatings as well as the standard UMC coatings for suppressing ghosting and flare.
We received the Canon EF lens mount for this review. Unlike the 8mm f/3.5 UMC Fish-eye CS II we reviewed recently, the supplied lens was a manufacturer’s ‘sample’ so we have not carried out our usual Imatest testing. All shots in the Samples section were taken with the lens on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II body.
Who’s it for?
Like the 8mm f/3.5 lens, the main reason to buy this lens is for its extreme barrel distortion, which creates the ‘fish-eye’ effect. It should prove popular with photographers who want to experiment with distorted perspective when shooting landscapes, cityscapes, architectural interiors and group portraits.
The f/2.8 maximum aperture provides a modicum of shallow depth of field control, although not very much. Except for the inevitable corner softening, at smaller apertures just about everything in shots will appear relatively sharp and in focus as long as the centre focus is correct.
Build and Ergonomics
Overall build quality is similar to other Samyang lenses we have tested and very good for the asking price for this lens. The main barrel is made from metal and there’s a solid metal mounting plate.
Rear view of the Samyang 12mm f/2.8 AS NCS Fish-eye lens, showing the metal mounting plate. (Source: Samyang.)
As on the 8mm fish-eye lens, the aperture ring is made from black polycarbonate and located close to the camera body. It has click-stops in at 1/3EV increments, except between the f/2.8 and f/4 settings. The smallest aperture setting is f/22.
The focusing ring is 28 mm wide and positioned just behind the lens hood mounting. Its front section carries a 20 mm wide double band of ridged rubber that provides a comfortable and secure grip.
Stamped on the trailing edge of the ring are distance marks ranging from 0.2 metres to infinity, with equivalent distances in feet marked in orange just in front of them. The focusing ring turns smoothly and is well damped, making manual focusing relatively easy as long as ambient lighting is adequate. The physical length of the lens remains constant at all distance and aperture settings.
Like all fish-eye lenses, the front element of the lens bulges outwards. It is also relatively large in diameter, which accounts for the fast maximum aperture.
Samyang provides a shallow, removable lens hood with this lens, which attaches via a bayonet mounting. The cup-shaped plastic lens cap fits over the front element and is held in place with pinch clips. It can only be fitted when the lens hood is in place and, unlike regular lens caps, is too big to fit easily into a pants pocket when it’s not in use.
Angled view of the Samyang 12mm f/2.8 AS NCS Fish-eye lens, showing the shallow lens hood. (Source: Samyang.)
We didn’t obtain such a high degree of sharpness as we got from the previous Samyang lenses we tested, although it’s difficult to determine whether it was because the lens was a pre-production sample or if its performance was intrinsically below par. However, as a result we are not posting ratings for this lens (a normal practice with pre-production products).
Like the 8mm f/3.5 UMC Fish-eye CS II, the 12mm f/2.8 AS NCS fish-eye lens suffered from edge and corner softening, even with relatively small lens apertures. Coloured fringing was also common in the corners of shots taken in bright and contrasty lighting.
In low light levels, it was difficult to estimate focusing distances without a torch to light up the number on the focusing ring. Estimating focus and exposure levels was relatively easy in normal daylight but diffraction was visible when the smallest lens apertures were used.
It was also impossible to produce images that reliably demonstrated vignetting for the reasons outlined above. Rectilinear distortion was pretty much as we expected from a fish-eye lens.
Like most wide-angle lenses, fish-eyes have no need for stabilisation, a factor we proved with hand-held shots using shutter speeds as slow as 1/4 second. For longer exposures, however, a tripod is advisable, and it lets you take advantage of lower ISO settings.
The wide angle of view and focusing limit of 20 cm make this lens unsuitable for close-up shooting ““ unless you want to show subjects in their environmental context. The review lens was less flare prone than we expected and, at mid-range aperture settings, contrast and colour were competently captured.
Despite a few handling issues, Samyang’s 12mm f/2.8 AS NCS fish-eye lens appears to be a good performer for its type. It should also come with an affordable price tag when local retailers stock it (we couldn’t find it listed on local re-sellers’ websites when this review was posted). If you want extra wide angle coverage and own a ‘full frame’ Canon camera, it will provide wider-than average coverage plus some interesting distortion effects.
Picture angle: 180 degrees diagonal
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 12 elements in 8 groups (including 3 ED and 2 aspherical lens elements)
Lens mounts: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Focus drive: Manual focusing only
Minimum focus: 20 cm
Filter size: n.a.
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 70.2 x 77.3 mm
Weight: 530 grams
Standard Accessories: Removable petal-shaped lens hood, front and end caps, soft carrying pouch
ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/8.
Crop from the centre of the above frame showing image sharpness.
Crop from the corner of the above frame showing edge softening and coloured fringing.
The same subject photographed at night with the camera tripod-mounted; ISO 25600, 1/2 second at f/5.
Close-up shot; ISO 200, 1/40 second at f/5.6.
Crop from the centre of the above frame.
Interior shot showing typical barrel distortion; ISO 400, 1/25 second at f/11.
Crop from near the centre of the above frame.
Distortion created by tilting the camera upwards; ISO 400, 1/25 second at f/5.6.
ISO 200, 1/50 second at f/8.
Crop from the above image demonstrating out-of-camera image sharpness and colour reproduction.
Another shot that demonstrates how difficult close-up is; 1/100 second at f/4.5; ISO 200.
Another tripod-mounted night shot; ISO 3200, 1.6 seconds at f/8.
A shutter speed of 1/4 second was used for this hand-held night shot; ISO 25600, f/8.