Samyang 14mm T3.1: Cine Wide Paradiso

 
The Samyang 14mm T3.1 is less than one third of any similar lens from the proprietary manufacturers.

The Samyang 14mm T3.1 is less than one third of any similar lens from the proprietary manufacturers.

The Samyang 14mm T3.1 Cine is not only the least expensive ultrawide lens, but also an interesting option for cropped-sensor users. Raj Lalwani finds out.

Samyang’s Cine lenses are primarily targetted at cinematographers but if you are a stills user who indulges in some video, these lenses may catch your curiosity. Let us understand the name first. T3.1? Surely that’s f/3.1, right? Wrong. Cinematography lenses usually have their aperture rated in the form of t-stops instead of f-stops, where t-stop denotes the absolute amount of light passing through the diaphragm. Effectively, still shooters can keep in mind that this T3.1 lens is similar to an f/2.8 optic.

Features
Ultrawides are not easy to handle, remember that. It’s very easy to get enamoured by all the dramatic perspective that 14mm offers, and one often ends up shooting distorted drama for drama’s sake. This is actually a very interesting lens on cropped-sensor bodies, especially because both Canon and Nikon do not have a fast 20mm or 21mm equivalent lens for APS-C.

The Nikon version of the lens that we tested, has electronic contacts. These allow you to confirm focus in the viewfinder and also allow you automatic metering, when used with the D700. The Canon-mount option, though, is all manual.

Handling
With a construction that is largely plastic, the Samyang 14mm is relatively lightweight, a rarity in f/2.8 glass of such exotic focal lengths. That said, the quality of plastic used seems very good and the build quality is quite assuring.

Besides an inbuilt petal hood, the lens also has an aperture ring. With a clearly marked distance scale, it becomes easy to prefocus at a certain distance. There are no DOF markings and no hard stop for infinity, but with a focal length so wide, one can rarely go wrong with MF. There is no ability to use filters, which is a big negative, especially for landscape shooters and even videographers.

The gears around the focusing ring are what differentiates this Cine version from its still-photography counterpart. The lens features industry-standard gearing for the focus and the aperture ring. This makes the 14mm a breeze to use with a cinematographer’s rig, be it for high-scale productions or personal indies.

See the two ridged rings? Those are the grooves around the focusing ring and the aperture ring, both of which can be connected to cinema rigs for smoother video operation.

See the two ridged rings? Those are the grooves around the focusing ring and the aperture ring, both of which can be connected to cinema rigs for smoother video operation.

You know that the ergonomics are nuanced when you realise that the aperture ring is declicked. This basically means that a change of aperture does not result in any perceptible clicking sound or action. Dedicated stills shooters may not appreciate this. But I didn’t face a problem with this as I was mostly shooting at f/2.8 all throughout.Depth control is barely possible as almost everything is sharp at the widest aperture.

Performance
The Samyang 14mm may be a cinema-specific lens, but that does not compromise on its photographic quality. In fact, it compares rather positively to some of the best ultrawide lenses in the market. When it comes to optics, the Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.8 is the undoubted king in this field. The Samyang, on the D700, actually comes close, especially when it comes to centre sharpness. The corners are nowhere near as good as the Nikkor lens, but stop down by two stops and you will see this inexpensive lens improve. The story is still pretty good on cameras like the D610 and D800— both of which have high-resolution sensors that are far more demanding than the D700’s.

It’s easy to confirm focus on a camera like the D700, and sharpness wide open is excellent. Exposure: 1/250sec at f/2.8 (ISO 6400) Photograph/Raj Lalwani

It’s easy to confirm focus on a camera like the D700, and sharpness wide open is excellent. Exposure: 1/250sec at f/2.8 (ISO 6400) Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Contrast and colour rendition is the lens’ greatest strength, even while shooting against the light. This not only produces crisp images with minimal haze, it shows the lens’ true potential while shooting video.

However, there is some noticeable purple fringing. Distortion is the other big flaw, it is of a complex variety and can’t be removed easily via postprocessing. It’s best to avoid this lens for architecture.

Conclusion
At Rs. 41,520, the Samyang 14mm is excellent value for money, especially considering that the Nikkor and Canon counterparts cost well over a lakh. The manual focus constraints will only make you appreciate the lens more! Canon users lose the electronic communication between camera and lens, but at this price, it’s a compromise you will not mind making.

Final Ratings
Features
Built-in hood, can’t use filters, T3.1 capabilities, MF with confirmation (Nikon version)
15/20

Performance
Acceptably sharp images, AF not as good as proprietary lenses, good control over flare
32/35

Build Quality
Sturdy, easy handling despite the zoom
22/25

Ergonomics
Excellent focus ring, easy to use with cinema rigs, balances well on full frame bodies
14/15

Warranty & Support
One-year warranty, limited service centres
3/5

OVERALL: 86%
Value For Money: 4/5
MRP: Rs. 41,520

Who should buy it?
Landscape photographers and videographers who shoot in cramped spaces.

Why?
The only genre you’d want to avoid is architecture due to complex distortion, but the sharpness and value is excellent.

Tags: Test, better photography, Lens review, samyang, 14mm t3.1, cine lens, ultrawide