Samyang 12mm Fuji Real Life Lens Review

In March 2019 I purchased a Samyang 12mm prime lens for my Fuji system. Since then I’ve been using this Samyang lens for Landscape Photography, alongside the Fuji 10-24. In this review, I’ll be sharing what’s great about this lens as well as what you might not like. Unlike a lot of lens reviews, I’ll be reviewing the Samyang 12mm from the perspective of real-life photography, out in the Landscape. I have also shot all the images in this review using my Samyang 12mm lens on a Fuji X-series camera.

I should mention that whilst I’ve been using the Samyang 12mm with Fuji cameras, it’s also available in other lens mounts. These additional lens mounts include the Sony E, Micro 43, Samsung NX and Canon M systems. The Samyang 12mm lens markets as a Rokinon lens in some countries.

Samyang 12mm lens

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Samyang 12mm Lens Construction

I could start this lens review by telling you all about the nano coating system used in the Samyang 12mm lens to reduce reflection and improve contrast. Or I could tell you about the Glass aspherical(AS) and low dispersion(ED) lens elements used in the construction. But if I did that, this would just be like lots of other lens reviews.

Instead, I’m going to discuss the important things that you will notice and appreciate when using the Samyang 12mm.

front to back depth of field using the Samyang 12mm lens

Quality of Construction

The quality of the Samyang 12mm is like other Samyang lenses if you’ve owned any. This is an extremely well-built lens which is also quite heavy (245g) for its small size. It feels well-engineered and robust. The lens mount is metal and on my Fuji X-T3, it locks tightly into position.

Focus Ring

The focus ring is quite stiff compared to some prime lenses I’ve used, but this isn’t a problem. In fact, I would say that it’s reassuringly stiff. You won’t accidentally knock the focus out by catching the ring, which is a good thing on a manual focus lens. The focus ring is also a good size to use and exceptionally smooth. It feels almost like the focus ring has a damper on it which slows you down.

Unlike some “cheaper” prime lenses, the Samyang 12mm uses true focusing and isn’t “focus by wire”. This allows Samyang to include a focus scale on the ring which is something I find useful when photographing landscapes. Whilst I haven’t done any testing, the focus scale appears reasonably accurate.

Aperture Ring

To control the lens aperture, you will need to use the aperture ring. You can use this to set an aperture of between f2 and f22 by turning the ring left and right. The aperture ring does feel a little plasticky and is quite stiff compared to some lenses.

Despite this, it also feels very solid and each aperture setting clicks cleanly into position. But do remember that each click represents half an aperture and not a third of an aperture.

The scale on the aperture ring is clear and easy to read with white numbering on black.

Weather Sealing

The Samyang 12mm isn’t a weather-sealed lens so you will need to take care. By this I mean you shouldn’t take the lens out in heavy rain without covering it. This hasn’t prevented me using this lens in quite poor conditions but I’m also careful to protect it.

Using the Samyang 12mm

So far, I’ve only used my Samyang 12mm lens for Landscape Photography and it’s ideally suited. On the Fuji X-T3, the 12mm focal length is the equivalent of 18mm on a full-frame camera. This allows you to get in close to subjects and have foreground features loom large in the frame.

The lens also comes with a petal-shaped hood which I tend not to use because it gets in the way if I want to use a slot in filters. On the few occasions when I have used the hood, I’ve found that it fits well and isn’t at all visible in the frame.

The front of the lens has a 67mm diameter filter thread which allows you to attach screw-in filters or filter rings. I usually leave a B+W UV filter permanently attached to the lens and then use my Kase filters without causing any vignetting. It’s nice also that the front element of the Samyang 12mm doesn’t like some wide-angle lenses. This means you can use a standard filter holder and adapter on the lens.

The next shot is a good example of where being able to attach filters to the lens is essential. This is three frames captured with the Fuji X-T3 and the Samyang 12mm. I then merged the three images to a panorama in Lightroom.

Filters used with this panoramic shot combining two frames from captured witht he samyang 12mm lens

No Autofocus

Focussing on the Samyang 12mm is manual. If you’re used to autofocus lenses, it’s tempting to think this may be difficult, but it isn’t. In fact, you don’t even need to use manual focus camera features like the Focus Peaking.

My approach to shooting landscapes with the Samyang 12mm is to set the lens aperture to f/8 or f/11. I then adjust the lens to focus on infinity using the scale on the focus ring. This is then sufficient to achieve full depth of field from front to back with almost any subject. And because the focus ring and aperture aren’t loose, I can shoot away with confidence.

No Image Stabilisation

Something else that a lot of people have come to rely on these days is image stabilisation. The Samyang 12 mm lens doesn’t have any stabilisation but don’t let this put you off. Many other good prime lenses, including the Fuji primes, don’t have stabilisation.

Initially I thought I would miss stabilisation, but I haven’t. Most of the time I’ve been shooting with the camera on a tripod, so not having a stabilised lens hasn’t been an issue. At other times, the light has been good enough, or I’ve been able to increase the iso and reduce the aperture to create an acceptable shutter speed.

Optical Quality of the Samyang 12mm

There are many factors to consider when we talk about the optical quality of the Samyang 12mm lens. Probable the most important factors for photographers are:

  1. How the lens reproduces contrast and colour?
  2. Is it sharp?
  3. How well it handles distortion?
  4. Does the lens suffer from serious chromatic aberration?
  5. And are the corners of the image soft?

I’ll try to answer these questions below.

Contrast and Colour

The  advertising for the Samyang 12mm lens makes a feature of the nano coating system, saying that it reduces reflection and improves contrast. It’s tempting to dismiss this as marketing speak but it makes a noticeable difference. This image shot with the Samyang on a Fuji X-T3 shows the performance well.

Good contrast and colour rendered by the Samyang 12mm f2 lens

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From the images I’ve shot, the lens does produce excellent contrast and colours. I’ve also not had a problem with reflection, even shooting into the sun, although at times I’ve needed to remove my UV filter.

Even if this performance isn’t down to the nano coating system it’s still extremely impressive. Ultimately, I love the images produced by this lens. They have a distinct feeling of quality and depth to them.

Lens Sharpness

There isn’t much to say here other than the Samyang 12mm is a super sharp lens. Even wide open it performs exceptionally well although if you stop it down beyond f/11 it seems to soften a little. But even in the edges and corners it maintains sharpness well.

When I first looked at my images shot with this lens, I remember noticing just how much detailed it had resolved. The performance is clear, even in comparison to the excellent Fuji lenses.

Lens Distortion

The lens distortion of the Samyang 12mm is quite difficult for me to comment on because it’s often difficult to see in landscape subjects. It’s usually only evident when you are photographing architecture or subjects with straight edges. That said, I’ve looked hard and I’m not seeing much distortion other than a small amount in the corners. I will show an example of this later using the image below, shot with a Fuji X-T3.

Mellon Udrigle shortly after sunrise shot with the Samyang 12mm and Fuji X-T3

But something that I have noticed is that there isn’t a specific lens profile for the Samyang 12mm in my Capture One RAW converter. Instead I’m only seeing the “Manufacturer Profile” in Capture One’s Lens Module. But if I pick another lens profile and set the distortion adjustment to 0, I can’t see a difference to the “Manufacturer Profile” setting. This leads me to think that either there is little distortion, or there’s no correction applied. Either way, the distortion performance for landscape photography is good.

Chromatic Aberration

Overall, the Samyang 12mm lens appears to control chromatic aberration to an acceptable level. As you would expect with a lens this wide, there is a small amount of coloured fringe visible along high contrast edges. This appears mainly into the corners and along the edges of the frame. You can see an example below which shows a section of the previous images magnified to 200%.

Example of Chromatic Aberration with the Samyang 12mm

I have seen much worse fringing with premium lenses, so I don’t think this is a bad performance. Just be sure to use the features in your RAW converter to fix it. The Capture One CA removal appears to clean up my images from the Samyang very well.

Corner Performance

As you would expect with any lens with a focal length as wide as 12 mm, there will be some distortion and softening at the corners of the frame. That’s also the case for the Samyang 12mm but the effect isn’t severe as you can see in the following sample.

corner performance of the Samyang 12mm lens

This shows the corner of the frame magnified at 200%. The corner still appears relatively sharp and distortion well controlled. If I were to compare performance to my Fuji 10 to 24 mm lens at 12 mm, I can’t deny the Samyang 12mm appears better.

Sunburst Effect with the Samyang 12mm

This isn’t something you would usually see in a lens review, but I thought I would mention it. With many good lenses it’s possible to produce a sunburst effect when you include the sun in the frame. Usually this requires you partially cover the sun using a tree branch or cloud. With the Samyang 12mm, whilst this will produce the sunburst effect, it isn’t always necessary. In the following image you can see that there is a full sun in the frame, and you can still see the sunburst star.

Star Effect when the sun is included in the scene using the Samyang 12mm

The Samyang 12mm lens has a six-blade aperture construction producing a distinctive six-pointed star effect when shooting into the sun. It’s also surprisingly easy to produce this effect. Just be sure to remove any UV filter from the front of the lens. Then stop the lens down to f/8 and you’re likely to produce the sunburst star effect.

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Lens Review Summary

After using the Samyang 12mm lens for over a year I would say that I’m not just satisfied, but I’m delighted with it. The lens is small, compact, and nicely balanced on the Fuji camera as well as being extremely enjoyable to use.

The lens optical performance is excellent with the Samyang resolving fine detail and being extremely sharp. Corner performance is good and chromatic aberration reasonably well controlled. Although I thought I would miss autofocus and image stabilisation I haven’t.

Overall, the Samyang 12mm an excellent lens at a good/sensible price. If I lost or damaged mine now, I would have no hesitation in purchasing another even though I have the Fuji 10 to 24 mm covering the same focal range. You can purchase this lens from many retailers although I purchased my lens from Amazon as they had the best price at the time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of the Samyang 12mm lens. If you have please don’t forget to share it with others.

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