A fast, weather sealed 24mm prime with excellent IQ and AF performance that adds useful features I have not seen before for considerably less than comparable lenses from other makers?
Ordered one from my local camera shop. The reviews were excellent but I would have likely ordered one any way based on past experience. Over the last few years I have owned every Rokinon/Samyang Sony FE AF lens except one. While similar in appearance Rokinon/Samyang lenses have been improved over time. Here is a timeline of the lenses I have tried.
- 35mm f/2.8
- Tiny. Very capable. Let it go. Used the similarly sized and spec’d 24mm f/2.8 more.
- 50mm f/1.4
- Ok, Rokinon/Samyang. That is some impressive image quality. I see you.
- Very nice. A bit large though. 45mm proved a better fit for me.
- 35mm f/1.4
- AF was serviceable on the 50mm f/1.4, but was noticeably improved here.
- Fantastic lens. A bit of a bus on the A7c. f/1.8 variant fits the bill nicely.
- 24mm f/2.8
- My small kit champion when I need to get a full frame camera and lens in a large jacket or messenger bag pocket.
- Tiny. Still have. Won out over the 35mm.
- 85mm f/1.4
- AF improved further. Same lovely rendering in 85mm strength.
- Had. Lovely lens. A bit large on the A7c. 75mm nicely fills the gap now.
- 45mm f/1.8
- Another step forward in AF performance. Very nice size to spec balance at f/1.8.
- Nice. Bought. Sold. Came to my senses and re-bought… Yeah. I sold it again. Not fault of this lens though. Just used the 35mm more.
- 18mm f/2.8
- Showing Rokinon/Samyang does wide well.
- Very nice lens that was rendered focal length and aperture redundant by an f/2.8 zoom.
- 75mm f/1.8
- Same excellent AF performance. Adds the very useful Mode 1/Mode 2 switch.
- Awesome lens. Just an awesome lens. Easily meets my portrait needs in a small package.
- 35mm f/1.8
- Same excellent AF and Mode 1/Mode 2 switch. Adds weather sealing which is very nice to have.
- Was hesitant to buy this lens since it sits in a gap between two other lenses. Now that I have it I will not let it go.
Before I speak to what the Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/1.8 specifically brings to the table let me review what I like about their glass in general.
I have gone on at length about my appreciation for Rokinon/Samyang glass. The value. The way many of their lenses render images with an almost vintage film look and feel while retaining modern technical traits. Their focus runs from that’ll do with their early AF glass to quite competitive with more recent offerings. Most recently value added features like the mode switch and weather sealing have been added with little or no price penalty. And on top of that if you have their update puck/lens station they regularly add improvements to their lenses through firmware updates.
So what of this lens.
Rokinon/Samyang AF 24mm f 1.8 FE
I will first go through my regular list of attributes before getting to the party piece. Much of this list will be pulled directly from my post on the 35mm variant.
- This applies to all of their lenses, but so much so with the 24mm I added a category for it. With the exception of the $70 less expensive Viltrox 24mm f/1.8 this is the least expensive wide, but not too wide, f/1.8 or faster AF prime lens by a good margin. I am sure the Viltrox is a fine lens, but I will gladly spend the extra $70 for the Rokinon/Samyang 24mm based on experience and because of added features.
- The closest competition is arguably the Sony 28mm f/2 but the Rokinon/Samyang has several advantages.
- Weather sealing.
- Mode switch, focus hold button, or other features. More on this below.
- Better built in my opinion.
- Focuses considerably closer (0.21x vs. 0.13x).
- Faster aperture.
- Wider focal length.
- Great colors. Just great colors. That is one of my favorite things about previous Rokinon/Samyang glass and the colors are just as good here.
- Sharp. Sharp. Sharpity sharp.
- Fast, silent, and accurate. More on focus later.
- I really like the way Rokinon/Samyang lenses render and this lens is no different. Above color and sharpness there is an almost vintage look to images under certain circumstances. That this lens manages this while still being technically proficient is quite impressive also.
- I must also add that this lens pulls off the trick of bokeh on a wide lens better than it has any business doing. As an example I offer the two shots below taken with the same framing only changing focus.
- Perhaps owing to IBIS found on all A7 models save the mother ship and this lens’ lighter weight this f/1.8 lens impresses.
Size and Weight
- This lens is a perfect fit for the Sony A7c. Very well balanced.
- Even though this lens costs $150 less than other choices it brings a hood and zip case making it an even better value.
Ergonomics and Features
- Like the 75mm and 35mm f/1.8 lenses this lens has the new 2 mode switch that can be set to MF and set the aperture. Executed well and I like it.
- Adds a focus hold button that is more than just a focus hold button like the ones on other Sony FE lens. More on that below.
- Weather sealing like the 35mm f/1.8 variant. Impressive.
- Another feature so cool that I am giving it a category of its own.
This is where Rokinon/Samyang is just showing off by adding a feature that:
- I have never heard of before.
- Is quantifiably useful.
- Is implemented in such a stealthy, inobtrusive manner you would not even know it was there unless you were told.
The Party Piece: Infinity on Demand
- Even after seeing this features demonstrated during video reviews I was at a loss as to describe it so I went to the company website:
- “The new features of Astro-Focus Mode and LED index maximize the usability for capturing the night sky.”
- Still not really putting a fine point on what we have here. So I have dubbed it “Infinity on Demand”.
- Why do I say stealthy and inobtrusive? In normal use the lens index mark looks like any other.
- To engage Infinity on Demand keep pressing the focus hold button while powering the camera on until that index marker turns green, The lens is now focused to inifinity.
- The lens is now also in manual focus mode. If you do bump or move the focus ring out of infinity focus the index marker lights up red. You can then either manually adjust the lens to infinity at which point the index marker will go back to green or simply repeat the power on step above.
This brings a number of benefits.
- I do not typically shoot astrophotography but this is the advertised perk and actually makes me want to give it a try.
- Focusing to infinity with a focus by wire mirrorless lens is typically a no go by feel so this is a great work around.
- With such a wide lens acquiring infinity focus on demand is very handy. As an example I used this feature in the wild day one while taking this picture. Usually the camera will focus on the ground or trees along the path so I will have to switch to point focus to capture the further distance. But instead I used Infinity on Demand and took the shot.
This feature is very well executed, actually useful, and does not feel gimmicky at all. Impressive.
Here are samples added from a NYC trip earlier this year.
And there we have it. A great every day walkabout lens that has been great fun to shoot with. A wide lens so good that teamed with the A7c I predict a comparison with a premium option will be posted soon. Well done Rokinon/Samyang.