Rokinon 14mm Lens Comparison
This is a comparison of all three Rokinon 14mm lenses (also branded as Samyang) is by landscape and astro photographer Matthew Saville.
Whether you’re a landscape photographer, a nightscape photographer, or an in-your-face portrait or action sports photographer, you might be in the market for an ultra-wide prime lens. Rokinon now has three 14mm lenses on the market.
Their very first optical design was the “nifty fifty” of ultra-wide primes, the manual focus Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 UMC. It came in a few different versions that all have the same basic optics.
It’s the oldest, the lightest, and by far the cheapest at just $350, or $250 when it goes on sale. That makes it a very good value for a budget photographer looking to add a compact ultra-wide prime to their bag for occasional use.
Next came the more exotic Rokinon/Samyang 14mm f/2.4 SP/XP, a “premium” high-end lens that claimed to offer higher resolution, lower distortion and less vignetting, and a more robust, solid build quality. (Spoiler: it’s bigger, it’s pricier, and yes, it’s better!)
Lastly, we’ve just seen the release of Canon, Nikon, and Sony mount Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 AF lenses, part of Rokinon’s dive into the realm of autofocus! (Spoiler: it’s pretty compact, and it’s pretty sharp too!)
So, which one is the best lens for you? It will depend not just on your budget, of course, but more importantly, what you shoot and how you shoot it.
Rokinon 14mm Lens Comparison | Criteria
14mm is something of a specialty focal length. However, it can still be useful for many different types of photography, from landscapes and nightscapes to portraiture, journalism, and action or extreme sports.
Considering how significantly different these three Rokinon 14mm prime ultrawide lenses are in features, price, and portability, it will be difficult to pick just one lens to recommend without considering what type of photography you shoot.
For this review, I will consider various photography subjects, and use the criteria I apply to all lens reviews.
These review categories are:
- Sharpness & Image Quality
- Build Quality
- Autofocus & Manual Focus
- Handling & Portability
- Value for Money
Sharpness & Quality
Let’s get right to it! All three of these 14mm lenses are impressively sharp, even wide open at f/2.8, from the center to past the rule-of-thirds area.
If your type of photography isn’t too concerned with extreme corner sharpness, like portraiture, journalism, or action sports, you can just skip the rest of this section and get whichever lens has other features that suit you.
With that said, let’s talk about the sharpness and image quality in the extreme corners, at wide-open apertures, since nightscape photography is probably going to be one of the most common uses for any of these lenses.
In fact, in the 100% crop examples below you’ll notice that I don’t even bother with stopped-down examples until I get to the extreme corners, because all three of these lenses are just that sharp wide-open!
All of these images were captured in raw format and processed to taste with a fine-radius sharpening which helps to reveal a lens’ fullest potential. Note that vignetting was fully corrected in the extreme corners, of course.
Simply put, each of these lenses is actually quite impressive, even in the extreme corners!
(For those of you who are wondering, yes, each of these three lenses utterly destroys the Canon and Nikon 14mm f/2.8 primes, which are very outdated at this point).
Unfortunately, all of them do have quite a bit of vignetting at f/2.8. We’ll get to the breakdown next.
In fact, it’s so sharp, its extreme corners actually look better than the absolutely massive (and even more expensive) Sigma 14mm f/1.8, even when the Sigma is stopped down to f/2.8.
So, if you want the absolute highest resolving power, get the Rokinon 14mm f/2.4 SP. However, if portability is at all important to you, don’t hesitate to get either of the other lenses, because they’re all very sharp.
All 14mm lenses have a lot of vignetting wide open. A LOT. For a nightscape photographer, it could mean nearly black corners in your images, unfortunately.
As you might expect, the Rokinon 14mm f/2.4 SP has the least vignetting at f/2.8-4.
To be fair, if you really want low vignetting at around f/2.8, the reigning champion is of course the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art, simply because it’s stopped down when at 2.8.
On the other hand, if you plan on stopping any of these Rokinon lenses down just 1-2 stops, let alone 3-4, you’ll have no complaints, especially if you use the correction profiles.
As seen above, the oldest Rokinon/Samyang 14mm f/2.8 UMC has ridiculous, terrible distortion. It might as well be a fisheye lens, if a lot of straight lines are in the image.
Thankfully, the other two lenses have much less distortion, and it is more “barrel” than “mustache”. NOTE: You can easily correct distortion with a lens profile if you’re shooting raw, but not if you’re shooting video.
None of these three lenses have very much color fringing. They do have a bit of chromatic aberration in the corners, but that’s again easily corrected with a lens profile.
Coma & Astigmatism
All three of these lenses deserve some sort of award for their incredibly low coma and sagittal astigmatism. If you hate seeing “wings” on your stars in the corners of your nightscape images, get any of these lenses.
Coma is something that no profile can correct, so it’s a lot higher on my list of priorities when shopping for a lens that I’m going to be using wide-open for astro-landscape photography.
With any 14mm lens, shallow depth is not easily achieved unless the subject is very close to your front element. With that in mind, if you’re doing wide-angle macro photography, any of these lenses will have decent bokeh.
Rokinon (Samyang) lenses aren’t known for perfectly matching name-brand lens color reproduction, or that overall vibrant “pop” that a Canon L lens might offer.
You might notice a faint color difference when using any of these three lenses. Still, that’s a fair trade-off for the sharpness they offer for the price.
(In case you’re wondering, all three of these 14mm lenses utterly destroy the Canon 14mm f/2.8 L II in terms of sharpness, especially towards the edges/corners.)
Chances are, since these are 14mm lenses, you don’t like flare.
Flare “dots” are just plain annoying, period. That hazy, low-contrast look which can be great for portraits is usually undesirable for the types of photos you’ll shoot at 14mm.
Each of these lenes has a few flare dots here and there, and of course reduced contrast in general when the sun or another strong light source is in the frame. Those bulbous front elements are annoying.
But, such is the nature of the beast, if you want 14mm on full-frame.
Whenever I’m using any ultra-wide lens, I always find myself holding out my hand to flag the sun from hitting the front element. If the sun is in the frame, I might wind up retouching a flare dot or two. It’s par for the course.
The oldest of these three lenses, the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 UMC, has just six aperture blades, which means there are just six sunstar points, but they flare open, like flower petals. It can be cool, but it’s not the classic “sharp point” sunstar look.
The SP 14mm f/2.4 has nine aperture blades, and therefore its sunstars are a little more pointy. However, there are 19 sunstar points and they’re still not the classic, thin, sharp-pointed stars that I like to see.
The AF 14mm has seven aperture blades, giving 14-point starbursts. However for some weird reason, at f/4 or so the sunstars are awesome, sharp pin-points!
Even though they’re duller at f/8-16, I found myself reaching for the AF 14mm f/2.8 for any urban or cityscape scenes that had pin-point lights in the image.
The sunstars (at f/~4) are impressively close to the classic sunstars of yesteryear’s un-rounded aperture blades. See the example below at 100% crop:
Rokinon 14mm | Design & Build
In one corner, we have the Rokinon 14mm f/2.4 SP which is built very solidly. It feels ready to stand the test of time along with any Canon, Nikon, or maybe even a Zeiss lens.
It’s a solid, high-performance lens, and its design & build quality show it.
In the other corner, to be honest, the oldest Rokinon f/2.8 UMC is poorly built. In fact, it’s referred to as “disposable” by some rental shops. So, if you are tough on your gear, you’ll probably break it eventually.
Still, if you’re smart enough to buy it when the lens is on sale for just $250 or $300, and it lasts you 2-3 years before breaking, it remains a good investment if you value affordability and portability above all else.
The Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 AF is somewhere in the middle. It’s lighter and smaller than the 14mm f/2.4 SP, but it also feels very well-made (despite the plastic parts). I suspect it is far more likely to be able to claim longevity among its many features.
None of these lenses, unfortunately, is fully weather sealed or all-metal. Only the AF 14mm f/2.8 has a rubber mount gasket. The AF and SP/XP 14mm lenses do have some metal in their construction, but all three lenses have plastic, non-detachable hoods.
Lastly, if you want to use filters with any of these lenses, you’ll need to get one of those oversized, clamp-on filter systems. Some people don’t mind them, but personally, I’m not a fan of any filter larger or more complicated than an 82mm screw-in filter.
Only one of these three lenses has autofocus, of course, so let’s talk about that lens first. The Rokinon AF 14mm f/2.8 has autofocus, and despite Rokinon still being relatively new to the realm of autofocus lenses, it works very well.
Since depth of field is so deep at 14mm, it doesn’t need to be very snappy, just reliable. And thankfully, it is. Even in bad light, it still nails focus just as consistently as a name-brand lens.
Autofocus on an ultrawide lens isn’t very necessary, though, for many types of photography. So if you’re not shooting something like action sports or weddings, you’ll probably be just fine with a manual focus lens, using magnified live view to focus.
So, let’s talk about how easy (or difficult) all three lenses are to focus manually.
First and foremost, the AF 14mm f/2.8 is fly-by-wire, meaning it has an electronically controlled focus ring. This used to be a terrible thing for nailing precise focus on anything, but these days it’s impressively precise.
Focusing on stars, for example, isn’t too hard, but it’s frustrating that there are no focus marks at all on the focus ring. Consequently, you can’t just visually rack the lens to infinity (or any other distance) for a good starting point, like you can do with most other lenses.
The UMC 14mm f/2.8, by comparison, has incredible focus throw, taking almost a full rotation to go from infinity to ~27cm.
Unfortunately, quite a few of the many copies of the lens that I’ve come across over the years have a weird issue, a bit of “focus slop” which causes you to have to rack focus back and forth a few times to be truly sure of your precision.
The SP 14mm f/2.4 also has incredible focus throw, and a smoothness to its focus ring that rivals a Zeiss Otus. Unfortunately, none of the lenses have any hyperfocal markings, for those of you who still use them.
Two of these Rokinon 14mm lenses are extremely portable compared to any other lens (DSLR or mirrorless) that can hit such a wide focal length and fast aperture.
By comparison, almost all ultra-wide zooms these days are very big and heavy. One of the newest zooms to hit 14mm, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art is 1.1 kg (over 2 lbs).
If you’re looking for a compact prime, whether to save weight or simply because you barely use 14mm and don’t have much room left in your camera bag, both the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 ED UMC or AF 14mm are a perfect choice.
The Rokinon 14mm f/2.4 is still decently portable, despite being the biggest and heaviest of the trio, and its build quality is absolutely worth the heft.
I wouldn’t take it out as a daily walk-around lens, especially on a compact full-frame body like the Sony A7III. Still, it’s a great alternative to any of the ultra-wide zooms out there.
Value for Money
All three of these lenses offer great value in their respective categories.
The decision is all about your priorities as a photographer, and it should already be clear: if you rarely even use 14mm, and just want to “cover the bases”, then get the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 UMC.
If you use 14mm a little bit more often, for things like event and portrait photography, get the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 AF. Lastly, as an astro-landscape photographer, my personal favorite of the bunch is the Rokinon 14mm f/2.4 SP.
Alternatives to Rokinon 14mm
There are a lot of other lenses that hit 14mm and f/2.8. There are even more if you’re willing to “settle” for 15mm.
Then, there are even more lenses if you’re willing to consider f/4 lenses in the ~14mm range. Still, for the purposes of this comparison, we have to draw the line somewhere.
Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art: The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art is an amazing lens, quite possibly the sharpest 14mm lens around by the time it gets to f/2.5-2.8 where other lenses start.
It also benefits from extremely low vignetting by f/2.8, thanks to being stopped down, and has very low distortion.
The two factors that make me personally prefer the Rokinon 14mm f/2.4 SP are the fact that the Rokinon is slightly more portable, and has essentially zero coma. The Sigma can’t claim that even at f/2.8.
Irix 15mm f/2.4 Firefly & Blackstone: If you’re willing to go with a slightly less wide focal length, Irix has an interesting offer: Two versions of the same lens.
The Firefly is the lighter weight, mostly plastic option, the Blackstone is the metal bodied, more rugged (and weather-sealed) option. It boasts almost zero distortion and low vignetting, however, it does have some coma.
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC: Now, here is a great lens at a great price. It’s got almost flawless image quality wide-open, through its whole focal range.
It’s got image stabilization, too, something that no other ultra-wide ~14mm lens has unless you count sensor-based stabilization. If you’re willing to carry a heavier lens that stops at 15mm instead of 14mm, this is a great choice.
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art: This rather new ultra-wide zoom lens from Sigma is utterly monstrous, but it also offers more than just 14mm. It’s incredibly sharp, has low vignetting, low distortion, and only a faint bit of coma.
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 G: Although this lens is now more than a decade old, it’s still a great choice if you shoot Nikon and want to stick with name-brand lenses for their durability and customer support.
This lens is sharp, has decently low coma, low vignetting, and low distortion. See the full review here.
Rokinon 14mm Lens Comparison | Conclusion
In case it wasn’t obvious, the sheer diversity offered by Rokinon’s trio of 14mm lenses is impressive and commendable.
If your priorities as a photographer involve portability, affordability, and overall image quality, then one (well, likely two) of these lenses will suit you very well.
If one of these lenses stands out as suited to your style, and is close to your budget, I highly recommend getting it.
Hopefully, this extensive comparison will help make it a no-brainer which lens is the right fit for you!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.