When I first started as a photographer over ten years ago, there weren’t a lot of options for someone interested in astrophotography – unless you had the money for a high-end setup.
Low light performance on digital sensors was weak and fast wide-angle lenses were not affordable. A lot has changed since then!
The Samyang 12mm f/2 AF is the perfect combination of high quality and affordability for someone looking to enter the world of astrophotography with a crop sensor (APS-C) Sony mirrorless camera like the a6600.
This lens is also excellent for landscape photographers or anyone looking to explore the look of an ultra-wide lens.
Read on below to see why I think you should consider adding this lens to your kit!
Table of Contents
Samyang AF 12mm f/2 E Specs
- Very affordable
- Very sharp
- Ultra wide perspective
- Great for astrophotography and landscapes
- Fast/accurate autofocus
- Slightly soft edges at f/2
- No auto/manual focus switch
- Non-reversible lens hood
- Focal Length: 12mm
- Maximum Range: f/2 – f/22
- Lens Mount: APS-C Sony E
- Minimum Focus Distance: 7.9″ / 19 cm
- Optical Design: 12 Elements in 10 Groups
- Focus Type: Autofocus
- Image Stabilization: No
- Filter Size: 62 mm (Front)
- Dimensions (ø x L): 2.8 x 2.3″ / 70 x 59 mm
- Weight: 7.5 oz / 213 g
Build & Ergonomics
For such an affordable lens, I was quickly impressed by the build quality and ruggedness of the Samyang 12mm f/2 AF.
It’s a mostly plastic design with a metal mount. It comes with a nice compact case that will certainly keep it protected as well.
Because it’s so lightweight, it feels very rugged and as if it would easily survive the abuse my equipment tends to suffer (frequent drops and banging against rocks).
The rubberized focus ring is firm yet smooth and feels high quality. There are no other moving parts on the lens, which is great, but it does lack an auto/manual focus switch and these can be quite handy if you shoot astrophotography or video.
While shooting the stars, I will often lock off the focus by flicking the switch from auto to manual. This ensures I won’t accidentally activate the focus (and lose sharpness) while adjusting my composition in the dark.
A thin rubber seal does give this lens some weather/dust sealing which is a nice upgrade from other inexpensive APS-C lenses I’ve used.
Having a weather seal is encouraging, especially when you’re out in inclement weather and don’t want to risk damaging your equipment.
I love how well balanced this lens feels on the Sony a6000 series of cameras. At around 2/3 the weight of the Sony a6000, it’s very lightweight and feels good while shooting handheld.
I hope that Samyang continues to produce more lenses that are as high quality and ergonomic as the Samyang 12mm f/2 AF!
In 2014, Samyang released a very similar lens to this 12mm f/2 AF but with a manual focus design (we reviewed it here). Despite being manual focus, the lens was very popular. Now, the new and improved version comes with autofocus and has improved image quality.
Typically I don’t even consider buying manual focus lenses anymore. There are so many good options that come with autofocus at very affordable prices that it’s not worth sacrificing the utility of autofocus.
With the Samyang 12mm f/2 AF, you get an ultrawide field of view and the functionality of quick and silent focus.
I found the focus speed on this lens to be very quick. Additionally, with a 12mm lens there aren’t a lot of issues with focus speed because once your subject gets beyond about 12 ft (3.6 m) everything from 6 ft (2 m) to infinity will be in focus!
Additionally, the autofocus version of this lens is only about $200 more than the manual focus version which is excellent value.
The Samyang 12mm f/2 AF offers great image quality!
With the improved coatings and quality on this lens, almost all the complaints about chromatic aberration and coma have been solved when comparing it to the older manual focus design.
I’m very impressed that the majority of the frame has excellent sharpness even wide open at f/2. There is some loss in edge sharpness when shooting wide open but it’s easily corrected by stopping down to f/4.
The fact that you can get a very sharp and ultra-wide astrophotography lens for around $400 is quite impressive!
When it comes to distortion, the lens is well controlled and the Lightroom correction profile makes it a non-issue.
There is some flaring when shooting bright backlit scenes but the lens hood can help reduce this glare effect.
Vignetting on this lens is visible but it is nicely graduated which makes it much more pleasing to the eye and can even be beneficial to some images.
Additionally, the vignette is correctable in Lightroom if you don’t like the look.
Sun stars are visible around f/11 and get better at f/16. The seven-bladed aperture on this lens makes much nicer sun stars than the previous manual focus version.
Overall, there is very little to complain about when it comes to image quality despite this being a budget lens. I am continually impressed with what Samyang is able to do in terms of value when it comes to image quality.
Samyang AF 12mm f/2 E Lens Sample Images
Here are some sample images which were taken with the Samyang 12mm f/2 AF, using a Sony a6000 and a Sony a7 III.
Note that using this lens on a full-frame camera such as the Sony a7 III will result in a cropped field of view of about 18mm – one that’s still considered ultra-wide angle.
There are not a lot of comparable lenses to the Samyang AF 12mm f/2 that offer the same balance of ultra-wide perspective and fast aperture. One of the closest alternatives is the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 which is one stop faster but loses 4mm in field of view. Then there’s the Sony 14mm f/1.8 (review).
Although it may not seem like much, the difference between 16mm and 12mm is quite significant, especially when you’re interested in shooting astrophotography or ultrawide landscape images. It can be the difference between capturing a part of the scene or having a wide view of the milky way brilliantly displayed across the sky.
The manual focus version of this lens is a good alternative although I think this updated autofocus version is more versatile in functionality and offers improved image quality that more than justifies the approximately US$200 upgrade.
If you want a fast aperture and ultrawide view, look no further than the Samyang 12mm f/2 AF.
Value for Money
At around US$400, the Samyang AF 12mm f/2 lens is excellent value for money. It offers top-notch image quality and autofocus in a focal length with almost no competition.
If you’re looking to start shooting astrophotography, this lens will be an excellent option if you have an APS-C sensor camera like the Sony a6600.
I’m glad to see Samyang offering an affordable lens with such impressive features. I only wish lenses like this had been around when I was first starting my journey with astrophotography!
Samyang AF 12mm f/2 E Review | Conclusion
Overall, I’m very impressed with this lens. It offers a ton of value and quality at a great price that allows beginners to experiment with astrophotography.
Because it’s now offered as an autofocus lens, the Samyang AF 12mm f/2 is no longer limited to shooting static subjects like landscapes or the night sky. You can use it to shoot wide-angle images of people or other moving objects without having to worry about losing sharpness.
I look forward to shooting more images with this lens and taking it with me on adventures to capture wide-angle views and impressive views of the night sky!