By Adam Welch
“What do you mean it’s a manual lens?”
That is usually the first response I receive when I tell people about one of the favorite lenses I keep in my bag: The Rokinon 14mm f/2.8. I understand their confusion. I never dreamed that I would succumb to the seeming devolution of using fully manual lenses.
Allow me to attempt to dispel the myth that manual focus/aperture lenses are difficult, and ungainly in the field. In mere months the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 has quickly became a workhorse of my photo arsenal – let me tell you why. Grab a tissue, because it is a love story.
When I say that the Rokinon is a fully manual lens, what I mean is that there is no autofocus, and that the aperture must also be selected manually, using an aperture ring. This is a sticking point for most photographers, who have only used fully automated lenses. Personally, I have used fully manual legacy lenses for years, and have come to love the tangible control they require while I’m shooting. I really feel connected to the experience, more than I do when using an autofocusing lens.
I will still admit, however, that a fully manual lens is not always ideal for every situation. So what type of photography suits the Rokinon best? The reason I purchased this lens in the first place was because I needed a fast, wide-angle lens, that can function as a main piece of glass for my astrophotography work. I find myself aiming my camera toward the sky more and more, so I really needed a quality lens that could serve as my go-to for most, if not all, of my nightscapes.
The wide-angle view, and relatively large aperture of f/2.8, makes the Rokinon ready-made for night photography, but of course, it is also a great tool for ultra-wide landscape shots. Some may find the 14mm focal length to be just a little too wide for a general purpose landscape lens, but it is most definitely capable of filling the role.
The most incredible quality about the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 is just that, its quality. For the price, I can honestly say I have never encountered such a well-made lens, that produces tack sharp results throughout its aperture range. My initial test shots surpassed any expectations I could have hoped for from such a budget lens. Reading comments and testimonials from other users of the lens really left me with a healthy dose of, it’s too good to be true, doubt lingering in my mind.
The quality of the build, and the subsequent image sharpness, are virtually on par with lenses which cost literally ten times as much as the Rokinon. I’m not suggesting that a lens with an average cost of $324 will be exactly the same as a lens costing $1,300 – but the gap between price and performance is, for lack of a better word, incredible. The aperture ring is comfortable to use, and produces a click at each f/stop, marking that is solidly satisfying.
Something that I really like about the Rokinon is the focusing ring. I has a very long travel when acquiring focus; meaning that adjusting occurs relatively slowly. This allows you to achieve tack sharp focus while shooting with the lens wide open at f/2.8, and makes honing in on stars very easy without over or under focusing.
A common point of discussion concerning the Rokinon, in regard to its suitability for night photography, is the extreme low occurrence of “coma” when imaging the stars. Coma refers to an optical phenomena called “comatic aberration” (not to be confused with chromatic aberration). Coma is the distortion of small points of light when the light rays enter the lens at sharp angles, which makes small points of light, such as stars, appear to look like comets with small tails. Coma is amplified by imperfections in the lens geometry itself, or in the lens elements, and usually gets worse the further you move from the center of the lens. Yet strangely enough, the Rokinon excels in low coma aberrations, even to the point of OUTPERFORMING higher priced lenses of the same focal length and aperture ranges.
The Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens is one that I have grown to love in a relatively short time. The majority of my work revolves around landscapes, and shooting at wide-angles, often in low light. The Rokinon fills the requirements of my shooting needs, and then some.
The full manual functionality of the lens could be odd if are not used to shooting that way, but for me I find it in no way slows me down, or hinders the quality of my images – in fact quite the opposite. The build quality, sharpness, low-light performance, and low coma are bundled together at a price that hovers in the $320 USD end of the pool.
In my opinion, if you are looking for a great landscape and astrophotography lens, or if you’re just wanting to get creative with wide angles, look no further than the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8.
What you’ve all been waiting for…here are some images shot using the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8! All images shot with a Sony A7r and processed using Adobe Lightroom CC.
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