Photography / Hands-on Review

Rokinon 16mm f /2.0 Lens in Nine New Mounts

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Rokinon has rolled out nine mounts for their new 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS lens and I was able to give the Nikon mount a test over the course of a summer weekend. As these lenses are all designed for APS-C or Micro Four Thirds cameras, their focal-length equivalencies must be taken into account. On the APS-C mounts, the 35mm equivalent is 24mm (25.6mm for Canon) and on the MFT mount it is 32mm. Their image is rectilinear with only a mild degree of barrel distortion. The aperture range is f/2.0-22.

The vignetting is obvious when using the Rokinon 16mm f/2 lens on a full frame camera.

I used the Nikon D7100 DSLR and found the lens to be an ideal wide-angle companion as I kayaked in Long Island’s Peconic Bay and took the ferry to (the still recovering) Rockaway Beach. Based on some requests from InDepth readers, I shot close-ups of flowers and in strong sunlight and at night to see how the lens handled varied situations. I’m happy to report that, in each case, the lens performed well. With its wide f/2.0 maximum aperture, light gathering was not a problem, and I enjoyed experimenting with shallow-depth-of-field portraiture and, of course, with the wide field of view that can include the totality of expansive scenes.

Wide vistas like this one of the New York harbor are possible with the Rokinon 16mm lens which has the 35mm focal length equivalency of 24mm on a Nikon DSLR. (click to zoom)

These Rokinon lenses are manual focus only, with distance in feet and meters and depth-of-field scales marked on the barrel. Shooting with manual focus forced me to slow down a little, which is good. But the truth is that anything past 15’ from the lens will be in focus at the infinity mark, so if shooting landscapes or cityscapes is your thing, set the lens at infinity and fire away. Even a lot of fast-moving street photography and photojournalistic shooting will be covered at infinity, but for the more intimate, close-at-hand work, the manual focus action is precise and the focal length is perfect for incorporating all the action of a busy scene without distorting it.

Barrel distortion is minimal on this lens which is ideal for many applications, including street photography.
(click to zoom)

Physically, the lens offers a wide, easy-to-grip focus ring that rotates smoothly with just the right amount of tension. The DSLR-mount lenses are approximately 3.5” long and the mirrorless mounts run about 4.5”.  A solid, textured plastic and aluminum-alloy build promises durability, which held true given the several knocks my lens took as I maneuvered on bike and kayak with camera and lens hanging around my neck. An included petal-shaped lens hood not only deflected unwanted light beams, but helped to protect the lens in the scenarios just described. I also used a 77mm UV filter on the front of the lens for extra protection and to cut some of the bluish haze caused by UV light, especially when shooting in and around water. 

Each of the various mounts has its own specifics in terms of exposure, so it’s important to read the instruction manual, as it describes compatibility and proper exposure techniques for each lens. Pentax K mount, for example, supports Av mode whereas with the Sony Alpha mount, it is necessary to focus with the aperture open and stop down by adjusting the shutter speed manually. Fortunately, on my Nikon mount there are electronic contacts that enabled Program and Aperture and Shutter Priority modes and I adjusted aperture via the camera’s front dial, not with the lens’s aperture ring, which remained at f/22. The lens is AI compatible and will also work on older Nikon film cameras, too. The focus indicator in the viewfinder also functioned accurately to let me know when subjects were in focus. I had no problem seeing through the viewfinder at any stop but the confirmation of the focus indicator was a help, especially when shooting moving subjects.    

The sharpness of the lens throughout the aperture range was impressive. Yes, it showed a bit of softness at f/2.0 when shooting at infinity, but that is to be expected. For the shots of the Empire State Building, below, at night, the first image was shot at f/2.0 and the second at f/5.6.

The top photo was shot at the minimum aperture of f/2 and the bottom photo at f/5.6. (click to zoom)

Shooting close-ups in our family garden was a pleasure, as I kept the lens at its minimum focus distance and physically moved back and forth until focus was sharp. One thing to remember when shooting close up with this lens is to be mindful of the shadow it casts. Even though the minimum focus distance is 7.87”, you have to realize that this distance is measured from the sensor and if you calculate the length of the lens plus camera body and the lens hood, you are basically right on top of what you are shooting at the minimum distance. I often bumped into the flowers I was shooting, but the close-up results were impressive. The lens comprises 13 optical elements, including one extra-low dispersion element and two aspherical elements, which help to reduce chromatic aberrations and certainly aided in the overall sharpness that this lens offered. Indeed, for a fast, wide-angle lens, both illumination at the corners and edge-to-edge sharpness were impressive.

Sharp details and pleasing out of focus area with a shallow depth of field. (click to zoom)

For shots with a shallow depth of field, the f/2.0 maximum aperture was ideal and the soft, out-of-focus background it created was pleasing. I personally love the wide angle of view provided by this lens when shooting a subject indoors. It lets you feature your subject in their immediate environs without being right on top of the person, which not only adds a dimension to your photo’s narrative, but keeps your subject from feeling uncomfortable. It’s also great for candid shots when your subject is close but you don’t want to make them aware you are shooting. The well-marked distance scales on the lens barrel help in obtaining focus in situations like these, when bringing camera to your eye might upset the moment.

The Rokinon 16mm f/2 lens is an ideal lens for capturing people and their immediate environs.
(click to zoom)

When shooting toward a light source, I found that the UMC (Ultra Multi Coating) on the lens was effective in suppressing ghosting and flare and the abovementioned lens hood aided as well. I was asked by a reader to see how this lens did when creating sun stars, and the image below, while not such a great shot, should demonstrate that the lens, with its 8-blade diaphragm, can create a well-composed, tight sun star that can add a nice effect to the right photo.

An 8-ray sun star over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (click to zoom)

The APS-C DSLR mounts for the Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 lens have been available for about two months. They include Nikon F, Canon EF-S, Pentax K and Sony Alpha mounts. The mirrorless mounts are just now available and include Canon EF-M, Fujifilm X, Sony NEX, Samsung NX, and Micro Four Thirds. In general, there are not many 24mm equivalent lenses for APS-C cameras on the market, and this Rokinon is a very welcomed addition.

For more information, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.

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Does this lens have internal focusing?

How would you say it stacks up against the tokina 11-16? Thats my wide lens right now but all the rest of my lenses are Rokinon.

Did you try any night shots with it? I am interested in how it would perform for wide-field astrophotography.

It's actually made by Samyang Optics in Korea and available as such worldwide :)

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