First pictures: Samyang 12/2 MFT on Olympus PEN-F

There’s not exactly that much online coverage on Samyang’s 12mm f/2 wideangle lens when it comes to the Micro Four Thirds system. Maybe that’s no big surprise as the lens was designed for the larger APS-C circle, where its field of view is really wide – equivalent to a 18mm ultra-wideangle lens on classic 35mm film.

On the smaller MFT sensor, the same Samyang yields the field of view of a 24mm lens. Not that spectacular, but on the other hand that 24mm equivalent makes for a true classic wideangle field of view – highly versatile and desireable. There is another 12/2 lens readily available within the system, the well-known Olympus 12/2. Maybe most photographers prefer that one – and that would explain why there is rather little talk about the Samyang with MFT lens mount?

Samyang 12/2 on Olympus PEN-F.

Samyang 12/2 on Olympus PEN-F.

I have to admit, in contrast to maybe 90% of the photographer crowd out there, I am not a fan of the Olympus 12/2. My brother bought one for his Olympus Pen E-P5 and I find it a bit underwhelming in performance, at least when used for landscapes. The image borders never get really sharp on his copy, and he even had his copy checked by Olympus – to no avail. And it’s not really that cheap – even used it goes for around 450–500 Euros. For my photography I also don’t mind having manual focusing only, especially when using such a short focal length. So why not give that Samyang a try? They go for around 250–270 Euros used, starting at 330 Euros new (June 2017 pricing in Germany).

These are the only online reviews of the Samyang 12/2 for MFT that I have found: The first review was posted by ePhotozine on a Panasonic body in late 2014, and another review – also on a Panasonic body – was published by m43photo.blogspot.de in early 2015. This was the time when the lens arrived on the market. Both reviews show actually pretty positive results.

Samyang 12/2 on Olympus PEN-F.

Samyang 12/2 on Olympus PEN-F.

My copy of the lens arrived a few days ago, bought from a very nice and friendly private seller. Sometimes purchasing used can be a real joy!

Feel and finish

So how does it feel on the camera? It’s not exactly a tiny lens, and the front of the barrel features a distinct wide filter thread (also the sun shade is quite big), this was designed with the wider field of view on APS-C camera bodies in mind. So it is much bigger than the Olympus 12/2 – but it feels still nicely balanced on the PEN-F.

Olympus PEN-F with 12/2, 20/1.7 and 45-150/4-5.6

Olympus PEN-F with 12/2, 20/1.7 and 45-150/4-5.6

The lens mount is a really heftly solid piece of chromed metal. The rest of the lens barrel is made from plastic with a slightly textured black feel. It feels actually really solid, very much like current Nikon lenses. The focus ring turns with a little resistance, but smooth throughout the whole range – the lens itself is an internal focus design so no outside partsare moving whatsoever when focusing. The aperture ring is easy to operate. Markings and numbers are printed on the barrel, not engraved. Overall, it does not feel like a super-high-grade lens, but in a positive way it does still feel well made and sturdy. No flimsyness whatsoever.

Image quality

Regarding the optics, I am pretty content with the lens. Above all, you have to keep in mind this lens does not use any “behind the scenes” auto correction whatsoever, unlike Olympus (and to a lesser extent also Panasonic) lenses do on the Olympus camera bodies. So what you see when you open the pics in Lightroom will always be the raw, inherent quality of the lens.

The Samyang 12/2 will display chromatic abberations, a one-click cure in Lightroom is available; and also some purple fringing on high contrast edges – these can be edited with the fringing color picker in Lightroom. Geometric distortion is very low for such a lens – a petite +4 correction in Lightroom cures it. (The Olympus 12/2, if it were not already auto-corrected whenever you open the RAW files, would more need a +25ish correction instead.) Lastly, I find it pretty sharp – on real world pictures and closer distances, it will be sharp all the way to the image borders even at f/2. When focusing to infinity, you should stop down to get maximum sharpness also at the frame borders. At infinity, my copy displays a shallow, but still noticeable area that is a bit blurry at the very right edge of the frames. I think that is a matter of non-perfect centering. This is no Zeiss lens.

I will compare the Samyang and Olympus 12/2 lenses side-by-side and post the results on this blog – but so far had no opportunity. So all I can offer by now are some pictures I already took with the lens. Sadly, all the Samyang lenses don’t offer electronic contacts to the camera body so you have to enter the focal length manually in the camera to activate sensor stabilisation. For the same reason f/stops are not recorded. I tried to provide them in the sample pictures, based on my memory.

Sample images

As always, all pictures shown here, were taken in RAW, and I edited them in Lightroom. The amount of lens corrections that I used during edit – such as CA, distortion or even tilt / shift (which of course is not fault of the optics) , I stated with every picture. By the way, I did not need to correct vignetting on any of these shots.

Note the color fringes around some of the leaves on the picture titled “Overcast” above. Those could be corrected with the fringe color picker in Lightroom. I did not do it here to show what the lens does when uncorrected. (By the way, the otherwise really nice Panasonic 20/1.7 is even much worse than this regarding those color fringes.)

Conclusion

My verdict so far? I am quite happy with the picture quality – there’s no perfection, but overall it is contrasty and pretty sharp straight from maximum aperture – and I enjoy the handling of this lens very much. But then, I always also enjoy handling vintage lenses. They suit my photography very much.

As far as manual focusing is concerned, the additional advantage of a short focal length like this 12mm is the high depth of field – as long as you are not photographing really close-up subjects, but rather something that’s maybe 3 metres away or more, you can just stop it down to f/8 , focus once and then just snap away. Very fast when doing street photography. (The Olympus 12/2 offers a special manual focusing feature for the very same reason.)

For the little money spent, and with the good overall picture quality, I’d always prefer this lens over the Olympus 12/2. The price/performance ratio is very good, and I enjoy handling and using this lens very much. But your mileage may vary, as always! :) Again, I’ll hope to get a direct comparison between these two 12mm MFT lenses soon, and post it here.

Thomas

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