Testing the Samyang 12mm F2 lens on Kilve beach

After the success of the 50mm Kamlan manual focus lens I bought recently for my Fuji X-T20, I thought I’d see what the manual focus market had in a wider flavour. I’ve tested superwide lenses before, notably a 17mm Tamron lens I had fun with back in 2017. It was only fitting that I returned to the same place for the first outing of my new 12mm Samyang F2 lens – Kilve beach in Somerset.

Suuuuuuper wide

The beach is an ideal place for fossil-hunting, as it’s covered in ammonite fossils. The soft slate and cracked sedimentary rock erode quickly, meaning there is always something to be uncovered. It’s never busy here though, which makes it a great place for mooching and taking some snaps.

The Samyang 12mm F2 is another manual-focus lens made in the Far East, in Korea this time. Founded in 1972, Samyang has been around a long time, and now produces a variety of photo and film lenses. I picked up my lens on eBay, and it arrived in pristine condition for only £120, compared to an eye-watering £879 for Fuji’s own 14mm F2 lens. Is autofocus worth the extra £759?

I know monochrome seaweed is cliche, but I don’t care

Firstly, this lens is super soft and vignetted wide open. That’s to be expected at this price point, and I like the distortion effect, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re after distortion-free images. However, I wasn’t expecting as good seperation between subject and background on a lens this wide – it’s not bokeh-tastic, but it does give some softness to backgrounds when desired. It’s sharp in the middle though, which is really all I ask for in a superwide lens.

The build quality is good too – it’s not as heavy as the 50mm Kamlan, but is still metal-bodied, and has a click-free aperture ring. I’m starting to prefer these over the standard click-stop aperture rings, and it’s nice to be able to see the changes reflected in the X-T20’s EVF too.

Red filter? I hardly knew her!

The vignetting was probably exacerbated by my use of the “black and white with red filter” Fuji X film simulation – but I’m glad I used it, as otherwise the grey day would have produced some fairly boring images.

My only gripe with this lens so far is the hood – it was supplied with the lens, and is very loose, sometimes slipping around so that the petals were visible in the shot (likely not an issue on longer lenses, but for the 12mm it was noticeable). I’ll be on the hunt for a better hood soon.

Overall, i’m happy with the Samyang – for the price, it’s an exceptionally fun lens to use, and one I’ll definitely be keeping in my bag on future outings.

My ongoing struggle with finding a digital workflow that doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out, continues. Today I opened up RAW Power on my iPad to find I couldn’t import my photos into it at all, which stumped me. So I tried importing them into RAW Therapee on my laptop instead, which worked, but lost the film simulations applied in-camera.

I couldn’t work out how to keep the film simulations on import, so in the end I caved and signed up to Adobe’s Lightroom & Photoshop package. I’ve been trying to avoid spending on unnecessary subscriptions, but within 10 minutes it had proved its worth and I had Lightroom Classic set up on my MacBook. The photos imported without fuss, keeping Fuji’s film siulation presets, and I begrudgingly accepted that it was probably worth the £11/month to avoid the frown lines generated each time I do my post-processing. I can also use the cloud version of Lightroom on my iPad, which will be useful when I go away in a couple of months’ time and want to leave my laptop at home. You win this time, Adobe…

I’ve uploaded the rest of the photos from today (both using the 12mm Samyang and my 50mm Kamran lens) into an album here.

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