Yung Lean at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen - shot with the Samyang 12mm lens, the 98 degree field of view meant I could capture an epic view of the inside of the tent.

Yung Lean at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen – shot with the Samyang 12mm lens on my X-Pro2. The wide 98 degree field of view meant I could capture an epic view inside the tent.

I really love my Fujinon 16mm F1.4 lens and it is a perfect wide angle lens for music photography. But sometimes the space on the stage is so cramped, or the venue so large, that I have needed something wider – enter the Samyang 12mm F2 lens. I first had the pleasure of trying this lens at an event in May hosted by Bech Foto, Fujifilm Nordic and Focus Nordic. It was love at first shot! I did not want to give it back, and Kim Bech of Bech Foto very kindly offered to lend me one so I could use it for the Red Bull Academy at Distortion festival gig.

The lens itself is cheap, small and light – but very powerful, just the way I like my lenses. At 260 grams it is an easy addition to my small shoulder bag and the gear I brought – check out the Distortion blog post for a full run through of the gear I used.

The wonderful Samyang 12mm, small and light but powerful.

The wonderful Samyang 12mm, small and light but powerful.

I am not a technical reviewer, for in-depths reviews of the Samyang 12mm, google is your friend. The following are simply my impressions are using the Samyang 12mm lens for 2 x 8 hours of music photography at the Red Bull Music Academy at Distortion Festival gig. I have barely used the lens in daylight at all, so bare that in mind as you read the following.

My impressions of the Samyang 12mm lens

  • The lens in 3 words: Small, light and powerful!
  • It is A LOT wider than the 16mm Fujinon lens, those 4 mm makes a huge difference (about 16-17 degrees to be exact). This is a massive help, some of the shots below would never have been possible at 16mm, I simply would not be able to include both the artist and the crowd as the space was so tiny, no way to step backwards.
  • It is a manual focus only lens, but that makes no difference to me, at dark and smoky events like this, I shoot manual focus most of the time anyway. Also, at 12mm even af F2 you can really just set the focus somewhere around 1m and forget about it!
  • It has remarkable low distortion for such a wide lens.
  • The build quality seems fine, I am sure it will survive many music gigs with no problem.
  • Even the hood is a decent small size.
  • The image quality is great, while it is better in the center than at the edges, that is what I would expect anyway at this wide an angle, and also at this price range. For me, the image quality is really good. I should add that every image below is shot at iso 3200, iso 6400 or even higher – for my work, image quality is mostly about being able to render a nice rendition of colours and contrast in super dark venues.
  • It is remarkably small for a 98 degree wide angle lens that has a max aperture of F2. I really love this and it is important to me, I hate dragging heavy big gear around for 6-8 hours of music shooting, I need to be very mobile and be able to get really close and not be in the way.
  • It sits a bit loose on the camera, for some reason it can rotate about 1mm when clicked in place – but this has no practical effect at all.
  • The view is so wide that the image in the viewfinder is quite “distant” so I like it better on my X-T1 than my X-Pro2, the huge viewfinder on the X-T series makes it so much easier to see what is happening in a chaotic dark venue.
  • Most importantly: It does exactly what I needed, giving me a wide view in dark music venues!

I really want to add this lens to my bag permanently. It really works wonderfully for my style of music photography, it offers a true wide angle view (at 24mm in full frame format, the Fujinon 16mm cannot really be called a true wide angle lens) and it does it at a fast aperture of F2 as well so I can use it in very dark venues. Sometimes I just run out of room with the 16mm lens, there is no way I can step further backwards on stage for example or the DJ booth or venue is tiny. This is where the Samyang 12mm comes to the rescue! I suggest you try it out if you need a real wide angle, I highly recommended it.

Thank you so much to Bech Foto and Focus Nordic for letting me try the lens! 

Enjoy the following gallery of a few of my 12mm shots.

Images made with the Samyang 12mm lens

Lido performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 4th, 2016

A shot that was only possible with the 12mm lens – I am standing right behind the artist Lido on the edge of the stage.

Lido performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 4th, 2016

Another Lido shot with the 12mm lens, standing just a meter or so behind him.

Empress Of performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 4th, 2016

Only with the 12mm lens was it possible to get the entire Empress Of band in the frame.

FlemmingBoJensen-Distortion-Samyang12mm-2696

With the 12mm lens I can stand right behind Kasper Marrott and still get an epic view of the arena.

Yung Lean performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 3rd, 2016

Yung Lean just about steps on the lens! Actually resting his foot on the monitor, and with the 12mm it gives a somewhat distorted but dramatic view.

Eloq B2B DJ Er Du Dum Eller Hvad performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 3rd, 2016

Eloq B2B with DJ Er Du Dum Eller Hvad while the tent burns at 12mm!

Eloq B2B DJ Er Du Dum Eller Hvad performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 3rd, 2016

Eloq B2B with DJ Er Du Dum Eller Hvad. It was so smoky it was hard to see the crowd at all, but with the 12mm I can stand right nex to the DJ and still get the crowd and the venue too.

Kasper Marrott performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 4th, 2016

Kasper Marrott performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 4th, 2016

Ata Kak performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 3rd, 2016

Ata Kak performs and only with the 12mm was it possible to get him and the crowd in the same frame in the super small and narrow space in front of the stage.

Yung Lean performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 3rd, 2016

Yung Lean connects to the crowd and I can get it all in with the 12mm

Kasper Marrott performs at Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Distortion in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 4th, 2016

Kasper Marrott carefully selects the next tune at 4am while the 12mm means I can get him and the lights + crowd and venue.

All images: Flemming Bo Jensen / Red Bull Content Pool.

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