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.
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.
Enjoy the following gallery of a few of my 12mm shots.
Images made with the Samyang 12mm lens
All images: Flemming Bo Jensen / Red Bull Content Pool.