Lens review

Samyang 24 mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC

10 February 2012
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality

Traditionally we start this chapter by comparing the testing lens with its direct rivals – the following chart will make it easier. Several differences stick out at once. The Samyang boasts less diaphragm blades than the Zeiss, the Nikkor and the Sigma but, at the same time, it is the most optically complex device of all. That’s why it also weighs the most and its dimensions are significant - particularly it is the longest lens in the whole group presented here.

One glance at the photo below allows us to compare the Samyang with the Zeiss 2/25 and the Sigma 1.4/30 for smaller detectors.

Samyang 24 mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC - Build quality

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The direct comparison between the Samyang and the Zeiss is not favourable for the former. When you hold both lenses in your hand the Zeiss seems to be like a small armoured grenade, something you can drive a nail with. The Samyang looks definitely less solid.

Samyang 24 mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC - Build quality
Samyang 24 mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC and Zeiss Distagon 25 mm f/2.0 T* ZE

You should be honest though and emphasize the fact that many Samyang elements are also made of metal. The lens starts with a metal mount which surrounds a rear element, 34 mm in diameter. In the Canon mount version, tested by us, there are no contacts - forget about passing basic data to the EXIF, focus confirmation and, what is probably the biggest flaw, aperture control on the level of the body. To tell you the truth we are rather surprised by the lack of contacts. You could have forgiven such a shortcoming in the case of Samyangs with the price tag lower than 300 Euro. When we deal with a lens costing 600 Euro the lack of contacts becomes a serous issue as our demands are much higher. For a similar amount of money we can buy, after all, such Zeiss lenses as the Planar 1.4/50 or the Distagon 2/35, and those feature contacts.

Samyang 24 mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC - Build quality

The rear element of the lens is mobile. It is situated on the same level as the mount when the focus is set at infinity and it hides about half a centimeter inside the casing when we pass to the minimum focus. The rear element’s movement doesn’t makes the front element move as well – the lens doesn’t focus by shifting the whole optical system forward and backward but by changing the mutual position of elements inside. As a result the focal length of the lens and its field of view change as well. It became obvious when we took the same photos using the Samyang and the Zeiss 2/25. Focusing on objects situated about 1 meter from you the field of view of the Zeiss (which officially features a focal length bigger than that of the Samyang) was wider than the Samyang’s field. It made us so curious that we decided to measure precisely the Samyang’s field of view.

You must remember, though, that fields of view and focal lengths of lenses are stated in their specifications for rays falling from infinity. Fortunately there is one nice method of determining a field of view which takes that property into account. You should take a photo of starry sky because stars, with just a very slight approximation, are situated at infinity. Then, having equatorial coordinates of the stars on your photo (meaning their rightascension and declination) and their coordinates in pixels (X,Y) you can transform pixels into equatorial coordinates. This process is based on the Turner’s method in which you use the polynomials of the third or the fifth order. A grid constructed in such a way has an average error on a level of several arc minutes and it makes the precision of computing the field of view satisfactory – on a level of 0.1 degree. The rightascension and declination values of outermost pixels in our image and the application of elementary spherical trigonometry makes it possible to compute an unambiguous result of a lens’s angle of view. In the case of the Samyang 1.4/24 it amounted to 84.03 degrees so exactly as much as stated by the producer.

Moving to the proper casing of the lens first you can see a narrow, immobile ring made of metal and covered by black paint. Immediately behind it there is a ribbed aperture ring made of plastics. It is 8 mm wide. The aperture can be changed every 0.5 EV stop apart from passing from f/1.4 to f/2.0 and from f/16 to f/22 where you have only 1 EV step at your disposal. Here the lack of aperture control on the level of the body makes itself felt – after all in good lenses even a 0.3 EV step is available.

A narrow, red stripe on which you have another immobile element is the next element of the casing. The name of the lens, its parameters and a depth of field scale are given on it, with markings at f/22, f/16, f/11, f/8.0, f/5.6 and f/4.0.

Samyang 24 mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC - Build quality

The biggest part of the casing is occupied by a manual focus ring, ribbed and made of plastics which is 4.5 centimeters wide; its ribbing occupies as much as 3 centimeters. Below there is a distance scale expressed in feet and meters. In a manual lens the performance of a manual focus ring is crucial. Unfortunately when it comes to this aspect the Samyang cannot be praised. The ring in itself has a lot of slack and additionally it becomes irritatingly loose when you change the direction of turning. Turn it one way and you feel a slight resistance and movement of elements. When you stop and you want to turn it in the opposite direction firstly there is no result whatsoever – you can turn it through 10 degrees or so and it the elements don’t budge. Only after a while something clink into place and the elements start moving. It makes really precise settings impossible, it is annoying and quite inappropriate at this price point. Running through the whole scale needs a turn though about 150 degrees.

Behind the focus ring you can find another fragment of the casing made of plastics which is ended by a hood mount and a non-rotating filter thread, 77 mm in diameter. As we wrote earlier, the front element is immobile; it is also convex with a diameter of about 5 centimeters.

The optical construction of the lens is based on a set of 13 elements positioned in 12 groups. It is worth our attention that as many as four elements are made of low-dispersion ED glass and two other are aspherical elements (AS). For example the rival Nikkor 1.4/24 features just two ED and two aspherical elements. Also antireflection coatings of the UMC type were used – it is supposed to ensure high image resolution and good light transmission. Inside the lens you can find an aperture with 8 diaphragm blades which can be closed down to the value of f/22.

Samyang 24 mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC - Build quality

Buyers get both caps, a petal-type hood and a soft pouch in the accessory kit.

Samyang 24 mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC - Build quality