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First Look: Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift Lens - Part 1

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The release of the Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-shift lens (also branded as Samyang or Bower) has created quite a bit of excitement. For Canon and Nikon shooters, it offers a 24mm tilt-shift alternative for around half the price of the brand name lenses. For shooters of other systems, it offers a tilt-shift option they may not have had at all.

The company's other offerings have all had excellent optics. Construction quality has been rather iffy, and getting one repaired nearly impossible. On the other hand, good optics at prices like they offer makes the build-quality trade off more than acceptable.

I should mention I'm a bit of a Rokinon fan. I own their 14mm because at $379 I think it's an insane bargain for a very sharp lens. For that price, compared to $2,300 for a Canon 14mm, I'm more than willing to give up autofocus, accept some barrel distortion, and consider it disposable. If it breaks getting a new one won't be much more expensive than the standard repair cost for a Canon 14mm and less than the repair cost of a Nikon 14-24.

But a tilt-shift is a lot more complex than a simple prime lens, and the RokiBowYang 24mm tilt-shift costs a lot more than their 14mm. So I'll admit that going in I was a bit skeptical of this lens.

Look and Feel

The first noticeable thing when comparing the Canon 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II, Nikon 24mm PC-E, and Rokinon 24mm TS lenses is the weight.  The Canon weighs in at 780 grams (27.5 ounces), the Samyang at 680, and the Nikon at 730 grams. The Samyang does NOT come with a hood, which the other two have, although they are very shallow hoods that probably aren't particularly effective.

 

Left to right: The Nikon, Samyang, and Canon 24mm tilt-shift lenses

I think it important to note that the Rokinon has only has 6 aperture blades, compared to 8 for the Canon and 9 for the Nikon. While the Rokinon aperture is round when wide open, stopping down, even a little bit, clearly changes it to a hexagon.

One other thing I noted as soon as I used the lens: the Rokinon has smaller plastic knobs for controlling tilt-shift and locking. The small lever that allows you to rotate the lens on its base and the tilt and shift axis is rather thin plastic (compared to metal on the other lenses) that flexes about 30 degrees when pushed. That makes me a bit nervous; it certainly seems like it could break off without too much pressure.

The Samyang control knobs are smaller and less indented than either the Nikon (shown) or Canon.

 

As far as function, though, the Rokinon gives everything you would ask: 8.5 degrees of tilt, 12 degrees of shift, rotating base and the shift and tilt axis can be rotated so they are aligned or at right angles to each other. The Canon 24mm  TS-E can match all these functions, but the Nikon can't match the rotations.

Imatest Results

Unfortunately, Imatest results can only be obtained with the lens in straight position, so we can't compare tilted and shifted. Plenty of lens reviewers will be comparing tilted and shifted images, soon, though.

We tested 4 copies in Canon mount on our Canon 5D Mk II test cameras in the usual fashion. The table below shows the results for the Rokinon versus the Canon 24mm f/3.5 TS-E L. The numbers represent MTF 50 in the center, averaged across the entire lens surface, and the average of the 4 near-corner areas.

Center Average Corner Average
Samyang 24mm f/3.5 TS-E730560455
Canon 24mm TS-E f/3.5910775520
Canon 24-105 f/4 at 24mm840690490

It's a bit unfair to compare the Rokinon with a $2,000 lens that is widely recognized as one of the sharpest tilt-shifts made, but that's the most direct comparison. Since most people probably haven't shot with the Canon 24 TS-E, I included the resolution numbers for the Canon 24-105 f/4 IS just to give a widely known comparison point. Put simply, the Samyang 24 TS-E resolution is adequate - not great but not awful, either.

I thought measurements against the Nikon 24mm PC-E lens might be more even since the Nikon is a much older design that is probably due for a makeover soon. We did our Nikon-mount tests on a D800, so the higher camera resolution would be expected to give significantly higher MTF 50 numbers than the Canon 5D II. (In previous tests we've done, the same lens will have an MTF from 15% to 20% higher on a D800 than a 5D II.)

Unfortunately, one of the 4 Nikon-mount Rokinon copies we received was badly decentered, so we only averaged the test results for the other 3 copies, averaged in the table below.

MTF 50 Center MTF 50 Average MTF 50 corner
Samyang 24mm TS800640500
Nikon 24mm PC-E990770490

The Nikon lens clearly resolves a bit better in the center than the Samyang, although in the corner area things are pretty even.

Let's all remember, though, that these are tilt-shift lenses. Resolution is important, of course, but absolute resolution is not the primary reason we choose a tilt-shift lens, so these tests may be less important than they would be for a standard prime lens. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, our testing tools don't let us make comparisons with the lenses shifted and tilted -- it's theoretically possible but so many new variables are introduced I wouldn't trust the results.

The Samyang also falls behind the others on distortion, with 2.3% barrel distortion compared to 1.4% for the Nikon and 0.9% for the Canon.

Stopping Down Aperture

Comparing the lenses stopped down provides some interesting additional information.

The Canon and Nikon tilt-shifts improve only slightly stopped down (for real world purposes the Canon is really identical from f/3.5 to f/8; the Nikon gets a bit sharper in the corners by f/5.6). The Samyang, however, improves quite a bit stopped down.

On the 5D II it never quite catches the Canon lens's peak resolution, but at f/11 they are identical. (The Canon lens is not getting any sharper from f/8 to f/11, so all we see is diffraction softening. The Samyang is still improving optically, more than enough to offset the diffraction softening.) Compared to the Nikon lens Samyang has almost identical resolution at f/8.

This is a rather important point. A landscape shooter who plans to use tilt function to maximize depth of field and shoot at small apertures should find the Samyang very competitive with the brand name lenses. Someone who plans to shoot at wide apertures will almost certainly notice the difference.

A Very Few Images

Obviously this isn't a review -- I'm a tester not a reviewer. I was able during the few hours it hasn't been raining this weekend to take a few shots with the lens on a Canon 6D. They may give a little idea about untilted/unshifted image quality and a chance to look at out of focus areas.

Evaluating the out of focus areas, it appears the lens has both longitudinal chromatic and spherical aberration wide open, which is probably why it sharpens up so nicely stopped down. If you want to see 100% jpgs, you can do so HERE.

Tilted to minimize depth of field

Conclusions

Obviously this isn't a full review (that's not what I do), but hopefully will provide a little information for those considering this lens.

I consider it reasonably priced for the image quality it delivers, but not a screaming bargain by any means. (I consider the RokiBowYang 14mm a screaming bargain.) But, since there is very little competition in the 'reasonably priced' tilt-shift lens category, I expect it will sell well.

For those who primarily shoot this kind of lens stopped down, it may be a very good choice. Wide open it's still acceptable, but the difference between it and the Nikon and Canon versions are going to be noticeable at f/3.5.

I am concerned about the reliability issue, especially given the difficulty in getting RokiBowYang lenses repaired in the U. S. I'll be tearing one down in the next few days and hopefully looking at the build inside will help alleviate (or confirm) those concerns.

Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

Lensrentals.com

May, 2013

 

20 Responses to “First Look: Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift Lens - Part 1”

N/A said:

at least with nikon lens there are concerns of tilt shift knobs interfering with integrated flash chin (or how it's called) on smaller bodies (D800, D600). how much is it true, and how samyang stands in this regard?

A said:

Thank you for posting this!

I was contemplating getting this one (as I too have the Samyang 14mm), but the launch price of this one has really put me off... I was hoping it would be half that. Here's hoping that the street price plummets like a stone!

This would be a good time for Sigma to weigh in with one of their Art lenses in tilt-shift form, then we could wait and watch the feathers fly ;)

I think I'll sit this one out for the moment.

JayDee said:

@N/A: There is a online forum legend that the movements of the Nikon PC-E are "severely limited" on smaller bodies. For the D700 and D800 I can say that you can get any practical T/S setting you want, although you cannot fully rotate the mechanism in any direction. (There is only one small, practically insignificant limitation, when rotating the shift mechanism by 30 degrees, upwards shift is 9 mm instead of 11 mm.) So don't worry about the PC-E on a D800. I don't know about the D600, though.

Samuel H said:

Thanks for the mini-review.

I see that you already carry the standard RokiBowYang 24mm f/1.4
http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/canon/lenses/wide-angle

That lens has mixed reviews around the web: some people are very happy with it, some say it's awful. I'm guessing it's a copy-to-copy variability issue. It would be great to hear some comments from you, or to see one of those clouds of imatest results that only you can provide :)

Teedidy said:

Could you comment how this compares to the version 1 of the Cannon 24mm TS-E.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Troy, I can't comment with any numbers, it's been several years since we stocked the version I. From memory when I did shoot it, I think it's a bit better wide open than the Samyang. But that's just memory and fallible.

Roger

JP said:

Indeed, it would be very interesting to see in further reviews how this lens compares with the Canon TS-E I version. Bought 2nd hand, that lens is about the same price, and I find it surprisingly good (even though pixel peepers wouldn't be able to live with the thought that the TS-E II is even better :) . And mechanically, the Canon TS-E I is superb.

PeteG said:

If I'm using the Samyang T-S between f/11-f/22 will the IQ be close to Canon's TS-E mkII.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Pete, very close. After f/16 there's not much difference.

Randy said:

Having owned both the 24PC-E and the 24TS-II I'd say the biggest issue isn't the size of the knobs or how many directions the lens tilts. The $64 dollar question is how much quality do you lose when you shift? The answer is a lot (even stopped down) and that's why the lens needs to be a stellar performer in its un-shifted position.

Of course, if you want to do stuff like the Lens Baby effect, that's a different story.

Zachery said:

So, when are you going to put the Canon version of the Samyang TS on a Speed Booster on an NEX-7? :)

I'm actually seriously interested in this combination (although I'd eventually actually be using a Nikon version on an F mount Speed Booster for Fuji X mount, but, not all of the necessary components have been released yet).

Tim Ball said:

+ Another for comparison with Canon TSE-1

Alsal said:

Having checked Roger's first test on the Samyang 24mm TS I have the same feeling I had with their 24mm f/1.4

I think Samyang's 14mm, 35mm and 85mm have a very good price/quality ratio but other lenses like the 24mm f/1.4 and now this 24mm tilt & shift don't have in my opinion such good ratio. I already skipped the 24mm f/1.4 and will do the same with the tilt&shift. I will probably just stretch the wallet and get the Canon.

That's my take, for someone else it might be worth it.

Guillaume said:

Mistake in the text ?

"In previous tests we’ve done, the same lens will have an MTF from 15% to 20% higher on a D800 than a 5D II."
Didn't you make this comparison between the D800 and the 5D III rather than II ?
Sorry for the input if I am the one who's wrong.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Guillaume, it was 5DIII tests in our blog posts but we've done a lot of in-house stuff that we don't always publish, mostly because it's boring. But 5D II and III resolutions and Imatest results are very close to the same.

lightcatcher said:

You say: "A landscape shooter who plans to use tilt function to maximize depth of field and shoot at small apertures should find the Samyang very competitive with the brand name lenses."

Landscape shooters generally use TSE lenses to increase DOF without diffraction effects by keeping the aperture size large (i.e. aperture number small). For D800 it is reported that diffraction begins around f8. Maybe f10 on 5DMk3.

So a landscape shooter using tilt, will want to keep ** f smaller than 8 **. In that case the Samyang will perform much more poorly than the brand-name tilt lenses.

Seems like the Samyang wouldn't be of much use for landscape shooters who use TSE to maximize DOF without sacrificing image quality to diffraction.

Spy Black said:

If it's significantly cheaper to rent, then this is a good lens to play with. If you're doing a pro gig you may want to consider an OEM, since you're writing it off anyway, right? Enjoy the toy.

Spy Black said:

BTW, I know this is nit-picking, but this is a Samyang lens. It's not a Rokinon lens. It's not a Bower lens. Rokinon and Bower are merely distributors of disparate products by a multitude of manufacturers. They do not make this lens, Samyang does. Samyang designed and manufactured this lens. So despite which distributor you actually get it from, you should call it for what it is, a Samyang lens. I must say however that the RokiBowYang thing does roll off the tongue well...

Brian said:

Roger, any chance you'll evaluate the new 16mm f/2 lens from Samyang?

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