REVIEW: WORLD’S WIDEST PRIME LENS- DISTORTION-FREE

Introduction

I was delighted to be selected as a Samyang Passionate Artist this year and get the opportunity to test and review some new lenses. I was sent the latest lens from the premium manual-focus XP range, the Samyang XP 10MM F/3.5, boasting as the world’s widest lens!

Out the box I was impressed with the aesthetics and build quality, the XP 10mm lens certainly has a premium feel, with a metal housing and a metal mount too. The focus ring is wide with a rubber finish for easier grip. The lens has a built-in petal-shaped hood to protect the lens and minimise flaring. It all arrived secured in a soft drawstring lens case.

As a keen astrophotographer I was glad to see the manual lens with full markings, distance and/or depth of field scale. Making focusing to infinity to capture pin sharp stars much easier. I own the older Samyang f/2.8, 14mm lens which totally transformed my astrophotography, so I was excited to see what the premium lens could do. I would be testing the lens on a Canon 6D, although Nikon and Sony mounts will be available. The XP lens has been designed for latest generation of 50 megapixel DSLRs, offering very high resolution images.

Samyang XP 10MM F/3.5
Metal lens cap
Samyang XP 10MM F/3.5 on Canon 6D

After a few days testing the lens in daylight I got the opportunity to try some astrophotography.  I was impressed looking through the viewfinder to see the whole stone circle wrapped in the frame and the wide angle allowed me to get very close, while still allowing a good proportion of starry skies. I was impressed by the resulting image, the stars looked great, pin sharp, with plenty of detail. The image had good dynamic range, from the ground snow to the dark sky. There’s slight aurora on the horizon too. Any reservations I had about the f/3.5 not being fast enough to capture good astrophotography soon faded.

f/3.5, 30 sec, ISO 3200
f/3.5, 30 sec, ISO 3200

Distortion

The XP 10mm offers ‘Zero Distortion’ thanks to a full-field rectilinear design, an impressive feat as lenses with this kind of focal length are usually fisheyes. With the right subject the lens could capture some epic big scenes, with detail all the way to the edges. It should offer a 122° horizontal field of view, creating some great immersive images. I liked the way the ultra-wide angle emphasized the foreground too, giving an almost 3D-depth to the images.

f11, 1/200 sec, ISO 200

Vignetting

As expected with wide angle lenses, there was vignetting in the corners when shooting wide open, but it quickly disappeared when optimised at f/8-f/16. Will be easily removable in postprocessing when lens correction is added also.

f/3.5, 30 sec, ISO 3200
Vignetting on edges with no lens correction added.

Light Fall-Off

f/3.5, 30 sec, ISO 3200
Crop showing light fall-off in corners when shooting wide open.

With the lens set to its maximum aperture of f/3.5, there is significant light fall-off in the corners. Stopping-down the lens virtually eliminates this. The Glass Mold Aspherical lens element did a good job of eliminating chromatic aberration too.


The only drawback I found about the lens was bad flaring when shooting in direct light. This can be seen in the photo of Bennachie below (bottom right). While the bracketed exposures brought great dynamic range and details the image was let down by the distracting flaring. Like many photographers I love ‘chasing the light’, especially golden hour and capturing sunrise/sunset. I need to have 100% faith in the reliability of my gear to capture sometime brief moments so I was disappointed with the bad flaring, in a lens that’s otherwise performs well.

I noticed the flaring took a linear shape, possibly because of the full-field rectilinear design of the XP lens. Perhaps the flaring problem is a consequence of the super-wide nature of the lens, with light leaking in from the sides and causing unwanted reflections internally.

10mm, f8, 1/250 sec, ISO 200

Cropping out the flaring did give a very usable image but it slightly defies the point in buying an premium ultra-wide XP 10mm lens.

f8, 1/250 sec, ISO 200. Cropped.

That said, I composed this light trail shot of Marischal College carefully by avoiding direct street lights and it came out well. The passing bus didn’t create any major flaring and the light trails were clean. You just have to be more mindful of your composition with the width of the prime lens to avoid problematic light leaking in.

f14, 10 sec, ISO 200

Conclusion

Obviously at 10mm this is a specialised ultra-wide angle lens not for general purpose, but for photography such as landscapes, astrophotography, architecture and interior it excels. The weather-proof build quality is excellent, with the metal lens mount and housing adding to the high-quality feel. Matched by great optics offering sharp, colorful, vibrant images with great clarity and zero distortion. No auto focus makes daytime shooting a bit harder but the lens rewards those willing to put time into planning. I did however find the non removable lens hood a little restricting not being compatible with filters, as it would limit my creativity for landscapes.

As a astrophotographer I found the manual lens very easy to use and was shooting in minutes. Despite being 2/3 of a stop slower than my older f/2.8, 14mm Samyang lens, the XP 10mm f/3.5 offered drastically improved images. Even at a modest ISO the star detail was incredibly sharp and detailed. The wide field also allowed me to include enough foreground interest without losing starry skies. Partially useful when capturing the vast Milky Way. I’m looking forward to the Milky Way core being more visible in March and really pushing the lens with my tracker. It will be very well suited to wide field astrophotography.

Overall I think Samyang have made another fantastic lens with the XP 10mm f/3.5 and their innovation to produce the world’s widest lens with the full-field rectilinear design is impressive. For those wanting complete manual control the advantages of the lens far outweigh the bad flaring issue when shooting in direct light. It’s sharpness and quality has certainly earned it a permanent spot in my kit bag.

Pros + 

  • Great sharpness and clarity
  • Good colour reproduction
  • Zero-distortion
  • Wide angle can capture some epic large scenes
  • Cheaper and wider than rival lenses.

Cons –

  • Bad flaring and artifacts when shooting in direct light.
  • Subject impact sometimes a little lost with the wide nature of lens.
  • Petal-shaped lens hood is non removable so not compatible with filters.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s