Ultra Wide Angle (UWA) lenses are some of the most fun lenses to use. They're also one of the most challenging lenses to use. You really have to know what you want in your shot and be mindful of what's inside the frame when using an UWA lens.
My friend recently got the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 as a compulsive purchase and lent it to me for my Hong Kong trip. I got to use the lens for a lot of different projects and through my time with it I've actually grown to enjoy shooting at the 14mm focal length.
Disclaimer: This isn't going to be a very technical review. If you're looking for a technical review of this lens, you can go check out Ken Rockwell's review. This review will be my thoughts and experiences using this lens.
Build, Feel, and Ergonomics
I'd say that this lens has a really solid build and feels really premium. For a lens priced at P15,000 or around $300 USD, it feels really reliable and can be subject to some rough usage. I really like the design of the lens and the fact that it derives its appearance from other Samyang/Rokinon Cine lenses. The lens has a really long (and when I say long, I mean really really long) focus throw which is perfect for getting those precise focus racks for filmmakers. It's very important to note however that this is a manual lens meaning it doesn't have any autofocus motor inside it so if you're looking for an UWA lens that has AF, you can stop reading now.
Another manual attribute of the lens is that it has a manual aperture ring. This is another very useful aspect of the lens geared towards filmmakers. If you're using this lens for photography, you're gonna need to set it to f/22 in order to have electronic aperture ring control, although I'm not too sure if this works on lower end camera bodies (I've tried it with the Nikon D750 and D610).
The hood of the lens is non-removable meaning you can't put any regular filters on it. This is for the purpose of protecting that huge bulbous front element that really gives it that wide angle feel.
The lens weighs around 550 grams which feels really nicely balanced on a full frame body like the D750. Using this lens was a really nice respite from the really heavy Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART that I always had on my throughout my HK trip.
Image Quality and Perspective
I'd say that this lens is plenty sharp for regular usage. I've used it for cityscapes, interior photography, and even portraiture where it all did really well in terms of sharpness.
Here's some examples of when I used this lens. You'll see that it's pretty sharp for regular use and unless you go pixel peeping, you shouldn't have any problems.
One of the difficulties on this being a manual focus lens is that it can be difficult to have the shot perfectly sharp especially when you're on the go. This, coupled with the fact that it is super wide makes it difficult to always be tack sharp. You really have to sit down (or at least stay in place) and magnify your focus point to get this lens perfectly focused which to me isn't too much of a problem. It would've been better though if it had autofocus.
One of the attributes of an UWA lens is that it really distorts the image. It's not really a big problem though because distortion is easily fixable in Lightroom. And sometimes you can use the distortion for artistic effects.
Unless you're shooting in a really dimly lit place, I'd recommend stopping down to f/4.5 or above to avoid really heavy vignetting in the corners. This also helps with getting everything in focus so that's two birds with one stone.
The perspective of this lens is amazing. With an angle of view of 115.7° you can really get those wide epic landscapes and capture so much of the scene. It also really works well for turning indoor spaces into something a lot more grand than it actually is. Take our hotel room for example.
This room was actually really small and the distance between the foot of the bed and the chair could barely fit a person. Here's another example comparing the 14mm field of view with a 35mm.
The 21mm difference is really huge and you're able to capture a more grand image with the 14mm.
Would I recommend it?
I would classify the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 as a specialty lens in the sense that it caters to a very niche market of photographers. Throughout my shoots and travels, I only used this lens once or twice at each location. It would be on my camera about 5% of the time I spend shooting. It's an excellent lens, don't get me wrong, but the focal length isn't very versatile and thus only covers a few of the shots I want.
I would say that you should only buy this lens if you're into astrophotography (which I sadly didn't get to try in the time I borrowed this lens) or landscape photography. However, if you have the cash to spend on a really quirky and fun lens like this, by all means go for it. It's an amazing addition to your camera bag and gives a very unique perspective to whatever you're shooting.
As for me, I've really fallen in love with the 14mm focal length and will definitely be looking to get a 14mm lens soon. The only thing holding me back from getting this lens for myself is that it's a manual focus lens and it's doesn't have a wide an aperture as I'm used to with my primes. Maybe I'll set my eyes on something else like the new Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ART?