Review: Samyang 8mm Fisheye — Urbex Equipment

Author sophos9 - Last updated: 19.05.2010

Thought I’d write up a little review on this fine, yet affordable, piece of equipment

Introduction

The full name of this lens is Samyang 8mm f/3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fish-eye. It’s a manual, frame filling fisheye lens for crop sensors, available for all major mounts. I use the Nikon version on a D90.
Being a fisheye, this lens has heavy barrel distortion, but that’s just what you want if you decide to get a fishy
It has a coverage of approximately 160 degrees diagonal, which can lead to serious problems when you go urbexing with your buddies – I’m known by the name Cmdr-”get the f*ck out of my frame”-Cord now

The lens sells under a variety of brand names, such as Walimex, Pro-Optic, Bower and maybe others. They are all the same lens, just with different brands printed on the cap.
The price is between 230 EUR and 300 EUR, depending on where you order. Cheapest retailer in the EU seems to be foto-tip.pl .

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As you can see, I got a Walimex branded one, and it has some dust on it, too

Specs

  • Focal length: 8mm
  • FOV: 180° according to marketing, but I think it is more like 160° diagonal. More than enough anyway
  • Maximum Aperture: F/3.5
  • Close Focus distance: 30cm
  • Weight: ca. 400g

The lens has a built in, petal shaped hood, and as a result of that a rather unusual lens cap. The hood does not protect the front lens at all, so you need to be careful when carrying it around.
Also, you cannot mount any filters, but that’s common with most fisheyes I guess.

As noted above, it will fill your frame on a crop camera. On a full frame camera, you will actually see the hood, resulting in a usable area equal to that of a crop sensor. If you “shave” (ie. cut off) the hood, it will produce a circular image on full frame.

Build Quality and Haptics

The lens feels very solid, way better than I expected at that price. It seems to be metal for the most part, only the aperture ring and the hood are plastic.
There are no loose parts, everyting fits very well.
The focus ring is very smooth, pity you don’t need to use it often…

Focus scale calibration: Apparently some lenses (mine too) seem to be way off on the focus scale. Mine had approximately infinity focus when set to 0.7m, which really is way off.
Luckily, there is an easy fix, only thing you’ll need is a 1.2mm screwdriver. Flip back the rubber of the focus ring, there are three screws. Set the focus ring to what you believe is 3m focus, for example. Then loosen the screws and turn the focus ring so the scale is also at 3m.
This is a bit trial and error, but luckily there’s no need to align the focus scale exactly. You’ll just need to remember e.g. where the 3m or infinity focus is on your scale.
If yours is just a little off, you might as well leave it that way…

Performance

This lens is fully manual. This means you set the aperture manually, and also focus manually. On some cameras, such as the D90, you also have no metering, so you’ll need to set exposure manually. Not a big deal, because you can easily check and adjust using the histogram.
Focusing is also easy: I set mine to 3m (might as well tape it there), aperture to f/8 and let the DoF work its magic
There’s really no need to change focus at f/8 and up, unless your subject is really close.

Wide open at f/3.5 the lens is a little soft, especially at the edges. At f/8 and up it is tack sharp throughout the whole image, I’m tempted to say better than my 10-20mm Sigma.

This shot gives you an idea of the FOV of the lens. I put the camera a few centimeters in front of the wall, approximately 3m above the floor. Maybe the 180° vertical is not just marketing after all

Image


Shot at f/8 with focus set to 3m.

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100% crop from the center, RAW, no additional sharpening applied.

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100% crop from lower left corner, RAW, no additional sharpening applied

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Chromatic aberration is present, especially in the corners, but that’s to be expected. It’s not worse than my other lenses, and you can remove it fairly easily should it be a problem.

Flares can be an issue, too. I had one situation where I couldn’t get rid of the flare. There was a window just outside the upper left corner in this shot:

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Even as I moved closer, there still was flare. The viewing angle of the lens is just too wide, and if a light source is in one of the corners the petal shaped hood doesn’t kick in, so you might get flares. But this was the only situation in 4 days of excessive use where they became a problem.

Miscellaneous

The lens uses a very pleasing stereographic projection, which is also more complicated to design than other projections. Compared to other fisheyes, you will notice that the corners of the image don’t get compressed that much. I think this looks very nice, if used correctly it is much more “subtle” than other fisheyes.

As noted above, you can also mount it to a full frame camera, but you will see the petals in the image.
You can either crop it, or cut off the petals to get a circular image, similar to the 8mm circular fisheye from Sigma. I wouldn’t use it for FF, though, I’d get a 15mm frame filling one instead…

Conclusion

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Good sharpness at f/8 and up
  • Huuuuuge viewing angle
  • Pleasing stereographic projection
  • Attractive price

Cons:

  • Almost useless wide open at f/3.5
  • Focus scale calibration was way off

I really like this lens. It exceeded my expectations in most points: excellent build quality, and it is as sharp as it gets on my D90. CAs and flares seem to be well controlled, definitely not worse than other lenses I’ve used.
There are very few drawbacks, the softness at f/3.5 is not really an issue if you use a tripod (you’ll want f/8 or smaller anyway because of the DoF), and manual focus is no problem if you take advantage of the huge DoF of this lens.
Manual exposure is also easy once you get used to it.
Only real issue I can think of is the focus scale calibration thing. This should not pass QA at the factory, but apparently it does, and not only on mine. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to measure focus due to the huge DoF, one can only guess…

Overall, I would highly recommend this lens to anyone looking for some fisheye goodness, and not willing to spend a fortune for a Sigma, Nikon or Canon lens – which, according to online reviews, might not even be better than this one.
And just forget those overpriced Peleng 8mm fisheyes, they are utter crap compared to the Samyang

Last but not least, here’s an example of what kind of shots you can get with this lens… did I mention I really dig it?

Image


4 comments

#1TimAugust 10, 2010, 5:05 am

Thanks for the write up on this lens. I have purchased it and I am eagerly awaiting it’s arrival.

#2VilleSeptember 12, 2010, 10:25 pm

Oi!

I got the lens today about at nine in the evening, so it’s quite dark outside. But i noticed, that the focus wasn’t really working as i expected. There didn’t seem to be any change with the focusdistance of 30cm and the other end. I took the photos outside with a Nikon D90, Sb-800, f3,5 and 1/200.

Ville
Turku, Finland.

#3fbordezAugust 1, 2013, 3:42 am

Thank for you review! Very informative!
Where did you take the pictures? I love the last one. It would be great as a large print.

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