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Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS X Lens Review

John Riley reviews the new Samyang 21mm f/1.4 for Compact System Cameras.


|  Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

21mm f/1.4 UMC CS

The Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS is a compact and well made manual focus prime lens, priced at £279 and is available for Fujifilm X, Sony E, Micro Four Thirds and Canon EOS M mounts. In 35mm terms, this lens is an equivalent of 31.5mm assuming a 1.5x crop factor. In other words, it lies between being a wide standard lens or a modest wide angle.

Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS Handling and Features

Samyang 21mm F1,4 Lens Front View

The lens is clearly well-made, with a metal chassis and an outer shell of high-quality polycarbonate. The focusing action is smooth, only just falling short of being as silky as the 50mm f/1.2 tested at the same time. The aperture ring is definitely smooth, with light click stops and no play at all in the action. The mount is a good quality metal mount, this version looking substantial in its design and mounting smoothly onto the Fujifilm X-A1 used for this review. There is a very small amount of rotational play in the mount once the lens clicks into place, not significant enough to be a problem.

This is for APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors and a wide variety of mounts is available. The lens does not look out of place on the diminutive Fuji body and the balance is good. There is a very well made bayonet petal lens hood provided, to reduce any chance of flare. In any event, the lens is remarkably free from flare.

The lens is totally manual and there are no electronic contacts between it and the camera. This means that there is no EXIF data from the lens, no automatic diaphragm, but equally well it means that depth of field can be directly viewed on the camera screen as we are always at working aperture.

Samyang 21mm F1,4 Lens With Hood

The quality of construction is high, although economies have been made in various ways. For example, the various markings on the lens are surface printed, not engraved and filled. There is no AF. There are no electronics. There is no automatic diaphragm. Everything is manual. Some may consider this to be a breath of fresh air, others may be less tolerant of the extra work that this will entail.

There seems to be a trend currently for fast prime lenses, so the f/1.4 maximum aperture fulfils this need. It very much falls into the classic reportage category and will no doubt find favour with street photographers who want a fast, unobtrusive optic. It does make manual focusing easier, although as the aperture is fully manual, it needs to be reset after focusing at f/1.4. This may be fine for fairly stationary subjects, but not so good for action shooting.

There is no depth of field scale on the lens, which is a pity as there is a case for having a “snapshot” setting for street use, usually f/8 and an indication of focusing point to give adequate DOF at close distances. This would increase the ease of use in street photography, but, of course, the settings can be worked out if desired.

Samyang 21mm F1,4 Lens Diagonal View

Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS Performance

The lens is a pleasure to use and delivers a very acceptable performance, maybe not a high flyer when wide-open, but certainly one whose characteristics can be used to make very pleasing images.

The centre of the field is favoured, starting off at good levels and peaking at f/4 - f/5.6 where performance approaches excellent. The edges lag behind, reaching very good levels at around f/5.6 - f/8. The result is a bright, contrasty image that gives an impression of crispness. The fine resolution may not always be there, but the images look good.

 


 

 
Updated Samyang 21mm F 1 4 MTF Chart

MTF 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. 

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Fujifilm X-A1 using Imatest.

 

CA (chromatic aberration) is apparent, especially at the edges, but by f/4 has dropped to tolerable levels. As wide angle lenses generally are used stopped down this may not be a problem, and in any event this can be corrected in software.


 

 
Updated Samyang 21mm F 1 4 CA Chart

CA 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Fujifilm X-A1 using Imatest.

 

There is no communication between lens and camera, so EXIF info will be limited to the camera. This does not directly affect performance as such, but does indirectly as there will be no auto corrections for distortion or CA.

A small amount of barrel distortion comes as no surprise, being around -2.6%, but it is well within reasonable parameters for a wide angle lens.

Samyang 21mm f/1.4 ED UMC CS Sample Photos

Value For Money

Priced at £279, the Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS lens offers very good value for money, as a bright lens for mirrorless cameras. There are a number of alternatives but few offer as bright an aperture.

Alternatives include the Canon EF-F 22mm f/2.0 pancake lens for Canon EOS M mount cameras. Micro Four Thirds users could look at the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. There is also the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN lens available for Micro Four Thirds and Sony E-Mount, although it is not as bright. Another option for Sony E-mount cameras is the Sony E 20mm f/2.8 pancake lens.

For more options have a look at to Top 10 Best Samyang Lenses of 2015.

Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS Verdict

The Samyang 21mm f/1.4 is a pleasure to use, and after a while we can adapt again to using a fully manual lens. Depth of Field is directly observable on the screen as we are fixed at the working aperture. The f/1.4 aperture is bright enough to make focusing easier and stopping down the lens manually to take the shot becomes second nature. It is a lens that has a very pleasing character, not technically perfect but very much a photographer's optic. In the real world of image making, I can see that there will be many users who will extract fine images from this.

Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS Pros

High construction quality
Smooth operation
Pleasing images
f/1.4 aperture

Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS Cons

Edge performance lags behind centre
Slow manual handling

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Samyang 21mm f/1.4 UMC CS is a well-made optic with pleasing pictorial qualities.

 

 

Samyang 21mm f/1.4 ED UMC CS Specifications

ManufacturerSamyang
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
  • Sony E Mount
  • Fujifilm X Mount
  • Canon EOS M
Lens
Focal Length21mm
Angle of View69.3
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size58mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus28cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements8
Groups7
Box Contents
Box ContentsFront and rear caps, Hood, Case
Dimensions
Weight290g
Height67.9mm

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Comments


ChrisV Plus
12 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
7 Oct 2015 1:20PM
I would have thought that given its aperture, the Lumix/Leica 25mm f1.4 is worthwhile considering as an alternative.

That lens does not have any problems at all with CA and also offers better sharpness across the range. It was initially very expensive, but since it can now be had for around 350 and also obviously offers full AF and other electronic function, investing the extra would seem very sound. Those wanting a slightly shorter focal length might also be well advised to consider the Olympus 17/f1.8. It's closer to the classic 35mm 'street lens' and it doesn't suffer from the Panasonic 20mm's Achilles' heel of slow auto focus [particularly in poor light/low contrast situations].

I do generally like Samyang's offerings, but at the launch price and less than stellar performance I can't see this as a good buy - for the MFT format, at least.

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BobEH 14 16 United Kingdom
7 Oct 2015 2:47PM
That's fine for M4/3rds buy what about Fuji X. their lenses tend to be pretty expensive. Having said that I've just checked the price of a Fuji X 18mm f2. Its now selling on Amazon for 234 a 300 or more discount on rrp. Hm
AlexandraSD 8 762 United Kingdom
7 Oct 2015 3:15PM
The few times i have used my 8mm fisheye from samyang have been a joy, be it for stills or video blogging, the manual operation should be second nature for most togs, even if it has been 10 years since a manual lens was last used, for example.

Will samyang ever commit to producing autofocus lenses in the future? I hope so, if they ever make a 35mm autofocus f1.4 lens then i would snap it up quicker than you could blink!
ChrisV Plus
12 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
7 Oct 2015 9:31PM

Quote:The few times i have used my 8mm fisheye from samyang have been a joy, be it for stills or video blogging, the manual operation should be second nature for most togs, even if it has been 10 years since a manual lens was last used, for example.

Will samyang ever commit to producing autofocus lenses in the future? I hope so, if they ever make a 35mm autofocus f1.4 lens then i would snap it up quicker than you could blink!



I've got that lens too - at 8mm autofocus is a virtual non-issue. Even wide open, focus beyond a few feet and DoF is so large you don't need to think about it. It's small, it's cheap, it's well built and performance is pretty good. It's one of those lenses for MFT (if you have a use for it - it's not an everyday lens) that's a no-brainier at the price. Shame the same can't be said for this. If they were to team up with Samsung (another South Korean company) for electronics they could have something really good.

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