Samyang 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye (Sony NEX) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha/NEX (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published August 2011

Introduction

As of the time of this review the Sony NEX system has a significant shortcoming - the lack of lenses. This issue will be solved, eventually, but this is still somewhat disappointing especially when compared to the micro-four-thirds system. That said there's at least one other manufacturer of E-mount lenses - Samyang, a korean company. They offer the Samyang 8mm f/3.5 Fish-eye CS VG10. The naming is a bit confusing because it actually suggests that the lens is meant for Sony NEX VG-10 camcorder only but it is actually a "normal" E-mount lens and as such also compatible to conventional NEX cameras as well. However, according to Foto-Tip (the European Distributor) Samyang is preparing a dedicated Fisheye with smaller dimensions specifically for the Sony NEX. Samyang lenses are also marketed by several other companies like Vivitar (7mm f/3.5), Bower (8mm f/3.5), Opteka (6.5mm f/3.5), Walimex (8mm f/3.5), Rokinon (8mm f/3.5) and probably a couple more.

Samyang E-mount lenses don't feature any electronics so while you will be able to mount this fisheye lens without an adapter you'll have to live without AF, a camera-controlled aperture and EXIF data. The Samyang 8mm f/3.5 is a dedicated full frame fisheye lens for APS-C cameras with an immense field-of-view - 180 degrees so one of the obstacles of using such a lens is to avoid that your feet will be part of your scene. Fisheye lenses are usually not cheap but the Samyang lens is available for just 260-320EUR!

In case you wonder about the L bracket attached to the NEX-5 - this is a accessory by JTec - which really works very well for stabilizing the camera on a tripod.

If you conclude that such an affordable lens has a sloppy build quality ... well, be prepared for a surprise - it's actually very good. The fairly long main body is made of metal and the rubberized focus ring operates smooth and it's even damped just like in the old days. The (plastic-)aperture rings feels a bit less sturdy but it works reliably with distinctive "clicks". The bulb-like front elements makes it impossible to mount filters but that's just normal for such a lens. It's somewhat "fiddly" to attach the front cap but it's certainly a good idea to take advantage of it to protect the lens during transportation. The physical length of the lens remains constant throughout the focus range. Typical for its species it does not support any front filters.

The lack of AF is basically a non-issue due to the immense depth-of-field provided by such a lens - for most scenes just set the focus distance to 2m and then be happy ever after. If in doubt (e.g. in very close focus situations) you can, of course, use magnified Live-View to fine-tune the focus manually. The "peaking" feature doesn't really work here which is probably also a side effect of its fisheye nature. Setting the (working) aperture directly on the lens may also be something to get used to but it's really an acceptable compromise here.

Specifications
Equiv. focal length12 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/5.3 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction10 elements in 7 groups inc. 1x aspherical element
Number of aperture blades6
min. focus distance0.3 m (max. magnification ratio 1:7.4)
Dimensions75 x 80 mm
Weight413 g
Filter size-
Hoodpetal-shaped, snap-on, supplied
Other features-




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