Review: Samyang 12mm NCS CS lens

January 18th 2017, 22:47 | Written by Konstantin Koll

I've spoiled myself with a new wide-angle lens: the Samyang 12mm NCS CS. It's a very capable lens, but with some big caveats.

What happened so far

About half a year ago, I bought two new lenses for my Sony NEX-F3 camera: a portrait lens (SEL-50F18 OSS) and a wide-angle pancake lens (SEL-16F28). I'm still in love with the portrait lens, but after a vacation in Paris I immediately sold the wide-angle lens on eBay. The image quality was just too poor. I guess there's a reason why this lens cost only a little more than 100€ in the first place.

Despite this disappointment I'm still sold on the idea of a wide-angle lens, so I started browsing online for a better one. I've stumbled upon the Samyang 12mm NCS CS, which is available for a variety of cameras.

Overview

The Samyang 12mm NCS CS lens is widely praised for its good image quality, but it has a few drawbacks. First, it's a so-called “prime lens” at 12mm focal length with no zoom. Second, it's a “manual lens”: the aperture and focus have to be set manually on the lens itself. Though the lens does mechanically fit the NEX camera body, there are no electrical contacts; the camera thinks it has no lens attached. Remember: you'll have to enable the “Release without lens” option in the camera setup to get this lens working at all! That's the reason why the Samyang 12mm lens sets you back only 300€: true e-mount wide angle lenses with autofocus can easily cost more than double that! And then we haven't even arrived in the zoom department.

Image quality

There was some heavy snowfall in my area a few days after the lens arrived (quite a rare occurence these days due to climate change), so I took a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and went out into the hills surrounding my town. The Samyang lens did a decent job in all settings: the images are sharp and crisp to the edges, and not blurred out like those taken with the old SEL-16F28. This obviously depends on the correct manual focus, but after a few tries I felt right at home with the camera's assist function. The Samyang lens also produces a satisfactory bokeh on wide apertures, and a great lens flare in direct sunlight.

However, there are a few downsides in image quality. There is some significant vignetting, which became very obvious against the mushy gray skies. I've also noticed some chromatic abberation, even the image center, when taking photos at the maximum resolution of 16 megapixel. Concluding my review, the Samyang 12mm NCS CS lens is a budget wide-angle lens that requires a photographer with above-average skills to handle a manual prime lens, and delivers an image quality that is better than expected. I'll use this lens not too often, but for those situations where I need a wide-angle lens, the Samyang lens is right in the sweet spot of good image quality and affordable price.

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