Review – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens

We’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time but just never seemed to get around to it. We have been big fans of fisheye lenses for over 10 years. Firstly on our APS-C cameras and now on our Full Frame mirrorless cameras.

Now, the fisheye look does not appeal to everyone’s taste and there certainly are many fisheye-haters who consider the lens to be a bit of a gimmick. And forget it if you think this 180-degree will win you more followers/likes on Instagram!!. However, used with a bit of creativity this misunderstood lens can obtain some very unique images that cannot be captured with conventional wide-angle lenses. Personally, we would never travel without the ‘fishy’ ?.

The only caveat of owning a fisheye lens is that you cannot attach filters, not that we would anyway, but we always like to affix a UV filter for added protection. With a bulbous lens on a fisheye, you will need to take extra care with the lens when handling and when shooting in inclement weather.

Back in the day when we used Nikon APS-C sensor cameras, we used the Samyang 8mm f3.5 UMC Fish-Eye CS (equivalent to 12mm on a Full Frame sensor) and it produced some amazing images. Below is one of our most popular images to be stolen online frown

Nikon D7000 + Samyang 8mm f3.5 UMC Fish-Eye CS lens

In 2014 we moved from the APS-C crop sensor Nikon D7000 to the Full Frame sensor Sony A7r and Sony A7ii mirrorless cameras (we now both shoot the Sony A7Riii). Naturally, we promptly purchased the Samyang 12mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens.

Samyang 8mm f3.5 UMC Fish-Eye CS -V- Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens

There were a couple of physical differences between the 8mm APS-C version and the 12mm Full Frame version. However, the lens is still a manual focus lens which requires you to change the aperture on the lens as well.

  • The lens hood on the 12mm is removable however it was fixed on our original version of the 8mm. Version 2 of the 8mm lens now has a detachable hood.
  • The 12mm lens for mirrorless cameras is a lot larger than the 8mm as well as the 12mm DSLR versions due to the mounting flange on mirrorless camera bodies.
  • A maximum aperture of f/2.8 rather than f/3.5 on the 8mm lens.

The Technical Stuff

The lens is available in many mounts: DSLR – Canon EF,  Nikon F, Pentax K, Sony A Mirrorless – Canon M,  Fujifilm X, Samsung NX, Sony E, MFT. As mentioned above, the DSLR mount lenses are all much shorter (70.2 – 72.7mm) in length in comparison to the mirrorless versions which are all at least 20mm longer due to the smaller mounting flange on the mirrorless camera bodies. As a result, the lenses are also slightly heavier than the DSLR versions but not by much.

Users of Full Frame sensor cameras will get the widest field of view with a full 180-degree view but those using the APS-C sensor cameras will only get between 118-degrees up to 124.6-degrees depending on the camera mount. MFT (Micro Four Thirds) users will only get 97.3 degrees.

Build Quality

The build quality is exceptional. The frame of the lens is constructed of high-strength aluminium alloy. The lens has 7 aperture blades designed to be almost as a full circle when the aperture is closed. The detachable petal-shaped lens hood minimizes flare and ghosting. As you cannot use a protective filter/ UV filter on the front of this lens, we suggest you keep the hood on at all times when shooting to protect the bulbous front of the lens from the elements and knocks. And if really need to know, internally the lens features 12 lenses in 8 groups.

Samyang 12mm F2.8 ED AS NCS FISHEYE lens – this is a DSLR version.
A Mirrorless version of this lens will at least 20mm longer!
The extra length extends below the aperture ring.

How to Use

Now, we know it sounds pretty silly telling you how to use this lens however we thought we would share how we use this lens as it is really simple.

Firstly – composition is king when shooting with a fisheye lens. Not every scene is suitable for a fisheye and it is certainly not ideal for most landscapes. It works really well with architecture, especially when pointed upwards, and for subjects that are round. Shots are usually better composed when both sides of the image are balanced.  As the lens has a 180-degree field of view on Full Frame sensor cameras you have to be careful when shooting outdoors where the sky is included. The resulting shot can have one side of the shot blown out due to the direction of light from the sun and the opposing direction will be nicely exposed. Also, when angling the lens down watch out you don’t include your feet! smile To give you a better idea, check out some images below.

As far as settings are concerned, we thoroughly tested our copy when we bought it. We shoot in Aperture Priority and found that optimum quality is at f8 with the focus ring at infinity (actually, we use it at the maximum setting which is just before the infinity symbol on the lens). This lens will give you incredible DOF (Depth Of Field) at f8. Absolutely everything will be in focus from foreground to background. If the light is a little low we may open the aperture to f5.6. That it! Point and shoot. Simple huh! You’ll be amazed by the results.

Photography Planner

UTS Sydney, Australia – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens – Perfect for architecture shots.

Princes Pier, Melbourne – Australia – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens
This is the view you will get when the lens is level. You can still achieve a level horizon with the lens. There is some noticeable distortion on the left & right edges of the frame and some of the pier in the foreground. Still a pleasing shot in our opinion.

Princes Pier, Melbourne – Australia – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens
This is the view you will get when the lens is tilted slightly downwards. 

Princes Pier, Melbourne – Australia – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens
This is another view with the lens tilted downwards. In order to get some even lighting in our sky, we shot this with the sun relatively behind us. With a lens that shoots a 180-degree image, you will sometimes battle with objects in your composition that you don’t want to include but unfortunately, that is ‘the nature of the beast’ when using a lens like this. This composition includes the shadow of the camera on the tripod and unwanted areas in the bottom corner of the image which we knew would be easy enough to remove in Lightroom/Photoshop so it was not really a concern. 

Casino Interior, Macao – China – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens. A fantastic lens for interiors although we’re not sure a paying client would want this extreme angle. Although, with a bit of editing in Photoshop you should be able to straighten the distortion near the edges. Alternatively, you could process the file use an app such as Fisheye-Hemi which does the same thing as Photoshop only a little quicker.

All Saints Anglican Church, Bodalla – Australia – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens. Great for interiors when you have limited space.

Caretta Shiodome, Tokyo – Japan – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens. Great to use with leading lines and shapes in your composition

Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island – Hong Kong – Samyang 12mm f2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens. Always try to centre yourself to your subject so both right and left sides of the composition are relatively equal.

ON1 Photo RAW 2020

There is a myriad of examples we could show here but with the samples above we think you get the idea of how this lens works best. If you’ve never used a fisheye lens we suggest you try renting one for a few days and let your creativity run wild. Try shooting with it in a forest with tall trees, a densely populated city with skyscrapers, an external shot of a barn, an ornate interior of a church or building – the possibilities are endless.

We will be shooting with this lens till the day we drop, not because we want to win any awards or fans, but purely because we enjoy the creativity that the lens affords us. So get out there with a ‘fishy’ in the bag and have some fun.

Click here to buy directly from Maxxum (the Australian distributor) and use the code ‘WSP10‘ to receive a 10% discount.

Samyang
8mm F2.8 UMC Fish-Eye II

Canon M, Sony NEX (E Mount), Fujifilm X

Samyang
8mm F3.5 UMC Fish-Eye CS II

Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Sony A, Canon M, Fujifilm X, Samsung NX, Sony E, MFT

Samyang
12mm F2.8 ED AS NCS FISH-EYE

Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Sony A, Canon M, Fujifilm X, Samsung NX, Sony E, MFT

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