Thoughts and Field Test of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 Wide-Angle Lens


If you’re a mirrorless camera shooter on the market for a fast wide-angle lens, look no further than the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 lens. While this lens is indeed manufactured by a third party gear company, Samyang of Korea, don’t let brand names fool you. This unique little lens gives you an ultra wide point of view and is relatively inexpensive.

Read on for more!

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 lens details

Introduced in 2014, the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 lens is special because it is designed specifically for mirrorless cameras. With its maximum f/2.0 aperture, it is noted as the fasted 12mm lens for APS-C (crop) sensor cameras. At this time, the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 comes in either black or silver from about $299-399.00. Lens mounts exist for the following mirrorless cameras:

Thoughts and Field Test of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 Lens

  • Sony E-mount
  • Fuji X-mount
  • Canon M
  • Samsung NX
  • Micro four thirds (Olympus and Panasonic)

The Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 is an APS-C lens, meaning it was designed to provide a 35mm (full frame) equivalent focal length of 18mm. Although specifically designed for crop sensors, this lens can be used on full frame sensor and micro 4/3 cameras, but with a different effective focal length.

The only catch is that this is a Manual Focus only lens, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. More on the lens focusing below.

NOTE: Check your manual – for some camera models you may need to set it to “Fire Without Lens” as is the case with Fuji X cameras. As the camera and lens do not talk, the camera needs to know it’s okay to take a photo.

Lens build

Considering this is a relatively inexpensive lens, it’s no surprise that much of its build is plastic. The aperture ring, manual focusing ring, and 67mm filter ring are all made of plastic. Thankfully, the lens mount is metallic. Despite being made mostly of plastic, the lens has a really solid feel and it weighs in at 0.47 lbs (215 g).

Thoughts and Field Test of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 Wide-Angle Lens

Image quality

This lens performs surprisingly well for its size and price. The center of the Rokinon 12mm is very sharp at f/2.0, peaking at around f/5.6. While the corners can at times be rather soft at f/2.0, they are quite sharp at f/4.0.

Vignetting, or light falloff, is visible when shooting at just about any aperture, but it is especially strong when shooting at f/2.0. Despite being an ultra wide angle lens, there is very little distortion in the images.

When to use this lens

Given its 12mm focal length and fast f/2.0 aperture, the Rokinon 12mm is best suited for real estate, architecture, and landscape photography. Perhaps the most popular reason why photographers buy this lens is to shoot the stars. That was my reason for purchasing it, and so far it has not disappointed.

Thoughts and Field Test of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 Wide-Angle Lens

Manual Focusing Tips

Probably the biggest challenge about shooting with the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 is getting used to shooting with its manual focus settings. Personally, this was both the very first third-party lens, and the very first manual focus lens I’ve ever purchased.

If you’ve used Rokinon lenses or manual focus lenses, then all of these observations may not apply. But if you’re also new to Rokinon and manual focusing, you’ll probably relate to these challenges.

1. Practice, practice, practice

The Rokinon 12mm has two plastic rings that you must toggle in order to set your own aperture and focus. Both rings rotate pretty smoothly. There’s no way to control aperture or focus via your camera body, and this can be a big adjustment for some people.

The best way to overcome this challenge is practice. You’ll get used to it, eventually.

2. Turn on Focus Peaking

Thoughts and Field Test of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 Wide-Angle Lens

Focus peaking in action on the Sony a6300

While manual focusing a lens might sound intimidating, many mirrorless cameras are equipped with features that help you out tremendously. One such feature is focus peaking.

This focusing aid can be viewed when shooting in Live View or with an electronic viewfinder. When enabled, focus peaking places colored highlights on the in-focus edges of your image. It is a huge help to making sure your manual focus lens is focused on the right places.

3. Use the Focus Magnifier

Thoughts and Field Test of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 Wide-Angle Lens

Another way to ensure accurate focus with a manual focus lens is to enable your camera’s focus magnification system if it exists for your model. For Sony cameras, this feature is called Focus Magnifier, and it enables you to magnify your screen four times. This helps you really nail your focus.

In Conclusion

Rokinon 12mm wide angle lens

Overall, the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 wide-angle is a compact, relatively cheap lens that is a great addition to any mirrorless shooter’s gear kit. It delivers superb photos without adding too much bulk or breaking the bank.

Sample Photos

Rokinon 12mm wide angle lens

Rokinon 12mm wide angle lens

Rokinon 12mm wide angle lens

Rokinon 12mm wide angle lens

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Suzi Pratt is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • Andrew Bennett

    Thanks for a great article. Your story and observations clicked with me. Different line of lens, but I use a couple of full frame frame Rokinons with my Sony A99m2. I know, it’s not a $2K Zeiss lens, but I’ve never been disappointed with the Rokinon’s results. And the manual focus makes me slow WAY down and plan more thoughtfully.
    Your article was enjoyable. Thanks.

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