Anthony thurston reviews

The Rokinon 21mm F1.4

Is this the fast wide angle for your fuji CAMERA? 

Fujifilm's lens ecosystems is one of the best in the mirrorless world right now, but it is not as robust as everyone would like. The lenses that they do have are wonderful but there are definitely some holes in the system, but from a focal length standpoint as well as from a budget standpoint. Their 23mm lenses, the XF 23mm F1.4 and the XF 23mm F2 R WR are both excellent performers, but neither one is really what most hobbyists would call affordable. 

This is where lenses like the Rokinon 21mm F1.4 come into play. It's fast aperture and 'normal' field of view (35mm equivalent) make it an excellent option on paper for those interested in this field of view but who lack the budget for something like either of those Fujifilm lenses. 
The Rokinon 21mm F1.4, Pictured here mounted to my Fujifilm X-Pro2
But the question is: is it in a photographers best interest to buy a lens like this, which is manual focus only, and save a couple hundred dollars, or is it better to just save a little longer to purchase the Fujifilm lens? 

Honestly, it is a somewhat personal question as far as what you should choose for yourself. But I am here today to share some of my thoughts and experiences with the Rokinon (Samyang) 21mm F1.4 over the course of the last month or so to help you make an educated decision when you are out there looking to make your purchase. So if you're ready, let's get into it.

*The thoughts and opinions shared in this review are my own and were not paid for, Sponsored by, nor influenced by Rokinon*

THE TECH SPECS

ROKINON 21MM F1.4

  • X-Mount Lens/APS-C Format
  • 31.5mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/22
  • 3 Aspherical Elements, 1 ED Element
  • Ultra Multi-Coating
  • Internal Focus; Manual Focus Design
  • Non-Rotating 58mm Filter Mount
  • Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm

Rokinon 21mm F1.4 // THE Build & ergonomics

The Rokinon 21mm F1.4 fits excellently in my hands when paired with the X-Pro2, and I’ve got no reason to think that would be any different with any of the other Fujifilm bodies. The focusing ring is large and rests right where I would like it to when I am holding the camera in a shooting position, which is key for a lens like this without AF. The lens extends a bit further out away from the camera than either the Fujifilm 23mm F2 or 35mm F2, but thanks to its light construction it still balances well with the X-Pro2 overall.

One thing that I would have liked would the aperture ring to be a little bit larger. As it is, the ring is rather small and smushed up against the rear of the lens. Sometimes while shooting in a quicker situation, I found it difficult to get my fingers on the aperture ring to adjust my aperture as fast as I would have liked. I am sure, though, that through extended use of the lens you would probably grow accustomed to this. Just be aware that in the beginning, this could be an adjustment for you.
The build quality of these manual focus Rokinon lenses has never been the best. That is not to say that they are bad by any means, but the materials are not of the highest quality and while the lens should work well if you take care of it; This is definitely not a lens that I would say could take much of a beating and keep on working. Does that mean that I wouldn’t own this lens or use it, not at all, it just means that I would be more careful with this lens than I would with my OEM Fujifilm lenses as the build quality on those is much higher.

All of that said, taking the lens itself for what it is, I am happy enough with the build quality here. The lens is made of plastic, and it feels as good as a plastic lens can feel. You can’t really expect it to hold up against a lens built of metal, if you are in the market for this lens it is likely due to its affordability and when it comes to affordability, you’ve got to give something up, and in the case of the Rokinon 21mm F1.4 it is the build quality. You get excellent optics and a good user experience, at the cost of middle of the road build quality.
For most of you, this shouldn’t be a big deal at all. Just be aware that you aren’t getting a tank of a lens here. You will likely want to take good care of this lens. It’s definitely not one that you would want to just throw in a camera bag or the glove compartment of your car with no protection. Take care of it, though, and you will likely be happy with the results you can get out of this lens.

Rokinon 21mm F1.4 //  THE FUNCTION

As I alluded to in the section above, this lens is a real piece of cake to use. The focusing ring, on my sample at least, is smooth and easy to turn precisely. An essential function of a manual focus lens, and when paired with the punch-in focus features on the modern Fujifilm cameras it makes focusing on with this lens a breeze. As I also noted above, the aperture ring was a bit of an annoyance to me at first, though I did grow a little more comfortable with it over the course of my time with the lens.

Other than those two things, there really isn’t much else to say about the ease of use on this lens as those are the only two ways that a photographer will interact with the lens. There are no other buttons or switches on the lens, and since there are also no electrical contacts there are also no settings or functions that one would use within the camera. So, basically this lens is its focus ring and aperture ring, both of which work well. 
I’ve talked about the focusing on this lens a little now, but I wanted to really focus on it here (pun intended) for a second as it really is the primary feature of this lens. Unlike some budget manual focus lenses that are out there on the market, this lens actually doesn’t have a huge focus throw, but neither is it a narrow focus throw. I found the focus throw on this lens to be right about where I like it, long enough that I was able to fine tune my focus simply when punched-in through the EVF.

This can often be a problem on lenses with too small of a focus throw, as this makes even minor movement on the focus ring make large changes to the focus of the image. Additionally, an annoyance with some lenses with too long of a focus throw is that it can take too long to turn the ring to make fast adjustments to your focus in the heat of the moment. Neither of those issues was a problem for me with this lens, I was able to focus quickly and accurately, which is always nice on a manual focus lens.

I will say though, that despite the focusing ring turning smoothly and performing well, it just didn’t quite feel the best to me. The best analogy that I can come up with here is that at times it felt like the friction of plastic on plastic, rather than a truly smooth rotation. This was most apparent on either extreme end of the focus, and not so much in the middle, and honestly it wasn’t the biggest deal, but just worth noting if you are a manual focus fanatic as you may find that it doesn’t feel as nice to your hand as other higher quality manual focus lenses feel. 

Rokinon 21mm F1.4 //  THE Image Quality

The Rokinon 21mm F1.4 is an excellent performer. Wide open, as most lenses are, it exhibits a little softness, but just a tad – it is also easily compensated for with additional sharpening through Lightroom, Capture One, or whatever your image processor of choice is. Additionally, the lens’s distortion is not crazy – most probably wouldn’t notice it right off the bat, but it is also easily compensated for in post-production if it does bother you. Though unlike other more well-known lenses, this lens doesn’t (to my knowledge) have a correction profile in Lightroom, so any corrections you want to make will likely need to be done manually.
 
The best spot for this lens in terms of sharpness in my experience is probably somewhere around the F4 range, depending on the lighting and such. But that is not to say it’s not great from F1.4-F3.5 either, it is probably just at its peak between F4-F5.6. Overall, in terms of the sharpness of this lens, I was happy across it’s aperture range. It’s worth noting that focus issues with manual focus lenses can often be wrongly attributed to a lens, when in fact the photographer maybe didn’t nail focus as they intended. In my case, I know how to differentiate between what I consider to be acceptable focus, and image quality issues like softness. In my experience, I did not have any problems with softness on this lens, at least not to a degree that I would consider it to be an issue.
 

SAMPLE GALLERY

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

Rokinon 21mm F1.4

So now it is time to really wrap up my experience with the Rokinon 21mm F1.4 into a little bow for you all and come to some conclusions. Right off the bat I will say that if you are simply looking for an affordable fast prime on the wider end that can be a good lens for traveling and street photography, this lens is one that I would say you should consider. If you are a portrait shooter who likes to shoot in a more environmental style with lots of environment and context in your images then this could also be a good option for you.

Simply put, this lens is built well enough and it won’t fall apart on you- it will, however, give you a good shooting experience and good image quality at that. All in an extremely affordable package for a fast aperture prime. The only people that I would caution against a lens like this are the true professionals out there who need a lens that will be able to take a beating in professional situations and keep on running, or those who are reliant on AF. For those people, this lens will not be a great option. 
For the reasons laid out in this review, I would rate this lens a solid 2.5 out of 4 stars. It is a decent option for those on a budget and is truly capable of some excellent results. It is not the best option out there, the Fujifilm 23mm F1.4 is vastly superior and has AF, but it is also much more expensive. So if budget is a key concern of yours, or if you plan to use this lens in niche situations where the lens is expendable or where you cant justify spending a ton, then this is the lens for you.

The lens is also available for other mirrorless mounts, and can currently be had over on Amazon for around $300 (as of this writing). A killer deal on such a quality, fast aperture prime – if you ask me. 

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