Samyang 8mm f2.8 UMC fisheye and NEX 7, no tripod allowed
It’s not often, that I can review 6 lenses at once. But thanks to South Korean producer Samyang, it is possible. Samyang, Rokinon, Vivitar, Bower, Pro-Optics or Wallimex 8mm f2.8 UMC for Sony. Just pick the lens you have, or consider and read further. Truth is, they are all same.What has lens review to do with a tripod prohibition? You’ll find out soon…About the lensThis little fisheye is one of the smallest fisheye lenses I ever saw. It’s not a cheap lens, but again – it is one of the cheapest fisheye lenses worldwide at the price around 350 USD.
Samyang announced this lens in the June 2012, for NEX and Samsung NX mount, with the full availability to follow, shortly after. It comes along with already existing Samyang 8mm f3.5, that was introduced earlier, but as a E – mount adaptation of DSLR lens. Therefore, new Samyang is much smaller then its predecessor, but both lenses are still available.
New Samyang construction, consists of 10 elements in 8 groups (f3.5 has 10/7) with two Extra Low Dispersion and one Aspherical element.
It is very well built, with a metal mount, and with a weight of only 217 gr, it is very compact and well balanced on NEX bodies.
Samyang is fully manual lens. No electronic contacts, no fancy AF, or aperture setting from camera. Thanks god. You can be sure, that this lens will serve you well, many years after its electronic stuffed cousins, felt apart.
Because of a large DOF, focusing with this lens is rather easy. For everything that is 3m away of camera just leave the focus close to infinity and forget about it. At closer distances, you might want to use focus peaking on NEX.
The focus ring is very well dampened. Maybe just too well. In fact, so well, that is rather stiff, and being small, placed close to the lens hood, I had few times a problem to find it, and needed to peak, to check what I am holding between fingers.
Focus throw is also rather long, which is typical for all Samyang lenses that I have, and it takes quite a big turn, to realize focus change.
The distance scale is engraved on the lens barrel, but there is no hyper-focal distance. Because of a large DOF, it is not a problem.
Lens comes in a cardboard box.
Inside, there is a lens, and pouch and something that I don’t like about Samyang – lens protection pads made of a cheappo looking PVC. This little detail, decrease the quality perception of the product.
Lens has built-in petal shaped lens hood. Don’t expect the hood to protect from flare.
This is an 180° FOV diagonal fisheye lens, so if there is a sun on the sky, it will most probably end in the picture too, but hood helps to feel better about protruded front element. Kind of psychological protection. Lens cap is nice, but to firmly mount it, some training is needed. It can be attached in only two exact positions.
Finally – very important information for those, who consider their cameras to be a part of their image – it comes also in shiny silver. Amen.
Let’s make this short and clear. IQ is outstanding. Nitpickers, might experience some CA wide open, but nothing to worry about. (It is so easy to correct for CA in LR 4.x anyway)
As most fisheye lenses, Samyang 8 f2.8 UMC is extremely sharp in the center, with very good edges and only extreme corners being mediocre. Stopping down to f4, sharpness across the frame improves, with center sharpness remaining excellent. Lens peak performance is at f5.6, but f8 and f11 are also excellent and hard to distinguish one from the other.
This is probably sharpest WA lens with a native E-mount. But it is fisheye… And there is one obvious problem with NEX 7. Purple casting…
There is however also Adobe Flat Field – http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroomplugins/
software that can easily correct for color casting, using reference shot. Following sample, shows original purple casting on the left, and corrected image on the right.
This is typical Sony NEX 7 problem, so other NEX cameras should be problem less.
Here it comes my tripod story.
I was thinking what kind of images to show you here, so that you can evaluate lens performance.
I am not a big fan of fisheye lenses, and therefore not much experienced either.
Most attractive fisheye composition that I saw, were usually with some close action – skateboarding, snowboarding, all kinds of boarding, and then some interior shots.
As all my boards are rusty, and my son is busy, I decided to try some interior shots. One of the most fascinating interiors close by, is the Cathedral of Saint Vitus on Prague Castle.
Living in Prague, I usually never go to those touristic places, and if I do, it is only because of those tests.
Therefore, I thought, that this is a good opportunity, to make the review from an tourist POV.
Is Samyang 8mm f2.8 UMC good companion for your NEX, for the tourist visits of the old creepy Europe?
I carefully packed my backpack – 1 NEX 7, 1 Samyang 8mm f2.8, 1 Samyang 14 f2.8 (Canon), 1 Metabones Speed Booster, 3 batteries, (damn Sony, can you do something about battery life?), 3 SD cards placed on 3 different locations, (that increase my chances to find one when needed), iPad with a cellular card (can be used as a guide and navigation), 3 bottle of water, (who’s gonna pay those local rippers?), one small roll of toilet paper, couple of Durex (you never know, right?), voucher for the beer discount in the nearby pub, poker face (none should find out that I am tourist at the first sight) and my bellowed Gitzo Tripod with Sirui head.
I parked the car on the safe distance and sneaked with a group of Polish tourists inside the areal.
Outside it was nice. I swear I have seen a sun (first time after 2 months) for a second or so, and there was some blue sky too.
In the moment, I had that crazy combination of Samyang 14 f2.8 and Metabones Speed Booster on camera, (adapter is twice more expensive than lens), and I thought, there is lot of time to set-up and prepare, for those few exterior shots that I planned to post.
Well, I was wrong. In just 5-10 minutes, when I finished a testing sequence for Samyang 14 and switched for Samyang 8mm, weather gets back to the “normal” here…
And few minutes later, it started to snow again.
So here are few 100% crops from the above image, that were taken at f5.6 if I am not mistaken.
Very impressive resolution.
But it is fisheye… Distortion is a bit of the problem here. Someone likes it, most don’t.
There are several software solutions for de-fishing fisheye, with a Hemi Photoshop Plug-in from a company with a most creative name – Image Trends :-), being one of the favorites.
I tried therefore Hemi (trial mode with their sign everywhere), together with my own correction in Photoshop and finally Adobe LR 4.3 correction for a Nikkor AF DX 10,5 f2.8 G ED, that looks most reasonable.
But needless to say, to perfectly correct for a fishey distortion, software is often not enough.
You should start with trying to correct it with a composition in the first place.
Here is a simple illustration of what I mean…
By moving slightly up or down, you can get either horizon or main subject quite well corrected. Changing your position and distance from the subject, you might get both in line. If you want to use your fisheye as a Ultra Wide Angle lens, composition is the first and most important part of the process. It is easy to master, not easy to apply always.
By using fisheye on the regular base, your eye will get trained to recognize what is suitable and what is not for this type of lens, and how to straighten the lines by tweaking camera position.
Don’t let your first attempts to discourage you. This lens is too god, to let it collect the dust on the shelf.
Image of the Cathedral above, is one of those cases, where software correction can’t really help. I would need to get in the middle of the building height, which was a bit tricky. The only lens that can help a bit in such a situations. is a shift lens.
So, here is the first attempt of Hemi correction, called Hemi Cropped.
The other Hemi option – Hemi FF
And last Hemi – circular
I don’t want to spend too much time discussing Hemi. I guess it was designed for shorter focus distances and for people shots. It is good that they have this trial mode, so before you buy it, try if the results are what you expect. It certainly doesn’t work for me.
Here is my manual attempt.
While far from being perfect, it can pass for Facebook or neighbors/relatives slide-show holiday party. (Be sure to have enough drink for the later).
Finally, here is the automated Adobe LR 4.3 correction for the Nikkor AF DX 10,5 f2.8 G ED lens.
There are some corners issues, but I like this correction most so far.
As I wrote above, few minutes later it started to snow. Here is the prof.
So, I decided to buy a 10 EUR ticket and enter the Cathedral of Saint Vitus.
To be honest, I know the tripods are not allowed there. But than, I was a tourist, what do I know?
There is a pictograph on the entrance, showing crossed photo camera with a flash and video camera on a tripod. Well I have a photo camera on a tripod, I am tourist, I don’t speak Czech pictographs.
Holding my head high and admiring the ceiling (as everyone was doing the same), simultaneously I prepared my tripod.
Unfortunately, I realized that I forgot a mounting plate.
I mounted Samyang 14 f2.8 on Metabones SB, as that one has mount plate, and took one shot.
Samyang 14 f2.8 with Metabones Speed Booster on NEX 7
While I was thinking how to mount my NEX with Samyang 8¨mm f2.8 UMC without mount plate, two strong hands landed on my shoulders.
I have to admit, security officers were polite, before I said, that the only reason tripods are not allowed is to abuse visitors.
After ending in front of the cathedral sooner than I planned, I find my self being in the furious mood. Bombs? Nah… not my style. (Yet.) I went to the info office instead.
I insisted to speak with the boss (you know the drill), and I politely asked him (some 20 minutes later), what it takes to use the tripod in the Cathedral, after they squeezed me for 10 EUR (and additional 2 to use my camera).
500 EUR for an hour and 3 weeks booking in advance.
Ah, ok. Fair enough.
I promised not to use my tripod and got back to the cathedral. Security finally gets some excitement.
Here is the enemy number 1. Watch every his move!
You know, it is unfortunate situation, being in such a sacral place and feeling that much anger inside. I hate authorities.
But everything bad is good for something. First, the high level of defiance, caused by situation, makes me being really focused, and second, I got some great ideas, if I ever decide to design camera accessories.(well, bombs too.)
Before I lead you through my – how to deal without tripod in a dark environment guide, let me say few more words about Fisheye and composition.
I decided not to use fisheye as a UWA standard lens, by correcting for the distortion.
There are some nice UWA and WA lenses such as SEL 1018 OSS, which I think will serve the purpose better.
I wanted to find the way to use the most of that fisheye distortion and learn to see the things from that perspective.
Maybe it’s me, but for the static subjects, I just felt strong attitude toward absolute symmetry.
So my first advice – look for the symmetrical compositions.
Second, I start to think about fisheye as a modeling tool for the reality. It has a power to change all straights to the curves, and by doing so, to create new shapes, that never existed.
My second advice – think curved.
Finally, getting closer to the subject boost the distortion effect. Use it to your benefit.
My last composition advise – use the distance from the subject as another creative prospect.
Shooting hand-held in low light, you can usually pump-up the ISO, but that will cost you resolution.
And I am an resolution addict.
I never learned from my film days to deal with anything above 100 ISO. I don’t care about all those ISO performance tests. In reality, by pushing ISO over its base, I am always loosing some of the IQ. And that makes me feel nervous.
In this case it was necessary however.
I used all ISO steps up to 1600, depending on the situation. But usually, I still tried to get a back-up shot at ISO 100.
Here is my little guide – how to work without a tripod (and still get acceptable sharpness) in the low light. (And provoke authorities on the same time.)
1. Use anything that stands still.
I.e. – use barriers for preventing tourists to go where they shouldn’t. They have different occurrence, but usually there are some sort of columns with a fat rope in between. Use those columns to fix your camera. I even moved them slightly (covering with my body what I do, when needed).
ISO 400, f5.6, 1/8s
ISO 100, f4, 1,3s
Or use those info panels on the columns that says “no photo with flash/tripods here”. They serves as a great tripod in fact.
ISO 100, f4, 1/4s
2. Use a 2s delay trigger.
It helps me to blow the air out, which helps me to calm down and stabilize my body as much as I can. Others might have different technique, but that one works for me. Using the two seconds beeper, for a long time, works a bit like subconscious training. Your body learns that two beeps means – get stoned! Depending on how many beers I had prior of pressing the shutter button, this technique is more or less successful. But beers helped me to make a natural tripod – my beer belly. I just have to extend it a bit, and it becomes a nice steady bar.
ISO 1600, f2.8, 1/13s
ISO 100, f4, 1s
3. Use all your body, practice Kama Sutra 🙂
I already mentioned my beer belly, but using certain poses, like kneeing, or sitting, will certainly improve your stability. Forget about dirt, pants etc. You are on the mission.
Here are two shots of ceiling, where I placed NEX straight on my head, and held it with both my hands from aside. (Inspired by African womens) I stepped with a legs stretched widely and took a couple of shots, by slightly moving my head.
ISO 400, f4, 1/25s
ISO 100, f5.6, 1/4s
4. If there is nothing else, use the floor.
Don’t be ashamed. Get down. NEX 7 display, can be used as a leveler to change the angle of your camera, when placed on the flat surface. I used this technique, whenever I saw an object, that might look interesting from bellow.
Quite often, other tourists wants to see, what’s so interesting bellow. It happen from time to time, that curious tourist is a nice lady with a brave cleavage, and if you are standing close…
ISO 800, f4, 1/6s
ISO 100, f5.6, 1/4s
So, that was my little field guide of how to get most of the Samyang 8mm f2.8 UMC without tripod.
Samyang 8mm f2.8 UMC for NEX – Conclusion:
On the bright side…
+ It is a great lens. Don’t ask for the MFT figures, it is a fisheye, but it is exceptionally sharp from center to corners (corners from f4 above)
+ It is small, light and cheap, but very well made
+ It can be used as standard UWA lens, but you will need to take care of the composition (learn to use it) and use some de-fishing software method.
+ Flare resistance seems to be quite good. (Judged by some interior lights in some images) I will post some samples with a sun, if I manage to see it ever again.
+ It can work in the Auto ISO mode well. If you set your NEX to S mode and leave your ISO to auto, you can control your exposure by setting desired speed and than aperture on the lens ring. Auto ISO will compensate for the proper exposure.
+ It can teach you to look at subjects differently, and once mastered, it can deliver images that differ from the most.
+ It is a fun lens to use.
On the not so bright side…
– !!! On NEX 7 you can expect significant color casting (magenta) in some situations. Use Adobe flat field, or Corner Fix, for easy correction.
– It has a stiff focus ring and bit of CA wide open
Here are few more images and thoughts.
I am not using HDR often, but going through pp with those files, I felt it might look good. So I used a single frame tonal enhancement just to see, how it will work…
I soon realized, that instead of correcting distortion in shots like this, to match the reality
I find it more appealing to search for the new reality
In the small exposition spaces, fisheye is a revelation. This room is not bigger than 2 square meters.
For some reason, it heavily reminds me my office. Maybe the furniture or what…
Comments, proposals, techniques… Comment space, is all yours now.
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