Review: Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8 FE – Small lens, big compromise

In my review of the  Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8 FE I tell you why I think that Samyang has made a few compromises too many in order to keep it small.

2.1.2019 update: Conclusion rewritten and CV 3.5/21 added to alternatives.

Sample Images

Most images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

 

Specifications

Diameter 61 mm
Length 37 mm
Filter Thread 49 mm
Weight 93 g
Max. Magnification 1:6.4
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 0.20 m
Number of aperture blades 9 (rounded)
Elements/ Groups 7/7

The Samyang 2.8/24 sells for $399 at amazon.com and for 299€ at amazon.de (affiliate links).

Build Quality

The Samyang has a metal mount but I think it is of less durable aluminium. The rest of the lens is made from plastics. The focusing ring is wide enough but doesn’t feel as smooth as that of most Sony FE lenses.

The lens hood is a bit flimsy, rather thin and cheap plastic. It is the right size to protect the front element from most damages but too small to really have any effect on the flare resistance.

In general the Samyang 2.8/24 feels a little cheap. Not as cheap as your typical $99 kit lens but Sony’s more affordable lenses feel nicer.

Samyang lenses have a reputation for failing more often and having higher variance than most competitor’s lenses. We certainly have had our share of bad copies from them (more than half). There is no public data on the newer AF-lenses but according to a trusted source they haven’t improved in this aspect. I think this is one reason why Samyang can offer their lenses at very competitive prices. This issue is in part offset by the generous warranties of up to 5 years.

Size,Weight and Handling

The 93g Samyang is a very small lens which makes the small FE 2/28 look big. Only Smayang’s own 2.8/35 is smaller and lighter.

The size is the Samyang’s most important quality. If your focus is on a very light and small kit then there is no real alternative to the  tiny 2.8/24.

Manual Focus

As mentioned before the focusing ring feels ok with a little high resistance and a hard to describe lack of smoothness. I have used worse, but again every Sony lens has a nicer feeling focusing ring. As every other E-mount AF lens the focus is by wire but at least it does not depend on the speed with which you turn the focus ring. The focus throw is short at about 80 degrees. All in all a below average performance.

Autofocus

I used the Samyang 2.8/24 on the older a7II with a rather dated AF module. Usually it is a bit slow but reliable. Not so with the Samyang: I had higher number of misfocused images than I would have expected or had I used my FE 2/28 or FE 4/16-35. I didn’t investigate this further with another camera but it made me enjoy the Samyang even less.

AF is mostly quiet but at times you hear a scraping noise.

Optical performance

The Samyang has a narrower field of view than my other 24mm lenses so it is more like a true 25mm or 26 mm lens.

Bokeh

Out of focus highlights are rendered quite smoothly by the Samyang 2.8/24 but there are distinctive onion rings in some scenarios as well as significant bokeh fringing.

Scenario 1: Close Distance with demanding background

Scenario 2: Close focus, less demanding background

Scenario 3: Medium distance focus, demanding background

Scenario 4: long Distance with demanding Background

So for a wideangle bokeh is good in most scenarios but there are some scenarios where it gives less than ideal results.

Flare resistance

The Samyang’s flare resistance is below average by modern standards. There is very little ghosting but veiling flare is an issue in more demanding scenarios. I would rate it better than almost any legacy 24mm lens but on par with the FE 4/16-35. I took quite a few images where veiling flare resistance was a real issue and I find this to be pretty limiting for landscape photography.

not how veiling flare kills the contrast in the darker parts of the image

Vignetting

At 3.3 stops wide open the Samyang set a new record for any lens I have tested so far. This means that the extreme corners are basically at f/9 when the lens is used wide open. Numbers improve a little as you stop down but the remain close to two stops.

This is easily corrected but it costs some time and increases noise in the corners.

Aperture Vignetting
f/2.8 3.3 EV
f/4 2.5 EV
f/5.6 2.1 EV
f/8 1.9 EV
f/11 1.9 EV

Distortion

The Samyang 2.8/24 displays pretty complex distortion which can’t be easily corrected by manual adjustments. -4 in LR gave the best results but visible distortion remains. At the time when I write this review (9/2018) the is no profile available in LR but this might change in the future.

before: no correction. after: -4 correction.

Sunstars

Since the Samyang has 9 rouneded aperture blades you get fuzzy 18-pointed stars at most apertures. At f/16 they are somewhat defined by won’t excite anyone.

Sharpness

f/2.8:Good sharpness in the center, okayish midframe and softish corners..

f/4: Very sharp in the center, good in the midframe area und still softish corners.

f/5.6: Very good across most of the frame but the corners remain somewhat soft.

f/8: Corners are okay now.

f/11: Corners improve a little while the center is a tad softer.

Not a very impressive performance. The Samyang 24/2.8 FE is sharp enough for many applications but almost any competing lens is sharper.

Compared to other lenses

Voigtlander 3.5/21: The Voigtlander is also a very small lens but it weights and costs twice as much. I think it is a more attractive lens since it overcomes all the Samyang’s weaknesses except the strong vignetting.

The Sony FE 4/16-35 ZA is about five times as big and heavy and about three times as expensive. It is also a little sharper and much more versatile because of the larger zoom range.

Legacy 2.8/24 lenses. I compared the Samyang to the Minolta MD 2.8/24 (plan MD) which is one of the better classic 24mm lenses. I found the sharpness pretty similar (at f/8). The Samyang has better flare resistance, smoother bokeh and is much smaller AF while the Minolta is more affordable and more enjoyable to handle.

Zeiss Loxia 2.4/25The half a stop faster, four times as heavy and much more expensive Loxia is of course the technically better lens. It is a lot sharper. From f/2.4 it is sharper across the frame than the Samyang ever gets. In regards to CA, contrast, flare resistance and sunstars the Loxia is also superior. So if you take your landscape photography serious go for the Loxia.

Zeiss Batis 2/25: A tiny little bit little weaker than the Loxia but bulkier and with AF it also runs circles around the Samyang.

Sony FE 2/28: The not much more expensive Sony weights 200g which is twice as much but very little overall. It outperforms the Samyang in any aspect but distortion and is a stop faster. Unlike with the Samyang I found the AF to be very reliable. So unless you put a lot of emphasis on small size I would always recommend the Sony over the Samyang. It is also a little wider than 28mm so rather close in focal length.

Conclusion

pros

  • Small Size
  • Price
  • Bokeh (most of the time)
average

  • Build Quality
  • Sharpness
cons

  • Flare resistance
  • Complex Distortion
  • Very strong Vignetting
  • Unreliable AF (at least on a7II)

Every lens is a compromise between performance, price and size. The Samyang AF 2.8/24 FE puts a very small size and relatively low price over performance. and I would like to offer two points of view here.

If small size and low price are important to you the Samyang could be a very good fit: It is one of the smallest and most affordable E-mount lenses available and offers a good performance in most settings. I would prefer it to almost any legacy 24 mm lens which would perform worse overall and be much larger.

If on the other hand performance is very important to you then most alternatives will perform better the Samyang 2.8/24 needs to be stopped down to f/8 to deliver a sharp image and it retains very strong vignetting at these apertures. Even more annoying can be the the below average flare resistance which is very relevant for a wideangle lens.

Personally I didn’t warm to the Samyang AF 2.8/24. While appreciate the very small size and low price they come with a few compromises too many but I can see some appeal for very price and/or size minded photographers.

More Sample Images

You can find most of these images in full resolution in this flickr set: Samyang AF 2.8/24 full resolution samples.

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

23 thoughts on “Review: Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8 FE – Small lens, big compromise”

  1. I got the lens when it ‘s released.During the days,I used it a lot.In my opion,the flare resistance is a big problem for me.So,I wanna know if it works better when i choose a bigger lens hood ?
    Thanks.

    1. Before I sold mine (and I don’t miss it!) I bought a JJC screw-in hood. It improved flare dramatically, but by no means eliminated it.

  2. I’ve been using this lens from its launch, but the AF performance is quite excellent in my A7m3. I’ve been using this lens for the video(with -x2 digital zoom in 4K) and reportage snap pictures. AF speed and accuracy was fine for both works, except AF-A, which was somewhat laggy.

    l like this lens for its weight, almost identical or even lighter than my lens hoods. The Sharpness is okay-ish, but not quite comparable for other Sony primes and the contrast is somewhat undesirable. Overall it was my best option for my non-pro wide angle needs. I’m quite happy with that, I’d say it is not recommended for serious wide angle works.

  3. Cheap,tiny,light lenses offer medium performance. The only lens i have tried in this category that is an exception is the canon ef 40 2.8 pancake which offers good performance. Bought the samyang 35 2.8 and sent it back after 2 weeks. The best compromise for lightness but twice as expensive is still the sony/zeiss 35 2.8. Better at infinite than the samyang,better corners for landscape and better colors.More robust too. Didn’t like the sony 28 f2 either.Distortion makes it poor for landscapes. This is my experience.Maybe it helps.Happy everything.

      1. I bought the 24mm and 35mm for a trip to Sicily, as I wasn’t sure what I’d need. The 35mm is definitely the better of the two, but suffers from similarly poor flare resistance, average corner performance and poor af-c performance above f7.1 or outside the PDAF area. I’ve owned two copies of the Zeiss before and from memory AF was significantly better, as was corner sharpness. For the money it’s a great lens, but again the 28mm is the better lens for everything except distortion.

  4. Interesting review, thank you!
    Because of the price I was quite interested in its performance, but the compromises made to keep the size down are too much.
    I have had bad experience with the durability of Samyang lenses as well, the first sample of my 14mm had a scratch at one of the inner glass elements at the moment i bought it. The replacement’s corner sharpness degraded quickly over time (<2 years) so I brought it away for repair which costed almost as much as a new lens (no regrets of my insurance yet haha). I wonder if this bad reliability is still an issue in their newer lenses..

  5. Wish you would have ran it against better vintage glass the Leica rokkor 24 comes to mind….. unless it’s really wide I think the old primes follow the 90 10 rule 90 percent of the performance for 10 percent of the price.i would be surprised if the Loxia is much better than the Minolta I reference…

    1. Well that depends a lot on your needs but the Loxia is a lot sharper, has higher contrast, much much better flare resistance and nicer sunstars. For me personally that is way more than 10 percent since I like to include the sun in many compositions.

    2. I have the Leica Rokkor 24 and still use it quite a bit. One thing I will say for it is that it’s so much better on my A7RII than it was on my A7. Specifically shooting into the sun and other bright lights. IMO it was pretty much useless on the A7 because of sensor reflection (especially night city shots).

      I will also add that it still doesn’t compare to the modern Loxias in this regard. However, if you’re pointing it away from bright light, it’s stellar.

  6. Hey Philipp, very nice review. I sign everything you said here because I made the exact same experience.
    I ended up returning my copy and bought the 28 f2 Sony. It’s in my eyes way better and still not that big or expensive.
    The only thing is that I would like something wider than 28 or even 24 with af and a filter tread but I don’t know any cheap lens in this category.

  7. The first photo in the flare resistance comparison is utter bull. Sorry man, but in the first slide photo on the left you have a photo where you look into the sun and in the right version of the photo the sun is hidden behind the building, making the comparison useless.

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