Friday, April 26, 2013

Sale Alert! Bower 14mm f/2.8 Lens for $329

One of my favorite lenses for starry night landscape photography is on sale at B&H (ending Tuesday, April 30, 2013)! This lens typically lists for $349 to $399, and is on sale for $329. This article that I wrote a couple of months ago will explain why I recommend this and two other lenses manufactured by Samyang Optics.

Bower 14mm f/2.8 Ultra Wide Angle Lens
(a.k.a. Samyang, Rokinon)
Bower 14mm f/2.8 Ultra Wide Angle Manual Focus Lens
The Bower lens is a branding of the Samyang (a.k.a "Rokinon") 14mm f/2.8 lens. All three lenses are made by Samyang and have the same specifications.

Concerns about optical quality: On the the B&H site, you'll read this information:

This bright lens provides an ultra wide 89° angle view in digital SLR cameras with APS-C size sensors and a 114° angle of view when used with full frame DSLRs* so you can capture sweeping vistas, dramatic architectural compositions and panoramas. Additionally, its minimum focusing distance of only 11" (0.28 m) will allow you to move in close on your subjects to achieve amazing perspectives. With a fast f/2.8 aperture photographers can create dynamic photographs that take full advantage of the characteristics of the lens.

* Note: Though this lens will cover the imaging sensor of a full-frame DSLR, it is better optimized for use with DSLRs containing smaller APS-C format sensors. As such you might notice softer focus and some light fall-off towards the edges of the frame when using a full-frame DSLR. If you do plan on using this lens with a full-frame DSLR we recommend you set the lens no wider (faster) than f/8 for optimum image quality.

Many night photographers have use this lens extensively on full-frame cameras. It is true that this lens suffers from some vignetting until stopped down to about f/5.6 or f/8, but this problem can easily be overcome with software in post production (my more expensive Canon lenses suffer similar vignetting problems). You can also overcome the slight softness on foreground landscape objects by shooting at smaller apertures and then stacking or layering those areas in post with your wide-open aperture exposure of the starry night sky. What you cannot do in post is fix the coma aberration problems that other, more expensive lenses exhibit. This lens has excellent correction for coma, even wide open at the f/2.8 aperture! My $800 Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens is a little sharper wide open than the Bower/Samyang/Rokinon 14mm lens, and it has a little less vignetting in the corners; however; this 14mm produces much sharper stars (points of light), especially in the corners than does my Canon 15mm. Overall, for "starry night landscape photography" this lens is best in its class, and I highly recommend it.

Yes, you can use it on cameras with smaller APS-C format sensors, and this will automatically eliminate most of the vignetting, but you'll also only get 89 degrees of view coverage vs. the 114 degrees of view coverage you'd get on a camera with a full-frame sensor.

< < This campfire photo (with moonglow and starry sky) was taken just last week with the Bower/Samyang/Rokinon 14mm lens (on a Canon 5D Mark III • f/2.8 • 8 seconds • ISO 3200). The people in the foreground are soft because they were moving during the 8-seconds exposure; however, the skyline and the stars are very sharp (click on image to enlarge).

Comparing Angle of View: Here's a quick comparison of the angle of view produced by the 24mm Bower/Samyang/Rokinon lens (84º), the Bower/Samyang/Rokinon 14mm lens (114º), and the Canon EF 15mm Fisheye lens (180º) — all on a full-frame sensor camera:

24mm, 14mm, and 15mm fisheye lens views (click to enlarge)
These were shot in my kitchen (my wife is upset that I didn't clean off the counters, first). All lenses views were aligned with the cupboard doors on the right side. You'll notice that the 14mm has considerable more coverage that the 24mm (30º more). Although the 15mm fisheye has more coverage, you get considerable barrel (curve) distortion as you get closer to the edges.

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  2. Royce, I have been following your blog posts & Google+ posts on night photography & have found them very informative and inspiring.

    After seeing your and David Kingham's comments, I decided to purchase this lens. As an amateur with a low budget but with high enthusiasm for the craft of photography, it seemed the right choice for my night photo interest.

    It is working out great! I am loving the shots I am getting with it. I am shooting with a crop frame camera (Canon T2i). It works exactly like I expected it to and it is exceeding my expectations for improved night shots & interesting UWA frames.