Review by Mark Degner
For a large percentage of my landscape photography I turn to my trusty 24mm tilt-shift lens. Why this lens? First, I love the 24mm focal length for landscape photography as it provides a pleasing wide-angle perspective. The second reason is that being a tilt-shift lens, it allows me considerably more technical and creative control when photographing than I would be able to get using a 24mm fixed focal length lens or zoom lens set at 24mm. Tilt-shift lenses allow DSLR users to have some of the range of camera movements that a large format view camera possesses, allowing for more control of perspective and depth-of-field. For a more detailed description of why tilt-shift lenses are so useful check out Darwin Wiggett’s article The Tilt and Shift Advantage in the Fall/Winter 2009 (#11) issue of OPC.
Although there are lots of advantages to using a 24mm tilt-shift lens, there are two main reasons why more photographers aren’t using them: availability and price. Up to just recently, only Nikon or Canon made 24mm tilt-shift lenses, so if you used a Sony or Pentax DSLR you were out of luck. The second reason is their cost; the Nikon PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED lists for $2,399.95 and the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II retails at $2,699.99. However, things changed recently when Rokinon introduced its new T-S 24mm f/3.5 ED AS UMC lens, which sells for around $1,099.95 and has models for Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Sony A and the new Sony EF lens mounts. I reviewed the Nikon version. The big question is just how good is the new Rokinon T-S 24mm lens? Let’s find out.
The Rokinon T-S 24mm F3.5 ED AS UMC lens is a strictly manual focus lens, but so are both the Nikon and Canon 24mm T-S lenses. The rubberized focusing ring is large and the lens focuses smoothly. No complaints here. Close focus is about 20 cm, so the Rokinon T-S 24mm can be used as a wide-angle close-up lens.
It has an aperture range of ƒ3.5 to ƒ22 in half-stop increments. Unlike the Nikon and Canon 24mm T-S lenses, the Rokinon lens has no electronic contacts, so all of the aperture adjustments need to be done manually by turning the aperture ring on the lens, and no lens EXIF data is recorded. I would’ve preferred to have a bit more separation between the aperture ring and the focusing ring so that there was less chance of moving the focus when adjusting the aperture ring.
The Rokinon T-S 24mm has the ability to tilt ±8.5° and shift up to ±12mm, a similar range to that of both the Nikon and Canon 24mm T-S lenses. It has independent tilt and shift rotation, which is a feature that unfortunately my Nikon 24mm T-S lens doesn’t have, but the Canon does. This feature allows more flexibility in lens movement, making the lens more versatile. Both the tilt and the shift movements have two knobs each: a control knob and a locking knob. The knobs are a little smaller than those on my Nikon lens, but functional. On my Nikon D800E and D610 bodies, which have a built-in pop-up flash, I did encounter an issue when the shift was set for horizontal movements. The shift control knob was so close to and partially underneath the overhanging flash that it was almost impossible to turn it. I found it easier just to carefully manually push and pull the lens horizontally than try to turn the shift control knob. This isn’t an issue with cameras that don’t have a pop-up flash. I also have a bit of a concern about the durability of the tilt and shift orientation levers; they are both plastic, whereas those on the Nikon and Canon lenses are metal.
The Rokinon T-S 24mm lens is lighter than both the Nikon and Canon lenses (640g, 730g, and 780g respectively) due to the fact that it isn’t an all-metal body like the others. However, overall it appears to be well made, but it isn’t as rugged as the Nikon or Canon.
Overall, its optical qualities are good to very good. Centre sharpness is very good at all apertures and sharpness at the edges is best at the middle apertures, ƒ8 to ƒ11, which I would rate as being very good. However, it isn’t as sharp as Nikon’s 24mm T-S lens, especially at the edges. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled. There’s a bit of barrel distortion, but no more than my Nikon lens has, and it can easily be corrected in post-capture processing.
The Rokinon T-S 24mm f/3.5 ED AS UMC lens is a great value and is capable of producing very good quality images when the lens is stopped down to ƒ8 or ƒ11. It isn’t as sharp or as rugged as the Nikon or Canon 24mm T-S lenses, but if you can’t afford the more expensive Nikon or Canon lenses or you use Pentax or Sony DSLR cameras then it’s a very good option to consider.
For more information visit Rokinon
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