September 29, 2017

Samyang Lenses 101: Clearing the Clutter of Different Brands

Samyang
Here's your guide to understanding the basics behind the Samyang lens line and its private label brand names. 

Continuing our Lenses 101 articles, following Sigma and Tamron, we're stopping at Samyang, a South Korea-based manufacturer offering photography and cine lenses for filmmakers looking for a low-cost alternative. The company got its start in the early 1970s, officially changing its name to Samyang Optical in 1979 with VIG Partners holding 100% stake in the company since 2013. If you're living in the U.S., you might be more familiar with names like Rokinon and Bower, possibly wondering if it's the same lens as Samyang. In short: Yes. 

But why the different names? Samyang partners with different markets where companies use private-labeling to sell them. In the case of Rokinon, it's operated by Elite Brands, Inc, a New York company, and the same people behind Rokina from way back. According to Rich Roth, Rokinon's marketing manager, the company has "an exclusive, very long-term partnership for distribution in North and South America for any lenses Samyang manufactures." 

To be clear, Rokinon is not owned nor is part of Samyang, nor does Rokinon manufacture the lenses. Besides the subtle change in branding or a small tweak, the Rokinon XEEN 16mm T2.6 carries the same lens quality as the Samyang XEEN 16mm T2.6. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, they are incorrect. 

Samyang glass can actually be found in many other brands: Vivitar, Falcon, Walimex, Bower, Opteka, Bell and Howell and Pro-Optic to name a few. For the sake of brevity, we will concentrate on Samyang as well as its Rokinon counterpart. Keep in mind, this is not a lens review or why you should or should not use these lenses, but rather a basic introduction to the line. 

Samyang currently offers five different lens lines: 

  • Samyang Auto Focus
  • Samyang Manual Focus 
  • Samyang XP Premium
  • Samyang Cine
  • Xeen Professional

Samyang AF 35mm F2.8 FE
Samyang AF 35mm F2.8 FE Credit: Samyang

Samyang Auto Focus 

Designed for full frame mirrorless cameras in Sony E mount, Samyang currently carries three focal lengths in its Auto Focus line. Each features an aspherical lens, an ultrasonic motor for fast and reliable auto focus and Ultra Multi-Coating to minimize aberration and unnecessary light dispersion. The lenses are housed in plastic with metal contact points. 

  • AF 14mm F2.8 FE
  • AF 35mm F2.8 FE
  • AF 50mm F1.4 FE

Exploring the lens name:

  • AF: auto focus
  • "X"mm: focal length
  • F"X": maximum aperture 
  • FE: full frame E-mount

Rokinon equivalent lens line name: Rokinon Digital Photo
Samyang 50mm F1.4 AS UMC
Samyang 50mm F1.4 AS UMCCredit: Samyang

Samyang Manual Focus 

From 7.5mm fish-eyes to 300mm, Samyang has a slew of focal lengths to choose from for APS-C or full frame sensors in its Manual Focus line. Depending on the lens, there are mounting options for Canon EF and EF-M, Fujifilm X, Olympus/Panasonic Four Thirds, Micro 4/3, Nikon AE, Pentax K, Samsung NX, Sony A and E. To easily distinguish full frame lenses from APS-C, the latter will have "CS" in its name which stands for cropped sensor. 

  • 7.5mm F3.5 Fish-eye Lens
  • 8mm F2.8 UMC Fish-eye II 
  • 8mm F3.5 UMC Fish-Eye CS II 
  • 10mm F2.8 ED AS NCS CS
  • 12mm F2.0 NCS CS
  • 12mm F2.8 ED AS NCS FISH-EYE
  • 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC
  • 16mm F2.0 ED AS UMC CS
  • 20mm F1.8 ED AS UMC
  • 24mm F1.4 ED AS IF UMC
  • 24mm F3.5 ED AS UMC (TILT/SHIFT LENS)
  • 35mm F1.2 ED AS UMC CS
  • 35mm F1.4 AS UMC
  • 50mm F1.2 AS UMC CS
  • 50mm F1.4 AS UMC
  • 85mm F1.4 AS IF UMC
  • 100mm F2.8 ED UMC MACRO
  • 135mm F2.0 ED UMC
  • 300mm F6.3 ED UMC CS (available for both DSLR and mirrorless APS-C sensors)

Exploring the lens name: 

  • "X"mmfocal length
  • F"X": maximum aperture 
  • ED: extra low dispersion
  • UMC: Ultra Multi-Coating to to minimize aberration and unnecessary light dispersion
  • IF: internal focusing, the lens does not increase in size when focusing
  • CS: cropped sensor for APS-C sized sensors
  • MACRO: lens for extreme close-ups
  • TILT/SHIFT LENS: helps correct convergence of lines and perspective control

Rokinon equivalent lens line name: Rokinon Auto Focus
Samyang XP 85mm F1.2
Samyang XP 85mm F1.2 Credit: Samyang

Samyang XP Premium 

Introduced in early 2017, the XP Premium line is designed for high-resolution photos and video up to 8K. The lenses are made more for stills than cinema, but they are compatible with Canon EF full frame DSLRs and Canon APS-C models. There's no manual aperture control as it's controlled by the electronic aperture of the EF mount, nor are there individual witness marks for focusing. The lenses do feature aspherical lens elements to reduce distortion and aberrations and come with Ultra Multi-Coating. The body is constructed from an aluminum alloy metal housing for a smooth, buttery feel. 

  • XP 14mm F2.4
  • XP 85mm F1.2

Exploring the lens name: 

  • XP: excellent performance 
  • "XP"mm: focal length
  • F"X": maximum aperture 

Rokinon equivalent lens line name: Rokinon SP "Special Performance"
 Samyang 16mm T2.6 VDSLR ED AS UMC
Samyang 16mm T2.6 VDSLR ED AS UMC Credit: Samyang

Samyang Cine

If you're familiar with or use Samyang Cine or Rokinon Cine/Cine DS lenses, you might want to send Duclos Lenses a thank you. Without them, the lenses may have never existed. Duclos started offering Samyang manual focus primes with their Cine-Mod, which removes the click-stops in the iris, adds seamless 32-pitch gears, a 80mm front ring and 77mm filter thread. Because of the Cine-Mod, Duclos was moving a lot of SKUs, which caught the eye of the company. The Samyang Cine line was then born, adding standard 32-pitch gears, a click-less iris ring and T-stops, though the housing was still made of plastic and lacked front diameters to accommodate matte boxes. 

Speaking with Matthew Duclos, he said this wasn't the only time manufactures jumped on their modifications: "Zeiss saw our success modifying the ZF line for cinema so they consequentially came out with Compact Primes."

Fast-forward, the newly designed Cine DS line was subsequently introduced, which added "Dual Scale" focus and aperture markings to the lens. They also made the focus and iris gears the same distance on the housing and a de-clicked aperture ring to provide smooth iris pulls. Though the housing is made of the same plastic material as the Cine line, the coatings were enhanced for better color matching across the line, making it overall a better line of lenses for cinema use. 

While we said earlier we wouldn't make any reviews or suggestions, we do advise to buy/rent the newer Cine DS version over the older Cine models which are getting phased out. 

Again, depending on the lens Canon EF and EF-M, Fujifilm X, Nikon F, Micro 4/3, Pentax K, Samsung NX, Sony E mounts are available. Let's look at the focal lengths. We noted which lens come in Cine, Cine DS or both. 

  • 7.5mm T3.8 UMC Fish-eye (Cine)
  • 8mm T3.1 UMC Fish-eye II (Cine)
  • 8mm T3.8 VDSLR UMC Fish-eye CS II (Cine)
  • 10mm T3.1 VDSLR ED AS NCS CS II (Cine / CineDS)
  • 12mm T2.2 NCS CS – (Cine)
  • 12mm T3.1 VDSLR ED AS NCS (Cine DS)
  • 14mm T3.1 VDSLR ED AS IF UMC II – (Cine / Cine DS)
  • 16mm T2.2 VDLSR ED AS UMC CS II – (Cine / Cine DS)
  • 16mm T2.6 VDSLR ED AS UMC – (Cine DS)
  • 20mm T1.9 ED AS UMC – (Cine DS)
  • 21mm T1.5 ED AS UMC CS – (Cine)
  • 24mm T1.5 VDSLR ED AS IF UMC II – (Cine / Cine DS)
  • 35mm T1.3 ED AS UMC CS – (Cine)
  • 35mm T1.5 VDSLR AS UMC II – (Cine DS)
  • 50mm T1.3 AS UMC CS – (Cine)
  • 50mm T1.5 AS UMC – (Cine DS)
  • 85mm T1.5 VDSLR AS IF UMC II – (Cine/ Cine DS)
  • 100mm T3.1 VDSLR ED UMC MACRO – (Cine DS)
  • 135mm T2.2 VDSLR ED UMC – (Cine DS)

Exploring the lens name: 

  • "X"mm: focal length
  • F"X": maximum aperture 
  • AS: contains apsherical elements
  • ED: extra low dispersion
  • UMC: Ultra Multi-Coating to to minimize aberration and unnecessary light dispersion
  • IF: internal focusing, the lens does not increase in size when focusing
  • CS: cropped sensor for APS-C sized sensors
  • MACRO: lens for extreme close-ups
  • NCS: Nano Coating System to reduce surface reflections and prevent lens flare and ghosting 
  • VDSLR: designed for video use but can be used for still photography

Rokinon equivalent lens line name: Rokinon Cine and Rokinon Cine DS

Xeen Professional 

Created in 2015, Xeen Professional are cinema lenses offering full frame (24 x 35mm) 4K+ capture with dual focus and iris scales built with a solid mechanical feel. Each focal length features standardized positions for focus and aperture rings, de-clicked gear rings for follow-focus, and a consistent 114mm front diameter. These are not modified still lenses. Compared to the Cine line, the housing on Xeen is more robust, made from an aluminum metal. Each cinema lens has Samyang's X-Coating technology for solid contrast and glare prevention and are color matched to a factory standard. The lenses are available in PL, EF, F, E and MFT mounts. Let's look at the available focal lengths: 

  • 14mm T3.1
  • 16mm T2.6
  • 20mm T1.9
  • 24mm T1.5
  • 35mm T1.5
  • 50mm T1.5
  • 85mm T1.5
  • 135mm T2.2

Exploring the lens name: 

  • "X"mm: focal length
  • F"X": maximum aperture 

Rokinon equivalent lens line name: Rokinon XEEN

If you have ever used Samyang and Rokinon lenses, let us know your thoughts in the comment section.      

Your Comment

2 Comments

We have the Rokinon Cine t/1.5 kit (24, 35, 50, 85.) I adore all of the lenses for the price. The 85 is my least favorite, the closest it'll focus is four feet or so and I shoot in a lot of tight spaces. But the other three are stellar. Fantastic starter cine lenses.

September 29, 2017 at 3:11PM

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Nathan Tranbarger
Videographer, DP, Editor
14

I’m currently working on a TV show for Disney, we are using Cook5i’s on Arri Alexa xt’s. Just for fun I brought my set of Xeen cinemas and put them side by side with the Cooks. The cooks are a little warmer and there’s a bit of breathing with the Xeens. But other than that you can’t tell the difference. The xeens where just as sharp, color looked just as good, if you wherent doing huge focus throws you couldn’t tell the difference. In fact the director thought we had a real shot lined up with our B cam that had the xeens on. He couldn’t tell said it looked good. For the money they are excellent lenses!!

September 30, 2017 at 1:50PM

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Charles Unice
Director of photography, Gaffer, lighting technician
27