Wild Places

The Art of Landscape and Travel Photography

Review of the Samyang XP 10mm F3.5

A couple of months ago Samyang announced a new XP 10mm f/3.5 ultra wide-angle lens. It seems like I’m one of the first people in the world who got a production sample of this lens.

Therefore I think a quick review could be interesting to people who are still on the fence whether they should get this lens or not. I bought this lens at Amazon and paid the full price.

The Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5 is one of the widest rectilinear full-frame lenses available. If you want to have significantly more field of view your only option is to use fisheye lenses.

The selection of rectilinear non-fisheye full-frame lenses with a focal length < 12mm is very limited. I only know 4 other lenses (the descriptions are based on many reviews I’ve read on the internet but not on personal experience):

  • Canon 11-24mm f/4
    • Canon EF-mount, but easily adaptable to Sony e-mount
    • AF lens, EXIF info with intelligent adapter
    • 180mm filter holder available from Nisi
    • large and heavy (1180g)
    • optical quality good, but corners not great, even stopped down
  • Venus Optics Laowa 10-18mm f4.5-5.6
    • Sony e-mount
    • MF lens with no electronic interface and no EXIF info
    • 37mm rear filter at the back of the lens (great feature!!!)
    • small and light (496g)
    • optical quality rather mediocre
  • Voigtländer Heliar 10mm f/5.6
    • Sony e-mount
    • MF lens with electronic interface and EXIF info
    • 150mm filter holder available from Nisi
    • small and light (375g)
    • optical quality good, but corners not great, even stopped down
    • very nice sun stars and color rendition
  • Irix 11mm f/4
    • Canon EF-mount, but easily adaptable to Sony e-mount
    • MF lens, EXIF info with intelligent adapter
    • rear filter holde for gelatine filters
    • medium size and weight (730g)
    • optical quality good, but corners not great, even stopped down

Introduction

The New Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5 is a welcome addition. Especially since all of the above lenses have certain weaknesses as pointed out.

It belongs to Samyang’s XP series which is their premium MF series. Build quality is very good. Much higher than the standard Samyang lenses and comparable in my opinion to lenses like the Zeiss Milvus.

The manual focus feel is very nice and comparable to Zeiss lenses.

The XP 10mm is a manual focus lens but has an electronic interface. With an intelligent adapter (or on a Canon camera) you get full EXIF info and change the aperture via the camera.

The lens has a medium size and weight (780g), right in between the Canon and the Laowa/Voigtländer.

The optical quality of the XP series lenses is typically also very good. I had tested the Samyang XP 14mm in the past and the sharpness was extremely high, corner to corner even wide open at certain distances and focus settings. Just the field curvature of this lens was too strong for me.

Therefore my expectations regarding the optical quality of the XP 10mm were quite high.

Adapter for Sony e-mount

Since ultrawide angle lenses are sometimes very sensitive to flange distance variations I decided to use the Sigma MC-11. This adapter is known as the one with the most precise flange distance. To reduce the strain to the lens mount I got also the SmallRig lens adapter support bracket 2063. Combined with a RRS BQDS Arca Swiss plate it allows to mount the lens/adapter directly to the tripod. Probably not necessary for the rather lightweight XP 10mm but useful for heavier lenses. The BQDS allows mounting in both directions, which can sometimes be helpful.

Test procedure

All the following technical tests were done with a Sony A7RII from a stable Gitzo tripod at 100 ISO with EFC shutter, 2s self-timer, and IBIS off using uncompressed RAW. The images were processed in LR using the following sharpening settings: 50/0.7/100/0. Contrast and clarity were set to 0 in LR. Sharpness should be evaluated only at the 100% crops.

Infinity focus

The first problem I discovered was that the lens can’t be focused fully to infinity. At the hard stop of the lens the focus point is somewhere around 3-5 meters. I’m not sure if this is a problem with the lens or the MC-11 adapter. My guess is it’s rather the lens since I’ve never heard of any infinity focus problems with the MC-11. Since I have neither another Canon lens nor another adapter available I can’t verify this assumption. I’m trying to get my hands on another XP 10mm in the next couple of weeks.

But for further testing this is not a very significant limitation. A 10mm lens focused to 5m is at f/3.5 already at its hyperfocal distance and the image degradation at infinity is very small. Stopped down the differences will be even smaller, as shown below. If the second tested XP is not better I will keep this lens despite its limitations. And I’m rather picky with my lenses.

Test for decentering

Next, I tested the lens for decentering as I do with all my new lenses. I focused to (hard stop) infinity and tilted the camera 45° alternately to the right and left that the horizon (with some interesting objects) leads through the corners.

The lens is neither perfectly centered nor severely decentered. The left corners wide open are slightly less sharp than the right corners. But I’m not sure if one can really expect a perfectly centered 10mm ultra wide-angle lens wide open. My guess is, that’s pretty normal for this lens.

Sharpness and best apertures

Wide-open at f/3.5 the extreme corners are quite soft and the center of the image has a slightly reduced contrast.

upper-right corner at f/3.5 (100% crop)
lower-left corner at f/3.5 (100% crop)
upper-left corner at f/3.5 (100% crop)
lower-right corner at f/3.5 (100% crop)
center at f/3.5 (100% crop)

At f/11 the lens sharpens up very nicely, even in the extreme corners.

upper-right corner at f/11 (100% crop)
lower-left corner at f/11 (100% crop)
upper-left corner at f/11 (100% crop)
lower-right corner at f/11 (100% crop)
center at f/11 (100% crop)

Here is another slightly different test scene, followed by more 100% crops.

upper-right corner at f/3.5 (100% crop)
lower-left corner at f/3.5 (100% crop)
upper-left corner at f/3.5 (100% crop)
lower-right corner at f/3.5 (100% crop)
center at f/3.5 (100% crop)
upper-right corner at f/11 (100% crop)
lower-left corner at f/11 (100% crop)
upper-left corner at f/11 (100% crop)
lower-right corner at f/11 (100% crop)
center at f/11 (100% crop)

It makes not much sense to show the other apertures. At f/8 the corners are less sharp compared to f/11 with similar center sharpness and at f/16 diffraction slightly softens the whole images without any additional benefit for corner sharpness.

Therefore the best aperture is clearly f/11. Other apertures like f/8 or f/16 can be used for DOF reasons but not for further improving sharpness. I will probably shoot this lens most of the time at f/11 (or f/16 if I need more DOF).

Here are some more test images shot at f/11 with selected 100% crops.

100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop

Flare resistance

As expected from a 10mm ultra wide-angle lens with a bulbous front element the flare resistance is not very good. But at least both contrast and color saturation stay very high even if you shoot directly against the sun.

f/3.5
f/11, 100% crop

Sunstars

The rendering of sun stars with this lens is not very spectacular, especially compared to lenses like the Voigtländer or Zeiss Loxia.

f/11

If you stop down to f/22, it gets slightly more interesting.

f/22

Colors

Evaluating the color rendition of a lens is always somewhat subjective. I really like the colors of the XP 10mm. It seems that this lens has neither a severe color cast nor a limited color differentiation. The XP 10mm is probably not as great as the Voigtländer or Zeiss Loxia lenses but not far behind and much better than for example the Sony 12-24mm lens. For examples see above and below.

Vignetting

Wide-open this lens shows a strong vignetting, but stopped down to f/11 it’s pretty much gone. Even at f/8 the remaining vignetting looks already very good and can easily manually corrected in LR.

f/3.5
f/4
f/5.6
f/8
f/11
f/16

Distortion

Distortion of the XP seems to be well controlled for a 10mm lens. It has visible barrel distortion but nothing extreme.

It should be easy to correct the distortion in LR if necessary. There is currently no lens profile available for LR, but this could change in the future.

Using ND filters

Since I plan to use the lens for timelapse photography the option to use ND filters would be really helpful. Currently, there is no custom filter holder for the Samyang available. I tried my Nisi holder for the Sigma 1.8/14mm. It fits perfectly on the Samyang …

… but sadly it vignettes severely.

Nisi Sigma 1.8/14mm filter holder on XP 10mm @ f/11

Even at a 16:9 crop it is not useable at all.

cropped to 16:9

I’ve contacted logodeckel.de and asked them if they can make a 3d-printed filter holder for the Samyang XP 10mm. So far no answer.

Sample images

The above images were shots to evaluate certain technical aspects and therefore are lacking completely any aesthetic value. Here are some additional images shot under normal shooting conditions to give you an impression of the overall rendering of the lens. They were shot handheld at f/11 with IBIS on and focused at infinity. They are processed with different individual parameters in LR. Below the images you find links to full size images on flickr for better evaluation of details.

Asam church Maria de Victoria, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 100, perspective correction in LR

Link to full size image on flickr

Asam church Maria de Victoria, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 1600

Link to full size image on flickr

Asam church Maria de Victoria, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 1600

Link to full size image on flickr

Asam church Maria de Victoria, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 1600, perspective correction in LR

Link to full size image on flickr

Liebrauenmünster, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 1600

Link to full size image on flickr

Liebrauenmünster, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 1600

Link to full size image on flickr

Liebrauenmünster, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 1600

Link to full size image on flickr

Klenzepark, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 80

Link to full size image on flickr

Turm Triva, Klenzepark, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 80

Link to full size image on flickr

Turm Triva, Klenzepark, Ingolstadt, f/11, ISO 80

Link to full size image on flickr

Summary

Altogether I think the Samyang 10mm XP is a keeper. It has a very nice rendering with nice colors and a good sharpness stopped down to f/11. It’s probably not a lens I will use every day but for certain situations it can be priceless. Out of the currently available rectilinear full-frame wide-angle lenses below 12mm I think the Samyang is the best choice unless size and weight matter more than image quality. I will probably use this lens nearly always as a fixed focus (hard stop infinity) and fixed aperture (f/11) lens. That’s where it shines. In addition, this makes shooting with this lens very easy. I will probably try a second sample in a couple of weeks. If there are any significant differences I will give you an update here.

In the next months, I will also do a landscape photography trip with this lens which will lead to some deeper understanding of the characteristics of this lens.

If you want to see some additional tests with this lens write your suggestions in the comment sections below. Just keep in mind, that my time is currently very limited. And I can’t do any night sky tests since I live in a very light polluted area.

Update 7th of July:

I got a second sample of the XP 10mm and did some quick tests. With this sample the hard stop of the manual focus is exactly at infinity and not at 4-5m. Therefore the behavior of my first sample was based on the lens and not on the MC-11 adapter.

The performance of both samples at f/11 is nearly identical.

XP 10 #1, f/11, 100% crop of centre
XP 10 #2, f/11, 100% crop of centre

Wide-open focused to the hard stop the second sample is sharper due to the correct infinity point.

XP 10 #1, f/3.5, 100% crop of centre
XP 10 #2, f/3.5, 100% crop of centre

With hard stop infinity focus the corners on the sample #1 are slightly sharper.

XP 10 #1, f/3.5, 100% crop of corner
XP 10 #2, f/3.5, 100% crop of corner

But this is only due to the field curvature characteristic of the lens and can be avoided by focusing on the corners instead of centre.

For normal landscape photography my first sample of the XP 10mm could even have a small advantage regarding usability. The hard stop is exactly at the hyperfocal distance of the lens for stopped down shooting. This means for hyperfocal shooting at f/11 you can set the lens to the hard stop and forget about manual focus. With my second sample you always have to turn the focus ring slightly back from the infinity hard stop for hyperfocal shooting (or best corner sharpness).

But on the other hand, this second sample is better for astro / milky-way shots wide open. I have returned the first sample and will keep the second one.

Update 22nd of August:

ND filters

As written above using ND filters with the 10mm XP is difficult. There is currently no filter holder available for this lens.
But there exist alternative solutions if you use this lens with an adapter on a Sony camera. There are adapters available with integrated ND filters. Since the aperture of the 10mm XP can only be adjusted electronically you need an adapter that transmits the electronic communication between lens and camera. I’ve found four different options:

  1. Aputure DEC Vari-ND Wireless Lens Adapter
    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1331311-REG/aputure_apdecvarinde_dec_varind_for_canon.html
    It uses an electronic liquid crystal variable ND filter with the range ND8 – ND2048. This product is quite large and has integrated lithium batteries which need to be charged regularly. I’ve not tested it since I don’t like its size and the necessity to charge one more battery. But according to most reviews it seems to work well without any color casts even at the higher ND values. The standard price is 700$, but currently you can get it at several vendors for less than 300$. For this reduced price it could be an interesting option for some.
  2. Fotodiox Vizelex ND Throttle Fusion Smart AF Lens Adapter
    https://fotodioxpro.com/collections/filtered-adapters/products/eos-snye-p-fusion-ndthrtl
    This adapter uses an optical variable ND filter (based on polarization) with a range from ND2 – ND 256. It is not much larger than a standard Canon-Sony adapter and has an integrated tripod mount which is quite nice. I was a bit hesitant to get this adapter because the reviews on Amazon were all very negative. Many people had problems with the electronic communication between lens and camera using this adapter. Some of them immediately after arrival and some after a couple of months of usage. Nevertheless, I gave it a try and ordered one via Amazon. Result: The communication between lens and camera never worked. I was not able to change the aperture with this adapter and immediately returned it. The price of this adapter is currently 150$ which would make it a cost-effective solution … if it would work reliably.
  3. AMF Drop-In Filter from Aurora Aperture
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aurora-aperture/drop-in-filters-for-mirrorless-cameras/
    This is an interesting Kickstarter project with the goal of producing ND filters that fit inside of the standard Sigma MC-11 adapter. I’m backing this project and hope to receive the filters in October. The cost for one filter is 44$. Fixed ND filters in the range ND4 – ND65000 will be available.
  4. Kipon Mark 3 Neutral Density Autofocus Lens Mount Adapter
    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1455847-REG/kipon_ef_s_e_af_nd_mark_3_ef_s_e_af_nd_mark.html
    This adapter also uses a standard optical polarization-based variable ND filter. Its range is ND3 – ND128. The price is around 470$ (in Europe about 500€).
    The ND filter holder can be removed from the adapter and exchanged against another filter holder for standard 37mm screw-in filters.
    This adapter works quite well. The electronic communication works reliably with all lenses and camera bodies. But it has no tripod mount like the Fotodiox.

If you use filters between the lens and camera it changes the optical system. You get at least two side effects:

  • First, focus will be shifted. If you use a standard adapter with the correct flange focal distance and integrate an optical element like a filter in this adapter the lens will shift the focus. This means that for example infinity is not at the infinity mark anymore and also the minimum focus distance can be influenced. If you have a lens with floating elements (non-linear extension focusing system of some lens elements to improve close distance image sharpness), this shifting of the focus can lead to a significant lower image sharpness since lens elements positions and focus distance do not fit together anymore as intended by the lens designer. The thicker the filter glass the more is the focus shift. This will probably be a problem with the AMF filters from the Kickstarter project unless they build them extremely thin. The Kipon Adapter compensates this effect by using a wrong/different flange focal distance.
  • Second, especially with wide-angle lenses an additional optical element between lens and sensor influences the field curvature characteristic of the lens. This is a well-known effect if you use a lens designed for a certain cover glass thickness in front of the sensor on a camera with a significant different sensor cover glass thickness (like a Leica M lens on a Sony E-mount camera). Especially for an ultra-wide lens like the 10mm XP this effect is pretty much unavoidable with any of the above solutions.

Since the flange distance of the Kipon adapter is adjusted to compensate the 2mm thick ND filter in the optical path, this means if you use the adapter without the filter you can’t focus anymore to infinity. Even if you put a standard screw-in filter in the second filter holder the maximum distance you could focus the 10mm XP is around 2m. The reason is, that a standard filter has a thickness of about 1mm while the variable ND filter has a thickness of 2mm. In the past Kipon had sold special UV filter with 2mm thickness to be used with this adapter. But they are not available anymore. If you want to use this adapter with any other filter or even without any ND filter you have to be creative and build something by yourself with 2mm glass thickness. You can get some ideas here in this thread: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4181696

After testing the Kipon (with the variable ND), I can say that infinity focus is completely unchanged compared to the MC-11. The sharpness and contrast are slightly reduced by the ND filter. It’s similar to the diffraction effect if you stop down the lens to f/16. It can be partly compensated by additional sharpening and/or clarity in Lightroom. Field curvature is slightly worse compared to using the lens without the ND filter, but it’s not too bad. There is no significant color cast induced by the ND filter (at least not more as with standard B+W fixed ND filters) and I see no X artifacts even at max position.

In my opinion, the Kipon is currently the best option if you need to use ND filters with the Samyang 10mm XP.

Here are some samples using this Kipon adapter with the variable ND filter on the 10mm XP, followed by links to the full size images (but with a big central watermark to protect them):

Sleepy Bay, Freycinet NP, Tasmania, Australia

Link to full size image on flickr

Bay of Fires, Tasmania, Australia

Link to full size image on flickr

Sleepy Bay, Freycinet NP, Tasmania, Australia

Link to full size image on flickr

More sample images:

Well, the proof is in the pudding. As promised in my above review I took the Samyang 10mm XP in August on my trip to Australia (the blog post about this trip will take at least until beginning next year). Here are some sample images shot on this trip with the Samyang 10mm XP. The images are individually processed with different settings in Lightroom and sometimes slightly cropped and/or perspective corrected.

For a better evaluation of this relatively new lens I will provide links to full size images (but again with big central watermarks). All the images are copyright protected. If you want to use them please contact me.

Royal Arcade, Melbourne, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

Block Arcade, Melbourne, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

St John’s Chruch, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

Ben Lomond NP, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

Ben Lomond NP, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

Sleepy Bay, Freycinet NP, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

Sleepy Bay, Freycinet NP, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

Sleepy Bay, Freycinet NP, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

Sleepy Bay, Freycinet NP, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

MONA – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

MONA – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

MONA – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

MONA – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Links to full size image on flickr

My final assessment of this lens: I still think it’s currently the best 10mm lens on the market. The mechanical construction seems to be very good and the optical performance is quite good for a 10mm lens but not on the same level as the best 14mm – 21mm wide angle lenses. But this is to be expected. Another aspect I’ve learned on my last trip is, that it’s extremely difficult to achieve great compositions with a 10mm lens. The difference between 10mm and for example 14mm is huge. I felt comfortable using this lens for architecture shots and especially inside buildings. But for landscapes I preferred 14mm in nearly all situations.

7 Responses to “Review of the Samyang XP 10mm F3.5”

  1. Michael

    Thanks for the great review. I’m considering to buy this lens for myself. Its a bummer that the sun star is only medicore. Taking photos with this lens must be feeling like a whole new world. Therefore, I would be happy to see an hands-on review :-).
    Greetings from Cologne

    Reply
    • Boris

      Thanks Michael! I will take this lens on a photography trip soon and will post some additional images afterwards.

      Reply
  2. Steve Thomas

    Many thanks for the considerable detail that you have provided – pity that quality control is not what we have come to expect (infinity). Do you intend to use this lens taking continuous street scenes – especially where the room to ‘get back’ is severely limited? would love to see some shots.
    Good luck

    Reply
    • Boris

      I plan to use the lens mainly for landscapes. I will take it soon to Tasmania and post some more images after this trip.

      Reply

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