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 good colors and a great 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 on 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.

I think the Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5 is currently the best 10mm lens available and really recommend it if you need something that wide.

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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