Project 9: Wide vs. Wide

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Photo by Joey Spadoni
Photo by Rey Spadoni

Rey: It’s a shootout of wide angle lenses, both as different from each other as could possibly be. The Rokinon 12mm is a third party, manual focus, prime, non-stabilized, relatively inexpensive lens while the Fujifilm 10-24 is a manufacturer’s, autofocus, zoom, stabilized, moderately pricey lens. And if that wasn’t enough, the Rokinon is silver while the Fujifilm is black. [Note that the Rokinon comes in black as well.]

Early (very early) on recent Saturday morning, Joey and I set off to walk the Freedom Trail in downtown Boston, a 2.5 mile hike marked by a painted (or double brick) red line which runs past 16 historical sites leading from the Boston Common to Charlestown. Along the way, you see where the Boston Massacre took place, where the original patriots argued for independence from Great Britain, and where the oldest commissioned and still floating US warship is docked.

Joey sported his X-Pro2 and I had an X-T3 and we swapped the lenses back and forth several times. Our goal: render judgement as to which stays in the bag and which does not. Our second goal: walk throughout the city (almost 9 miles after all is said and done; yes, we veered off track several times… intentionally) and eat at our favorite North End restaurant which sits in the shadow of the Old North Church (“one if by land, two if by sea”). Sadly, the restaurant (Lo Conte’s) was not open at the time we were there and so we settled for a few slices of some “Best of Boston pizza” (at Ernesto’s) instead.  The pizza was good so it didn’t feel like settling.

I’ll give my impressions and show some images first, then Joey will be up next.

Overall, I needed some time to become more acquainted with the Rokinon as the Fujifilm has been part of my kit for a while. I have always appreciated the versatility of a zoom, though as I shoot in the higher end of the focal range, I always feel as though I could do better with another lens. In this case, that means the Fujifilm 23/1.4 which remains one of my Fujifilm favorites. Here are two images taken of the Old City Hall (now a steakhouse) at 10mm and then at 24mm. The versatility of having this kind of range in one lens cannot be overstated.

So, with this kind of flexibility, why would anyone choose the Rokinon you might ask? Joey has been shooting with a manual focus lens for some time and has been touting to me its benefits, namely that it slows you down, forces you to consider composition and the specific area(s) in the frame you want in focus. You can grab focus on the intended point and then recompose to your heart’s delight without fear of losing it. Also, it’s about a third of the price and faster (f2 vs f4).  Finally, primes tend to be sharper and so I was curious to compare them.

The main question for me was: do these benefits outweigh the versatility and, I would say, overall quality of the Fujifilm lens? I have always appreciated that this optic is sharp and nicely contrasty. It doesn’t approach my 23/1.4 within that range but I enjoy it for landscape and walking around purposes.

Here are some additional images taken with the 10-24:

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And now, the Rokinon 12:

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My conclusion is that both are fine lenses; the Rokinon surprised me with its decent build, usability and overall image quality.  When I nailed focus, which was most of the time but certainly not always, the sharpness was impressive.  For a lens that costs much less than the Fujifilm, I would not hesitate to purchase one. For a smaller and nimbler package and one that lets in more light for, let’s say, astrophotography, the Fujifilm can’t really compete.

But I do like convenience. The 10-24 could stay on my camera in more situations and I often appreciated the ability to autofocus. In a few situations, I appreciated having the image stabilization as well.

And it’s not a coincidence that the sheer number of photos included above from the 10-24 are more than those from the Rokinon. I had a greater number of keepers and more blog-worthy shots from the zoom. That tells you something. It told me something. I’m voting for the 10-24.

Let’s hear what Joey has to say:

Joey: When it comes to wide angle lenses, I’m all set. I own and frequently utilize the Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4 lens. It is a dream come true and I am not in the market for another wide angle lens. With that said, I know someone who is; I am going to help my father decide between the Fujifilm 10-24mm and the Rokinon 12mm.

First off, I feel as though I should emphasis this point – I am not a zoom guy. I do not like zooms and personally use primes. I think that photographers are responsible for every pixel in their compositions and for me, zooms can be overwhelming at times. When I am photographing an event and have to get any number of usable photos, then I use zooms. But as an artist, I stick to primes.

The Fujifilm 10-24mm lens covers so much ground. Without changing lenses, you can capture the widest of settings, and still zoom in to a respectable walk around focal length and snap a photo of a particular subject. I feel like I demonstrate that well in my slideshow below. At around 10mm, I captured the morning sunlight gilding a side street and then followed it up by snapping an image of a tiny bird in a shrub at around 24mm. The lens is the picture of versatile; if you don’t enjoy changing lenses, then the 10-24mm has got you covered. Also, it wasn’t as big as I thought it would be; it was enjoyable to use.

The Rokinon 12mm gives you a lot for a little. At a price tag of $399 as of this writing, this manual focus lens felt pretty good on my X-Pro2. I liked using the aperture ring and the lens felt well-built. I think it produces good images, plain and simple. Personally, I’m not a big fan of 12mm as a focal length, and prefer 16mm instead, so that influences my feelings on the lens as a whole. One thing I found disagreeable about the Rokinon was that when manually focusing, the lens moves every so slightly along the mount. That was a bit unsettling. Other than that, I don’t have any real complaints about this lens. I was surprised that I ended up with more slideshow-worthy Rokinon images than 10-24 ones since I found myself wanting to shoot with the 10-24mm more often.

Ultimately, if my father were to ask me which lens he should keep (and I did not read his comments above before posting my own), I would tell him this. It all depends on what you want to spend. If you primarily shoot at a more narrow focal length and want to get something to capture wider scenes, it’s hard to beat the image quality the Rokinon 12mm is capable of. I took a few images that I think are pretty good with that lens. If you have more to spend, and would miss the comforts of autofocus and  zooming, then the 10-24mm is a no-brainer. I enjoyed using both lenses, but would advise my father to keep the 10-24mm. I think it fits his style better and will help him capture many wonderful images in the days to come!

My Fujifilm 10-24mm photographs:

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And the Rokinon 12mm photographs:

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[Editor’s note: we also previously evaluated the Fujifilm 10-24 against the Fujifilm 16/1.4 – see here.]

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