I had a chance to have a very brief play with a Samyang 24mm Tilt Shift Lens last week, which is a budget tilt shift lens that mimics my favourite lens for architecture, the Canon 24mm TSE ii. Priced under $1000 this lens makes for an interesting option for someone wanting to get into the tilt shift world, but isn’t willing to drop $2k for a Canon TSE.
Here’s a few of my thoughts to help anyone considering getting this lens.
If this was an equivalent lens to the Canon 24mm TSE ii this would be an amazing lens at $850, but unfortunately it not. It looks very similar (it even has a red ring), but the Samyang lens is a budget lens and has some compromises.
A bit plasticy, but for this price range it’s well built.
Ok, but not great. But to be fair, that comment is if you’re comparing it to the Canon 24 TSE ii. If instead you compare it to the Canon 10-22mm wide angle which is of comparable price, then it’s image quality is where you’d expect it to be.
The Samyang lens has a manual aperture ring, which is functionally fine because the focus is manual too (all tilt shift lenses are manual focus), but unfortunately this also means the aperture won’t be recorded to the Exif data. Not a huge problem, but slightly irritating if you want to compare shots and see what settings you were using. The second aperture issue is the reports of image quality at large apertures (small number) being poor. Not a huge issue for architecture at say aperture 11, but definitely a problem if you want to stop down.
Barreling is the biggest issue I see with this lens. There’s plenty of examples online showing what should be the parallel lines of a building bowing. This is common on cheaper lenses, and normally you’d be able to fix it quickly with software like Lightroom, but unfortunately you can’t use lens correction with a tilt shift lens. This leaves the Samyang lens with an awkward problem. A tilt shift lens helps control perspective, but barreling prevents the lines of a building being perfectly parallel. So the Samyang helps you get close to the desired outcome, but not quite there.
I’m somewhat conflicted with this lens. At first I thought this is a great option for someone getting into architectural photography and could well replace the Canon 10-22mm as my recommendation for a starter architecture kit, but… The issue is that a tilt shift lens is an advanced lens. By the time you’ve built up the skills to be using it, I doubt you’re going to be satisfied with image quality issues like barreling. That said, spending a lot of money on your first tilt shift lens is a daunting step. You probably don’t even know what it does, or if you’re going to get value out of it. In that light, the Samyang might be justified as a safe way of testing tilt shift photography and getting your head around how it all works. If your budget is fixed and you absolutely want a tilt shift lens then the Samyang obviously makes sense. For example, if you’re a student who wants to focus on architecture the Samyang allows you to start a portfolio without all your buildings falling backwards. The image quality will be lower, but the basic image composition will be correct. Some architects may also consider the Samyang an option for their office camera, but again, the learning curve of the lens will prevent the average person from getting value out of it. There’s a real argument that when starting out, a simple auto focus wide angle will be more appropriate.