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Samyang/Rokinon AF 12mm F2 E aims to be the perfect ‘astro’ lens for Sony APS-C

Samyang AF 12mm F2 E
(Image credit: Samyang)

The new Samyang AF 12mm F2 E (or Rokinon 12mm F2.0 AF in the US) is a fast ultra-wideangle prime lens for Sony APS-C cameras, and while the company has made AF lenses for Sony full frame cameras, this is its first for the APS-C Sony 6000-series cameras.

Samyang already makes a manual focus 12mm f/2 which has been popular amongst astrophotography fans for years, but this new lens brings a new stepping motor (STM) autofocus system to make it much more useful for general purpose photography too.

This lens also follows on from the full frame Samyang 24mm f/1.8 FE lens announced two weeks ago, which the company claimed is a “masterpiece for astrophotography”!

(Image credit: Samyang)

What’s special about ‘astro’ lenses?

Astrophotography can mean using telescopes to show magnified views of planets, star clusters or distant galaxies, but it’s becoming increasingly popular to photograph much wider star fields and constellations with wide-angle lenses.

The primary features needed for this are a wide angle of view and a fast maximum aperture to keep exposure times and ISO settings low. 

With an equivalent focal length of 18mm (in full frame camera terms) and a maximum aperture of f/2, the Samyang AF 12mm F2 E ticks both boxes – but it should also be ideal for general photography too.

(Image credit: Samyang)

Samyang AF 12mm F2 E in detail

The Samyang/Rokinon AF 12mm F2 E has a sophisticated optical construction, with 12 elements arranged in 10 groups, and including one hybrid aspherical element, one regular aspherical element and three ED (extra low dispersion elements) in order to minimize chromatic aberration and distortion and product maximum sharpness.

This is a new design compared to the original manual focus 12mm F2.0 lens. A stepping motor AF mechanism is used to provide smooth, quiet AF with a larger internal focus group, and the new lens has a minimum focus distance of just 19cm – probably not useful for astrophotography, but perfect for wild perspective effects with close-ups.

The Samyang AF 12mm F2 E also has improved UMC Ultra Multi Coating to reduce lens flare and ghosting and increase contrast, and it has an all-metal housing.

Samyang says this is the smallest and lightest AF 12mm lens currently on the market, with a length of 59.2mm and a weight of just 213g.

(Image credit: Rokinon)

Sample images

Image 1 of 5

Samyang AF 12mm F2 E

(Image credit: Fabian Pfeifhofer/Samyang)
Image 2 of 5

Rokinon 12mm F2.0 AF

(Image credit: Fabian Pfeifhofer/Rokinon)
Image 3 of 5

Rokinon 12mm F2.0 AF

(Image credit: Fabian Pfeifhofer/Rokinon)
Image 4 of 5

Rokinon 12mm F2.0 AF

(Image credit: Fabian Pfeifhofer/Rokinon)
Image 5 of 5

Samyang AF 12mm F2 E

(Image credit: Fabian Pfeifhofer/Samyang)

Samyang AF 12mm F2 E price and availability

The Samyang AF 12mm F2 E will go on sale from early May 2021 at a price of £359.99 in the UK, with the Rokinon 12mm F2.0 AF going on sale in early June for $499.

Read more:

Best lenses for astrophotography
Best cameras for astrophotography
Best light pollution filters
Best star tracker camera mounts
Best telescopes for astrophotography
Astrophotography tips

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio. Previously he has been Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. 

Rod's near-encyclopedic knowledge of cameras both old and new makes him an invaluable resource, whether we need to ask a question about transparencies or the latest X-Trans sensor. He owns all manner of cameras, from Nikon DSLRs through Olympus, Sony and Fujifilm bodies, and on any given day you'll see him using kit from just about every manufacturer.