This weekend I finally had the chance to try out the acclaimed Nikon 14-24mm. With the unusually warm February weather, I packed up my gear and headed to Observatory Park. Since the Milky Way still isn't visible, I decided to create a Star Trails image. Once that was done I put the Nikon 14-24mm head to head with the Rokinon 14mm. The results were actually pretty surprising!
The 2 images below are RAW files straight out of the camera, no processing was done. The Nikon 14-24mm is on the left and the Rokinon 14mm is on the right. Immediately after taking the Nikon photo I switched lenses and took the Rokinon photo. Both were shot on a Nikon D750 with the following settings:
The first thing I noticed when I pulled up the images side by side was how much brighter the Nikon was. The Rokinon has very heavy vignetting, which darkens the image considerably.
The Nikon also seems to have a more pleasing color balance. Both images were shot at 3000 K. The Rokinon image is more yellow/green which I find unappealing. I think the Nikon has better color rendition in this example.
Now lets take a closer look. The images below were brightened and heavily cropped into the upper right corner.
Now this is a huge difference! The Rokinon image is much more grainy due to the heavy vignette. I had to bring up the shadows and exposure quite a bit to make it close the Nikon's brightness. Personally, this is my biggest issue with the Rokinon. The color shift can be easily fixed in a RAW processor, but trying to remove the heavy vignette causes serious image degradation.
I was a bit surprised to see that the Rokinon seems to have less Coma distortion and Chromatic Aberration. Keep in mind, I was able to quickly remove the Chromatic Aberration on the Nikon by applying the Chromatic Aberration fix in Adobe Camera RAW, so it's really not that big of a deal. I'm clearly being a pixel-peeper. The Coma you are seeing is really not bad at all; both lenses perform extraordinarily well.
Finally here are two edited photos of each lens. I tried to get the same result from each lens.
Now that the Milky Way is finally above the horizon at night, I was able to capture some test images. Again, you can see the heavy vignetting and weird color balance on the Rokinon.
Before I get into the final review, feel free to download all the images above. You can get a closer look at the images and see for yourself exactly what the differences are. Head over to my Dropbox to download all the photos.
This is where the Rokinon does the worst. It has an incredibly heavy vignette which drastically darkens the image. Having used the Rokinon extensively in 2016, I can say that the vignetting can cause a lot of problems for Milky Way photography. When you have to increase the Exposure so much in post-processing, bad things start to happen. The vignette is so strong on the Rokinon that it significantly increases the grain in the corners and makes Amp Glow more apparent in my images. The Nikon's vignette is easily corrected by the Lens Profile in Adobe Camera RAW. This is where the Nikon shows a massive quality leap over the Rokinon.
It appears to be a Tie on the Coma performance for both lenses. Neither lens has any real Coma to worry about.
The Rokinon has an odd "Mustache Distortion", which is not really visible in these images. Frankly, the only time you'll notice this distortion is when you have a flat horizon in the center of the frame. Otherwise, it's not really an issue. If you look closely at the Milky Way photos, you will see the trees dip down in the middle of the Rokinon example.
The colors from the Rokinon are much worse than the Nikon. After editing the two Milky Way photos I was able to correct the color balance on the Rokinon. It is roughly 300 K warmer with a -10 tint (More Green) than the Nikon. I'm still surprised the lens would have that much impact on the colors! Still, this isn't that big of a deal. It can be easily corrected when shooting in RAW.
In my Milky Way Tutorial I highly recommended the Rokinon 14mm for amateurs and professionals alike, due to it's impressive performance at a reasonable cost. After this test I still stand by that recommendation. While the Nikon clearly outperforms the Rokinon, it's also ~$1,550 more!
For those of you in the market for an Astrophotography lens, be sure to look into the Tamron 15-30mm. It actually outperforms the Nikon 14-24mm lens, and it costs a few hundred less. Check out my quick comparison of those two lenses in this blog post. The recently announced Sigma 14mm f/1.8 lens sounds like it has the potential to become the new king of Astrophotography lenses. It is currently on pre-order for $1,600.