Weekly Column: A Cheap Lens Gets it Done

I may have been ambitious with the idea of a weekly column. I’m going to resort to blogging when I can and hope I’m somewhat consistent. I’m back from a killer tour in the amazing Lofoten Islands of Norway. Of course, when photographing Aurora you chase clear skies, so we ended up in Sweden for the last night and it was well worth the insane drive! Last time I photographed the Aurora I used the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II, an excellent fast prime that was ideal for the Aurora. Keeping the lens wide open at f/1.4 allowed for relatively fast shutter speeds at night. The only limitation of the lens is not being able to go wider. When the Aurora really kicks off and a corona is directly overhead, you often want to be as wide as possible. Nikon shooters are blessed with the incredible Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G, which provides the perfect focal range for Nikon shooters. The brand new Canon 11-24mm f/4L  is an exciting lens, but with a slow aperture of f/4 it’s not ideal for night photography. You really don’t want to be any slower than f/2.8. The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II is a viable lens for night photography, but it’s a poor performer all around. I replaced my copy with the superior Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS. But, of course, I lost a stop so it’s not ideal for night photography either. Canon does make a 14mm f/2.8L II prime lens, but at a cost of $2249 that’s not something I was interested in purchasing. It’s time to present the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8. At a cost of $372.99 it is a mere fraction of the competition. During my last workshop to Zion National Park, we had a night photography session. One of my clients was using the Rokinon 14mm and it was outperforming the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II. That was it for me, time to test this puppy out in Arctic Scandinavia and see what it can do. One of the limitations of the lens is that it’s manual focus only. For night photography that’s perfect, as you want to be manual focusing. You do not control the aperture on the camera but on the lens itself. No problem, set it at f/2.8 at night and forget it. And finally, focusing to infinity was a snap as the focus ring stops at infinity. I tested the lens and that is where true infinity is on my copy. If I lost my focus for any reason, all I had to do was snap the focus to infinity.

So how did it perform? Fantastic. I was very pleased with the performance, especially at its incredible price point. See for yourself!

"The Dragon"

“The Dragon”


"Arctic Sky"

“Arctic Sky”


"Road to Aurora"

“Road to Aurora”


TV recommendation of the week: Friday Night Lights. A drama about family first and foremost. Top 10 show of all time for me.


11 responses to “Weekly Column: A Cheap Lens Gets it Done

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