2019-05-10

Samyang 85mm f1.4 AF FE Lens Review


Introducing the brand new Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AF FE for Sony e-mount cameras. This makes for a great portrait lens and that fast aperture gives you a lot of options. We were lucky enough to be able to test it out in the field.


Image Quality

This is a really interesting lens, coming in at a very affordable price but still offering that fast aperture at f/1.4. I was particularly interested in how this lens would handle things like bokeh, sharpness and general image quality, especially considering it’s price compared with other, similar lenses.

85mm is a great focal length for portraits in particular and that fast aperture of f/1.4 gives you incredible background separation with your subject. You can really isolate them in the frame or focus in on their eyes in particular, it’s lovely for this kind of photo. The other big advantage of f/1.4 is that it lets in loads of light. It really makes it a lot easier to shoot in lower light and often way past sunset you can still be out snapping photos.



This lens is surprisingly sharp at f/1.4 which is great for portraits or anything where you want to have that super shallow depth of field - and stopping down just a little bit only increases that sharpness.

Speaking about that super shallow depth of field, obviously, a big consideration with this lens is the bokeh, well, I’m happy to report that it looks great. I actually really liked the look of the bokeh from this lens, it’s nice and smooth and blurs out those backgrounds perfectly.

Something else which I was particularly impressed by was the colour and punch in the image. The colour is nice and rich and there’s a good bit of contrast in the image which gives you that punch and gives you a bit of depth to the image.



There is a some flaring when dealing with bright lights and I did experience some flare from the low sun in the sky. It seems like this lens is a little susceptible to a bit of flaring, however, there are ways of reducing this. The lens hood (included with the lens) helps a lot with reducing glare and flare but otherwise I was mostly able to remove the flaring by just adjusting my own position.



Autofocus

The autofocus is pretty quick and accurate and above all else, it’s nice and reliable. It’s a little slower when shooting video but nothing that ever caused a problem. I’m very happy to be able to say it works perfectly with Sony’s Eye AF which is ideal for portraits. It just makes it so easy and you end up nailing the portrait pretty much everytime and with such a shallow depth of field, that can make a huge difference.



The autofocus does make a little bit of noise as it’s working and that is picked up on the internal microphone so for video shooters that’s worth being aware of but, with that said, personally,  I don’t ever use the internal mic and I think most videographers tend to use an external microphone so I don’t think it’s too much of a big deal.

It also makes a little bit of noise while changing aperture as well so, that’s very much the same sort of thing for video users.

Build and Feel

The closest focusing distance is about 90cm, so not overly close. This didn’t cause me any issues while I was shooting, usually I’d be at least that distance from my subject for portraits, especially with this focal length so it was never really a problem but it is worth being aware of, you’re not going to be able to get in for super close up work.



It’s also worth being aware that it doesn’t have any image stabilisation, but, the newer Sony cameras all have it built into the camera itself so that was never an issue for me. I shot stills and quite a bit of handheld video and the stabilisation in the Sony A7 III was absolutely enough.

In terms of the lens itself, it is fairly big and it’s a decent weight. I actually found it to be pretty reasonable but then, I’m used to shooting with a Canon 1DX II so most things feel nice and light to me. The build quality on the lens is actually of a very impressive quality, it’s nice and sleek with the only control on the lens itself being the focus ring and even the lens hood is made of a good quality plastic. It doesn’t feel flimsy and tacky and the whole thing feels nice and solid.



Overall, this lens is a great option, especially as a portrait lens, but for any 85mm with a nice, fast aperture, this is a tough one to beat based on that price point. It’s great in terms of image quality and build quality and it’s definitely one that’s on my radar.

You can watch more of our impressions as well as seeing more sample images and some sample video by watching our video below.


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