Fast becoming a popular choice among photographers is the South Korean brand Samyang that has produced a whole range of not only Stills but also Cine lens. While Samyang’s lens are of the manual focus kind which used to be a turn off for most photographers, thanks to the latest range of cameras with focus peaking, the interest in manual focus lens definitely has picked up. Having jumped into the world of mirrrorless full frame recently with the Sony A7rII recently, I decided to also dive into the world of manual focus and picked up the Samyang 85mm F1.4 AS IF UMC (FE Mount). A focal range that I prefer, Samyang’s 85mm offering has been making waves on the internet not only with its affordable price for a f/1.4 at that focal length but also its performance. Taking the Samyang 85mm F1.4 AS IF UMC down to Arab street for a quick shoot, I was eager to put the lens through its paces.
The first thing I observed is the build quality of the lens. For a sub SGD $500 lens, the Samyang 85mm F1.4 AS IF UMC is a well-made lens with not only a metal mount but also high-quality engineered plastic that is found in lens that cost more. Comparable in size to my Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA SSM II Vario-Sonnar T* Lens, the Samyang 85mm F1.4 AS IF UMC compliments the Sony A7rII nicely although even with the large hood.
The aperture ring clicks nicely into place with markings to inform you of aperture value while the focus ring get the job done with enough distant markings information for minimum, maximum and infinity pre-focusing. Perhaps my only complaint so far about using the lens is that the aperture ring is not as smooth as a Zeiss but hey at almost 1/4 the price of the Zeiss Otus, I guess I can live with that.
Thanks to the focus peaking of my Sony A7rII, I was able to get majority of my shots in focus even at the shallow depth of field of using the f/1.4 aperture. Although for fast moving subjects, I fared worst as the aperture ring does rotate quite a bit round and it required quite a bit of effort to move it. Other than that, everything else was easy once I got a hang of it.
Of course the most important quality of a lens is its optics performance and I am happy to say the Samyang 85mm F1.4 AS IF UMC has performed well for its pricing. While it is not going to be able to match up to the Zeiss Otus, it will definitely give other 85mm lens a good run for its money.
Images wide open are acceptable with soft corners and chromatic aberration but stop down to F/2 and you will start seeing notable improvements. Moving onto f/2.8, f/4 and f/5.6 will start giving you improvements from corner to corner but for me without the pixel peeping, I am very happy around f/2. After all, the purpose of getting a big aperture lens is to get the thin depth of field and thus I usually try not to go over f/4. Since 85mm lens are usually for portraiture so soft corners usually don’t affect the center and does helps to get the viewer to focus on the subject. This also helps with getting more attention on my subjects during my shots on the streets.
Bokeh lovers will also be happy to know that the lens produces very acceptable bokeh balls thanks to its 8 round aperture blades as seen above in the purposely out of focus shot of the christmas tree. Out of focus parts also are nice and almost creamy and fade away un-intrusively for most parts.
Overall the Samyang 85mm F1.4 AS IF UMC is still a good performer that will not break your bank. At SGD $478 as per what Alan Photo e-quoted me (before I went down to their Funan store to get it), the lens is definitely a worthy additional to those looking to give manual focus lens a try. A very acceptable performer at f/2 and still acceptable at f/1.4 wide open with a good built quality and accessories like pouch and lens hood (that some other brands do not supply), this lens looks to be a good bargin at its price point.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.
By Kenneth Wong
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