Samyang and Rokinon have been busy little bees, to steal a quote from a tyrannical Roman Emperor. Fortunately, they’re not working to bring down an empire, but to build cost-effective prime lenses. The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC is aimed at users who are happy with manual focusing and need a fast lens, while also providing very good value for money.
Value for money is one thing, but this lens still costs a good few hundred dollars for the privilege. This means the lens still needs to deliver the goods in all departments to make it a worthwhile choice above the rest.
Although the outer barrel of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC is mostly made of plastic, it still comes in at a hefty weight of 710g. The solid plastic outer shell does have some advantages over a full metal construction in that it doesn’t expand or contract to the same extent with rapid temperature changes. The lens isn’t officially weatherproofed and it doesn’t have any type of rubber gasket on the lens mount.
As this is a fully manual lens, it has a manual focusing and aperture ring. Both are very easy to turn and have just the right amount of feel and feedback. The lens is also quite long and tall compared to its competitors, which means it’s not exactly discreet looking, but it does show that all your hard-earned money goes into the optical design. Although the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC is fully manual focusing, it does have a focusing chip that can communicate with some camera bodies. This feature will need to be calibrated or fine-tuned for your own particular copy of the lens.
As for general specifications, the Samyang can be used on both full-frame and crop sensor camera bodies, providing a 56mm viewpoint on the latter. The aperture is a wide and fast f/1.4 version, with 6 diaphragm blades and a 77mm filter thread up top. The thread design is nonrotating, which means it can quite happily fit a good range of filters.
Optically, the lens comprises 12 elements arranged in 10 groups, which also includes a pair of refractive index and an aspherical element for improving image clarity. All the elements have been treated to a UMC coating to reduce lens flare and ghosting, along with increasing overall color rendition and contrast.
The overall sharpness levels of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC are going to be of most interest to many. As expected at f/1.4, the overall sharpness levels across the frame are not as good as other aperture settings, but not that far behind. The center of the frame is relatively sharp, with the corners just a touch behind.
Sharpness across the frame is noticeably tighter at f/2 and is almost as sharp as can be by f/2.8. The lens displays its best levels of resolution between f/5.6 and f/8, where it is wonderfully sharp. The lens doesn’t seem to show any signs of severe field curvature, which means you’re not going to get any weird out-of-focus areas where you didn’t want them.
With any type of lens that has an aperture as wide as f/1.4, it had better produce good-looking bokeh or background blur to be worth its salt. The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC can definitely produce a smooth background blur that is very respectable for its price point. Highlight balls are reasonably well-defined, but not to the extent of more expensive 35mm lenses.
It’s a common feature of wide aperture lenses to show some amount of vignetting in the corners. The Samyang is no different at f/1.4, displaying almost two stops of light falloff. This effect noticeably reduces by f/2 and drops to almost undetectable levels by f/2.8. The Samyang is also not the greatest at handling lens flare and ghosting, which means you have to be careful when the sun is directly in the frame.
The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC also displays a noticeable amount of barrel distortion, which will need to be remedied in software. Chromatic aberration is also visible in high-contrast areas, but easily correctable in post-processing.
Generally speaking, the Samyang produces very neutral-looking images and once the aperture is stopped down a little, it’s extremely sharp across the frame.
How Does It Compare?
One of the most popular choices in the 35mm camp at the moment is the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. For those who don’t want or can’t justify the price of a camera brand version, the Sigma 35mm has proven to be a high-quality choice. There is an obvious price difference between the two lenses, with the Sigma coming in at a good few hundred dollars more.
But the Sigma justifies the extra spend, as it is extremely sharp at every aperture point. However, the Samyang displays slightly less field curvature than the Sigma.
|Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC||Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art|
|Close Focusing Distance||30cm||30cm|
The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC Is Fine if You’re Okay with Manual
If nothing else, the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC shows that for the money, it can keep up with the competition in most areas. If you don’t mind its manual-only features, you will get on fine with this third-party prime lens for the likes of environmental portraits or even landscape photography. The lens performs its best with the aperture stopped down to f/2.8 and beyond, but it’s not overly soft across the frame at f/1.4.
There are some weak points in that it’s not fully weather-sealed and doesn’t feel as robust as some of its counterparts. The slight amount of barrel distortion will need some work in software and Lightroom doesn’t currently have a lens profile for easy correction. This 35mm lens can also be susceptible to flaring and ghosting, which may be a factor if you’re always shooting in sunny conditions.
On the whole, the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is a solid working lens that justifies its asking price. When the lens is stopped down a little, it displays excellent sharpness across the frame and, if you don’t mind deliberating over manual focus, it can provide excellent results in the right settings.