Those of you out there who have bought into the Sony camera body range are lucky enough to have a good range of lens options. Along with Sony lenses, you can use Canon lenses and a good deal of third-party offerings. Basically meaning, you shouldn’t be short of options. If a relatively wide-angle prime lens is on your shopping list and you don’t want to spend top-end prices, then the Samyang 35mm f/2.8 could be worth a look.
Samyang is currently producing good quality optics, which most importantly are coming in at very good price points. This makes them possible alternatives, but as with all lenses, price is just one part of the puzzle. Therefore, let’s have a closer look at this lens and what it has to offer.
Firstly, the Samyang is a pancake lens design, meaning it’s lightweight, small, and compact. This little thing only weighs 85.6g and when first attached to the front of a camera, it almost feels like you’ve forgotten to attach any lens at all. A breath of fresh air if you’re used using heavyweight zooms and primes. It also makes the Sony camera body like the Sony a7 and lens a great all day, walk around combo, with the feeling of carrying a compact camera, rather than a top-end setup.
To build such a lightweight lens means it’s not going to have as much glass inside as higher-priced models, but this can work both ways. Less glass to cause diffraction issues, but also not as many elements to correct optical anomalies.
Inside the lens are seven elements arranged in six groups with two aspherical elements, one HR element, Ultra multi-coating, and includes seven diaphragm blades. The lens barrel itself is made from tough plastics, with an aluminum mount. The lens isn’t weatherproofed, but it feels solid enough to be used on a regular basis, as long as you don’t give it too much abuse.
The aperture range of the lens extends from f/2.8 to f/22, has autofocus, and is finished off with a 49mm filter thread. Being a pancake lens means you can’t fit much onto the lens barrel, so the only thing supplied is the manual focus ring and that’s about it. A simple and straightforward lens which at 35mm should be a good focal length for everyday use.
Samyang 35mm f/2.8 in Use
The first thing to remember with the Samyang 35mm f/2.8 is that it’s not a budget solution, but rather a medium-priced solution. This means that the overall working should be better than average, which was initially found with the autofocusing speed.
The lens is quick to snap into focus, with the motor being reasonably quiet. In good light conditions, the lens doesn’t have a problem locking onto a subject, but it does start to focus hunt when the light levels drop considerably. Slightly more than expected, even when the aperture is fully wide open.
Although the lens doesn’t have image stabilization, strapping it to a Sony body makes use of the camera’s internal stabilization and does a great job of getting lower shutter speeds. The autofocus system on the Sony worked without a hitch, communicating seamlessly with the lens. Basically, no connection problems which sometimes may be the case with third-party lenses.
As for overall optical performance, the Samyang 35mm f/2.8 performs remarkably well when wide open. Between f/2.8 and f/5.6 center and edge sharpness are almost similar in quality, with just a touch less center sharpness when fully wide open.
The lens hits its sharpest levels at f/8, with things starting to tail off again after f/11. It’s a shame that the lens doesn’t have a wider aperture, especially for a prime lens, but at least f/2.8 lets you get into reasonably low light, along with background blur that comes with this aperture.
The lens displays degrees of vignetting when wide open at around 1.5 stops. This drops off considerably by f/4. This effect can be corrected in post-processing, but your images may take a slight clarity hit.
The lens has a small amount of barrel distortion, again easily corrected when you can load in the right lens profile in software. Chromatic aberration can also be seen in small amounts in high contrast areas when the lens is wide open. But just like the vignetting, the effect is virtually gone by f/4.
As for the f/2.8 aperture’s background blur or bokeh quality, with close-up subjects, the lens is quite capable of rendering a smooth transition of colors with nice highlights. The seven-blade diaphragm isn’t going to give the quality of a nine-blade, but in general, the results are more than pleasing for this level of lens.
Overall, the lens can produce detailed and accurate images, with a good degree of contrast and saturation. The resulting images aren’t going to be mind blowing, but you won’t be disappointed with its level of accuracy, especially in good light.
The main advantages here are that it’s super lightweight and is great for all-day usage. The 35mm focal length is a nice, happy medium and although we would have liked a wider aperture, f/2.8 works in the majority of situations other than very low light levels.
How Does It Compare?
For those on the Sony platform who want a lightweight and compact 35mm lens, you may be eyeing up the Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens. On paper, both the Sony and the Samyang have similar properties being f/2.8, autofocus and weigh next to nothing. However, Sony has added Zeiss optical goodness, which will always be a big draw for any lens.
The Sony lens has a slightly higher optical quality overall, but you’re also paying double the money for the privilege. In this regard, it’s a good idea to rent both of these lenses for the day to see which sits better with you for overall operation and price. After this, you may be pleasantly surprised by the Samyang 35mm f/2.8.
|Samyang 35mm f/2.8||Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA|
|Elements||7 elements/ 6 groups||7 elements/ 5 groups|
If you’re used to carting around heavyweight prime and zoom lenses all day long, then owning something this lightweight, feels like a revelation. But, super lightweight also means a few optical caveats, which in this case means the lens can sometimes be not as bright as expected.
However, if you sum up what you get for the money, then the Samyang provides great value for an everyday use lens which produces more than exceptional images. It’s not going to outperform the Sony equivalent, but at this price point, the Samyang 35mm f/2.8 provides a lot for the money.