Although Samyang has been producing lenses since the early 1970s, it feels like their DSLR and mirrorless lenses have only popped up on peoples’ radars in the last few years. The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE is one such lens, being a fast prime lens with autofocus for the Sony E mount.
The lens can also be used on APS-C camera bodies, providing an equivalent focal length of 75mm. This means at its respectable price point, it’s a good alternative to Sony’s own lenses and other third-party alternatives.
The price point is the usual first draw for a Samyang lens. These lenses are usually more cost-effective than same-brand offerings, but can the optics measure up to what Sony can provide?
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE has a nice and wide f/1.4 aperture, which is a much-needed aspect of a good quality prime lens. This point is not just for good quality background blur, but also for better low-light capabilities.
Internally, the Samyang has an optical arrangement of nine elements in eight groups, including three aspherical elements and a Ultra Multi-Coating to reduce ghosting and flaring. The integrated autofocus motor has manual focus override, along with nine rounded diaphragm blades which is the general standard for quality bokeh effects.
The aperture range goes from f/1.4-f/16, with a minimum focusing distance of 45cm, a front filter size of 67mm, and an overall weight of 585g. The weight alone makes it a good counterbalance against the likes of a Sony a7 II or an a9 camera.
Samyang has opted for a plain and simple lens barrel design, with no external features apart from the wide and grippy focus ring. Aspects such as aperture changes are all done in camera and the general feel of this lens is one of quality better than its price point would indicate. The only real downside here being the lack of full weatherproofing, but this is kind of expected at this price.
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE in Use
The sleek, black lens barrel of the Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE is about as straightforward to use as it comes. Simply bolt this lens onto your chosen camera and dive into instant shooting. Samyang lenses are generally manual focus only, making it an interesting proposition to test out the autofocus abilities.
While the autofocus motor isn’t as cutting edge as the ones found on Sony lenses, it’s still relatively fast at snapping into focus. The motor isn’t completely silent, with a slight whirring sound when working. The accuracy of locking onto a subject is fine with central autofocus points, but with subjects on center and with complicated backgrounds, the lens can miss on occasions.
If autofocusing does let you down, then MF Assist can give a helping hand and the focus-by-wire facilities are very accurate. In other words, when the lens does lock focus, it’s extremely accurate.
For overall sharpness levels, the Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE is relatively sharp in the center at f/1.4, but does suffer from slight softening in the corners. Stopping down to f/5.6 gives the sharpest results across the board, lining up much nearer to its Sony counterparts. While in-camera distortion correction can deal with most types of barrel distortion, the Samyang does exhibit barrel distortion at long distances and pin cushioning close-up.
Vignetting can be seen at the widest aperture setting, with visible amounts of corner light drop-off. Again, stopping down to f/5.6 alleviates most of the effects of vignetting while producing the cleanest results. Longitudinal chromatic aberration can be seen around high contrast areas at f/1.4, but quickly falls away to clean outlines by f/2.8.
While this lens does produce some levels of lens anomalies, the overall image quality is very good. In low light conditions, images have plenty of character with a reasonable amount of contrast and color saturation. Well lit images, especially after f/2.8, have plenty of definition with neutral colors having plenty of detail in the darkest and lightest of areas.
The bokeh looks appealing and while it may not be as creamy smooth as a very high priced prime lens, it’s perfectly acceptable at this price point.
How Does It Compare?
If you’re currently shopping around for a 50mm prime lens to strap on to your Sony camera body, then you at the least have a good choice of options available.
A 50mm lens is a standard focal length, with options in both the low and high price brackets. For fairness, we are hovering around the same price point as the Samyang for comparisons. The Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS is a possible contender. It comes in at roughly the same price as the Samyang, while also featuring image stabilization.
The Sony doesn’t have as wide an aperture as the Samyang, but the Sony edges forward with overall optical ability. If you want to dive into more expensive lenses, then the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is a possible choice.
|Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE||Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS|
|Optics||9 elements / 8 groups||9 elements / 8 groups|
On the whole, where the Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE stands out is with its ability to offer an f/1.4 aperture at a very reasonable price point. It weighs considerably more than the Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS due to this factor, but the stabilization on the Sony could be a dealbreaker.
While the Samyang does have its faults, such as aspects of vignetting and chromatic aberration at f/1.4 and some misses with the autofocus, it’s still a very reliable lens. Most of all the Samyang is more about what you get for the money. In this regard, it’s a fast f/1.4 prime and if you can live with the autofocus system, the lens can produce very good images, without breaking the bank.