I have to admit that in the past Samyang wouldn’t have been my first choice for a prime lens, simply from the point of view that same-brand and popular third-party makers are usually at the top of the list. However, the company has been producing some great quality prime lenses recently, which is the case with the Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE.
The 85mm f/1.4 FE is available for the most common camera mounts and even though it is cheaper than most top-end 85mm primes, it still has a price tag to show its overall quality. While a Samyang lens may not be the obvious first choice for many, once you weigh up all the features, it should be definitely on your shortlist at this focal length.
The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE is a very straightforward lens on the surface, with a simple barrel design and the only external features being a large manual focus ring. Internally the optics consist of 11 elements arranged in eight groups, with four HR (high-resolution) elements and one ED (extra-low dispersion) element, plus an ultra multi-coating.
Autofocusing is handled by a Linear Supersonic Motor (LSM), along with a nine-blade rounded diaphragm, full weather sealing, and a minimum focusing distance of 90cm. The lens is reasonably lightweight coming in at 568g.
The manual focus ring is easy to grip but also has no hard stops which makes fine-tuning to infinity tricky. The 77mm filter thread doesn’t rotate when focusing, which means it can accept a wide range of filters. This size of filter denotes an air of quality and is needed for the wide and fast f/1.4 aperture.
Another factor to bear in mind is the 28.9-degree angle of view. Lastly, the lens comes with a front and rear lens cap and a circular-shaped lens hood. There’s no image stabilization on this lens, which ultimately would add to its overall weight and cost.
The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE in Use
The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE is a very simple and straightforward lens, with a definite professional feel. As the 85mm focal length is a good choice for portrait work, it makes sense to test this lens out predominantly in this scenario.
When shooting against a plain white background with the aperture fully open, chromatic aberration (CA) or blue and purple fringing were surprisingly kept to a minimum. Stopping down to f/2 cleared up CA tremendously, with none being exhibited after this point.
One thing that was evident was a fair degree of vignetting at f/1.4. The lens needed a good degree of stopping down to f/5.6 before edges cleared up nicely. Although vignetting was very present, it’s not overly distracting and luckily can be mostly remedied in post-editing.
An f/1.4 lens just begs to have bokeh or background blur added and with such a shallow depth of field, the Samyang works out great at separating backgrounds from a subject. Colors transition smoothly and while this effect can be largely down to personal taste, the results looked very professional, which is an ideal application for portraits. The f/1.4 aperture is wonderful in low-light conditions, largely saving having to break out a strobe on the odd occasion.
As for overall sharpness levels, while acceptable at f/1.4, images start to look their sharpest from f/2 and upwards. Center sharpness looks the best at this point, but for the best and sharpness results, the aperture will need to be stopped down to f/2.8.
After f/16, the sharpness level starts to drop off, mainly due to diffraction. Also, bear in mind that the sharpness levels were judged by close-up pixel peeping. This means for more general use, the Samyang still feels relatively sharp across the frame.
Overall, images produced by this lens were quite neutral looking, without overly saturated colors. The autofocus is reasonably fast and for portrait work, the lens brings out a fair degree of detail, rendering subjects in a very flattering way.
How Does It Compare?
While there are quite a few lens options in the 85mm department, you have to spend big on the best versions. One contender at roughly the same price is the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. This Sony lens doesn’t have as wide an aperture, but it provides solid image quality. If you’re on the Sony platform, this is a great solution at this price point.
If price doesn’t matter, then the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 provides excellent optics and is extremely sharp, even with the aperture wide open. Plus, you receive the quality guarantee of Zeiss and their renowned lens coatings.
One popular choice at this focal length is the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens. This is also an expensive lens, weighs over a kilo, but is also exceptionally sharp across-the-board. It does exhibit some chromatic aberration at f/1.4, but the overall optics are exceptional for the money.
While the Samyang may not be able to contend with the more expensive options, it does deliver a lot of quality considering the asking price.
|Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE||Sony FE 85mm f/1.8|
|Optics||11 elements / 8 groups||9 elements / 8 groups|
|Diaphragm||9 rounded||9 rounded|
The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE provides fast workings at a very affordable price, which means it’s a good cost-effective alternative to same-brand offerings.
Sharpness levels are okay at f/1.4, clearing up across the frame by f/2 and then look exceptionally sharp from f/2.8 and upwards. There is some chromatic aberration with the aperture wide open, but you could also argue some of the very expensive 85mm lenses also suffer in this regard.
Given the price point of this lens, it offers a lot of optical quality for the money. Plus, the f/1.4 aperture makes it even more competitive, making the Samyang a definite lens to shortlist in the 85mm arena.