My good friend Andrew Rowe has lent me his Samyang 85mm 1.4 lens to try out over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Now, for those who don’t know, this lens is completely manual, the aperture and focus all have to be done by me. I have played around with some old school M42 lenses in the past but nothing like this.
My lens is not really a Samyang but a Falcon branded one instead. They are the same lens (like Vivitar, Rokinon, Polar, etc.) and they’re all made in Korea by Samyang. The full name of mine is Falcon 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF. I have to say, what a catch! This lens is spectacular for the price, under £250 and will be so useful for portraits and street photography.
- Excellent build, feels very professional. I can’t say the same of the lens cap and hood, what a shame.
- Stunning sharpness at the center already at f/1.4. The corners are already very very good and sharpness increases dramatically at f/2.2.
- Excellent manual focus performance. Just like any manual focus should be. Perfect damping and has a very long throw for critical sharpness.
- Beautiful creamy bokeh at widest apertures. By f/2.8 the highlights stop being circular due to the non-circular blades.
- Great colours. The UMC coating does the job very well.
- Very well controlled CAs. They are easily visible at f/1.4 but by f/2 most of it disappears.
- The lens cap is rubbish, if you press it with one finger it bends a little.
- The lens hood feels very cheap and could not be put or taken off the lens with the cap on.
- Very poor flare performance. The lens hood helps a bit but you should avoid having the sun near the frame.
- Focusing can be a pain if you use the lens wide open because of the low depth of field. I use a 1DS Mk2 and I got about 25% of keepers at f/1.4. At f/2.8 the keeper percentage jumped to between 60% to 70%. The long throw of the focusing ring and the somewhat stiffness feel doesn’t allow for quick focus. This lens is meant to waste a lot of time to compose and focus. Not really a problem to me but can keep others away of it because of this.
The price is unbeatable. The sharpness and bokeh is nothing short of fantastic. The build quality doesn’t match the pro Canon L Glass but it’s a lot better than any currently made lens in the £200 to £300 price range. The only drawback I see is that it is a manual focus lens. I think Samyang deserves to be loudly applauded for this accomplishment. If you don’t mind manual focusing, this lens should be in your bag already and you should beat yourself hard if you still don’t have it.
Here are a couple of images I took yesterday while in the neighbours. Harrison is just over 4 months old and is a happy little chappie. Just took a couple of quick images to while he and his Dad, Struan, were looking at each other. ISO3200, 1/320 sec, f1.4.