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A Golden Anniversary - 50 Years Of Samyang

Korean lens manufacturer Samyang is celebrating a huge birthday milestone and to celebrate, we're taking a closer look at the ever-growing line-up of Samyang lenses. Plus, we have a Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE II lens to giveaway!

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A Golden Anniversary - 50 Years Of Samyang:

For the past 50 years, Korean lens manufacturer Samyang has been designing, developing and manufacturing an increasing range of fine photographic lenses. Starting with manual focus lenses, an enviable reputation has been built up over many years, adding lenses for cinematography that have received recognition for quality and cost-effectiveness.

Samyang has recently moved into the realm of autofocus lenses, hitting the ground running with these, which have soon become recognised as highly desirable and affordable optics. In keeping with the trend of 50 years, there has been no resting on laurels and the second generation of the AF lenses have started to appear, lifting the quality stakes even higher.

Let's look at the history of Samyang, the line-up of second-generation lenses and details of a new competition to win one of the latest additions, the Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE II lens.

A Golden Anniversary - 50 Years Of Samyang:

Samyang started life in 1972, incorporated as Korea WAKO Co., Ltd. By 1979 this name had changed to Samyang Optical Co. Ltd. The new company grew quickly and by 1981 had exceeded exports of 10 million. By 1984 this had doubled to 20 million.

Many awards were received, including the Bronze Tower Industry Medal (1989), and various trade awards from organisations such as the Science Technology Promotion Association (Presidential Award, 1993). What was most relevant for the photographer in the UK was the development of a continuing line of excellent lenses at affordable prices. This has never faltered over the last 50 years.

2002 saw the company becoming ISO 9001 certified, moving into a new head office and factory and changing the name to Samyang Optics Co. Ltd. By 2005 ISO 14001 certification had been achieved. Innovation continued apace and 2006 brought developments such as the CCTV Mega Pixel Lens, Hybrid Aspheric Lens and Plastic Aspheric lens.

Lens developments were moving forwards swiftly and 2010 brought several items of note. The 85mm f/1.4 DSLR lens was awarded Gear of the Year Best Budget Lens by Digital Photo/Practical Photography (UK). Film Video Foto Award (Poland) went to the 8mm f/3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fisheye. Also introduced in the same year was the excellent ultra-wide DSLR lens, the 14mm f/2.8.

2014 saw the introduction of several cinematography/videography lenses, and this culminated by 2015 into the release of the highly acclaimed XEEN Professional Video-Cine Lens Brand.

2016 was another hectic year, with introductions of more XEEN Cine lenses and, for the first time, Premium MF lenses and a new range of mirrorless AF optics. These were impressive right from the start. The XP 85mm lens was also given the ePHOTOzine accolade of Gear of the Year.

2017 brought further recognition, with the iF Design Award (AF lens) and the Korean Government naming Samyang a World Class 300 Enterprise. The company also became listed on the KOSDAQ exchange.

The TIPA award of 2018 came to the AF 35mm f/2.8 FE and the Red Dot Design Award for AF, XP and XEEN. Premium MF lenses were introduced alongside the new AF range, so MF users were not forgotten.

Now, 2022 brings with it Samyang's 50th Anniversary and to coincide with that the introduction of three updated AF lenses, the AF 35mm f/1.4 FE II, the AF 50mm f/1.4 FE II and the AF 85mm f/1.4 FE II.

As part of the celebrations, ePHOTOzine is running a photo competition with the prize being the Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 II lens. The subject of the competition is PORTRAITS and full details can be found here: Win A Samyang AF 85mm F/1.4 FE II Lens


The Second-Generation AF FE Lenses From Samyang – 35mm, 50mm and 85mm


Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE II

A Golden Anniversary - 50 Years Of Samyang: Samyang AF 35mm F1,4FEII Front Oblique View | 1/5 sec | f/16.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100

The full review of the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE II lens was highly complimentary and the lens was awarded Editor's Choice. The 35mm lens is an excellent choice for what has always been described as a "wide standard". It has been the go-to lens of reportage/street photographers, being slightly wider, enabling more to be included in the frame and giving more depth of field than the standard 50mm. If the 35mm lens should be used on a crop sensor APS-C format camera, then its "35mm format equivalent" field of view is around 52.5mm, as close to the 50mm standard as makes no difference.

The 35mm can also be used effectively with close-up lenses, lens reversing and teleconverters, so it can, optically speaking, be reasonably well abused and still deliver good results.

Samyang AF 35mm F/1.4 FE II General Article Images



Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE II

A Golden Anniversary - 50 Years Of Samyang: Samyang 50mm F1,4II Vertical View | 1/5 sec | f/16.0 | 88.0 mm | ISO 100


Another fine performance gained the Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE II lens a Highly Recommended award. At one time the 50mm lens was the ubiquitous standard lens sold with almost all camera bodies. It is slightly longer than the format diagonal, which would actually be 43mm, so is showing us just about the same perspective as the human eye. Distortion is low, so groups of people will not be elongated at the edges. Even more so than the 35mm lens, the 50mm can be abused optically speaking and still deliver the quality needed.

Reportage/street fans of Cartier-Bresson can follow in his footsteps with the 50mm, waiting for the "decisive moment", or we can use the lens for just about any photographic subject where a normal-looking image is required. Close-up lenses, extension tubes, teleconverters or any other optical devices will not faze the 50mm. There is a good reason why it was the "standard lens" for so many years. If used on a crop sensor APS-C body, then the 35mm-format field of view becomes around 75mm, a short telephoto that can be used for portraiture with good effect.

Samyang AF 50mm F1.4 FE II General Article Images


Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE II

A Golden Anniversary - 50 Years Of Samyang: AF 85mm F1 | 1/160 sec | f/13.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100

There are certain focal lengths that can be regarded as classics. Some of these are by various accidents of fate, some because they fall at just the right sweet spot for a particular purpose. The 85mm is such a lens, a short telephoto in full frame terms and just long enough to give a bit of distance between photographer and model to render a natural and flattering perspective for portraiture. It is also a focal length that early lens manufacturers could design with large apertures. This makes sure we can have gorgeous out-of-focus backgrounds to enhance the portrait, making the face stand out whilst suppressing any unwanted background detail. On a crop sensor APS-C format this would equate to a field of view of 127.5mm, offering a very tight headshot, and a look that is preferred by some.

The sample images are from various Samyang 85mm lenses, whilst we keenly await a sample of the new Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE II. A pre-production sample of this lens has already been in use with Hybrid Photographer Jayce Clarke and he is very enthusiastic about its improved sharpness, smaller size, lighter weight and the extra programmable controls are already seen on the Mk II 35mm and 50mm lenses. Our full review will follow as soon as we have a sample available.

Samyang AF 85mm F/1.4 FE II General Article Images


Samyang User Interview - Jayce Clarke

Of course, regardless of technical tests, how photographers gel with a lens is the critical thing. To find out more about using the Samyang lenses in professional photography, John Riley went over to see people photographer Jayce Clarke at his studio in Leigh, Greater Manchester.

The studio is located on the third floor of Leigh Spinners Mill, a Grade II* listed double cotton spinning mill. Abandoned but intact for many years, the two joined mills are now a Heritage Building, being increasingly populated by small businesses and community assets.


A Golden Anniversary - 50 Years Of Samyang: Jayce Clarke


John started off by asking why Jayce had chosen Leigh Spinners Mill rather than a high street location.

Jayce - Lots of reasons, but mainly being part of a wider community that serves the area and also the easy access, being so close to the East Lancashire Road and the motorway network. It started with wedding and event photography, teaching from around 2012, and with sponsorship from various companies, but came to a stop with the pandemic and Covid19. For a couple of years photography was on hold but now is underway again.


What sort of work are you now undertaking?

Jayce - I am now firmly a Hybrid Photographer. That is, both stills and videography, working as a Trainer and covering Events, Weddings and Portraits. I work in the studio and on location and also hire out the studio to other photographers. I also run a weekly group, not exactly a camera club, but a gathering of like-minded photographers.


Can you give us some insight as to your methods of working and the equipment you use?

Jayce - My current mission is to rediscover the benefits of using a tripod. It was this that led me to become an Ambassador for Holdan who distribute Slik tripods. It also happens that Holdan are responsible for Samyang lenses in the UK and I have been a Samyang user for several years, coupling them up with my Sony cameras. The Sony lenses are of course great lenses, but very expensive, and with Samyang I can afford to buy a wider selection. The Samyang lenses are also excellent in their own right and much more affordable. The latest Mk II AF lenses have extra controls that I use a lot, preferring for example to use the focusing ring to change the aperture, with the camera back dial to change the shutter speed. This suits my way of working.


A Golden Anniversary - 50 Years Of Samyang: Jayce Clarke's studio


What path did you take to arrive at using Sony cameras and Samyang lenses?

Jayce - Originally I was a Nikon user, but then was attracted to the retro style and feel of Fujifilm cameras, especially with the great aperture rings on many of their lenses. I then discovered the various benefits of Sony with the Samyang lenses, settling on a simple duo of lenses, 35mm and 85mm, for most of my wedding photography. I used to shoot with a 70-200mm lens for portraits, so I will be looking at the Samyang 135mm soon to see how I get on with it. But for most of my shoots, the 35mm and 85mm are so light, handle so well and are so sharp that they are the main lenses.


You have a Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE II already I think?

Jayce - Yes, I was sent a pre-production sample for evaluation, and I really like that it is smaller, lighter, faster and has weather sealing. Most of all the programmable switches and the ability to assign aperture control to the focusing ring. The version I have, being pre-production, does not fully work with some functions, but when the final version is released I will be buying one.


With your photographic styles in mind, ePHOTOzine is currently running a Portrait competition and Holdan has kindly donated a Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 II lens as the prize. What advice and thoughts about portrait photography would you offer to those entering the competition?

Jayce - Wow, there's a question... I think that what I personally like and try to go for in a portrait is something beyond just having a model stand there for a picture. Something with expression, personality and energy. I usually go for more complex lighting in the studio, with perhaps 3 to 5 lights for an image, although sometimes just the one light. I like themed shoots and I have a futuristic event planned for the next week – I'm just about to start sewing together sheets of foil for a metallic background.


That's fantastic, thanks Jayce, we appreciate the time you've set aside to chat about this. Finally, what would be your own inspirations, who has influenced you, especially in portraiture?

Jayce - I think the Hollywood style of photography, thinking in terms of Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Katherine Hepburn. I love playing with shadows just as much as I do with light, so the images from photographers from that genre/era appeal to me; but I think George Hurrell is the one who comes closest to what inspires me.

Jayce Clarke, thank you very much.


For more information on Samyang's lens line-up, please visit the Holdan website. To find out where you can purchase Samyang lenses, please visit the Where To Buy page. 

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