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Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC Lens Review

This manual focus medium telephoto lens, offers a fast f/1.4 maximum aperture for a budget price of around �240, Gary Wolstenholme reviews.

|  Samyang 85mm f/1.4 in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and features

Samyang 85mm f/1.4

This lens is available to fit many different types of cameras, including Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony and Four Thirds SLRs as well as Samsung NX mirrorless cameras. Nikon users have a choice between the basic model, which has no electronic coupling and the AE model, that has electronic contacts for transferring exposure information to the camera. In this review we will be testing the AE Nikon version.

Samyang 85mm f/1.4



Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC Handling and features

Even with the bargain basement price of £240, Samyang have managed to put together a lens that feels very well screwed together, thanks to the use of high quality plastics and a metal lens mount. A gold strip around the rubberised focusing ring finished the look of the lens off nicely. Weighing 513g, this lens isn't overly heavy for an 85mm f/1.4 and it balances nicely on the Nikon D700 used for testing.

The manual focusing ring on this lens is peculiarly tight, needing quite a bit of force to move. This can make applying fine adjustments a pain, especially if you're in a hurry. Closest focus is one metre, which is fine for most portraits, but can be a little limiting for general use. The lens takes 72mm filters and as focusing is performed internally, the lens doesn't extend and the filter thread doesn't rotate, which makes this lens ideal for use with polarising and graduated filters.

A metering chip with electronic contacts is included on the version tested, so matrix metering is supported on all Nikon cameras. The lens has to be set at f/22 to operate normally on modern Nikon cameras, but no lock is provided to hold the aperture in this position. No such issues should be encountered with the basic version, as no metering information is transferred to the camera.

There is no hyperfocal distance scale, or hard infinity stop, which is unusual for a lens like this, which uses no low dispersion glass in its optical design.

Samyang 85mm f/1.4


Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC Performance

Samyang describe this lens as a 'Portrait lens', which may explain some of the characteristics of its optical performance. At f/1.4 sharpness in the centre of the frame is only fairly good, and towards the edges, 'dreamy' would be a good way of describing the clarity here. This is all well and good for flattering a portrait subject, but not for much else. Stopping the lens down improves clarity across the frame, but the sharpness towards the edges still lags way behind that of the centre until around f/8. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved between f/8 and f/11.


Resolution @ 85mm
Resolution @ 85mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D700 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations can be quite prevalent towards the edges of the frame at f/1.4, although if you're shooting portraits you may never see this, unless you place high contrast edges towards the periphery. Stopping down reduces any fringing, with fringing falling to more acceptable levels already by f/2.


Chromatic aberration at 85mm
Chromatic aberration at 85mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D700 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is typical of a fast aperture lens like this. The corners are 2.28 stops darker than the image centre at f/1.4 and visually uniform illumination is achieved by f/5.6.

Barrel distortion is present, but it is so slight that you'll barely ever notice it. Imatest could only pick up 0.359% barrelling. The distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, so this mild distortion is simple to correct in image editing software afterwards if you must have absolutely straight lines.

A flimsy shallow circular plastic hood comes supplied with the lens. It fits loosely on a bayonet fitting and has a habit of detaching itself, so may be more trouble than it's worth. Flare isn't much of an issue, but contrast does take a hammering when shooting into the light, which may be a good thing if shooting portraits.

Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Sample Photos


Value for Money

Comparing this lens to camera manufacturer's 85mm f/1.4 lenses is quite futile. The Samyang lens is so inexpensive, costing around £240 and optically imperfect, that it simply cannot be compared like for like. In the same way that LensBaby lenses have established themselves for their optical imperfections, this Samyang is an inexpensive way of having a wide aperture 85mm to experiment with. Some people may actually prefer the optical imperfections... it's a matter of taste.

A closer comparison would be between this lens and an 85mm f/1.8 lens from either Canon or Nikon. Priced at between £3-400, they are still almost double the price of this Samyang optic, but will give greater sharpness and autofocus.


Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC Verdict

Whether this lens will represent good value for you will depend on your expectations. If shallow depth of field and a flattering look for portraits are what you're after, this lens is a steal at around £240. However, if clarity is important, it may be worth spending a little extra money to get true value from your purchase.


Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC Pros

Incredibly cheap for an 85mm f/1.4
Decent enough performance in the centre when stopped down a little
Low distortion
Good build

Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC Cons

Fairly soft at f/1.4
Manual focus ring is stiff
Minimum focus distance of 1m may be a little restrictive



Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Pentax KAF
  • Sony A
  • Canon EOS
  • Sony Alpha
  • Minolta AF
  • Olympus 4/3rds
  • Pentax K SMC-F
  • Canon EF
  • Samsung NX
Focal Length85mm
Angle of View28.3
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size72mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus100cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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23 Aug 2014 5:37PM
Interesting that you give this such a poor rating for optical quality without doing any ACTUAL comparison testing. Funny then that this is one of the highest rated lenses for optical quality of ALL lenses on DXOmark - which actually does scientific tests. Perhaps you got a bad copy because I have this lens and the performance matches the DXOmark results. Yes there is CA wide open but it is still much sharper than most other lenses and CA is easy to fix. Might want to retest this lens and eliminate the assumptions if you want to make it a credible "review".
8 Sep 2015 5:34PM
Perhaps there was no incentive to get a good review for it... Wink

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