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Samyang AF 135mm F/1.8 FE Lens Review

John Riley has been putting the Samyang AF 135mm F/1.8 FE lens to the test, partnering it with the Sony A7R III camera and a springtime outdoor walk.

| Samyang AF 135mm F1.8 Sony FE in Interchangeable Lenses

Samyang AF 135mm F/1.8 FE Lens Review: Samyang AF 135mm F1,8 Side View | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 60.0 mm | ISO 100

Once the first lens choice after the purchase of a camera body plus its standard lens, the 135mm lens was made by every manufacturer and in huge quantities. Supplanted by the zoom lens that was more compact, focused closer and was much more versatile, there are now very few 135mm lenses available. However, there are also advantages to be gained and for one the fast, bright f/1.8 aperture adds many possibilities for low light photography, portraits with blurred backgrounds and even astrophotography. Enter the new Samyang 135mm f/1.8 FE, designed for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras, although it can equally well be used on the crop sensor cameras, where the focal length is a "35mm format equivalent" of around 200mm in terms of field of view. Here we look closely at the new lens, coupling it up with the 42MP Sony A7R III body. Let's see how it handles and how well it performs.


Samyang AF 135mm F/1.8 FE Handling and Features

Samyang AF 135mm F/1.8 FE Lens Review: Samyang AF 135mm F1,8 On Sony A7RIII Without Hood | 1/5 sec | f/16.0 | 53.0 mm | ISO 100

The lens is bulky but not overly heavy, weighing in at 770g without a hood and 880g with. The provided circular hood, of generous proportions, bayonets lightly but positively into position. A nice simple bit of engineering that results in a secure fit. Within the bayonet fit for the hood is a standard 82mm filter thread.

The focusing ring is electronic, totally smooth and has an excellent feel to it – just the right amount of resistance. Focusing is down to 0.69m, or 2.26 feet, for a maximum magnification of 0.243x. This extends the usefulness of the lens considerably, compared to the classic 135mm lenses of the 1970s and 1980s that might only have focused down to around 4 feet. We can see how far we have come with close focusing when we look at, say, the Voigtlander Dynarex 135mm f/4 lens of 1959, which focused down to 13 feet...

The focusing ring supports the usual Sony focusing options, such as DMF, where manual focusing tweaks can be made during AF operation but has additional functionality via the mode switch. Mode 1 operates as a focusing ring. Mode 2 acts as a silent aperture control, which could be ideal for videographers.

The Focus Limiter switch offers three focusing ranges, Full, 0.69m to 2m and 1.5m to infinity. The Focus Hold button locks the focus whilst using AF, but can also be programmed for a long list of other functions via the camera menus.


Samyang AF 135mm F/1.8 FE Lens Review: Samyang AF 135mm F1,8 On Sony A7RIII Top View | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 48.0 mm | ISO 100

There is one final trick for the focus hold button, which, if pressed whilst the camera is turned on, will activate the lens's Astro-Focus mode. This sets the lens at a factory-set infinity setting for astrophotography. The lens is in manual focus mode at this setting and a green LED indicates infinity is set. If the MF setting is changed a red LED lights, going back to green when the focus hold button is pressed again. There is also a simple method for calibrating the infinity setting and this custom infinity setting is then stored in the lens's chip. During the review period, constant cloud cover meant that trying out astrophotography was not possible.

Optical construction is 13 elements in 11 groups, including 3 ED (Extra Low Dispersion), 2 HR (High Refractive Index) and 1 U-Asph (Ultra-precision aspherical). Add 11 bladed diaphragm, weather sealing and a virtually silent Linear STM motor and we have a highly effective design. This completes a series of Samyang AF prime lenses, covering 24mm, 35mm, 45mm, 75mm and now 135mm.

Apart from the astrophotography that was not tested because of the weather, the lens was faultless in its operation. Suitable subjects are landscapes, architecture, portraiture, sports events, street and low light. The SteadyShot system built into Sony camera bodies effectively helps to keep images as crisp as possible.

Now on to the performance.

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dudler Plus
19 2.0k 1996 England
6 Apr 2022 12:17PM
As the Alpha 7 range has been a game-changer for cameras, so I suspect Samyang is becoming a game-changer for lenses.

Though the offerings from Sony and Sigma generally offer a tiny bit more quality, this is often at the expense of a great deal more weight and bulk as well as a far higher price tag. I've found that my own camera bag now contains more Samyang glass than Sony, and I find that the results generally meet my expectations as an Alpha 7R III user.

One of these is the 135mm f/2 MF lens you refer to. I use it in situations when there's not a great deal of time pressure, and so the MF isn't a big disadvantage - in terms of Bokeh per Pound Sterling, it's exceptional, especially as I found a mint-condition example secondhand for around half the current list price...

Thank you for another informative and painstaking review, Mr Riley.
10 Apr 2022 3:28PM
Why isn`t the A7Riv used for the reviews? It's easy to draw conclusions about the lower-resolution models from the A7R4's measurement results. But hardly the other way around.
10 Apr 2022 9:15PM
Availability governs what camera bodies are available at any one time, so the MP counts do vary. However, the decsriptions relate the performance to the theoretical maximum for the particular model. I agree that ideally all reviews should be from the same camera body and this should be as high resolution as possible, but unfortunately that isn't practical.
dudler Plus
19 2.0k 1996 England
10 Apr 2022 9:19PM
Whatever the camera, the results will give a degree of indication of the lens quality, I'd suggest.

I don't know John Riley personally, but I wonder if - like me - he has limited money to spend on photography, and so far he hasn't decided to fork out £3k+ on a new body. The results will be more than good enough to give an indication of quality for those who are - for instance - running an Alpha 7II.

And JR was writing at the same time as I was...
24 Apr 2022 6:52PM
Based on what Dudler, why not a series of tests and comments were Nikon, Sony, and Canon lenses of the same type, for example:
14.24s, 18-35s, 20 1.8, 24 1.8 35 1.8, 85 1.8, and 135 2.8s be compared on the best models of each in the FF 24MP and FF45Mp bodies. I would also like to see tests from one model to another based on photo o quality alone, for example, a Z6 and Z6II, a A7III with
an A7IV and a Canon RS with a next model...
dudler Plus
19 2.0k 1996 England
24 Apr 2022 9:47PM
Sometimes, painstaking testing is necessary to work something important out. Mostly, it isn't, particularly if there are ideas to be put into practice.

Largely, it's irrelevant whether lens A for one brand is better than lens B for another - having made choices at one point, one tends to stay loyal to one brand, because of the cost of switching. But God bless the switchers, because they sell their old kit cheaper than new stock...

One thing's for certain - the old adage that the best lens for the picture is the one you have with you remains true. And I've found that Mr Riley's reviews provide me with good information on which to base my purchases. As a result, I have a number of exceptionally good Samyang lenses that are smaller, lighter and far cheaper than the 'best' ones available. This leaves money for going out and taking pictures in my budget...
25 Apr 2022 2:54PM
I don´t use religion to prove a very personal and self-serving opinion. Nothing is "Certain". Has anyone ever seen a photographer with
two different brands and two different lenses, based on the two sharpest lenses available, and based on the needs of the Photographer and/or the Client/Publication/Gallery, NO! Duder is not wrong for Duder, BUT... He is pushing his personal opinion on others who rely
on his judgment which should be based on tests, not just his choice which as he just wrote is based more on his budget.
Added Comment: I (Personal Opinion) have NEVER let size and weight especially when I have no idea as to the needs of the Photographer and their size. To me, photography is all about the sharpness of the photo... Nothing else.
The rest only adds to the confusion of choice and sales pitches. My personal opinion today would be a Nikon Z9 for the Best FF regardless of price, the Canon R for Best for a low price, and the Sony A7RIV for Best for the price, overall.
All based on: TEST with at least three lenses you would expect to buy in the future. Another choice would be to test the Nikon D750/780 and D850 or a Canon 5D IV or Sony A7RII/III as best examples of the DSLRs with the lower-priced bodies and lenses
with the same basic picture qualities, Etc. I have a D750 and D858 with 18-35 3.5, 28mm 1.8, and 85 1.8 (An 105 2.8 might be a better
choice for others.) Most of my work is in the field of Documentation Photography and covering art and photo events, meaning installations and portraits.

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