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Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF Review

Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF Review - John Riley reviews the new Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF lens for Canon DSLRs, an affordable, bright, prime lens for full-frame and APS-C cameras.

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Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 EF in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Samyang 85mm F1,4 Front Oblique View

Hot on the heels of the 50mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2.8, 24mm f/2.8 and 14mm f/2.8 AF lenses for full frame Sony FE mount and the AF 14mm f/2.8 EF in Canon mount, we have a new Canon mount full frame lens in the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 EF. This must be the most sought-after traditional specification for a portrait lens, giving a very natural looking perspective from a comfortable working distance, but also a fine lens for landscape, architectural details, close-range sports and of course low light shooting. Let's see how well the new Samyang performs, using the Canon EOS 5DS R 50mp body.

Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF Handling and Features

Samyang 85mm F1,4 On Canon 5dsr Front View

The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 is a short, squat lens that weighs in at a reasonable 485g. It looks big because it is so broad, an inevitable consequence of a large front element. The supplied round lens hood bayonets cleanly onto the lens and within the fitting is a conventional 77mm filter thread.

The only control ring on the lens is the broad manual focus ring, electronic in operation and silky smooth. Manual focus can be employed even when AF is active, useful to give slight tweaks to the AF position. Focusing is down to 90cm or 2.95 feet, about what we would expect for an 85mm lens. However, it does look as though that measurement is from the front of the lens rather than from the sensor plane, so minimum focus is not particularly close. AF also seems slightly unhappy at very close distances, even for example in the image of the solitary rose in the sample shots. The AF steadfastly refused to lock onto the rose, so manual focus had to be used (Samyang has confirmed they know about this issue and are fixing it before the lens is released on general sale). Generally, at normal distances, AF is positive, accurate and silent. There is an AF/MF button on the lens barrel, and nothing else to break up the sleek black look of the lens.

The lens is UMC (Ultra Multi Coating) coated and comprises 9 elements in 7 groups, including 1 Hybrid Aspherical. The diaphragm has 9 rounded blades, aimed at enhancing the bokeh.

Vibration Reduction is one omission, so we are left with using fast enough shutter speeds to avoid camera shake but weather sealing is built in. There are, in fact, several invisible seals internally and one external rubber seal on the rear of the lens to protect the lens from adverse weather. 

Samyang 85mm F1,4 With Hood On Canon 5dsr

85mm is certainly a very attractive focal length, especially an f/1.4 design that allows for a high degree of selective focus and also opens up possibilities as the light levels fall. Portraits are a perfect subject, allowing a flattering distance between lens and model, whilst still keeping the photographer close enough to enable proper communication. Landscapes, sports and many other subjects are suitable for the 85mm, which handles almost as easily as a 50mm standard lens whilst cropping out unwanted edge details and allowing the photographer to step back a little and not crowd the subject.

Samyang has produced a very likeable lens, a perfect partner for the Canon EOS 5DS R and other full-frame models. It is still usable on the APS-C format DSLRs, where it has a field of view similar to a 136mm lens on full frame. As 135mm is another very popular and classic focal length, that has possibilities too, albeit with a lens that may look rather over-chunky on the more diminutive models. It does, however, balance rather well and doesn't feel over heavy.

Samyang 85mm F1,4 Rear Oblique View

Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF Performance

Central sharpness is very good all through the aperture range, rising to excellent at f/4. Any of the apertures will give totally satisfactory results, delivering crisp images.

The edges start off at a slightly lower level but are still good at f/1.4. This may well offer a pleasant effect with open aperture portraits, with a sharp central image slowly becoming softer towards the edges. Performance is very good at all other apertures, again rising to excellent at f/4. The results are also very even from centre to edge.

 

Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 EF MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5DS R using Imatest.

 

CA (Chromatic Aberration) is virtually absent at the centre but we do pay the price at the edges. Here fringing can be quite obvious and it may be a good idea to look at software solutions or in-camera JPEG corrections. Of course, not all subjects will make the fringing obvious.

 

Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 EF Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) 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 Canon EOS 5DS R using Imatest.

 

Distortion measures at +0.94% pincushion, which is a good result for such as fast, bright 85mm lens.

Flare does not seem to be much of an issue, the worst seems to be a slight reduction in contrast when shooting directly into the light.

The bokeh of the lens, the quality and smoothness of the out of focus background areas, is actually very pleasant indeed. It looks good and is ideal for portraiture with suppressed background details.


Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 EF Sample Photos

 

Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 EF Aperture range

 

Value For Money

The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF lens is priced at a very reasonable £599. Samyang also makes a manual focus alternative, the 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC, priced at £279. The convenience of AF and its speed of operation may well make the extra cost worth it.

There are quite a few 85mm f/1.4 lenses available, including:

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master, £1649
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, £1729
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM, £1379
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, £999
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 G, £1609
Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4, £1399

If we can manage with a slightly smaller maximum aperture, then there are also these lenses:

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 G, £489
Tamron 85mm f/1.8 SP Di VC USD, £749
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, £414
Lensbaby 85mm f/1.8, £499

Clearly, the Samyang is a good price, and for those on a very tight budges the manual focus alternative is an excellent price.

For more options have a look at the Top 27 Best Samyang Lenses, and Top 34 Best Portrait Lenses.

 

Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF Verdict

The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF is a great lens to use, not perfect in that there are some AF issues close up and also quite a bit of edge CA, but overall a good solid performing lens at a very attractive price.

In the end, it's the results that count and the ease of use of the Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 lens lends itself to producing some excellent photography. Without a doubt, it can be recommended. Plus, Samyang has said the AF close-focus issues will be resolved in a firmware update that will be applied to all production lenses before they ship in early July. 

Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF Pros

  • High levels of even sharpness
  • Low central CA
  • Low flare
  • Generally, fast and silent AF
  • Excellent manufacturing quality
  • Lovely bokeh

Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 EF Cons

  • Edge CA obvious
  • No vibration reduction
  • AF can be tricky close-up (will, however, be fixed)
  • Not particularly close focusing

Features4/5
Handling4/5
Performance4/5
Value4.5/5
Overall Verdict

With thanks to CliftonCameras who provided the Canon EOS 5DS R used for testing. 

Own this lens? Let us know what you think of it in the EQDB

Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 EF Specifications

ManufacturerSamyang
General
Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF
Lens
Focal Length85mm
Angle of View28.4
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size77mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnification0.11x
Focusing
Min Focus90cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements9
Groups7
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight485g
Height72mm

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Comments


It's time to call a halt to this odd terminology. Lenses can't be described as 'bright' (your intro) as searchlights are bright, and lenses don't produce any light (the exception being the Canon macro).

Later you say, '..good result for such as fast, bright 85mm lens.' At f/1.4 it's fast, I'll give you that, but how can it be bright? As a consequence of its fast maximum aperture the viewfinder might be bright, but that's another subject.

I really like John Riley's reviews, don't get me wrong. But let's be scientific about this.

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5 Jul 2018 12:04AM
There has been a tendency for reference to fast lenses being described as "bright" in recent years. It's not a description I personally like very much, as the correct terminology would be "fast", so I tend to refer to a "fast, bright" lens to be inclusive of those who understand the term bright as opposed to fast. It seemed like a good compromise. So your point is well taken, but there is a reason for the wording used.
I agree with you John. There has indeed been a 'reference to fast lenses being described as "bright" in recent years' as you say. But I remember first seeing it in a Dixon's advert, and I found myself grinning at the fumbling PR incompetence that allowed such wording to get through.

Ho hum. I expect ephotozine to be better than that. Calling a lens 'fast, bright' is like calling it 'light, unheavy', just to please the uninitiated.

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