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Samyang MF 85mm f/1.4 MK2 Review

John Riley reviews the new Samyang MF 85mm f/1.4 MK2 full-frame prime lens designed for Canon and Nikon DSLRs, plus a wide-range of other cameras.

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MF 85mm f/1.4 MK2

Received for review at the same time as the Samyang MF 14mm f/2.8 Mk2 lens, this is a matching sibling in terms of finish and design. Manual focus, keenly priced and a perfect short telephoto focal length for all sorts of photography, particularly including portraits, close up sports and landscapes. A very attractive proposition. Here we match it up with the 50MP Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR, so let's see what it can do.


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Samyang MF 85mm f/1.4 MK2 Handling and Features

Samyang Mf 85mm F1,4 Mk2 Front Oblique View

The lens is suitable for full-frame and crop sensor formats, and is available for a variety of different marques. The weight is modest and varies from fit to fit. This Canon EF model weighs in at 547.5g, but there are also Nikon F (541g), Sony E (599g), Fuji X (592g), Canon M (593g) and MFT (587g). Of course what seems fairly light and compact on a large DSLR might seem rather over large on a compact crop frame camera.

We start our tour of the lens with the provided round bayonet fit lens hood, generously sized and looking as though it will do the required job very well. Within this bayonet fit there is a standard 72mm filter thread, a very deep filter thread indeed that almost creates a lens hood in itself.

There is no locking ring for the manual focus ring, unlike the matching 14mm f/2.8. The ring itself has the same functional diamond pattern rubber, affording the same secure grip. Focusing is down to 1.1m or 3.6 feet, giving a maximum magnification of 0.09x. This is what we would expect of a traditional 85mm lens, but the wish in use is always there that we might be able to go closer. We have been clearly spoilt by ultra-close focusing zoom lenses. The distance scale is clearly marked in feet and metres.

There is a depth of field scale, a pleasure to see on any prime lens, although the marks are quite close so the usefulness is not as great as in a wider angle lens. However, it is still good to have it included.

Finally, there is the declicking ring for the aperture ring and then the aperture ring itself. Declicking will be appreciated by videographers wanting silent aperture operation whilst shooting. The aperture ring has nicely engineered click stops, with just the right amount of resistance.

An anomaly is revealed here though in that the focusing ring follows the direction of operation of traditional Canon manual focus lenses, but the aperture ring operates in the direction used by Pentax and Nikon. This only matters if we are also using manual focus lenses from these manufacturers and mixing them with third party lenses, otherwise it will be of little consequence.
Samyang Mf 85mm F1,4 Mk2 With Hood On Canon 5dsr

Optical construction is 9 elements in 7 groups, including 1 Hybrid Aspherical element. The diaphragm has 9 blades to help improve the bokeh, the smoothness of the gradation in out of focus areas, especially backgrounds. This is of particular benefit when shooting portraits. The lens is also weather-sealed, so we can carry on taking pictures as the weather turns wet.

Handling is pretty straightforward and there is narrow enough depth of field in an 85mm f/1.4 lens to see the point of focus very clearly even with the optical viewfinder. However, for the most accurate focus using Live View with magnification is by far the better option. With a high-quality optic there is a definite difference between sharp and bitingly sharp, when the focus is spot on.

Of course this also slows us down a bit as the best option is to use a tripod. There is no shake reduction or image stabilisation on this model, so the possibility of camera shake needs to be borne in mind. Versions for cameras with shake reduction built into the bodies will have the edge in this respect.

The lens is actually quite a pleasure to use and there's something very satisfying about the view we see with an 85mm focal length. It is the classic focal length for portraiture, giving just enough distance from the subject to show flattering perspective and yet being close enough so we can communicate with the model.

Samyang Mf 85mm F1,4 Mk2 Rear Oblique View

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