- Excellent sharpness throughout
- Low CA
- Low distortion
- Excellent manufacturing quality
- Well priced
- Samyang introduces AF
- Soft at edges wide open
- Fairly large and heavy lens
- Not weather resistant
Samyang has long been recognised as a manufacturer of high quality, inexpensive and interesting lenses. The one thing missing has been autofocus, as all their lenses up until now have been manual focus only. Everything has changed with the introduction of the Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 lens, now featuring AF and reviewed here using the Sony Alpha A7R II. Let’s see how its performance stacks up and how this first foray into AF has turned out.
Handling and Features
The lens has been specially designed for mirrorless cameras. The back focus distance is reduced to take into account the requirements of the mirrorless camera. Thus, the lens can have its rear element very close to the sensor, without having to resort to a retrofocus design to make room for the mirror box assembly on a DSLR. However, as Leica has already found, this is not quite the same advantage as a rangefinder camera with film. Especially with wider angle lenses, their rear element naturally lies very close to the sensor plane, resulting in oblique light rays from the edges. Digital sensors like telecentric designs, with light rays exiting the lens as parallel as possible, and this is not always so easy.
This all results in a relatively large lens for its specification, weighing a formidable 585g compared to a conventional DSLR 50mm f/1.4 lens that might weigh as little as 220g. Having said that, it is manufactured substantially using metal and looks very good mounted on the Sony Alpha A7R II. It mounts solidly, with no play whatsoever in the mount / lens interface.
As we take a tour of the lens, there is very little on the outside to see. The 67mm filter thread is surrounded by a well machined bayonet for the slick and generously sized bayonet lens hood. The nine-bladed diaphragm can be clearly seen, forming a reasonably circular stop. The only other feature is the finely ribbed manual focusing ring. It is fairly wide and placed exactly where we might want to hold the lens in use. This is very convenient, but accidental shifting of the focus point should be watched for. The feel of the ring is light but not excessively so.
The one major omission is weather resistance. This is something that is becoming increasingly standard and, whereas it would not have raised a mention at one time, things have moved on.
On the inside, we have 9 elements in 8 groups, three of which are aspherical. The lens is internal focusing, so it does not rotate or extend in use. This is helpful when using polarisers and graduated filters. Minimum focusing distance is 0.45m (1.47 feet), a maximum magnification of 0.15x. This is fairly typical of any traditional 50mm lens.
Of course, the addition of AF for the first time is of especial interest. It is quiet in operation and locks on swiftly and reliably. Some DSLRs are faster, but this is a property of the camera as well as the lens. For the sort of subjects a 50mm lens is expected to handle, it is more than satisfactory and were it not a new feature for Samyang it would probably pass without note. A successful introduction.
Sharpness can simply be described as excellent. In more detail, centrally every aperture reaches this standard, the lens peaking at between f/2 and f/11 where the figures are very even throughout. The actual pinnacle of sharpness centrally is f/2.8 but in reality it is little different from the other mid apertures. It’s pretty impressive.
The edges show lower figures, but it’s only really at open aperture that performance falls to fair, the results being quite soft. This improves by f/2 which is very good and after that we are back to an excellent standard throughout. Actual peak performance is at f/4, but again the margin between this and the other excellent apertures is very small.
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.
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.
CA (chromatic aberration) is very well controlled in the centre of the frame, almost eliminated. The edges show around one pixel width of fringing, but this does not show in the images until we have more demanding lighting. The usual suspects in this are branches against bright sky and the rim of rooftops. In any event any residual CA can be addressed in software.
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.
There is -0.948% barrel distortion, which is typical for a fast 50mm lens. This too can be corrected in software if desired, but in general photography is not too obvious.
Overall, the lens produces very pleasant, sharp images, with a smooth bokeh that shows well throughout the aperture range. Flare can be induced when the sun is virtually in the frame, but rather than creating reflections it tends to manifest as a loss of contrast. In normal use, flare is not a problem.
In summary, the lens performs to a very high standard and as the first AF optic in the Samyang range, holds its head high and delivers the quality.
Value For Money
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE lens is priced at £449/$673. There is a dazzling array of 50mm lenses for the Sony FE full frame mount, but most of them are not f/1.4 designs. There are the Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Planar T* (£1,499/$2,248), the Samyang 50mm T1.5 XEEN Cine Lens(£1,599/$2,398) and the Samyang 50mm T1.5 AS UMC Video lens (£399/$598).
Other 50mm options are the Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Sonnar T* (£618/$927), the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 (£239/$358) and the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Loxia (£719//$1,078).
There are a wide variety of designs available at various price points, but the Samyang does look very good value, especially considering its excellent standard of performance.
|Angle of View||47°|
|35mm equivalent||No Data|
|Box Contents||Front cap, rear cap, hood|
Samyang’s lenses have always looked interesting. Now, with the arrival of AF, they move into new territory and this first offering is a beautiful lens that performs to a very high standard. The cost has been a fairly large and relatively heavy lens, but that may be a small price to pay for an optic that can deliver such beautiful results.