Samyang Premium MF 85mm f/1.2 Lens Review

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Pros
  • Excellent sharpness
  • Very low CA
  • Flare free
  • Good handling
  • Well made
  • Smooth bokeh
Cons
  • Manual focus only
  • No weather resistance

Samyang 85mm F1,2 Front Oblique View

Samyang are well established as a manufacturer of well made, reasonably priced lenses. The new 14mm f/2.4and 85mm f/1.2 lenses are a new venture, forming the start of a Premium Lens range where the objective is to produce the highest quality optics. We now look at the 85mm f/1.2, putting it through its paces to see how it lives up to the intent and indeed to see if its quality matches that of the already reviewed and highly recommended 14mm f/2.4 lens.

Handling and Features

Samyang 85mm F1,2 On Canon 5d Mark IV

This full frame lens is a hefty and somewhat bulky beast, unsurprising with its massive f/1.2 aperture. Weight is a hefty 1050g, but it balances well on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV used for this review. It is available in Canon EF mount only.

The 86mm filter thread is surrounded by a bayonet fit for the generously sized round lens hood. This fits easily and smoothly, with a firm click stop to hold it in position. The hood bayonet and filter thread are on a fixed outer tube, the entire optical unit moving in and out within it to achieve focus. This means that the front element recedes into the lens barrel as we focus towards infinity, making the effective hood even deeper at this point.

The focusing ring is wide and comfortable, being made of a rubberised material. The grip it affords is excellent, but this also means that dust and debris can easily attach themselves. This is not easy to remove. There are clear markings in feet and metres, but no depth of field scale. Focusing is down to 0.8m, a maximum magnification of 0.13x. Apart from a well machined and well fitting metal mount, nothing else adorns the lens.

Samyang 85mm F1,2 With Hood On Canon 5d Mark IV

Optical construction is 10 elements in 7 groups. There are 1 aspherical and two high refractive index elements. The diaphragm has 9 blades, the aim being to improve the bokeh, the smoothness of the out of focus areas in an image. With a short telephoto lens this effect is certain to be enhanced anyway, but a more circular aperture will help.

This a manual focus lens, so ultimately the quality achieved will depend very much on accuracy of focusing. The advantage of having such a bright f/1.2 aperture is that the viewfinder image is also bright, so this will aid our vision. The human eye is not particularly good at finding the point of focus with a lens, but at least at f/1.2 and with a telephoto the image does snap in and out more positively. It will depend on the individual, but for those who are happy with manual focus this lens will seem a pleasure to use. There is a counter argument that says the depth of field is so small at f/1.2 that focusing accurately is actually very difficult, and at that brightest setting that may well be true. Nailing the focus point at f/1.2 can be tricky, but when it’s right it is highly effective. At smaller apertures, depth of field will cover small errors anyway and in normal circumstances the lens is very easy to focus.

Apart from focusing issues, if any, then there are no handling problems and the lens is indeed a pleasure to shoot with.

Samyang 85mm F1,2 Rear Oblique View

Performance

Sharpness is of a very high order, as befits a Premium lens range. Centrally, sharpness is excellent from f/1.2 right through to f/11. Diffraction takes the edge off slightly at f/16 but the results are still very good.

At the edges, we have a very good result at f/1.2 and f/2 and then excellent sharpness from f/2.8 through to f/11. This is still very good at f/16.

Peak performance is at f/5.6, and there is a very impressive evenness across the frame. In fact at middle apertures the edges match the central sharpness very closely.

Samyang 85mm F1 2 MTF Chart

MTF Chart

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 well under control centrally and very acceptable at the edges. Most images show no signs of colour fringing. If deemed necessary, further reduction of CA can always be made in software.

Samyang 85mm F1 2 CA Chart

CA Chart

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 are no signs of flare under any circumstances, the coatings, design and excellent lens hood all playing their part.

As expected of a short telephoto, there is a small amount of pincushion distortion, measuring +0.571%. This is a commendably low amount and easily corrected further in software if required. It is unlikely that further correction will be necessary for most images.

Bokeh is the quality of the out of focus areas in an image. With a telephoto lens and its differential focusing the effect is enhanced anyway. The smoothness of the bokeh is excellent and the defocused backgrounds make the perfect backdrop to portraits in particular. Although the depth of field at f/1.2 is miniscule, and hence the focus point difficult to hit on the eyes, when it is achieved the results are beautiful.

Samyang Premium MF 85mm f/1.2 Sample Photos

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