The Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 AS UMC
Samyang is not the most famous 3rd party lens brand. If you are from New Zealand like me, you probably haven’t heard of it as it was only late last year that a distributor in NZ was apoointed and shops starting to stock and promote them. But if you follow the photography new/review websites closely, you should have read some great reviews on some of their latest lenses. The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC is one of the lens that have received great reviews. Personally I have never used any Samyang lens before but I decided to try their 35mm f/1.4 and see if the lens is actually as good as some of the reviews suggest.
The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC lens comes in a gold/black colour box and inside the box there is a plastic container that holds the lens. The packaging is pretty basic and nothing fancy. Inside the box you can also find a lens hood, a lens pouch and an instruction manual.
The body of the lens is made of a mix of high quality plastic and metal, and the lens mount is made of metal. With a 12 elements in 10 groups inc. 1x aspherical & 2 HR elements design, there are a lot of glasses and the lens feels really quite heavy and it’s not a small lens at all! It weights 660g, 60g more than the autofocus Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, or 3 times heavier than the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.8DX. When I am holding it in the hands it doesn’t give me any cheap/very plastic feeling. One thing i really like about this lens is it’s smooth and well-dampened focus ring. It’s not Zeiss smooth but it still feels very smooth and nice and i find myself picking up the camera just to rotate the focus ring for no reason. Okay i know it sound a bit silly but I really did that a few times in the last few days!
The front element doesn’t rotate when focusing so that’s good if you are using a CPL filter. And while the front element moves slightly forward/backward when you adjusting the focus, the overall length of the lens doesn’t change. Overall the build quality and the looks and feel is very nice for a lens of this price.
The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 lens also has an aperture ring, just like the older Nikon D lenses, and the aperture ring tension feels just about right to me. For people who uses the camera sub dial to adjust the aperture size (instead of the mechanical aperture ring), unfortunately there is no locking tab so you can’t lock the aperture to the smallest aperture. It means you may get the fEE error when you accidentally move the aperture ring. That happened to me a few times when i was reviewing this lens. Not really a major issue but can be a bit annoying or cause panic if you don’t know what that flashing fEE means.
The supplied lens hood is decent quality and quite easy to use. It doesn’t fall off the lens too easily.
The lens takes 77mm filters so that’s good if you already got some 77mm filters you can share with. But if you don’t have any 77mm filters then unfortunately you have to buy the expensive but very common 77mm filters.
Like most manual focus lens, it has a large focus distance scale which is really handy for a manual focus lens.
With my D700, the camera’s digital rangefinder can be used to help the focusing. The little arrow in my D700’s viewfinder indicates which way I should turn the focus ring to get correct focus until the focus confirmation light turns on. You still have to rely on your eyes to get the focus 100% spot on, but the digital rangefinder definitely makes it a lot easier/faster. The focus ring travel is similar to most manual focus lens and quite easy to use. Even when shooting at f/1.4, the 35mm focal length means the DOF is still not too narrow unless you are shooting at very close distance, it makes it easier to keep the subject in focus. Because of that, even though I don’t use manual focus lenses regularly (reads I’m terrible at manual focusing), the percentage of misfocus shots is still reasonably low and most of them were when i was shooting close moving objects. I have not tested it with a split prism focusing screen yet but I imagine that will make manual focus a lot easier and more accurate. The lens is also available in Canon EF mount but if you are a Canon shooter, you are not so lucky as i read that the focus confirmation light wouldn’t work with this lens.
The camera’s metering system is working perfectly with the lens as well.
The Image Quality
I’m going to test this lens with the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G lens and see how the Samyang perform when compares to one of the best 35mm f/1.4 lens. I’m going to compare the sharpness, vignetting, bokeh so stay tuned for the 2nd part of the review.
In the mean time, here are some sample photos I took with the Samyang 35mm f/1.4AS UMC. All photos are unedited JPG straight from camera: (click on the photo to see a larger version)
Or you can see the fullscreen samples on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.273026076121862.63462.258422050915598&type=3
f/2.2 1/25s ISO6400
f/2.2 1/30s ISO6400
f/8 1/320s ISO200
f/2.0 1/8000s ISO200
f/1.4 1/3200s ISO200
f/2.8 1/6400s ISO200
f/1.4 1/2000s ISO200
f/1.4 1/8000s ISO200
f/2.5 1/50s ISO3200
f/2.0 1/30s ISO500
f/22 1/1600s ISO200
f/1.6 1/800s ISO200
f/1.8 1/50s ISO3200
f/1.4 1/40s ISO800
f/3.2 1/4000 ISO800 (opps forgot to lower the ISO!)
f/1.8 1/160s ISO3200
Stay tuned for the 2nd part of the review where i’ll test and compare the photo quality with the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G. The initial test results really surprised me!
Thanks to New Zealand Samyang distributor Focal Holdings www.focal.co.nz for providing this lens for the review
The 2nd part of the review is here:
For comments and discussions, please go to the forum:
Reviewer: Richard Wong
Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636
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