Tag Archives: f/1.4

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM ART Quick Impression review

I had a chance to play with the latest Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM lens today. This is a lens that got some really great reviews including a Gold Award from DPReview.com. So while I’m not really planning to do a full review on this lens, I’m still very interested to find out more about this lens, and see if it’s really as good as what other people are saying.

It is really only a quick impression review as I’ve only played with the lens for about fifteen minutes, so anyway, my first impression? I really like the new Sigma “ART” design and finish. It feels so much better than the old Sigma lenses. It does not feel plasticky at all. It’s solid and dense, I kind of felt it’s heavier than my Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G (Just checked the specs, the Sigma’s weight is 665g, the Nikon’s weight is 600g) The manual focus ring is nicely dampened. I really like the new Sigma style and finish.
So how about the picture quality? With a D800, even when shot at wide open, the center of the photo is very sharp. The corner seems slightly soft, but only slightly and it is still pretty good for a f/1.4 lens. I then tried stop down a stop and the corner is now pretty sharp as well.
I didn’t really notice much CA. But all the test shots I did was indoor with no high contrast scene so I didn’t really test this area.
Bokeh is quite smooth and round at f/1.4. And it’s still pretty round when stop down to around f/2.8.
Next, the autofocus. It’s quiet! Very quiet! While i was not testing the lens at a very quiet place, i just can’t hear the AF motor noise at all. Also the AF speed is pretty fast, not Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, but it’s noticeably faster than my Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G. It doesn’t seem to hunt much as well. You press the AF button and it just snap into focus straight away.
Now AF speed is one thing, one thing Sigma is quite famous (unfortunately in a bad way) is it’s AF accuracy or lack of it. The last few Sigma lenses I played with all have a bit of AF issue. For example the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM. But it seems Sigma has finally found the solution, with the test shots we took at f/1.4, the AF is spot on in every single photo. That’s pretty damn good! I would probably love to take some more photos with this lens if I got a chance as I think the AF accuracy is probably the biggest issue with the fast Sigma lenses in general.

So, the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 does appear to be a very decent lens. At only half price of the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, the Sigma is now offering a good alternative especially for people who can’t afford the Nikon’s price. Even if you can afford the Nikon’s price, I would say you should check out the Sigma one as you maybe surprised by this 3rd party lens.

You can now order the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 HSM from your local camera shops, or you can always talk to our friends at Auckland Camera Centre http://www.aucklandcamera.co.nz/

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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/PhotoByRichard
Richard is also a contributing writer for the New Zealand D-Photo magazine (www.dphoto.co.nz)

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 AS UMC Review – Part 2

In the first part of the review , we had a look at the build quality, general look and feel of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC lens. We also included some real world unedited samples shot with this lens.

Now we’ll have a closer look and examine the photo quality. When we were taking the real world samples, we already noticed the lens has excellent optical quality so we want to see how good it actually is by comparing it with one of the best 35mm f/1.4 lens available, the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G. The autofocus Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G’s price tag is more than 3 times that of the manual focus Samyang so can the Samyang give the Nikkor a good fight?


The Sharpness Test
First let’s look at the sharpness.

We’ll compare both the center image qualtiy and corner image quality. Red rectangle is the centre crop area, Blue rectangle is the corner crop area.

All test photos were shot with a D700. Camera on a Manfrotto 055 MF3 tripod with 804RC2 head. Manual Focus with liveview at maximum magnification. Camera in timer mode to minimise camera shake. Fine JPG.

Let’s look at center image quality first. Below is the 100% crop at different aperture. Left is from the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, right is from the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC

Both lenses are excellent and output great quality images even at f/1.4. The Samyang seems to be slightly better at wide open, a little bit sharper than the Nikkor and also less CA as well. The image quality improves when we stop down. The best image quality seems to be at around f/5.6.

Now what about the corner image quality? Below is the 100% crop near the image edge.

Surprisingly, the Samyang is still the better performer at the corner. Even at f/1.4 the image is very sharp with lots of details. The Nikkor’s f/1.4 corner image quality is actually quite good when compare to most other fast prime lenses. Stop it down to around f/4 and we get very good image quality. But even at f/8, the Nikkor still can’t matches the Samyang’s ability to resolve fine details at corner.

So I think we can say the Samyang is the slightly sharper lens, but a lens isn’t just about how sharp it is, what about the out of focus i.e. bokeh quality?
The Bokeh Test
For this test, we set the focus distance to 1 m and took the same set of photos with these two lenses, and there is a 100% crop to show the difference in bokeh.

The Nikkor’s bokeh is beautiful. It’s quite smooth, round (thanks to it’s rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm) and bokeh remain round even when stop down to f/5.6. The Samyang’s bokeh is not bad at all, but it’s slightly nervous. And while the bokeh is quite round at wide open, once you stop down to f/2.8, the bokeh from the 8 (slightly curved) blade aperture is not round anymore. The transition is also not as smooth as the Nikon. It’s not horrible, just not as good as the Nikkor.
The Vignetting
So how about the vignetting? Here are the results.

Both lenses has very noticeable vignetting at f/1.4 (but normal when compare to other fast prime lenses), you have to stop down to f/2.8 for the vignetting to become not so visible. And comparing the two lenses, it appears to me the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G has slightly less vignetting at wide open than the Samyang. But the difference is so small that i don’t think it really matters under normal use.
The Rest
The Nikkor has a big golden “N” label on the lens. It means Nano coating, Nikon’s secret weapon to reduce flare and maintain good contrast when you are shooting towards bright light source. It makes a huge difference when you are shooting towards a strong light source and you get very very little lens flare and contrast remains very high. The Samyang doesn’t have the Nano coating but surprisingly the flare resistance is still very good. I have took at least a dozen photos where there is a very strong light source visible and shinning towards the camera but I never get much flare and contrast never drops too low. If you have check out the sample photos from part 1 of this review, there is one photo that i shot directly towards the sun and i only get very little flare and the contrast is still quite good. It’s clearly that the Nikkor is definitely the better in this area but the Samyang is not bad at all when there is a strong light source in front of the camera. It’s flare resistance performance is probably one of the best among all the non-Nano coating lens I’ve ever used.
The Nikkor seems to be slightly better than the Samyang in terms of light transmission. When I compare the photos from each lens with exact same settings, the image from Samyang appears to be slightly dimmer. The difference is actually quite small, but is enough to be noticeable when you put two photo side by side.
The Conclusions
The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC is simply an amazing lens! The build quality is good, i love how smooth the manual focus ring and it feels very solid when you hold it in your hands. But not only does it feel good when you hold it, the image quality is also excellent as well. Even when we compare it to the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, one of the latest and best 35mm f/1.4 lens, the Samyang’s performance is on par in almost every single area (and better in some areas!) Bokeh is probably this lens’s weakest area but having said that, it’s weakest only because it’s exceptional performance in all the other areas and there is not much else i can complain.
Obviously for a lot of people, there is one biggest short coming with this Samyang lens, it’s a manual focus lens. But if you don’t shoot too many fast moving objects, and want a wide fast prime lens with first class optical quality, a pretty good build quality and don’t want to sell a leg and an arm to pay for it, you really have to have a look at the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC. Currently it’s the #2 lens at DxoMark’s lens ranking chart, beating all those expensive Sony Zeiss, Canon L, and Nikkor gold ring lenses! And I think our test results definitely agree with that.

And before we finish, here are a few some more real world samples, all shot at wide open (f/1.4), again all are unedited JPG straight from camera.

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

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions


Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 AS UMC review – Part 1


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 box

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 lens

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.


The Samples

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

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions