Monday, 5 September 2016

Samyang AF 50mm F1.4 FE - Initial thoughts and test images

Story behind me getting the lens
After entering Samyang’s Passionate competition in July it was announced on July 22nd that I had been awarded along with two other photographers (worldwide) with the ‘Samyang Passionate’ sponsorship program. I would receive the brand new AF 50mm F1.4 FE lens for Sony E-mount.

Finally receiving the lens
Samyang AF 50mm F1.4 FE mounted on my Sony A7R
Fast forward a few weeks of intense anticipation (I was like a child on Christmas Eve) and I am now in possession of this brand new autofocussing lens. One of only two autofocussing lenses that Samyang have ever made which had only released in August as part of their Summer Blockbusters line-up (the other being the 14mm F2.8 AF lens). Check out my unboxing video HERE.

Info and specs
This lens has been built for use on mirrorless cameras. The back focus distance is reduced to take into account mirrorless cameras. Therefore, the lens can have its rear element close to the sensor, without having to resort to a retrofocus design to make room for the mirror box assembly on a DSLR. This brand new Samyang weighs in at 585g compared to some conventional DSLR 50mm f/1.4 lenses that can weigh as little as 220g. The lens comes with a plastic lens hood and has a 67mm filter thread. For the interior construction of the lens there are 9 elements in 8 groups, three of which are aspherical and it features a rounded 9 blade diaphragm which creates silky, smooth ‘Bokeh’ (out of focus areas of the image). It has a minimum focusing distance of 0.45m (1.47 feet), a maximum magnification of 0.15x.

Size in hand (I don't have the biggest of hands)

Initial thoughts
My initial thoughts on the lens are that it has a good build quality being made mainly of metal with a high quality plastic lens hood. It feels solid in construction and at 9.77cm in length it seems to balance very well when mounted on my Sony A7R with Meike battery grip. It’s worth noting that the Samyang is larger and heavier than both the Sony FE 50mm F1.8 and the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA but that doesn’t bother me at all as I’m used to bigger and heftier pieces of glass being mounted to my A7R with an additional adapter. I do however understand that mirrorless camera systems are intended to be smaller in terms of body and lens overall footprint.

Size comparison - (from left to right) Samyang 8mm F3.5 Fisheye, Samyang AF 50mm F1.4, Canon 16-35mm F4L IS, Sony Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8
Having never owned a native E-mount lens I was used to dealing with less than speedy focussing using my adapted A-mount glass on my A7R. All my lenses are usually mounted via Sony LA-EA4 adapter so the AF can tend to hunt a little especially in low light. Having said that I have always found my Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f2.8 lens to work perfectly fine in terms of autofocussing while mounted to my A7R via LA-EA4 adapter. As a result it was great to be able to test out the autofocussing speed of this E-mount Samyang lens. My initial testing has shown the AF to be very responsive and accurate even in low light situations which is where such a fast lens in terms of maximum aperture should shine.

Old Samyang MF 8mm F3.5 Fisheye (Sony A-mount) next to the Brand New AF 50mm F1.4 FE

Looking at some of the images I’ve shot with the lens
I’ve tried to shoot a variety of subjects and scenarios with this lens from fast moving unpredictable toddlers (my nearly 2 year old son, Lucas) to things that don’t move at all. I’ve been left very impressed by the lens’ ability to lock on focus (while in AF-C mode) bearing in mind that the A7R is not renowned for boasting a speedy autofocussing system. The only thing I'm yet to test with this lens is the 'sweet spot' areas of aperture (typically around f8) and also the narrower end of the the aperture end (f16). The reason being that I only tend to use lenses that have a wide maximum aperture at their widest points as I'm a sucker for shallow depth of field.  Take a look at the test images I shot and feel free to leave a comment below.

1/800sec - f1.4 - ISO 100

1/1600sec - f1.6 - ISO 100

1/400sec - f2.2 - ISO 100
1/1600sec - f2.2 - ISO 100

1/1600sec - f1.4- ISO 100
1/3200sec - f2 - ISO 200

1/1250sec - f2.2 - ISO 160

1/160sec - f2 - ISO 400

1/500sec - f5.6 - ISO 100
I have read on other reviews that this lens can produce some chromatic abberation (“fringes" of color along contrasting dark and bright areas of an image) but I have not seen evidence of this from the small number of images I have taken with it. However, this is a simple one-click fix in Lightroom. In fact, I have a preset for whenever I import images into Lightroom that automatically removes chromatic aberration. During my short time with this great lens I’ve been left mesmerised with the sharpness of the images it produces, wowed by the creamy bokeh when used wide open and very impressed with its autofocussing speed and accuracy. I look forward to using this lens more and getting used to its capabilities while safe in the knowledge that it can create stunningly sharp images.

Special thanks to Karin at Samyang Lens Global and Jane at Intro 2020 for supplying me with the lens.

For more information on Samyang products please take a look at their website - and subscribe to their newsletter to keep up to date with product news.

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  1. Entirely agree with you review
    This is a great lens for the Sony A7 series

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