Monday, 20 April 2020

Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE Initial Thoughts

Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE mounted on Sony A7RIII

Samyang kicks off 2020 with another exciting new lens for the Sony E-mount mirrorless system. This new lens follows on from last year’s successful AF 85mm f1.4 FE, AF 45mm f1.8 FE and AF 18mm f2.8 FE.  This new "Tiny but Absolute" AF75mm f1.8 FE lens features the same design principles as the other "Tiny but Almighty" series lenses for full frame with a compact build and extremely lightweight for the type of lens it is. Due to it's telephoto-like focal length this lens will be ideally suited to portrait photography but I can also see that it would make a great addition to my kit as a food photographer. I have a couple of the other "Tiny" lens; the AF 24mm f2.8 FE (review HERE) and AF 35mm f2.8 FE (review HERE) lenses which I find to be very useful lenses when travelling. Samyang introduced the first lens of the "Tiny" line-up starting with the AF 35mm f2.8 FE lens back in 2017. With the addition of this new AF 75mm lens it takes the "Tiny but Almighty" lens line-up to five lenses and the overall autofocus (AF) lens line-up for Sony E mount to nine lenses with a further five AF lenses available for Nikon F mount, Canon EF and RF mounts.

At just 69mm in length and weighing in at a miniscule 230g (without lens cap or hood) this lens features a construction of 10 elements in 9 groups. Samyang use 5 special elements (3 Extra Low Dispersion and 2 High Refractive) which can capture crisp, sharp images with low chromatic aberration and minimal distortion. It has nine aperture blades for smooth bokeh, a 58mm filter thread and a minimum focus distance of 0.69m (2.26ft). It has a 32.9° angle of view on full frame, 21.9° on APS-C (cropped sensor) cameras. Sadly no weather sealing gasket on this lens unlike the AF 85mm f1.4 FE that was released around the same time last year. The 85mm is the only Samyang E-mount lens to have weather sealing. When released the lens will cost £379.99/389.

AF 75mm f1.8 FE lens with carry case

75mm is quite a unique focal length with pretty much no other lenses in terms of direct competition already on the market. However, I did find an SLR Magic 75mm f1.4 Cine lens for Sony E-mount which is manual focus only and suited to video use and so not comparable to this Samyang lens. The only other lenses that offer 75mm are zoom lenses like the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 or the expensive Sony G-Master 70-200mm f2.8. Sigma have a 70mm f2.8 Macro lens which is a similar focal length but a completely different type of lens as it's a macro lens and it's also a fair bit larger. So, I feel like there is a gap in the market for an affordable, lightweight autofocus 75mm prime lens.

Size in hand (I have smallish hands)

New switch (Toggle between controlling focus/aperture adjustment)
In a very interesting development Samyang has added a different type of switch to this 75mm lens that doesn’t appear on other Samyang lenses. The custom switch has two modes labelled "Mode 1" and "Mode 2". If the switch is set to Mode 1 then as you’d expect you can alter focus using the focus ring (if the camera is set to MF or DMF). However, if the switch is set to Mode 2 then you can adjust the aperture using the focus ring instead of the dial on the camera body. From what I'm lead to believe, this function of this switch will be able to be changed via firmware updates using Samyang's Lens Station. This kind of makes it similar to Canon's new RF lenses for the EOS R, EOS RP and highly anticipated EOS R5 which features Canon's Control Ring - a separate ring that can be customised to control ISO, Aperture or even Exposure Compensation. I could see that this would be welcomed by videographers especially as this method of changing the aperture is a lot smoother than turning the dial on the camera.

The AF 75mm F1.8 FE lens incorporates a new Stepping Motor (STM) for fast, smooth and accurate focusing. Focusing is via focus by wire and is near silent with just a little click-like sound when it finds focus. Eye AF works very well and is able to track movement (as shown in some of the boxing images below). Low-light performance of the AF is great too. As with all of Samyang's "Tiny" lenses I love how compact and lightweight this lens is. It's certainly going to be another lens that I take to shoots with me and I can now consider leaving my heavy XP 85mm at home.

Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE mounted on Sony A7RIII
Samyang really seem to have found their niche in the market by designing compact, lightweight prime lenses which are capable of high quality images at a very low price. These type of lenses really fit well with mirrorless camera systems to make a very portable but powerful combination. This 75mm lens slots nicely into the "Tiny but Almighty" lens roster which has a diverse focal length range from 18mm all the way to 75mm. With the size and weight of these Tiny lenses it would be very easy to carry all of them when travelling and still you would only be carrying just over 800g. That's for five lenses. I have several lenses which weigh more than that alone. Team these lenses up with a mirrorless body like an A7III or A6400 and you have a low-cost, compact, lightweight solution that packs some serious punch.

I've had this lens for nearly two months (as of the date of publishing this article) and it's been a lovely lens to shoot with. Fast AF, beautiful bokeh and more than capable of capturing stunning images with crisp sharpness and attractive colour rendering. It does show some signs of barrel distortion (see image below) but with a little tweak in Photoshop or Lightroom this can easily be corrected.

Sample images shot with Sony A7RIII:

1/50th sec, f2.2, ISO 160

1/125th sec, f1.8, ISO 320

1/160th sec, f9, ISO 80

1/200th sec, f5, ISO 200

1/200th sec, f5, ISO 200

1/200th sec, f5, ISO 200

1/160th sec, f8, ISO 125

1/160th sec, f4, ISO 64

1/160th sec, f2.2, ISO 100

1/50th sec, f1.8, ISO 100
1/800th sec, f2.8, ISO 400

1/160th sec, f2, ISO 100

1/160th sec, f10, ISO 64

1/160th sec, f3.5, ISO 80

1/100th sec, f2.2, ISO 64

1/160th sec, f3.5, ISO 125

1/160th sec, f4, ISO 100

1/100th sec, f1.8, ISO 200 (some signs of barrel distortion)

1/400th sec, f1.8, ISO 250

1/2000th sec, f2.2, ISO 200

1/400th sec, f7.1, ISO 125

1/125th sec, f8, ISO 200

1/30th sec, f2, ISO 160

1/50th sec, f1.8, ISO 400

1/3200th sec, f2.2, ISO 250 (very windy conditions hence high SS + ISO)

Thanks for reading!

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. If you're based in the UK then check out UK distributor Intro 2020.

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Friday, 15 November 2019

Building a Prime Lens Kit

Zoom Lenses

When I first set out on my photography journey I used zoom lenses as they offer a lot of flexibility and are a perfect starting point for any would-be photographer. In fact a lot of camera bodies are available with a cheap zoom lens bundled as part of the package. Despite this versatility they do have the caveat that they tend to not be as sharp as prime lenses. 

Along with the 18-55mm kit lens that came with my first camera, another of my first zoom lenses that I bought was an 18-200mm f3.5-f6.3. During my initial phase in photography this lens practically lived on my camera as it seemed like a great all-round lens. The focal range was superb which afforded me great versatility but optically it was far from great. Images lacked sharpness and the colours weren't quite right. It also had a very slow and noisy autofocus motor and of course you lose a lot of light when zoomed in to 200mm due to the lens not having a steady aperture throughout the focal range. To combat that I would have to use a slower shutter speed or if that wasn't possible a higher ISO which in turn produced a more grainy and poorer quality image.

I then moved on and bought both 24-70mm and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses. These lenses both came at a significant cost but are both great lenses which served me well for my needs. In fact I still own them but rarely use them now.

Advantages to zoom lenses:
  • Versatile as the photographer doesn't have to move about as much
  • Don't have to carry as many lenses
  • Speed - ability to capture at different focal lengths quickly without having to change lenses
Disadvantages to zoom lenses:
  • High quality zoom lenses with fixed apertures can be pricey
  • Not as sharp as prime lenses
  • Tend to be bigger and heavier than prime lenses
  • Apertures not as wide as prime lenses


Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are lenses with a fixed focal length. So if you need to change your composition and move closer to or further from your subject you would need to physically do so as there is no means to do this via the lens.

In more recent years I have turned more towards prime lenses and in fact aside from occasionally using a 16-35mm for interior work I now use primes exclusively. Prime lenses tend to be a lot sharper than zoom lenses as they are dedicated to optimally work at a specific focal length and there is less glass that moves around in the lens which reduces diffraction.

With prime lenses it’s possible to shoot in lower light situations as they feature wider apertures than the typical f2.8 of a zoom lens so you can get lenses which shoot at f1.4 or sometimes even wider. A result of having a wider aperture is that you can achieve a much shallower depth of field (DOF). They can also force you to think more about each shot and make you a more creative photographer as you don’t have the luxury of standing in one spot and zooming. You have to “zoom with your feet”.

Advantages to prime lenses:
  • Cheaper than zoom lenses
  • Sharper than zoom lenses as there is less moveable glass to cause diffraction
  • Ability to shoot in lower light situations due to wider apertures
  • Usually smaller and weigh less than zoom lenses
  • Make you a more creative photographer as you think more about each shot
Disadvantages to prime lenses:
  • You need to carry more lenses to cover more focal lengths
  • Cannot zoom
  • You need to change lenses if you want another focal length
Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE on a shoot

The lenses I use

There are a number of prime lenses that I use on a regular basis which I find would form part of an essential prime lens kit for most photographers. A 35mm f1.4, a 50mm f1.4 and an 85mm f1.4. These three lenses will cover most situations for most photographers. I know a lot of wedding photographers who indeed just use these three lenses to cover an entire wedding with amazing results. When shooting food for various clients I tend to use the three mentioned above but also add in a dedicated macro lens for close up detail shots of the food. So for this Samyang’s 100mm f2.8 macro lens is perfect.

85mm lens is not just great for portraiture

An 85mm lens is pretty much ideally suited to portrait photography as it gives a good amount of compression between the subject and the background. An essential piece of kit for any wedding photographer as it allows you to be a little further away from your subject. At this focal length it doesn’t distort facial features like a wide angle lens would. I use my 85mm to get beautiful, detailed images of drinks/food where I need to isolate the subject from the background by using a relatively wide aperture to capture a shallow DOF with stunning bokeh (out of focus elements). This can also be used on a cropped sensor camera and give a focal length of around 127mm depending on crop factor.
Sony A7Riii with Samyang AF 85mm f1.4 FE @ 1/160th, f3.5, ISO 160

The "Nifty Fifty"

A 50mm lens is also sometimes referred to as a "Nifty Fifty" as you can get cheap versions which offer great bang for buck performance and usually come with an f1.8 aperture. This is possibly my most used focal length. I love using my Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE when taking candid photos of my family or for shameless self portraits. I also use it heavily for food photography as it can pretty much be used at any angle including top-down or side on for images of food. This lens creates beautiful bokeh in the image allowing you to make your subject stand out from the background. At this focal length you still don't get much distortion as you would with wider lenses and it compresses the background and subject together nicely. This can also be used on a cropped sensor camera and give a focal length of around 75mm depending on crop factor.

Sony A7Riii with Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ 1/100th, f11, ISO 200

Everyone needs a 35mm right?

A 35mm lens has a similar angle of view to what the human eye sees so has to be one of the most versatile focal lengths and can be used for just about anything ranging from street photography to architecture to wedding photography amongst others. I tend to use my Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE when photographing overhead food shots of multiple dishes to get as much in the shot as possible without having to position the camera as high as I would if was shooting with a 50mm or longer focal length. This can also be used on a cropped sensor camera and give a focal length of around 52mm depending on crop factor.

Sony A7Riii with Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE @ 1/100th, f13, ISO 200

Macro Lenses - great for close-ups and so much more

Macro lenses are essential if you want to shoot close up images. These lenses have very close minimum focus distances which allow the camera to get closer to the subject. They also feature a really narrow minimum aperture so that you can control what you want in focus. Dedicated macro lenses are also renowned for being the sharpest type of lens with its main use being for highly detailed images. They also make great portrait lenses as the focal length is usually pretty long, around 90mm - 180mm. The typical aperture range on a macro lens is f2.8 - f32 as the closer you are to the subject the shallower the DOF so a narrow aperture is essential to retain as much detail and focus as possible. The caveat with shooting with such narrow apertures such as f32 then the amount of light be allowed onto the sensor is very little so to compensate you would need to either use a faster shutter speed, higher ISO, a tripod or introduce flashes or studio strobes. I shoot food using a studio strobe so I can keep my ISO down which will also give me a better quality image.


Zoom lenses offer a great deal in terms of flexibility and as such I think are a great way to discover as a beginner what you like to shoot. Both types of lenses have their advantages and disadvantages but I think that after experiencing different types of photography the quality in terms of image sharpness and the ability to shoot in low light will be a major determining factor which will steer most photographers in the direction of prime lenses. If you are trying to capture images with stunning bokeh then a prime lens is a must. Prime lenses will make you a more creative photographer and you certainly can't go wrong by getting a 35mm, a 50mm and an 85mm. If you're a landscape shooter and want something wider than 35mm, Samyang also has a great range of options for you.  From the ultra-wide AF 14mm f2.8 which offers great optics at a very good price to the smaller "pancake" lenses - AF 18mm f2.8, AF 24mm f2.8. Let's not forget the tiny AF 35mm f2.8 which is a very capable lens and great for travel photography and the AF 45mm f1.8 (which fits right in between the 35mm and 50mm range). Out of all these lenses there's something for everyone.

Below are some images captured using some of the lenses mentioned above:

Sony A7R with Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ 1/80th, f3.5, ISO 64
Sony A7R with Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ 1/100th, f2.8, ISO 100
Sony A7Riii with Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE @ 1/160th, f8, ISO 125
Sony A7R with Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ 1/50th, f2.2, ISO 200
Sony A7R with Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ 1/160th, f8, ISO 200
Sony A7Riii with Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE @ 1/320th, f10, ISO 100
Sony A7Riii (Crop Mode) with Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ 1/160th, f5, ISO 125
Sony A7R with Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE @ 1/25th, f4, ISO 64

Sony A7R with Samyang AF 24mm f2.8 FE @ 1/500th, f5, ISO 100

Sony A7R with Samyang AF 24mm f2.8 FE @ 1/200th, f4, ISO 100

Sony A7R with Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ 1/30th, f9, ISO 100
Sony A7R with Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE @ 1/125th, f2.2, ISO 64
Sony A7Riii with Samyang AF 85mm f1.4 FE @ 1/250th, f11, ISO 100

Sony A7Riii with Samyang AF 85mm f1.4 FE @ 1/200th, f13, ISO 200

Thanks for reading!

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. If you're based in the UK then check out UK distributor Intro 2020.

Follow me on my social media channels: