Thursday, 15 December 2016

Samyang 85mm f1.2 XP Review & Test Images

Samyang 85mm f1.2 XP
I must be doing something right... Samyang have once again sent me another lens to test out. This time their brand new 85mm f1.2 XP lens. Originally marketed as their Premium line of lenses Samyang recently officially launched the branding of the new XP (eXcellence in Performance) lenses which offer unprecedented resolving power. These lenses keep up with 50MP sensor or 8K video resolution. The new line-up of lenses consists of this 85mm lens and the 14mm f2.4 (which I recently tested and reviewed - review found HERE). The pricing for each lens has recently been announced and in the UK will be £899.00 including VAT. A very decent price for the 85mm f1.2 considering the only current named brand competitor is from Canon and is priced at £1649 for the 85mm f1.2L II USM. The other cheaper option is the Mitakon Speedmaster 85mm f1.2 from ZhongYi Optics which has mixed reviews from what I've seen and is priced around £600.

Until testing this lens the widest aperture I'd ever shot with was f1.4 on Samyang's stellar AF 50mm lens. F1.2 is wider still but at a longer focal length so the depth of field wide open would be very thin indeed depending on distance from subject of course. 85mm is considered to be an excellent focal length for portraiture as it isn't wide enough to distort facial features but long enough to compress the subject and background.

Build quality for this lens is as you can imagine very similar to the 14mm f2.4 XP that I recently tested. It's made of aluminium alloy so is very solid. It has a similar long throw rubber focus ring like the 14mm f2.4 XP that I recently tested. Great for focussing on your subject precisely. However the rubber does attract dust a little but not much of an issue as it can be cleaned fairly easily. Weighing in at 1050g this lens is quite a heavy piece of glass compared to the 791g of the 14mm f2.4. The 85mm has less glass than the 14mm and is made up of 10 elements in 7 groups - including one aspherical lens and two high refractive lenses. It has a minimum focus distance of 0.8m and a filter thread diameter of 86mm so a very wide front element but what do you expect for a lens with a maximum aperture of f1.2?  The design of the lens is in line with the 14mm f2.4 which shares a similarity with the Zeiss Milvus range of lenses. The 85mm differs from the 14mm where it has a detachable lens hood which is made of high quality plastic. Initially this lens will be available in Canon EF mount only but hopefully Samyang will add Nikon and Sony mounts to their line-up in the not too distant future to satisfy the majority of the market. However, I have read somewhere that it would not be possible to make this lens for Sony E-mount due to the bayonet not being wide enough to be able to do f1.2. I hope that this isn't the case.

When I first started using the lens I found it a little difficult to nail focus at f1.2 but due to the excellent focus peaking built in to the Sony A7 series cameras this was made a lot easier. I was quickly amazed at how much light this lens allowed into the camera when wide open. It allowed me to use faster shutters speeds or lower ISOs in certain situations whereas before it wouldn’t have been possible for me to shoot the image at the same quality. Of course at a wider aperture you get a shallower depth of field but this adds to create an overall dreamy look to any image in my opinion. Bokeh (out of focus area) is silky smooth at higher apertures (from f2.8 – f1.2) but sharpness of image is crisp on the in-focus subject. As is the case with pretty much all lenses apertures around f8 yield the sharpest results (See below test images comparing the aperture range). There is some slight vignetting or light fall-off when using higher apertures from f4 – f1.2. The high quality metal construction of the lens feels solid and is excellent giving you peace of mind that you are buying something that is built to last. Along with the 14mm f2.4 XP this 85mm XP lens has very low chromatic aberration but as I’ve said in previous reviews I don’t deem it to be an issue as it can be quickly corrected in Lightroom.

Size in hand (I don't have the biggest of hands)
One thing that I found a little frustrating while using this test model lens is that the 'handshake' between the lens and Commlite adapter or Commlite adapter and camera body would frequently become un-validated so that the camera wouldn't fire. This is most probably down to using it with an adapter which possibly isn't recommended due to the weight of the lens and the strain it must put on the contacts of the adapter on both the camera body connection and adapter to lens connection. However, this problem never stopped me from getting the shots I needed and I highly doubt whether this would be an issue on a native Canon body. I seemed to have better luck when using it with the Commlite adapter mounted to a tripod.

Thanks for reading. I hope that you enjoyed my review. More sample images are below. Please check out my Facebook page and website for more of my work or follow me on Flickr.

Both XP lenses are currently available in the UK via Intro 2020. Check your country’s stockists for further information on availability and try them out.

Size comparison (85mm XP left, 14mm XP right)

Samyang 85mm f1.2 XP (Canon fit), Sony A7R & Commlite Adapter
Size comparison (85mm XP left, 14mm XP centre, AF 50mm right)

Close-up of the focus distance markings

1/90 sec - f1.2 - ISO 250

1/90 sec - f1.2 - ISO 400

1/1000 sec - f1.2 - ISO 100

1/250 sec - f1.7 - ISO 100

1/350 sec - f1.2 - ISO 100

1/160 sec - f14 - ISO 160

1/160 sec - f14 - ISO 160

1/160 sec - f1.4 - ISO 50

1/160 sec - f1.3 - ISO 50

1/200 sec - f1.2 - ISO 50
1/125 sec - f1.2 - ISO 400

1/125 sec - f1.2 - ISO 400

1/90 sec - f1.2 - ISO 400 (Love that Bokeh)
1/350 sec - f1.2 - ISO 100

1/90 sec - f9.5 - ISO 50

1/350 sec - f1.2 - ISO 100

I'd like to thank Karin and all involved at Samyang Korea for sending the lens out to me for testing. Portrait images taken at Peaches & Cream in Liverpool. Thanks also to Kate for arranging the shoot.

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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Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Brand New Samyang 14mm F2.4 XP Lens

Close-up of the branding on the lens
The Brand New Samyang 14mm F2.4 XP Lens

Last week I had an email from Samyang in South Korea explaining that they had just sent out their new 14mm f2.4 XP sample lens to me via express courier direct from South Korea. The email went on to explain that this was the only sample lens in existence to create content globally. A HUGE deal. I was so thrilled and honoured to be able to get my hands on this lens before pretty much anyone. I was fortunate enough to receive one of the 1st AF 50mm f1.4 lenses in the UK again direct from Samyang themselves for testing and reviewing only a few months ago (review of this lens HERE) so to follow up with another high profile and much anticipated lens was great news for me.

Overview of the lens

Having recently looked into the options available to me as a Sony shooter for ultra-wide lenses I think that I know the market pretty well. I wrote a blog post a few months ago (give it a read HERE) where I looked at a few different options in my search for a full frame ultra-wide angle lens. In the end I went with the stellar Canon 16-35mm F4L IS USM. A decision that has definitely paid off for me as the images that the lens produces are superb with sharpness throughout the frame and not just in the centre of the image. Enough of my waffle about the Canon lens. This review is about the new Samyang. Samyang is renowned for making great lenses at an affordable price and so a lot of photographers find that these lenses are a very accessible option. Samyang has quite a few options that would be classed as ultra-wide lenses and in fact have recently added to their line-up with the launch of their new 14mm AF f2.8 lens which has been received really well by photographers worldwide. The older 14mm f2.8 (manual) focus is also very well thought of lens with many a landscape photographer. So, they have a manual 14mm f2.8 and an autofocusing 14mm f2.8 and now they've introduced the 14mm f2.4 which will allow half an f-stop of extra light into the camera. This can then allow for lower ISO or faster shutter speeds in low light situations.

Lens design and specs
The lens has been designed very differently to how the rest of Samyang's lens' look but then again this is a totally different line of lenses that they are starting to produce aimed at a higher end of the market with performance to match. The look of the lens is kind of similar to the very sleek Zeiss Milvus range of lenses where the lens hood flows seamlessly into the body of the lens. The build quality of this lens is superb with emphasis made on optical excellence. It's made from aluminium alloy and feels very solid and quite heavy at 791g. The rubber focussing ring feels nice and has a really long focus throw meaning you can really 'nail' focus as precisely as possible. However, it does attract a little dust and dirt. Inside the lens are 18 elements in 14 groups, so a very complex construction which justifies the 'Premium' tag for these lenses. There are 2 aspherical, 1 hybrid aspherical, two extra low dispersion and 3 high refractive elements. This all helps minimise distortion and chromatic aberration. It's worth noting that the lens is not weather sealed. This is no big deal to me as I tend not to take my camera out in harsh conditions and would mainly use this lens to shoot interiors and on the odd occasion shoot landscape scenes.

See more about specs in the table below:

1/50sec - f10 - ISO 100

Fixed focal length (Prime) lenses in their nature do tend to be sharper than their variable focal length (zoom) lens counterparts so its no surprise to find that this lens is tack sharp throughout the frame given the amount of glass that goes into the construction of this lens.

As you can see from the image below the lens is capable of capturing beautifully crisp images which are sharp corner to corner. This image has been shot directly into the sunlight and flare has been kept to a minimum due to the sheer amount of elements within the Premium construction.
1/50sec - f13 - ISO 160

Below are some examples showing the same composition shot at different apertures. I mistakenly had my EV step value set to 0.3 instead of 0.5 so as a result the widest aperture showed up as f2.2.

Shot at f2.2 (Noticeable vignetting)
Shot at f4 (slight vignetting)

Shot at f8
Shot at f11

Shot at f16
Shot at f22
1/60sec - f10 - ISO 100 (Vertical lines corrected in Photoshop)


During my relatively short time with this lens I've tried to test it out in various locations and situations to showcase the lens' capabilities and have been left impressed time after time at how sharp the images are that it produces throughout the frame and not just the centre. The build quality is solid as it's made from aluminium alloy so you know that this thing is built to last. Distortion and chromatic aberration are kept to an absolute minimum with this lens. The focus ring has a long throw so you can focus precisely on your subject to create killer compositions. A 14mm lens is a focal length I would probably use while shooting restaurant/bar/hotel interiors in my day to day job so yes I would like to have this lens in my bag for times when my 16-35mm just isn't quite wide enough and I know that I will still maintain quality of image. Releasing this line of Premium lenses is a great follow up to introducing autofocusing lenses for the first time in the company's history earlier in the summer and I have no doubt that these lenses are sending Samyang more than a step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading. I hope that you enjoyed my review. More test images are below. Please check out my Facebook page and website for more of my work or follow me on Flickr.

The lenses will be globally available in 2016, with suggested retail prices announced at a later date.

I'd like to thank Karin and all involved at Samyang Korea for sending the lens out to me for testing. 

1/100sec - f8 - ISO 100
Samyang 14mm f2.4 Premium
1/60sec - f11 - ISO 100
Size in hand (I don't have the biggest of hands)
Shot at f2.4

Shot at f10

Samyang 14mm f2.4 Premium (Canon fit), Sony A7R & Commlite Adapter
Samyang 14mm f2.4 Premium front element
Samyang 14mm f2.4 Premium

Samyang 14mm f2.4 XP
13secs - f2.4- ISO 640 (253 images stacked)

Samyang AF 24mm f1.8 FE