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!

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Samyang AF 24mm f1.8 FE