Nearing the end of the year, it was time to buy some new business related gear.For part of my work, shooting people with blurry backgrounds is an important ability. I already own a good 85mm lens for my Sony E-mount system: the Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8. And I own the Sigma Art 135mm f1.8, one of my favorite lenses. Despite amazing optical performance, the Sigma is not only a bit long for some work but really big and heavy.
For a while I’d been eyeing a used Canon 85mm f1.2. There was a real deal on LensAuthority.com for a while that had minor scratches and a small filter ring dent. But I waited to long. Then I was contemplating the Sigma 85mm in Canon mount- so I could use for digital but also on my Canon film cameras.
In the end I bought a slightly used Samyang/Rokinon 85mm f1.4 lens for Sony. With Samyang/Rokinon it’s important to note that this is the autofocus version. This Korean company has been making good, budget manual focus lenses for a while now. Some time ago, I bought (and later sold) the Rokinon 85mm manual focus lens. I was happy with the performance, but with that shallow of depth-of-field (DOF) manual focus was tough. I got a low number of keepers.
One of the biggest benefits of Mirrorless photography is the face and eye focus functions. It’s now possible to get a high hit rate with a very shallow DOF. My first tests confirm that my new lens can do a good job of eye focus, and is very sharp and contrasty wide open (at least near the center of the frame.) So it seems this lens will do what I need of it.
“Bokeh” the defocused area of an image is subjective, but with a lens of this nature it can be an important consideration. Personally I do like the Samyang/Rokinon’s out of focus rendering. Like my Batis, it does get “cat eye” highlights the further from the center.
Another consideration that you might not find on another review…. I have an infrared converted Sony a5000. When I bought that camera, I had no idea that lens performance on IR cameras is a whole ‘nother bag. I was quite surprised to find that some of my best lenses on normal cameras were crap on the IR camera. For example, I have the Sigma Art 18-35mm. On a conventional APS-C camera it is flawless. That lens is sharp wide open (f1.8) from one end of the zoom to the other. On infrared, it’s soft on the edges, and displays a prominent hot spot in the center.
This Samyang appears to be a good choice for IR. It’s sharp edge to edge and displays no hotspot. Additionally this lens sports a 77mm filter ring size which allows use of all of my IR filters.
So why would one choose this Samyang over any of the other offerings?
- It’s the cheapest 85mm f1.4 lens native to Sony FE system
- It’s the lightest lens native to Sony FE system
- It costs about the same as the cheapest f1.8 lens native to Sony FE system
- It has weather sealing (though not at the mount!)
- This lens performs well for Infrared
Why wouldn’t one choose the SamRok 85mm f1.4?
- It’s not the sharpest lens (though it’s plenty sharp)
- This lens is bigger, heavier and uses bigger filters than the f1.8 lenses
- No weather sealing at mount end
- Audible (not loud) focus operation that might interfere with video and internal mic
- No internal stabilization (if you are using an old camera without OSS)
I've uploaded a number of samples to a Flickr gallery here for your viewing pleasure.
(I stole borrowed this info from another blog) Weight of various E mount 85mm lenses
- Sony FE 85mm F/1.8: 371 grams
- Zeiss Batis 85mm F/1.8: 452 grams
- Sigma ART 85mm F/1.4: 1130 grams
- Sony FE 85mm F/1.4 GM: 820 grams
- Samyang / Rokinon 85mm F/1.4 652: grams