Rokinon (Samyang) 35mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC: Review
|October 14, 2012||Posted by admin under Camera Lenses|
On either format, f/1.4 is something to relish, either for low-light photography or maybe street shooting with the added twist of fashionably shallow depth-of-field.
The 35mm lens looks almost identical to the 24mm, just slightly bigger and heavier, and is distinguished by a fatter red band near the mount. It’s quite a bit cheaper though at $499, or $382 in the Olympus mount version that includes auto aperture stop-down. Optical performance is similar too, with characteristics common to lenses of this specification such as quite prominent vignetting at f/1.4, though here that quickly gets much better at f/2 and is almost totally gone by f/2.8. Some barrel distortion is present, but it’s really quite mild and unlikely to be noticed. Both these things can be corrected in post-processing, though.
Sharpness is lower at f/1.4, though just a touch better than the 24mm and it jumps up quite spectacularly at f/2 and is excellent from f/2.8 onwards. Remarkably, the edges don’t lag behind at all, a characteristic mostly shared by all these Samyangs where aspherical lens surfaces have been put to very effective use indeed. Zoom lens users can only dream of the exceptionally high standard of edge to edge sharpness that a good modern prime can deliver, and at much lower f/numbers too.
I noticed some minor centering issues with all these Rokinons, where one corner of the image was fractionally less sharp than the others, but that’s not unusual with very low f/number lenses that are more sensitive to it. There’s the same issue of totally manual aperture control that is a feature of all these lenses, except in Nikon fit.
One small thing where the 35mm lens does better than the other Samyangs is in the accuracy of the focus markings that are at least approximately correct, and a depth-of-field scale that seems to be about right for crop-format, if not for full-frame. There’s another oversight on the lens hood too. It’s the same as the 24mm’s, so it could usefully be made much deeper and more efficient without intruding into the image area, even on full-frame.
Pros and Cons
If you can live with manual focusing, or maybe even welcome it, you will love this lens.
+ Great contrast and sharpness throughout the aperture range, as long as you can get your images in focus!
+ Better edge sharpness than any competing lens when used on a full frame
- Manual focus takes practice. Live view works great, but requires some getting used to.
- I would not recommend relying on the distance gauge for focusing. On Samyang/Rokinon lenses, this has been known to be notoriously inaccurate.
Although maybe not as cutting sharp as the Nikkor 35 mm f 1.4, this lens is excellent (for a third of the price), it almost has the smoothness in tone rendition of a Leica lens.
While the so-similar 24mm Samyang is very good, this 35mm spec version is even better. There is a little less vignetting at f/1.4, it disappears rapidly from f/2, and the distortion is hardly noticeable.
It’s very slightly sharper, which is no mean feat, and the small amount of residual chromatic aberration that is always present at the edges with the 24mm, is gone from this lens by f/5.6. Though as mentioned, all these things can be cleared up quite effectively with post-processing software these days.
Zoom lens users can only wish for this kind of image quality at shorter focal lengths. Central sharpness is rarely a problem with zooms, but really crisp edge to edge detail is almost the preserve of primes like this.
This lens gives spectacular results
With all Samyangs, focusing is manual, but high optical spec
Well-made, with smooth controls and lens hood supplied
Very good value. There’s nothing else available at this price, if you want f/1.4 on full-frame.