Blogging through the madness. It is my hope that this long winded write up with samples might help someone avoid my buy/sell/trade jamboree, cut to the chase, and choose the best lens for themselves up front.
This trio was not by design, but more a natural progression. More on that later.
I have been messing with Rokinon/Samyang for a minute.
Sidebar: I am sure I could Google it but I have no idea why the exact same lenses carry two brand names and sometimes a third, Bower, as well as websites. But I do know through personal experience that the FE lens caps, lens hoods, lens puck, lens update software, and lens firmware are compatible across Samyang and Rokinon. I have yet to see a Bower AF lens. I just buy whichever brand happens to be less expensive at any given moment because oddly they are not priced the same at times. Curious, but no big. For that reason I will continue to refer to them as Rokinon/Samyang regardless of the actual brand.
No duds have been encountered. First up are lenses that I have had and then sold/traded.
Those I Had
I started my digital interchangeable lens journey with MFT. An Olympus E-PL5 specifically and it was great. Since AF is not really a concern for me on such a wide angle focal length I chose this lens over the AF Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 after a comparison.
And it did very well.
Why do I no longer have it? I moved on from MFT through a few brands eventually landing on Sony.
Great lens. Fast and silent to focus. Sharp with great colors. It is capable of great results.
Why do I no longer have it? Focal length and aperture redundancy with a zoom lens. Both are great, but the zoom is more flexible.
This lens is cuss word awesome. Optically this is one of my favorite lenses ever. Every positive lens descriptor you can conjure up applies here. Sharp, great colors, swift and silent to focus, great bokeh, so on and so forth and on and on. For example:
Why do I no longer have it? This was a hard one. Though quieter to focus it is a bit too close in spec and larger than the already larger than I like 50mm f/1.4 (on the left below) which is my favorite focal length between the two. When going wider than 50mm I also prefer the bit wider and much smaller 24mm f/2.8 (on the right below) I will mention below.
So chalk it up to me trying to be “logical” about photography or some such nonsense. I do not like it. I still miss this 35mm and occasionally entertain the idea of
rescuing buying back mine from the local shop or getting another if I am too late. In the meantime there is another more unorthodox 28mm f/1.4 solution that keeps me amused.
A great little lens. While not as an impressive spec as its f/1.4 and f/1.8 siblings it more than makes up for it with its compact size, swift, silent, and accurate focusing, and light weight. Despite its humble aperture spec it is also capable of pleasing bokeh under the right conditions. It is meant for full-frame but with its small size it is also a great lens to use with Sony crop cameras.
It performs well on full frame also.
Why do I no longer have it? It is a member of my buy it, sell it, buy it again, sell it again club. Mainly because it falls into an odd focal length valley for me. On full frame I prefer a wider or narrower focal length. At a 50mm-ish focal length equivalent on APS-C it lands right on top of a faster crop lens I already have. Still a great lens though.
Another winner. Cut and paste everything I said about the 35mm f/1.4 at a different focal length and aperture but a bit smaller. I also feel that this lens has a bit of a film look to it.
Why do I no longer have it? Though the 50mm f/1.4 has a bit noisier AF and is a good bit larger I still prefer the 50mm over the 45mm. Also, just like with the 35mm f/1.4, having both this and the 50mm makes no sense to me. (A touch of self-diagnosed OCD leading me to match both manufacturer and f/1.4 aperture after trading the Sony 85mm f/1.8, used beside the 45mm at a wedding reception, for an f/1.4 lens below may have played a part but we will keep that between us.) Were it not for the 50mm I would definitely have this 45mm though.
So that covers the lenses I have owned. Next up are lenses that I have yet to buy or try.
Those I Have Yet to Try
Why not? I have this focal length neighborhood and aperture covered elsewhere and it costs a bit too much to get just because I want it. And I do want it.
Why not? I struggle with this one mightily. Great value. Great spec. Small and light for a portrait lens. And great reviews. It has a custom mode switch on the side that I must have for some reason for Pete’s sake! I keep telling myself this lens “makes no sense” considering the Rokinon/Samyang portrait lens I already own. I may yet own this lens.
And to finish up here are the three remaining Rokinon/Samyang lenses that I have bought and actually kept.
Like the 35mm f/2.8 it is a great combination of performance, size, weight, and value. It focuses swiftly, silently, and accurately. Also a decent low light performer for such a humble aperture spec. It is made for full frame…
…and capable of creating great images.
But it spends just as much if not more time on APS-C Sony bodies. Like the 35mm it is a great size for the smaller APS-C Sony bodies.
At a 36mm full frame equivalent it also musters up decent, mild background blur under the right conditions.
Sidebar: This lens is one of the reasons I have chosen Rokinon/Samyang FE prime lenses over Tamron FE prime lenses. I have tried a couple of Tamron prime lenses in the shop, since I really like their FE f/2.8 zooms, and they are great. Admittedly I do not necessarily understand such a relatively narrow 20mm-35mm prime lens focal length spread, with only 4mm between two of them (20mm/24mm/35mm), or the f/2.8 only aperture choice. But I cannot argue with their impressive 1:2 close focus capabilities and weather sealing. With such reasonable prices I might have owned a couple in isolation, especially since these focal lengths are covered by their zooms. But for a prime I prefer the smaller size of the Rokinon/Samyang 24mm and 35mm f/2.8 lenses and would choose the slightly wider Rokinon/Samyang 18mm over the Tamron 20mm. Again, the Tamron prime lenses are excellent choices, but my personal preference is Rokinon/Samyang.
The only Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8 down side for me is that it is so small that I have actually lost track of it more times than I would like to admit after tucking it in a bag or jacket pocket. But that is more telling of my memory than any fault of the lens.
Why did I keep it? It offers a great compact wide lens for full frame that is also great for video. On APS-C it offers a compact 36mm full frame equivalent focal length. Candid use is the one situation where I do prefer a 35mm-ish focal length as a one lens compromise between 28mm and 50mm. And thanks to its small size, swift and silent hunt free focusing it is great for candid photography.
As I wrote in my last blog post on this lens (link above) I really like this lens. While an older lens in the line up possessing slightly noisier, older AF motor tech than the more recent offerings the focus speed is now instantaneous with the latest v33 firmware. And I was happy with the focus speed before. On paper I would understand completely why one would select the newer and excellent 45mm f/1.8 variant mentioned above. With its smaller price, weight, and size and more modern focusing tech and nearly as wide an aperture the 45mm f/1.8 looks like a ringer. Would seem to be the “logical” choice. (There is that word again.) But as mentioned in the 50mm f/1.4 post linked above this lens has a certain “it” factor for me. Purists may howl but for me the 50mm provides a close enough approximation of that “look” I get from medium format film cameras that it calms that corner of my GAS fever that wants a medium format digital camera. So much so that all plotting for such has come to an end. For me that is well worth the extra size, weight, and extra bit focus noise. And if you catch one on sale it hardly costs any more than the 45mm. Check both brand names before buying. For example as of the writing of this post the Samyang variant is currently listed at the full price of $699 on B&H while the Rokinon variant is currently on sale for $399 on the very same site. And from past experience they could swap places or both go up or down in price the next week or so. And other than the name printed on the side of the lens they are exactly the same and use the same accessories and firmware. Samyang does seem to keep their firmware and docking software app more up to date.
Why did I keep it? See above. This lens was another member of my buy it, sell it, buy it again, sell it again club. But then I bought it back again after reviewing previous images taken with it. The images it creates are well worth the extra weight, size, and minor AF noise. Add in the further improved v33 firmware AF speed and that closed the deal.
Last, but certainly not least we have the wonderful 85mm f/1.4. In all honesty I had not realized I had tried all but two Rokinon/Samyang full frame Sony lenses until I started this post. But this lens stands above the others. Why?
- Of all the Rokinon/Samyang lenses I have tried the 85mm is the only lens that only required one purchase. I knew right away that this was the lens for me.
- While having the same aperture spec and comparing relatively favorably to the Art and Zeiss f/1.4 lenses in the real world it has a much more reasonable size, price, and weight.
- Went head to head with my previous favorite all time 85mm lens, the excellent Sony FE 85mm f/1.8, for a time and came out victorious after a back to back lens comparison (gallery here).
I have tried a few 85mm lenses and the Rokinon/Samyang is by far my favorite full frame 85mm portrait lens. To my eye it has all of my favorite attributes from their best offerings. The sharpness.
The film look.
The almost medium format like ability to isolate subjects and blow out the foreground and background to smithereens.
The swift focus of the latest AF tech.
Great low light performance.
And combined with a Sony APS-C body it makes a great 127.5mm full frame equivalent event lens.
And a gaping front maw does not hurt either.
So I like it. A few more samples than a wrap up.
Why did I keep it? See above. It is on a short list of lenses I have never considered selling or trading regardless of price. If you factor in its very reasonable asking price that makes it a bona fide bargain. Currently both the Rokinon and Samyang variants are on sale for $599, but it is still a good deal at a regular price of $699 if you catch it between sales and are in a hurry.
Sidebar: I griped about the firmware update puck back when it was more expensive, but whether you bundle it or buy it outright it is worth every penny at $50. Sure I wish they let you do the updates through the body like Tamron or perhaps even included an in lens micro USB port like Viltrox. But given the reasonable lens prices and the frequency and legitimate improvements of their firmware it is well worth it. If you are so inclined the software the dock software also allows you to to fine tune different aspects of the lens, but I leave them be. Also a plus is that pucks, software, and firmware are compatible across both brands. This proved handy recently since Rokinon had not updated their Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 firmware page, but I was able to use the newer firmware version found on the Samyang page without issue.
Well that about wraps it up. The world is currently on fire, but a small bright spot is that if you are looking for some photography distraction just about any camera gear currently on the market will meet your needs. This is true of modern lenses in general and also specifically this line up of Rokinon/Samyang mirrorless prime lenses. There is not a dud in the bunch. A rational person could choose any and have a great image capturing experience without the buy/sell/trade jamboree I put myself through. It is my hope that this long winded write up with samples might help someone else cut to the chase and choose the best lens for themselves up front.