As much as I talk about 50mm being my preferred focal length I seem to spend a lot of time using 35mm lenses. With digital anyway. I do still seem to prefer 50mm for film.
Recently there was the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM.
An excellent lens. Had great fun with it,…
…but as hard as I tried to make do it was ultimately undone by my camera system preferences.
Owed largely to a price/performance gap in the RF line up. As much as I liked the Canon EOS RP…
…it was just shy of what I was looking for in an every day camera. Technically above it was the Canon EOS R, but I never warmed up to that camera. The weird slidey control thing at the back aside it just did not pack enough oomph over the RP to compel me. A fine camera and all, but $1,799 is a bit much for a camera lacking IBIS in my universe. Above those are the newer bodies. The Canon EOS R6 further up the line is excellent. But I struggle with the 20MP spec. Personal preference. While I find 24MP to be a sweet spot I am in no rush to go lower. And the other specs, while very impressive, were not worth the extra spend for me. Of course anyone would or should be pleased with the spectacularly spec’d Canon EOS R5, but we are approaching nearly $4,000 now which is well above my personal spend limit. In short there is no Goldilocks camera in the RF line up for me.
Nikon comes very close camera wise with the Z5 and Z6 but they lack reasonably sized and priced native glass like the Canon STM trio and so far third party AF lens support is extremely thin. 1 lens at the time of this post.
All the while Sony has scores of glass available from every corner native and adapted. Add to that the fact that for me Sony already makes two Goldilocks cameras. The long time favorite of mine A7III and the recent A7c.
Both well under $2,000 with few functional compromises. They sit in a nice space between the still for sale, inexpensive, and still competitive A7II…
So back to the topic at hand. 35mm lenses. Since Sony cameras were my preference what was going on with Sony 35mm lenses?
I ran into my usual issue with the Sony options. They were either lower spec’d for their price or were larger and cost more than I wanted to spend. While I really like Sony cameras I would not mind if they tore a page from Canon’s RF STM prime lens play book. The new Sony lens trio, while impressive, lacks a 35mm option but it also has the same price and spec issues as the Sigma Contemporary line up for me.
I had the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary lens and while it was a great ergonomic and aesthetic fit as I have outlined before due to the f/2.8 aperture and being less of a value I ultimately chose to go back to the Rokinon/Samyang 45mm f/1.8. Similar to that 45mm their 35mm f/2 option, as well as their whole Sony Contemporary prime line up, does not really hit the size, price, performance balance I am looking for.
I have gone on at length about my appreciation for Rokinon/Samyang glass. The value. The way many of their lenses render images with an almost vintage film look and feel while retaining modern technical traits. Their focus runs from that’ll do with their early AF glass to quite competitive with more recent offerings. Here is where we get back to the Goldilocks part.
This lens is too slow.
A great lens though. The party piece of the Rokinon/Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE is its diminutive size along with its solid performance and value.
But in the end f/2.8 just did not cut it for me even though I did hang on to the wider 24mm f/2.8 variant. Go figure.
This lens is too big.
First things first. I love the images that this lens produces.
It is also a great value. So what’s the problem? This is a brick of a lens. Prime lenses are not this big and heavy in my universe. As stated in an earlier review this prime lens is within spitting distance size and weight wise with a 70-180mm f/2.8 zoom. As a result even though I thoroughly enjoy the images I can produce with this lens it was rarely used due to size and weight. It was a stretch with the A7III and while still performing well with the A7c…
…it was not a good ergonomic fit. As a result after two ownerships over a couple of years I have only ever posted 169 photos to Flickr. In the end I would gladly sacrifice a bit of aperture spec for a bit of size and weight reduction. Shaving a bit off of cost would not hurt either. Essentially a Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 STM like option for Sony.
This lens is just right.
I already know that this lens hits a sweet spot. How? Without any special event to capture or other motivating factor in 2 or 3 days I have added more photos to Flickr taken with this lens than I ever posted using the 35mm f/2.8 that I owned for months. And I have already taken over half the amount of photos taken with the 35mm f/1.4 which I owned even longer than the f/2.8.
Why? It offers a best of both lenses compromise.
The f/1.8 is nearly as portable as the f/2.8 while offering image quality and light gathering rivaling the f/1.4.
It is that simple. The Goldilocks lens.
- Great colors. Just great colors. That was one of my favorite things about the f/1.4 and they are just as good here.
- Sharp. Sharp. Sharpity sharp. The reviews were right with some even stating that this lens was sharper than the significantly more expensive than the Sony 35mm f/1.8. I will share two fire truck shots below one uncropped and a cropped version. I am thoroughly impressed with the detail retained. What is also impressive about those shots is…
- That fire truck shot was taken on the fly. Many of these photos were taken on the fly. I have found autofocus to be impressive across the board. I performed some quick video AF tests and the lens performed impressively there as well. Fast, silent, and accurate.
- I really like the way Rokinon/Samyang lenses render and this lens is no different. Above color and sharpness there is an almost vintage look to images under certain circumstances. That this lens manages this while still being technically proficient is quite impressive also.
- Perhaps owing to IBIS and this lens’ lighter weight this f/1.8 lens holds its own against the f/1.4.
Size and Weight
- This lens is a perfect fit for the Sony A7c. Very well balanced.
Ergonomics and Features
- Like the 75mm and newly announced 24mm f/1.8 lenses this lens has the new 2 mode switch that can be set to MF and set the aperture. Executed well and I like it.
- Weather sealing. Impressive. The only one of the Rokinon/Samyang 35mm with weather sealing I believe. For the record the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 does not have weather sealing which was a disappointment since the EOS RP did have it.
- Even though this lens costs $150 less than the Canon RF f/1.8 STM it brings a hood and case where the Canon does not.
Here are some sample shots from a trip to NYC.
And there we have it. A great every day walkabout lens that has been great fun to shoot with. Well done Rokinon/Samyang.