Would you sacrifice autofocus for exceptional image quality?
The Samyang 85mm f1.4 is a fully manual lens, with internal optics that rival much more expensive lenses such as Canons own 85mm 1.2, which will set you back around 1800 dollars. The Samyang 85mm f1.4 is sharp wide open, though it's sweet spot is somewhere around f2.8. Vignetting is obvious around 1.4, and all but disappears from around f2. Bokeh is pleasing. There is some minor chromatic aberration evident at wider apertures, but certainly nothing worse than any other lens in this price range. Contrast is good, flare is minimal, and there is no barrel distortion.
There are other lenses in the same price range as the Samyang which do offer autofocus, but these have a maximum aperture of 1.8, and are not nearly as sharp at wide apertures.
For critical focussing, I will often stop down to 2.8, and/or use Live View to nail the focus. This is certainly slower and more work than using autofocus, but manually focussing with Live View almost always achieves even better focus than you will get shooting with AF through the viewfinder anyway.
The lens is constructed of a combination of plastic and metal, which feels sturdy, and has a reassuring amount of weight. The focussing ring is very smooth, and using the aperture ring to adjust F stops is extremely tactile, and perhaps even preferable to using the camera interface, considering you can find the most common settings such as 1.4, 2 and 2.8, without looking. Simply start at 1.4, and use the gentle ring clicks as a guide. This lens comes neatly boxed with a lens hood, lens cap, instruction manual and travel wallet.
The most important thing to consider about this lens is the lack of AF, and the improvement in image quality. This is not the ideal lens for sports or wildlife, where quick focussing will always trump image quality. For posed portraits however, this lens will not only give you the option of shooting at 1.4, but it offers superb image quality at very wide apertures.
I mainly shoot fashion and family portraits. Image quality and value for money are important to me, so this lens was an obvious choice. No other lens in this price range offers better sharpness wider than around f5.6, at which point, the Canon 85mm 1.8 starts catching up, but who buys a wide aperture portrait lens to shoot at 5.6? The Samyang 85mm f1.4 is a no-brainer for anyone shooting DSLR video, or those photographers who want top of the range image quality, without breaking the bank.
Built quality, Image quality, Bang for buck, Smooth focus ring.
The lack of autofocus will be a big deal for some people.
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