The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 FE is a bright wide angle for the Sony E-mount cameras. Just like the slightly earlier released Samyang 50mm f/1.4 FE, this Samyang also has autofocus. That makes it a solid competitor for Sony’s own 35mm f/1.4 GM.
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BRIGHT: Samyang 35mm f/1.4 FE
Samyang is releasing one nice autofocus lens for Sony after another at a pretty rapid pace. After the 14 mm f/2.8 FE, the 50 mm f/1.4 FE and the 35 mm f/2.8 FE, we now have a bright wide angle as well. Except for the 14mm, they are all lenses that Sony also offers. We reviewed the 50mm and 35mm f/2.8 previously, and we were pretty impressed with the image quality. Samyang gives up little or nothing to the Sony lenses. Where there is a big difference is in the amount that the Samyangs cost. In practice, you notice that there are small differences between the Sonys and the Samyangs, but not so much that they justify the big price difference. So you do get a lot of value for the money with Samyang. A 35mm is a popular focal point for documentary photographers because you get a little more in the picture than with a 50mm standard lens, without seeing too much perspective distortion that you have with more extreme wide angles. If you don’t get too close to your subject, a 35mm is also very nice for portraits with some surroundings in view. The high brightness then helps to make your model stand out beautifully from the background.
BUILD AND autofocus
For a fixed focal length lens, the Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 FE is quite big. That, of course, has a lot to do with the high brightness. The Sony 35 mm f/1.4 GM has approximately the same dimensions. It’s also because modern sensors with lots of megapixels place high demands on lenses. To perform well on a 42-megapixel sensor, you need a lot of glass. The design of this Samyang is completely in line with the previously released lenses: minimalistic. The only control element is the wide focus ring. No AF/MF switch, no function button, no aperture ring or indication of the set distance or depth of field. The focus ring is nice and wide and turns smoothly. It does not operate the autofocus motor directly, but only sends a signal to the camera. There are therefore no hard stops for infinity or close up. The autofocus works well and is usable with all the settings you find on the Sony cameras. That makes it a true FE lens. The lens has no play, and the front lens does not turn while focusing. That means you can use filters on this 35mm without worries. The filter size is a conventional 67mm. The lens comes with a lens hood. On the back are the usual contacts for the data transfer, but no gasket to keep out moisture and dirt. In very dusty or wet environments, you should therefore be a bit more careful with this Samyang than with the Sony 35mm.
The Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 FE performs exceptionally well on a full frame. The sharpness is already reasonably high at full aperture. In the test lab, we could still measure that the sharpness increases when you stop down, with top values at f/4 and f/5.6, but for the eye, it’s fine at f/1.4 and f/2. The corners also lag just a little behind the high values of the center and that’s quite noticeable. The lens has a little bit of barrel distortion that you’ll have to correct in the post-processing if you want really straight lines. There is also some vignetting visible at full aperture. Technically, this is a lens error, but many photographers like it and often add it to get more emphasis on what’s going on in the center of the image. We rank this under “character.” If you want to get rid of it, you can correct it in post-processing. Incidentally, the values for distortion and vignetting are fairly low. You only see them because they aren’t corrected in the camera, while that is done for Sony lenses that sometimes score less well in this area. Chromatic aberration is also well suppressed. You can find it in the far corners, but here, too, it’s fairly minor. What you do see when you’re working at full aperture is an aberration where blurry objects in the foreground get a magenta-colored edge and objects in the background, a green-colored edge. This happens with almost all bright lenses. The Samyang is no exception. It terms of image quality, it’s well-armed for the battle with the Sony 35 mm f/1.4.
Vignetting at full aperture (1.5 stops) is certainly not bad for a bright full-frame lens, but it is visible in practice shots with smooth surfaces (skies). With jpg files that you have immediately saved in the camera and RAW files that you open in Lightroom or Photoshop, automatic lens correction takes place. For RAW files that you open in Lightroom, you will see the message “Built-in lens profile applied” (1). But that correction does not apply for vignetting. You can correct for vignetting with an Adobe lens profile. If you apply that correction, the vignetting score significantly improves, and this 35 mm might put up the best performance of all the full-frame 35 mm lenses we’ve tested. Lateral chromatic aberration is not present. Up to f/2, you can see a little bit of longitudinal CA (“color bokeh”), but it’s not disruptive, and it occurs with even the most expensive bright lenses.
The bokeh of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 FE is pretty nice. The background melts away very nicely at full aperture, especially if your subject is fairly close. The good sharpness at f/1.4 of course helps to emphasize the difference from the background. That is not to say that the bokeh is perfect. With light sources, a clear edge can be seen around the bokeh balls. Sometimes, that edge also has a color. And within those bokeh balls, you can clearly see rings at 100%. On the other hand, the bokeh balls stay pretty round, even when they’re at the edge of the image. If you don’t have any light sources in frame, then the bokeh is simply beautiful.
CONCLUSION: REVIEW Samyang 35mm f/1.4 FE oN full frame
- Fantastic image quality:
- Good image quality
- High brightness
- Nicely built
- Good focus
- Good price-to-quality ratio
- Not weatherproof
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Good news for Sony A7/A9 photographers: The price-to-quality ratio of the Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 FE is particularly good.
The Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 FE is a very good alternative to the much more expensive Sony 35 mm f/1.4 GM. It lacks the extra weather resistance and some luxury extras like an aperture ring and a function button. But on the points that really count, it gives up little or nothing to the Sony. The sharpness is high, the bokeh is nice, and the autofocus works as it should. Those who do not have to shoot documentary pics in the pouring rain have a particularly beautiful 35mm with this Samyang.