Review: Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE

The Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE is the third 35mm that the brand has released in a short time for Sony’s mirrorless, full-frame cameras. This 35mm F1.8 is larger and brighter than the F2.8 pancake and smaller and lighter than the bright F1.4 version. It fills a gap in the range and, with its good specifications and competitive price, is perhaps the most attractive of the three. And it is also weatherproof.

Click on the lens for specifications, prices and test results.

TEST RESULTS Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE:

PROS

CONS

  • Compact

  • Light

  • Bright

  • Good sharpness into the corners

  • Good autofocus

  • Weather resistant

  • Custom button

  • Inexpensive

  • Sometimes some color flaws visible

  • Contrast at full aperture slightly less

The Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE is an attractive lens for documentary and street photography with a competitive price.

Lenses with a focal length of 35 mm are quite popular. That’s because you can use them for many kinds of photography. They are wide-angled on a full-frame camera, but miss that real wide-angle effect that you get with a 28mm or 24mm. This allows you to photograph people just fine without distortion of faces, as long as you do not get too close. At the same time, you can get quite a bit of the background in the picture, so that you can give a good impression of the environment of the subject. This makes 35mm lenses ideal for street and documentary photography. It is therefore not surprising that many brands offer multiple lenses with this focal point. That is also the case with Samyang. 

The Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE is no less than the third lens that Samyang has brought to the market in a short time for Sony’s mirrorless cameras. The first lens was the ultra-compact and ultra-light (70g) Samyang AF 35mm F2.8 FE. Then came the bright but much larger Samyang AF 35 mm F1.4 FE. The Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE fits exactly between them. Bigger and heavier than the F2.8, lighter and smaller than the F1.4. The price also fits nicely between the two. The lens is also a good option for owners of an APS-C camera who are considering switching to full frame in the future. On APS-C, a 35mm offers a field of view that corresponds to that of a 50mm, 52.5mm to be precise, on full frame. Then this lens works like a still reasonably bright standard lens.

The Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE is a good option for photographers who want to keep the weight and dimensions of their equipment within limits or who want to photograph discreetly on the street. It is clearly larger than the F2.8 pancake 35mm from Samyang, but allows almost one and a half stops more light to pass through. That’s nice if you want to shoot in low light and also ensures better background blur than the F2.8 version. At the same time, it is a lot smaller and more modest than the 35mm F1.4. The difference in brightness between F1.4 and F1.8 is only 2/3rd stop. This is much smaller than the difference between the Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE and the F2.8 FE. You could say that the F1.8 offers the best of both: a decent brightness for a modest weight.

Verschillen tussen de F2.8, F1.8 en F1.4 versies van Samyang
The Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE is slightly larger than the F2.8 pancake version, but much smaller than the 35mm F1.4. 

The Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE is also fitted with gaskets, both in the lens and at the rear. This is a novelty for Samyang lenses, and this is thus the first Samyang that you can also use with some confidence in poor weather conditions. As an extra, there is also a programmable button on it that we have seen before on the AF 75mm F1.8 FE. Together with this 75mm, the 35mm is a very nice kit with which you can handle a lot of subjects.

With its specifications, the Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE is a direct competitor of the almost twice as expensive Sony FE 35mm F1.8. That is a great lens, but in terms of possibilities, the Samyang offers almost the same. Both are weatherproof. The Sony has an AF-hold button and a switch to change between autofocus and manual focus. The Samyang has a programmable button with which you can set the focus ring, for example, as an aperture ring. Ultimately, the test of image quality and focus will have to show whether the Sony is more than worth its higher price, or whether you are better off going for the Samyang for less money.

BUILD 

The AF lenses from Samyang are generally already recognizable from some distance, and this Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE is no exception. The fairly smooth, sleek exterior with finely ribbed focus ring and red ring on the front are typical of the brand. The lens is fitted with gaskets, both inside and outside on the mount, and that is new for Samyang. It is something that we hope to see on more lenses from this brand. Sony cameras are more resistant to moisture almost every generation, and it is a pity if you then have lenses that partially break that seal.

The Samyang has about the same diameter as the Sony FE 35 mm F1.8 but is slightly shorter and also slightly lighter than the Sony. It has a nine-blade aperture and an optical design that consists of 10 elements in 8 groups. Two elements are made of HR glass, and two elements are aspherical.

FOCUSING

The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.8 FE uses a linear STM stepper motor for focusing. This was still a point at which Samyang performed less than Sony’s comparable lenses, especially with the 35mm lenses. The Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.8 FE is noticeably faster than the other two 35 mm lenses from Samyang. With the Samyang AF 35 mm F1.4 FE, we can still imagine that the lower speed is caused by the larger amount of glass. However, the AF 35mm F2.8 FE, the 35mm pancake, is even lighter than the F1.8 version and that’s really down to the motor. Face recognition and Eye-AF both work well with the Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.8 FE, and there is no noticeable difference from the FE 35 mm F1.8 from Sony.

The minimum focusing distance is 29 centimeters, and the maximum magnification scale that you achieve with that lens is 0.17x. The Sony FE 35 mm F1.8 scores slightly better on this point. It is not a big difference, because neither lens will be a first choice for macro work.

IMAGE QUALITY

Samyang Benelux

The sharpness of the Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.8 FE is good and can certainly compete with that of the Sony FE 35 mm F1.8. At full aperture, the sharpness is already good to the corners. That’s slightly less with the Sony. However, the contrast is not yet optimal at full aperture. If you really want to get the most out of the lens, it’s a good idea to stop down about one and a half stops. The sharpness then increases slightly, but especially the contrast really improves, and the shots look very good. At full aperture, the lens also suffers somewhat from longitudinal chromatic aberrations (LoCAs). As a result, blurry areas in the foreground and background can get a color edge, and that can also result in a slightly lower image quality at F1.8. This also disappears as soon as you are at F2.8.

The Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE makes a big leap in contrast and therefore in image quality from F1.8 to F2.8. This is the extreme corner of the image, and even at F1.8, the sharpness is good.

The lens suffers from vignetting at full aperture. It’s about two stops. This is to be expected for a reasonably bright wide angle. The vignetting at full aperture can be easily corrected. There are also photographers who do like a small vignette at full aperture and who do nothing about it. If you want a technically pure image, it helps to stop down a bit. This also improves sharpness and depth of field, and many photographers will do so for shots that require the maximum image quality. In the jpeg files, the vignetting is automatically corrected, and then you won’t see anything of it even at full aperture.

Lichtafval van de Samyang 35mm F1.8 op volle opening en op F5.6
Vignetting of the Samyang 35mm F1.8 at full aperture and at F5.6. 

What is also to be expected with a wide-angle lens is a bit of barrel distortion. This too is very little, and in many practical photos, you won’t see it. The bit of distortion there is, is easy to eliminate in post-processing if it’s disturbing in critical (architectural) shots.

The bokeh of the Samyang is generally quite good. At full aperture, the bokeh balls are nicely soft, although they are no longer round towards the corners but a little more oval, and some color edges may be visible. Stopping down a little ensures that the bokeh balls become a bit smaller, but remain a bit more round towards the edges. From F2.8 onwards, you will slowly start to see the shape of the aperture.

 

Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE

 specifications
  
field of view(diag)63°6’
sensor formatfull frame
min. setting distance29 cm
filter diameter58
diaphragm blades9
image stabilizernone
dimensions (dxl)65 – 63 mm
weight210 gr
mountSony FE
particularscustom button
importerwww.transcontinenta.nl
list price€ 399.00
  
resolution/109
contrast/108
chromatic aberration/54
distortion/54
vignetting/54
autofocus/54
flare/54
finish/109
  
final score8.4

ConclusiON: REVIEW Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE oN Sony A7R III

The Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.8 FE is a good alternative to the Sony FE 35 mm F1.8 at a lower price.

The Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.8 FE is a next step in the evolution of the lenses from Samyang. It is still compact and lightweight, like many Samyang lenses. What has improved is the autofocus and the weather resistance. The image quality is also better than that of the Samyang AF 35mm F2.8 FE pancake, especially when it comes to contrast and sharpness in the corners. The ability to give the focus ring a different function is a nice extra. Of the three 35 mm lenses that Samyang makes for the Sony system, the Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.8 FE is clearly the most attractive.