Samyang has a new, short telephoto for the Sony system. It is the Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE. Remarkable features of the lens are the low weight and the compact dimensions. The price is also competitive.
Click on the lens for specifications, prices and test results.
TEST RESULTS Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE:
The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE is an ideal portrait lens for weight pinchers.
The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE is a short telephoto lens. These types of lenses are very popular because they are ideal for portrait photography. So it’s no wonder that there is already plenty of choice for short telephotos for the Sony system. The Samyang has to compete with Sony’s own formidable 85 mm f/1.8 FE, among others. Fortunately, the Samyang has a number of features that distinguish it from other offers in this segment.
Perhaps the most important of these are the low weight and the compact dimensions. If you opt for the Sony E system because the cameras are so compact, then you also want compact lenses. And then you’ll soon be looking at the Samyangs. The previously released Samyang AF 24 mm f/2.8 FE and Samyang AF 35 mm f/2.8 FE are real pancakes of around 100 grams. The Samyang AF 45 mm f/1.8 FE and the Samyang AF 18 mm f/2.8 are slightly larger but are also among the smallest and lightest in their class. The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE is significantly smaller and lighter than the Sony 85 mm f/1.8 FE, which itself is not particularly big or heavy.
Furthermore, the Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE has a focal point that is slightly shorter than usual. Most short telephotos are 85mm or 90mm. 75mm was a focal point that was particularly popular on analog rangefinder cameras. That time is already far behind us, but it’s nice to see this focal point making a comeback. It gives us just a bit more choice. And the price, which is well below that of the Sony, is also not an insignificant point. It is one of the cheapest short telephotos with autofocus. An additional advantage of the slightly shorter focal length is that it is also perfectly usable for portraits on APS-C. The Samyang then becomes a 112mm equivalent, and that is also very nice.
What is unique is that despite the low price, the lens still has an extra that you usually only find on more expensive lenses: a programmable button. This allows the focus ring to be used, for example, for setting the aperture or switching between autofocus and manual focus. You can program this via the Samyang Lens Station, which is available as an accessory.
That low weight of the Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE is not due to scrimping on the glass. The optical design consists of 10 elements in 9 groups. Two of those elements are made of ED glass, and three elements are made of glass with a high refractive index. For a short telephoto, that’s quite a complex design.
Where the low weight of only 230 grams does come from is the use of plastic for the housing. This is often seen as qualitatively inferior to metal, but that does not have to be the case. Good plastics can be less scratch-sensitive and more dimensionally stable than metals, and they have the additional advantage that they feel less cold at low temperatures. The lens is 69mm long and has a diameter of 65mm. That is 13mm shorter and 13mm less “fat” than the Sony, which is also 140 grams heavier than the Samyang at 371 grams. The filter size is 58mm, and the lens has a nine-bladed aperture. A downside is that the Samyang is not extra weather-resistant and has no gasket on the back. But we won’t let that weigh too heavily. The Sony 85 mm f/1.8 FE does not have one either.
The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE has an STM motor, a stepping motor. That ensures accurate and virtually silent focusing. The autofocus is also fairly fast. The Sony 85 mm f/1.8 FE is a bit faster, but for portraits and general use, it will not make much difference in practice. If you shoot a lot of sports, then you will notice the difference. For a lens that will be used a lot for portraits, it is of course important that the eye AF and facial recognition work well, and fortunately that is the case. That makes working with the Samyang very pleasant. Enlarging the viewfinder image also works as it should when you focus manually. Together with the Samyang AF 45 mm f/1.8 FE, this is the best-performing Samyang in the area of AF.
The shortest setting distance is 0.69m, and the maximum magnification is 0.13x. That is by no means enough for macro but sufficient for reasonably close up portraits.
We’ll get straight to the point: the image quality of the Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE is beautiful. The sharpness and contrast in the center are already very good at full aperture. The corners then lag a bit behind but not very much. Stopping down a bit catches them up quickly. If we compare the Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE with the 85 mm from Sony, then the Sony wins and especially at full aperture, because the corners of the Sony are almost perfect even at f/1.8. But the difference is small and only visible if you use the two lenses side by side. The Samyang gains a little more sharpness and contrast with stopping down and peaks around f/4. The shortest setting distance is nothing special, but the image quality is still fine even in the close-up area.
The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE suffers little from either lateral or longitudinal chromatic aberration. That is quite unusual for a relatively inexpensive lens. High contrast transitions such as leaves against a light sky are free of strange colored edges.
Longitudinal chromatic aberration is seen when you photograph shiny objects at a large aperture. Blurry objects in the foreground then take on a magenta glow, and in the background, they turn green. The Sony 85mm suffers quite a bit from this, the Samyang hardly at all, and that is quite an achievement.
Distortion is also almost absent for the Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE. There is not yet a profile for this lens in most RAW converters, but the distortion is so slight that you may need to adjust it manually only in very critical situations.
This lens has a bit more trouble with vignetting. The weird thing is, you barely see it in shots in practice. In the test shots, we needed to correct almost two stops at full aperture to get the image even. But the gradient is so gradual from the center to the corners that it doesn’t really stand out. If you stop down one or two stops, the vignetting will quickly decrease.
An important reason to buy a short, bright telephoto is the bokeh. And that is very nice with this 75mm. At full aperture, the background melts away. Bokeh balls are quite round, with a very small edge on the outside and a fairly even center. The Sony suffers much more from distortion of the bokeh balls than the Samyang does. The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE scores significantly better on this point.
For sun stars at f/16 or f/22, you don’t want the Samyang. They look a little irregular. Here, the Sony (right) does a lot better.
The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE has a programmable custom button. It has two positions. This allows you to use the focus ring for something other than focusing. An obvious option is to use it as an aperture ring. Although the ring turns without clicking, the aperture still changes in 1/3rd steps. For video, that’s just enough to see the steps when you adjust the exposure. More features will become available through firmware upgrades in the future.
Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE SAMPLE IMAGES
Curious about the performance of the Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE in practice? Click on the button below and visit our renewed web gallery with sample images. The images can be downloaded in full resolution to be viewed at 100%.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE
The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE is a very desirable small portrait lens.
The Samyang AF 75 mm f/1.8 FE is really a very good short telephoto. The sharpness is a fraction lower than that of the Sony 85 mm f/1.8 FE, but the Samyang has a nicer bokeh and very few problems with chromatic aberrations. As a result, the images are beautifully clean, and the backgrounds are beautifully soft. Add to this the low weight, the compact dimensions and the competitive price, and you have a very desirable small portrait lens.