Review Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8
The Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE is a pancake lens for Sony's mirrorless cameras with FE mount. It's compact, light and sharp and it costs a lot less than the Sony 35mm with the same specifications and almost the same size.
photo: Nic Taylor
LIGHTWEIGHT: Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE
The Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE is a pancake lens for Sony's mirrorless cameras with FE mount. On full frame, it is a light wide angle, and on the APS-C models like the A6500, it works as a standard lens. The compact dimensions mean that not as much glass fits inside the lens. That has consequences for the brightness. That is of course not especially high at f/2.8. On the other hand, the lens weighs just a bit over 80 grams. When you hold it loose in your hand, it almost seems to be floating, and on the camera you can hardly feel that you have a lens on it. That's a relief if you're accustomed to zooms that weight a kilo or more. With a pancake like that, you can work more easily with one hand and draw much less attention as a photographer. And a well-designed pancake can deliver very high image quality, despite the small dimensions. The Samyang is that kind of a well-designed pancake.
The Samyang importer for the Benelux, Transcontinenta, offers an extended 5-year guarantee for Samyang lenses in the Benelux. This extends the standard warranty directly from 2 to 5 years! To make use of this, do not forget to register online within 4 weeks of purchase via transcontinenta.nl/garantie.
The weight of the Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE at under 86 grams (without caps) is really negligible. This is a very light lens. It weighs almost 50% less than the virtually identical Sony 35mm f / 2.8. This is partly reflected in the materials used. The Sony mount is made of steel; that of the Samyang, of aluminum. What that means for wear resistance is difficult to say. Aluminum does not necessarily have to be less good than steel. In any case, an aluminum mount is much better than one of plastic, which you sometimes see with some cheap lenses. And with the low weight of this lens, the forces on the mount will of course never be great. The other materials used are mostly plastic, but that is not a problem. The Samyang feels solid and works well. The lens looks virtually identical to the Sony E 35mm f/2.8 pancake, including the front lens, remarkably concave for a wide angle, and the seven-bladed aperture. Those who look carefully will see differences in the structure of the lens groups. Both have 7 lens elements, but they are ordered slightly differently on the Samyang. So it's not an exact copy. The Samyang is also a bit shorter than the Sony as a result. The smaller dimensions are further enhanced by the lens hood, which on the Samyang is really no more than a flat ring with a hole in it, where the Sony lens hood protrudes a bit. The Samyang thus feels more like a pancake than the Sony does.
DThe Samyang focuses quite quickly and precisely. You do notice that there is a different kind of AF motor than in the Sony. You feel that when you try to focus manually. Then the control is somewhat less precise, which leads focus that does not feel terribly precise. You have to search a bit more with manual focus than when using the Sony 35mm f/2.8. In autofocus, you do not really notice any difference until the light levels drop significantly. When it's fairly dark, the Samyang starts to search quite a lot, and it does not always manage to focus using the autofocus. The Sony does not have a problem under similar conditions.
The lens does not have image stabilization. But the second-generation Sony A7 cameras and the new Sony A9 have it in the body. The cameras know, thanks to the electronic coupling, the focal point they are working with and ensure the correct degree of image stabilization. This allows you to get sharp shots by hand with longer shutter speeds.
We can be brief about the optical performance of the Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE: it is very good. The lens already delivers very high values at full aperture, both in the center and in the corners. Stopping down does product a measurable increase in sharpness, but it's so small that you hardly see it in practice.
What you do see is that the vignetting decreases if you stop down one stop. At full aperture, it's about 1.5 stops, and it drops to less than a stop at f/4 and smaller. The Samyang is not automatically corrected in the camera. If you like working in jpeg, you have to not mind a bit of vignetting. In RAW, vignetting of less than a stop can of course be perfectly corrected (automatically). The same applies for the distortion. The Samyang has some barrel-shaped distortion. It is not excessive, but if you only photograph in jpeg, it is not automatically corrected in the camera and the distortion remains visible.
That also applies to the trace of chromatic aberration that can sometimes be visible in the extreme corners. In Lightroom, for example, you can use the Samyang lens profile and get rid of distortion, vignetting, and aberrations all at once. Due to the relatively low brightness of f/2.8, the background blur is also limited at full aperture. The quality of the blur is quite pretty, with reasonably round bokeh balls when there are light sources in the background.
CoNclusiON: REVIEW Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE
Use the Lens Comparison or look in our list of reviewed lenses to compare this lens with other lenses.
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".