Review Samyang FE AF 50mm f/1.4 FE @ APS-C
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE is a new bright lens for Sony cameras with E and FE mount. On full frame, it's a standard lens, but on APS-C, you can use it quite well as a short telephoto for portraits with a great bokeh. It is direct competition for the Sony 50mm f/1.4 GM, but the Samyang has a much more favorable price tag.
BRIGHT: Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE is a bright lens with FE mount. On the APS-C models of Sony like the A6000, A6300 and A6500, it can be used as a short telephoto for portraits with a beautiful bokeh or for available-light photography in low light. It is obviously a modern 50mm. Those are all big today. Where an average 50mm formerly had a filter size of 49 or 52 and was not more than around four centimeters long - or sometimes much less - the 67mm filter size for this Samyang is not even unusual today. That has everything to do with the demands that photographers and modern sensors place on lenses today. The f/1.4 aperture used to be primarily important for accurate focusing on the not-so-clear ground glass. Photographers accepted that photos at f/1.4 were not as sharp and rich in contrast as at f/5.6. But modern APS-C sensors make much higher demands on lenses than small-screen movies, and photographers really want the biggest lens apertures to be sharp and rich in contrast for sharp images with little focal depth. Manufacturers meet those requirements, but that does have consequences for the dimensions.
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 Samyang is therefore a hefty lens. It is nearly 10cm long, and the diameter is 7.3cm. Inside the lens, there are 9 lens elements, three of which are aspherical. Those lens elements are big, and clearly let in a lot of light. This is not a compact little telephoto lens to have on the side; this is a serious lens for the photographer who does a lot of photographing in low light or who is looking for the most beautiful bokeh. The lens feels solid and is beautifully finished. It is not fitted with extra seals against moisture and dirt. We've written before about the combination of red ring around the lens and the orange ring around the camera mount. That does not really look great. The question is who you should blame, Samyang or Sony. The appearance of the Samyang AF 50mm f / 1.4 FE is otherwise quite nice. The focus ring is nice and wide and has fine ribbing. It's just a pity that the focus motor does not feel very precise when focusing manually. That's not a problem when you use the autofocus and let the camera do the focusing. Then everything works quickly and accurately. But in manual focus, you miss the precision of direct drive, although working with it is better than expected. The lens does not have image stabilization. The biggest aperture of f/1.4 naturally ensures that your shutter times remain relatively short. And the Sony A6500 features built-in image stabilization, so that you can also work on that camera with a bit longer times without any problems..
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE delivers great optical performance. The sharpness is already reasonably high at full aperture. On APS-C, you use the center of the image circle of the lens. The gradient of sharpness running out to the edges and corners is less on APS-C than on full frame. The difference in sharpness between the center of the image and the corners is thus smaller. What is equally important is that the contrast is high at full aperture. This ensures that the lens can be used well at full aperture. Stopping down will gradually increase the sharpness up to f/8, where the center, the edges and the corners all reach excellent values, and the images are sharp from corner to corner. With a bright lens like this, you expect some vignetting, and we could also see that on full frame. At APS-C, however, the values are so low that it is hardly worth mentioning. It's less than a half-stop in jpeg at full aperture and even lower if you stop down. The same applies for the distortion. That is virtually absent on APS-C. And if you want a completely clean file, then you probably work in RAW anyway. And with the lens profile in Adobe Lightroom, for example, you can easily remove the last traces of lens errors.
Most portrait photographers choose a short telephoto lens on full frame, like an 85mm. The main reason for this is that a short telephoto like that compresses the perspective a bit, so that protruding parts of the face (nose, chin, ears) become less noticeable. Another reason is the nicer bokeh that you typically get with a longer lens. The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE works on APS-C like a 75mm. That makes it ideal as a portrait lens. Striking about the Samyang is that at full aperture, the bokeh is very nice. The bokeh balls remain beautifully round out to the edges of the image on APS-C with the Samyang, probably due to the relatively large lens elements. With most bright lenses, bokeh balls at the edges of the image take on the shape of cat's eyes. A tiny criticism with the Samyang is that the bokeh balls are not quite entirely round. In our test shots, they still show some of the shape of the aperture. In our test setup, the lights are a meter behind the model. If your light points are further away from your subject, of course, they will become more blurred and a bit rounder. The bokeh in practice shots with the Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE are simply among the best we've ever seen in a review.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Samyang FE AF 50mm f/1.4 FE @ APS-C
Use the Lens Comparison or look in our list of reviewed lenses oto 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".