Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/1.4 Review (For Sony & Canon)
Honest, real-world review of the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE - a solid lens that offers fast, accurate autofocus and excellent value for money.
It’s been just over a year now since I first bought the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE lens to accompany my (then) new Sony A7 III body.
I knew I wanted something different to a standard zoom, but I couldn’t afford the price tag associated with the best e mount lenses – especially after dropping that much cash on a new Sony body.
I’d never heard of the Korean brand Samyang (or ‘Rokinon’ if you’re tuning in from over the pond) until I started searching for a fast prime lens.
A value-for-money lens that offers fast and accurate autofocusing and soft, smooth bokeh.
Samyang have been around for quite some time. They’re known for making manual focus lenses ranging from cinema lenses to affordable everyday portrait lenses.
It’s only been in the last few years that they’ve began creating a range of Auto Focus lenses for use on Sony, Canon and Nikon bodies.
After reading a number of reviews and watching a wide range of comparison videos, I felt confident enough to select the Samyang/Rokinon AF 35mm f/1.4 FE lens to be the first to accompany my Sony A7 III.
How did it fare? Is it worth the extra money over Rokinon 35mm f/1.8 (reviewed here)?
Let’s find out in the full review below.
Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE Specs
- Focus is quick and near-silent
- Consistently produces clear and sharp images
- Great focal range with great DOF at its brightest
- The weight does add up when combines with more gear
- f/1.4 lenses are never subtle in size
- Lack of weather sealing reduces confidence in mixed conditions
- Model name: AF 35mm f/1.4 FE
- Aperture range: f/1.4 ~ 16
- Lens optical construction: 11 Elements in 9 Groups
- Special lens: 2 ASP, 2 HR
- Coating: UMC
- Minimum focusing distance: 0.30m (11.81“)
- Maximum magnification ratio: x 0.17
- Filter size: Φ67mm
- Number of blade: 9
- Mount: Sony E
- Angle of view: 35mm (65.5˚)
- ASP-C: 45.2˚
- Maximum diameter: Φ75.9mm
- Length: 115mm (4.52″)
- Weight without lens cap and hood: 645g (1.42lbs)
Aptly branded “AF” to signify the new direction of Samyang producing Auto Focus lenses, the AF 35mm f/1.4 FE lens is leading the pack with their newly developed Auto Focus technology.
(N.B. Samyang is called Rokinon in some regions.)
Built specifically for Sony E-mount full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE lens adopted the world’s first dual LSM (Linear Sonic Motor) for quiet, fast and accurate autofocusing.
Build & Ergonomics
Featuring a large and oversized focus grip attached to a nicely weighted full metal body, the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE is stylish yet purposeful and simplistic in its design.
From the very first look at the lens, it’s hard to not notice its sleek satin black coating and sharp rigid lines. It has undoubtedly been designed to beautifully pair up with Sony’s lineup of full-frame mirrorless bodies.
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE feels weighted and solid with minimal little fussy moving parts on the exterior, and unlike other native lenses there are no switches to be found on the body.
This makes for simpler cleaning maintenance and gives you everything available within reach – ie, the one single oversized focus grip.
Its larger size allows for a solid, tight, and balanced grip to help with confidence when shooting, but it’s a size often associated with a convenient zoom range.
Generally speaking, it is on the larger size for a lens with a 35mm focal range and with the size does come a healthy amount of weight.
It’s substantially heavier than the smaller f/1.8 and f/2.8 35mm lenses out there (ie: 85g-150g / 0.18-0.33lbs), however, that comes with the territory with owning a lens with very bright aperture capabilities.
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE weighs in at 645g (1.42lbs) which is pretty much on par with both the Sony 35mm f/1.4 ZA (630g / 1.38lbs) and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART (665g / 1.46lbs) lenses. These are lenses that have been fed a huge amount of glass throughout their lives to grow those higher aperture capabilities.
If weight is a concern of yours then I must say this might not be the lens for you.
That said, if you’re willing to compromise for the sake of potentially stunning photos, be sure to at least give one of them a try from your local lens rental supplier! It may just sway you.
Despite the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 feeling like a sturdy and well-built lens, it does not come equipped with weather sealing properties.
So I recommend you try and avoid adverse weather or drunk people with a fresh beer in hand, as I don’t feel as though it’d fair too well in those rather unpredictable conditions.
Focus performance is often a main talking point when it comes to comparing third party lenses to native branded lenses. In the times that I can recall taking a blurry or unfocused photo, I tend to put it down to user error.
Dark and low contrast conditions are often a failure point that most lenses will inevitably encounter at some point in time.
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE has not given me strife in these conditions, but at times it has had its struggles.
Situations such as in darkly lit bars and restaurants or outdoors at night can pose problems, especially when there are lots of things going on such as moving people or just simply lack of light available. But I’m sure most lenses would eventually fall over at that point in time.
A benefit of having f/1.4 at your disposal is being able to brighten a scene much further than most other lenses, which can help in those dark conditions.
For example, walking the streets at night and trying to spot a caped crusader stalking bad guys in the shadows, or trying to capture a moment of your wife as the sun drops below the horizon.
In basically any other situation, the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE is faultless.
Focus performance is fast and accurate thanks to the continual development of Samyang’s dual LSM (Linear Sonic Motor), something they’ve been working on improving since their initial release a few years ago.
It’s a fast and very quiet motor that spins into action and locks focus rather quickly and accurately.
Samyang have released a few other Auto Focus lenses since the initial unveiling of the AF 35mm f/1.4 FE, and that is something I hope will continue well into the future.
I have been greatly impressed by the images produced by the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE throughout my time of owning it.
It served as my only lens for just under a year before I felt the need to add a daily zoom to my collection, and through all those moments and holidays I took it on, I never felt as though it was going to let me down in the image quality department.
The 35mm f/1.4 FE at its brightest aperture can be a little soft around the far corners and it does tend to produce a bit of vignetting as well.
However, once you start decreasing the aperture that starts to taper off and it levels out quite nicely very quickly.
There is a light level of chromatic aberration across certain bright areas which becomes less prominent once you adjust the settings to f/2 and lower, but even at those higher aperture settings it isn’t that obvious in real-world conditions.
I would like to add though, that in real-world situations, the edge softness and levels of CA have not been a problem for me – especially given that most lenses with brighter apertures tend to produce a certain degree of edge softness and chromatic aberration, all of which tend to decrease the lower the aperture.
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE is a sharp and clean product, creating wonderful images throughout most of which I have put it through over this last year.
From large company events to numerous types of travel and adventures, it has always held its own quite strongly and provided me with bright and beautifully styled images.
I do especially enjoy shooting with the Samyang 35mm set at its widest and brightest at any opportunity I can find.
Having the option of f/1.4 at 35mm helps elevate any ordinary photographic opportunity to a potentially extraordinary one.
When it comes to barrel distortion, it is not as bad as what wider lenses can be.
I’ve personally found it to not be particularly prevalent, but it does exist. If you find it noticeable and you wish to correct it, it’s nothing that a quick application of the lens profile setting in Lightroom or Luminar cannot correct for you.
I have noticed that in Adobe Lightroom the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE shows up as a Rokinon lens, which as I mentioned at the beginning of the article is the brand under which the lens is sold in many other Western countries.
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE generally produces bokeh that is soft and smooth.
With lots of light directed towards the lens, you’ll get the spotty and dotted bokeh that many love, and while shooting on an angle to the sun you’ll get a beautiful, bright soft level of lens flare sweeping through your photo.
I personally really like the level of flare produced by the Samyang 35mm, and the smoothness of the bokeh helps separate a subject from both the foreground and background really nicely.
Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 Sample Images
Check out these sample images taken with the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4.
Value for Money
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE is great value for money when compared to other 35mm f/1.4 lenses on the market, but it is quite expensive when compared to other 35mm lenses that only allow you to reach f/1.8 or f/2.8.
However, having said that, when compared to the three 35mm f/1.4 lenses on the market that are available for the full-frame Sony bodies, it’s the cheapest of the bunch being priced at around $800.
Depending on where you shop you’ll find the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART to be priced at around $1000, and the Sony Full Frame E-Mount SEL35F14Z (35mm f/1.4) priced upwards of $1600 or more.
Being a lower price does not necessarily correlate to being a lower quality product.
In fact, the performance difference between the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE and the higher-priced options can be rather negligible in a wide manner of ways.
There are a few direct comparison reviews available on the internet which will explain in far more detail than I am capable of, and in fact it was they who helped to convince me to purchase this lens.
Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE Review | Conclusion
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE has been a fantastic part of my newly developed Sony A7 III package, and will forever be part of my collection.
The level of performance that comes from a lens which is still only relatively new in a very competitive market is truly something to behold, especially considering how much less it costs compared to others available out there.
It may be heavy and large for a 35mm lens, but I am more than happy to carry it around with me whenever I travel, as it always helps me to produce photos in the style I wish to create.
A value-for-money lens that offers fast and accurate autofocusing and soft, smooth bokeh.