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Summary

Highly Recommended awardThe Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE is a mild wide-angle prime lens for Sony’s Alpha mirrorless cameras, offering a bright aperture and autofocus at an affordable price below Sony’s existing trio of 35mm lenses. In my tests, the Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE left me with mixed feelings. There's no denying it gives you a lot of bang for the buck: good to very good resolution with little longitudinal CAs or color fringing in a package that is neither too large, heavy nor expensive for its bright f1.4 focal ratio. The Bokeh may not be the smoothest but still has the characteristic of f1.4 lenses, which simply produce bigger Bokeh balls and shallower depth-of-field than lenses with smaller focal ratios. My biggest frustration with my test sample regarded focusing: the autofocus was less reliable than the other lenses I compared it against and the manual focus proved erratic. Again this may have been an issue with my particular sample (and if I get a chance to retest another I'll update my review), but if you do go for it, make sure the focus-performance of your copy is up to scratch because you're probably not going to be happy with it if it has the same problems as mine did. But provided the lens focuses correctly I can still recommend it. The optical performance combined with a relatively light weight and low price makes it an attractive option for those seeking an affordable large aperture wide-angle prime.

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Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE review
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Intro

The Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE is a mild wide-angle prime lens for Sony’s Alpha mirrorless cameras. Announced in 2017, it offers autofocus and at 540 EUR / 528 USD it is priced below the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA, FE 35mm f1.8 or even the FE 35mm f2.8 ZA.

To find out how the Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE performs I tested it on the 42MP Sony A7R II camera. I’ll compare the Samyang against the Sony FE 35mm f1.8, Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA, Sigma 35mm f1.2 DG DN Art, and Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art.

 

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Facts from the catalog

As usual I’ll have a look at the technical data of the Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE first. I’ve rated the features with a [+] (or [++]), when it’s better than average or even state of the art, a [0] if it’s standard or just average, and [-] if there’s a disadvantage. For comparison I use the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA, Sony FE 35mm f1.8 (“Sony f1.4” resp. “Sony f1.8” for short) plus the Sigma 35mm f1.2 DG DN Art (“Sigma”).

Size (diameter x length): At 76 x 115mm (3.0 x 4.5in.) plus 46mm for the lens hood (91mm diameter) the Samyang is similar in size to the Sony f1.4 (79 x 112mm + 37mm lens hood). The Sony f1.8 is only 66 x 73mm + 25mm while the Sigma is the biggest lens in this comparison at 88 x 137mm + 50mm. [0]

Weight: At 650g (22.9 oz.) plus 34g lens hood the Samyang’s weight is comparable to the Sony f1.4 (630g + 30g). The Sony f1.8 is only 280g (9.9 oz.) + 16g lens hood while the Sigma is the heaviest lens here at 1081g (38.1 oz.) plus 57g lens hood. But then it has a 0.5 stop larger focal ratio. [0]

Optics: The Sigma has 11 elements in 9 groups (same as the Sony f1.8) including two aspherical and two special dispersion elements. The Sony f1.4 has 12 elements in 8 groups. The Sigma has the most complex design with 17 elements in 12 groups. [+]

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Closest focus distance is 0.29m (11.4in.) in manual focus resulting in a magnification of 1:5.3 (same as the Sony f1.4). Due to the long lens the working distance is only 16cm (6.3in.) even when the lens hood is removed. A magnification of 1:10 is achieved at 0.44m distance. The Sony f1.8 goes down to 1:3.9, the Sigma offers 1:4.5. [0]

Filter-thread: 67mm. The Sony f1.8 needs 55mm filters, the Sony f1.4 72mm, Sigma 82mm. [+]

Image stabilization: No optical stabilization of the lens. The Sony A7 Mark II bodies onward provide built-in sensor-shift stabilization. Same with the other lenses in this comparison. [0]

Auto focus: Built-in AF drive. Manual-focus override is by simply turning the focus ring. The Samyang and the Sony f1.4 have non-linear gearing which depends on the speed you turn the focus ring. The Samyang does not have an AF/MF switch which all other lenses in this comparison offer. The Sony f1.8 and Sigma have linear gearing and a focus hold button which can be assigned other tasks in the camera menu. As is usual with autofocus lenses for mirrorless systems all lenses in this comparison have no distance or dof markings. [+]

Covers full frame or smaller. Same with the competition. [+]

 

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Price: The Samyang is the least expensive at 530 EUR/USD (EUR prices incl. 19% VAT). The Sony f1.8 sells for 700 EUR / 750 USD while the Sigma and the Sony f1.4 are the most expensive lenses in this comparison at 1500 EUR/USD. [+]

The Samyang comes with a soft pouch, the lens hood is included and reversible for transport (like the Sony f1.4). The Sony f1.8 comes without pouch while the Sigma has a nice padded lens case plus strap and the lens hood comes with a lock to prevent it from accidentally falling off. [+]

Aperture ring: No, like the Sony f1.8. The Sony f1.4 and the Sigma offer an aperture ring with 1/3 stop clicks which can be turned off for continuous, smooth, and noise-free operation. [0]

Sealing: The Samyang is not specially sealed while the Sigma and the Sony lenses have thorough weather-sealing throughout the construction and on the lens mount. [0]

The score of 0[-]/6[0]/6[+] shows that the Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE has an average feature set with the only thing missing in this comparison being the weather sealing. But then it has the lowest price.

 

Three wide-angle prime lenses

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Above from left to right: Sony FE 35mm f1.8, Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE, Sigma 35mm f1.2 DG DN Art

 

Alternatives

If you want a 35mm large aperture lens for your full-frame Sony mirrorless camera the Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE is not the only game in town:

  • Sony has the FE 35mm f1.4 ZA from 2015 for 1500 EUR/USD and the FE 35mm f1.8 from 2013 for 700 EUR / 750 USD. See my Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA review which earned a Recommended and my Sony FE 35mm f1.8 review which came Highly Recommended.
  • Sigma offers the 35mm f1.4 Art, an older DSLR design from 2012 which can be had for 730 EUR / 700 USD. It’s 77 x 120mm in size, weighs 755g, and is available in E-mount since 2018.
  • Sigma also has the new 35mm f1.2 DG DN Art specifically designed for modern mirrorless bodies costing 1500 EUR/USD. It’s huge (88 x 137mm / 3.5 x 5.4in.) and heavy (1081g / 38.1 oz.) but it offers 1/2 stop more light gathering power and its optical qualities earned it a Highly Recommended in my Sigma 35mm f1.2 Art review.

If you can do without autofocus there are some other options including three Samyang lenses (two geared for videographers), one Voigtländer, and a Zeiss Loxia:

  • The Voigtländer Nokton 35mm 1.4 Classic E from 2017 is very small (67 x 40mm) and only 262g albeit its f1.4 focal ratio. Prices are around 700 EUR/USD. The aperture has to be controlled manually from the aperture ring of the lens. Full EXIF-data are transmitted, focus magnification and lens correction is enabled.
  • Zeiss offers the Loxia 35mm f2.0 for E-mount from 2014 for 850 EUR / 1170 USD.

 

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Focus

Focus accuracy and repeatability is critical to consistently produce sharp shots especially with large aperture lenses. Repeatability (the accuracy of focus on the same subject after repeated focus-acquisition) of this lens is the poorest I’ve seen so far since testing FE-mount lenses. It measured only 92.8% in Reikan FoCal with acceptable repeatability over 20 shots when focusing from further away but with 6 outliers out of 20 shots when the lens focuses from a closer distance. I also noticed a pretty erratic behaviour of focus-by-wire when trying to manually focus the lens. These might be problems of my individual copy but I strongly advise you to test your copy for these glitches before you buy.

The lens focuses in around 0.7 sec on a Sony A7R II from infinity to 0.44m (1:10 magnification), same as the Sony f1.8. This is slower than the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA at 0.5 sec. The Sigma takes a little longer at 0.8 sec. The plastic focus ring is 40mm wide and can easily be operated with one finger like all the other lenses in this comparison expect for the Sigma.

AF-operation of the Samyang produces a low ticking noise while the Sigma Art and the Sony lenses are inaudible from the outside or if you record video with the built-in microphone. As you pull focus, you’ll notice some focus breathing: the image of the Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE becomes 1% less magnified when I adjusted the focus from infinity to 0.44m (just like the Sony f1.8). This is barely visible when shooting videos. The Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA increases magnification by +6%, the Sigma by +3%.

 

Next check out my quality results!

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