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Samyang 85mm f/1.4 - DOF & Old School Fool

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Danny Grizzle
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 - DOF & Old School Fool
on Aug 31, 2011 at 8:45:18 pm

Yes, I would love to own a Canon 85mm f/1.2L ($2,200). Or a Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 (manual @ $1,300).

But I was tempted to try a Rokinon (aka Bower) 85mm f/1.4 ($275), a lens made by Samyang.

Samyang is a Korean contract optical manufacturer who has, in the past, made lenses for just about every third-party brand on the market, like Vivitar.

Recently, Samyang has been pursuing another strategy: making optically and mechanically excellent superspeed lenses at phenomenal low prices.

The lenses that have caught my eye are the 85mm f/1.4 ($275), a 35mm f/1.4 ($500), and a just announced 24mm f/1.4 (price TBA).

These lenses use exotic technologies like UD glass and aspherical elements, and every test I have read compares them very favorably with the far more expensive lenses.

They are manual focus, which is perfect for video. Their apertures are controlled by conventional f/stop rings -- there is no mechanical or electronic coupling, and no EXIF data interface, with the camera.

My 85mm Rokinon arrived Monday of this week from Amazon.com. I shot my first job (still portraits) with it yesterday on my 5D Mk II.

Verdict? I like the lens, and it fills a void in my system. Anymore, nothing in my bag is faster than f/2.8. Back in the day (1970's) f/2.8 was slow in my range of Canon FD manual focus optics.

But...

The lens kicked my backside. I was shooting at f/2 aperture priority, and I didn't hit critical focus on half the pictures. Lucky I overshot like crazy.

On a head and shoulder portrait @ f/2, there is not 2 inches in depth of field.

I was hand holding, too, making this worst case scenario because Live View is pointless in this circumstance. Using this lens made me work like I used to the 1970's, and my skills are way rusty.

This is a gorgeous optic for video work, but not handheld, at least not at large apertures. Because it will kill you on focus.

For handheld still work, requiring use of the optical viewfinder, I'd say it is critical to switch focusing screens to something designed for manual focus. I've got some for my 5D, ordered along with the camera. Once I starting using Live View, however, I never looked back. Now I have to locate those focusing screens. You can bet I will find them and do some testing before attempting to work old school manual focus style again.

For video work in controlled situations, this is an amazing lens and yields astounding narrow depth of field. Beautiful, and a bargain at $275 if it fits your shooting style.


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Jason Jenkins
Re: Samyang 85mm f/1.4 - DOF & Old School Fool
on Aug 31, 2011 at 8:54:24 pm

Interesting stuff, Danny. What kind of lens mounts do these Samyangs come with? I just ordered an Olympus - M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 Lens to cover the wide end on my Panasonic GH2. Not fast, obviously, but wide. Should get it today!

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!


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Danny Grizzle
Re: Samyang 85mm f/1.4 - DOF & Old School Fool
on Aug 31, 2011 at 9:23:42 pm

They come in Nikon, Canon, Sony/Minolta, Pentax, maybe others. These are fixed mounts, not adapters. I believe the focus direction is correct for each brand. And I think there is a Nikon variant, at extra cost, which includes a chip for EXIF and aperture data.

http://www.rokinon.com

I found Rokinon at Amazon.com, and Bower at B&H.


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Danny Grizzle
Re: Samyang 85mm f/1.4 - DOF & Old School Fool
on Aug 31, 2011 at 10:14:07 pm

Samples from the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 @ f/2.0:

<img src="http://www.slh.net/85mm/IMG_1461a.jpg" width="600" height="900" border="0" />


<img src="http://www.slh.net/85mm/IMG_1461b.jpg" width="600" height="600" border="0" />

The plane of focus is somewhere near the tip of his left index finger. The near side of wedding ring looks sharper than the far side!


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Danny Grizzle
Re: Samyang 85mm f/1.4 - DOF & Old School Fool
on Aug 31, 2011 at 10:43:50 pm

Playing with bokeh. Not a fair evaluation of iris symmetry, because in this photo made in a commercial showroom, the overhead quartz track lighting was at random angles. Direct visual check of iris looking through lens, everything looked good at large f/stops, the main region of interest. At smaller apertures, individual blades of diaphragm have a slight variance from perfect closing uniformity.

<img src="http://www.slh.net/85mm/IMG_1595.jpg" width="600" height="900" border="0" />


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Steve Crow
Re: Samyang 85mm f/1.4 - DOF & Old School Fool
on Sep 1, 2011 at 4:50:13 am

These are beautiful frame grabs....I use a Zacutto Z-Finder 3x to make it much easier to focus in live view, I wasn't clear if you had something similar on your rig or not.

Maybe give yourself a break and try 2.0 or 2.8 f-stop instead...yeah 2 inches are great for statues but for living subjects....yikes!!!

Still I love the Bokeh porn :-)


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Chip Thome
Re: Samyang 85mm f/1.4 - DOF & Old School Fool
on Sep 3, 2011 at 7:00:17 am

Not quite the same situation at all. This is the Rokinon 85mm at f2.8 because f1.4 was blown out. Time was 2:45 AM and shot into a black, overcast, dead of night sky. Dome was located a block and a half away. Very minor adjustment to clip, just enough to bring flagpole a couple of degrees over to center. Shot with a Panasonic GH1.

http://www.vimeo.com/24335663


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