Photography News Issue 36

Photography News | Issue 36 | absolutephoto.com

43 First tests

Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE £449

Specs

Over the last few years, Samyang has built a suite of exciting, keenly priced, fast aperture prime lenses and they’ve proven popular with photographers, especially those toting mirrorless bodies. These include the 21mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC CS, 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC Macro and 135mm f/2 ED UMC, all of which were nominated in last year’s PN Awards. Something has been missing though, and that’s autofocus. Until now, that is, as the AF 50mm f/1.4 FE being Samyang’s first autofocus offering. The lens is currently only available for Sony E mount (NEX) cameras, so will give a standard view on full-frame bodies like the A7S (which I tested it on) and an equivalent focal length of 75mm on the E mount bodies with APS-C sensors, like the Sony A6300; it’s therefore a decent portrait and low- light lens choice, thanks to its very fast maximum aperture of f/1.4. First let’s look at the big inclusion; the autofocus. Forme, AF is a welcome addition on this 50mm lens, because while with shorter focal lengths and their associated subjects I’m happy to use smaller apertures and focus manually, when shooting portraits or candid subjects I want to work faster. What’s more, longer lenses produce a shallower depth-of-field and with the f/1.4 setting here, you’ll only be working with a few millimetres of sharpness, so precision is vital. Yes, you can still do it manually and Sony’s E Mount cameras have features like focus peaking to make it easier, but any helping hand is appreciated. Performance wise, the AF is not going to break any records for speed, and like all lenses on contrast detect systems it jogs back and forth before finding focus. It’s fast enough for general photography, portraits and fine-art landscapes, where speed isn’t really an issue; and while it wouldn’t be ideal for fast-moving subjects, you’re unlikely to be shooting those with this lens. The focus is accurate and I had very few problems when working in low light or with low- contrast subjects. On the downside, it has a distinct mechanical whirr, but as before, that’s unlikely to worry the subjects it’s being aimed at. The closest focus distance of 45cm means

Format

35mm

Mount Sony E mount

you can get very tightly cropped portraits and there appeared to be little distortion visible on such shots even in the full-frame view. When it comes to build and handling, the AF 50mm f/1.4 FE doesn’t disappoint. It’s a large lens, weighs a not-inconsiderable 585g, and is physically wider and longer than you’d expect for a 50mm, but it felt pretty well balanced on the A7S. Its broad metal barrel is comfortably cradled in the hand although the body is very smooth and polished; therefore it looks classy but offers less purchase than a textured finish. The manual focus ring is the only moving part as all control is via the camera body. It has a free feel, bordering on light, and because it’s electronically coupled it has an infinite turn. The ring could have been placed a little further forward for comfort, but it’s broad, so not a big problem, and it proved accurate during manual focusing, should you wish to employ it. There’s no weather resistance claimed, but it has a very solid feel and its metal lens mount attaches securely to the camera with a tight, rattle- free fit. Its internal focusing design means no rotation or extension of the front element and it has a 67mm filter thread, coming with a lens hood and pouch included. In testing the lens’s image quality, it performedverywell. The construction promises Samyang’s Ultra Multi Coating and of the nine elements on board, three are aspherical lenses; this all adds up to pleasingly sharp and detailed images. Shooting throughout when working in low light or with low-contrast subjects The focus is accurate and I had very few problems

Construction 9 elements in 8 groups Special lens elements 3x aspherical Coatings Ultra Multi Coating Filter size 67mm Aperture range f/1.4-16 Diaphragm 9 blades Internal focus Yes Manual focus Yes Minimum focus 45cm Focus limiter No Maximummagnification x0.15 Distance scale No Depth-of-field scale No Image stabiliser No Tripod collar No Lens hood Yes Weather-sealed No Dimensions (wxhxd) 97.7x78mm Weight 585g Contact samyanglensglobal.com

Original image

F/1.4

F/2.8

F/2

F/5.6

F/4

Left To test the image quality of the Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 it was focused on a flat subject and shot throughout the aperture range. Results were very pleasing.

F/16

F/11

Verdict

The AF 50mm f/1.4 FE is a well- appointed, excellently made lens that performs very well, and it does all this at an affordable price. If you’re in the market for a fast 50mm lens it won’t disappoint and is an exciting step forward for Samyang; we’re looking forward to see what other AF glass (in addition to the new AF 14mm f/2.8 FE) is in the works and whether the functionality will spread to other mounts. Pros Price, build, image quality, AF integration Cons Sony mount only, noisy AF and debatable grip – not much else!

the aperture range, as one would expect results weren’t perfect wide open, but they certainly weren’t bad either. Some sharpness is sacrificed at f/1.4 where it’s quite soft in the corners, but there was little or no ghosting. Stopping down quickly improved matters and the lens gets into its stride from f/1.7, hitting its peak at the edges and centre at f/5.6. There was minor vignetting, but this was only really noticeable below f/2 and above f/11. Of course, if you’re shooting on a smaller sensor you can expect edge softness and vignetting to be cropped out. Defocused areas are impressively smooth and the

nine-bladed aperture design gives very round looking bokeh. Overall, it creates a lovely image. At £449, the AF 50mm f/1.4 FE is decent value for money though there are plenty of other options at around that focal length for the Emount. Sony itself has two 50mm f/1.8 lenses, in E and FE designations (APS-C and full- frame respectively), and these, though not as fast, are more affordable at £200 and £280. At the other end of the scale there’s the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Planar T at much saltier £1499. Samyang even offers a faster 50mm f/1.2 AS UMC at £310, but for £150 on top you get full AF. KS

Above The AF 50mm f/1.4 makes a compelling case as a portrait lens, but it’s also a great option for standard views when mounted on a full-frame sensor, and the AF makes shooting fast and accurate.

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