A fully-manual prime lens with a fast aperture at a bargain price
Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC Review
This 35mm f/1.4 attracts an immediate comparison with Zeiss lenses on account of being a manual-only prime lens. There is no support for autofocusing, though the host camera’s AF indicator can be used as an electronic rangefinder.
Despite its Zeiss-like look and feel, Samyang’s lens carries an un-Zeiss-like £350 price tag. Not surprisingly, Samyang makes much of offering the best combination of price and specifications. A wide focusing collar dominates the middle of the lens, sitting in front of old-fashioned fan-type depth-of-field markings.
Behind this is the brand-defining red metallic band and, on the Nikon-fit lens tested (there are also Canon, Pentax, Samsung NX, Four Thirds, and Sony Alpha fittings available), a manual aperture ring that must be set to f/22 for automatic exposure. Electronic data transfer is supported for the latest cameras and peep-hole support is provided, in the case of Nikon bodies, for film-based AI cameras.
The action of the focusing collar is absolutely perfect but the throw is longer than normal at around 120°. This is not a problem: in fact it gives the lens a uniquely precise feel. A petal-type lens hood is also supplied.
Technical testing was a little disappointing as the figures were rather weak at very wide apertures. Stopping-down improves things greatly but it’s a shame to reserve the widest apertures for bright viewing rather than also being able to exploit their very shallow depth-of-field characteristics while retaining maximum image quality.
In use, the lens handles very nicely indeed. Not everybody will want a fully manual lens but those who try this 35mm f/1.4 are likely to be impressed. Helpfully, a soft carrying pouch is included to help protect the lens while it is in transit.