Samyang AF 45mm F1.8 FE Hands-on Review

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IstvanNagy New Member • Posts: 5
Samyang AF 45mm F1.8 FE Hands-on Review
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Introduction

I like the small compact form of my A7R2 and I was looking for a small / lightweight prime lens in the 40-45mm range with maximum aperture around f/1.8-f/2.0 and with autofocus capability. Unfortunately, there are not many lenses with these parameters available for the Sony FE mount. The announcement of the Samyang AF 45mm F/1.8 lens got attention and I decided to ordered one to see what this lens is capable of. I received the lens approximately one week ago and I share my experience in this short “hands-on” review. I also provided a few sample photos with the lens; however, be aware that all the samples that I am sharing here went through some post-processing.

Lens Build and Handling

The lens is small and lightweight (162g). In terms of size, as the pictures show below, it sits between the Sony FE 55/1.8 (281g) and t Sony FE 35/2.8 (120g) lenses. The exterior is made of plastic with a metal mount. As compared to the Sony/Zeiss lenses the build quality feels less solid; however, it still feels ok (definitely better than some of my old Canon lenses) and it looks good on the camera. Mounting the lens requires similar force to what I experience with the two other two Sony lenses and the lens sits firmly on the A7R2 body.

Size comparsion without lens hood: (from left to right) Sony FE 55mm f/1.8, Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE and Sony FE 35mm f/2.8

Regarding the build of the lens, I notice only one minor problem: I wish that the plastic of the lens hood would be harder. I feel that the lens hood often deforms in my hand while I am unscrewing /unmounting the lens and I am holding the lens together with the lens hood strong.

Size comparsion with lens hood: (from left to right) Sony FE 55mm f/1.8, Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE and Sony FE 35mm f/2.8

The filter size is 49mm – this can be handy if you already own one of the above lenses since filters for those lenses can be directly used on this lens too. The lens comes with a small carrier case that is lightweight and provides good protection for the lens (in case it is packed somewhere else than your normal camera bag).

Focus / Performance

Focus speed of the lens attached to the Sony A7R2 is relatively fast and very comparable with Sony FE 55mm lens. The focus locks on the target well and consistently in low-light conditions -- I have not noticed any strange behavior. Eye AF with AF-C works well / as expected too. Focusing is nearly silent -- it is a tad noisier than the Sony FE 55; however, it is nothing to worry about when shooting event pictures (or shooting on the street) -- the “silent shooting experience” will likely be not ruined by the lens in most circumstances.

Sometimes, when stopping the lens down to F9 and using a M-size spot in AF-S mode, AF could not lock on the target that I selected (while the target zone had sufficiently contrast rich line or pattern). I haven't noticed this problem with my other lenses. A relatively easy workaround for this problem was to find another focus target or switch to Wide focus mode (at F9, I expect everything on the photo to be sharp anyhow). The lens focused accurately under all the above circumstances (low / high aperture, low light, eye AF....)

The manual focus ring is covered by fine ribbing. It is a focus by wire mechanism, which means that turning the ring sends electronic signals to the focusing mechanism (hence, the ring is not coupled physically to the focusing mechanism). The resistance of the manual focus ring feels good (it does not feel too loose for sure) and what's most important, the scale of the focus by wire mechanism is adequate as well. This means that you will not need to turn the ring a lot to move from close focus to infinity and it has also enough sensitivity to fine tune the focus for subjects in (very) close distance.

Samyang AF 45mm F/1.8 @ f1.8 1/3200 -- Manual Focus @ 0.45m

Image Quality

Please consider my writings on the IQ as personal thoughts and observations only. For a thorough review on the image quality of the lens, I strongly recommend checking websites that do proper measurements (resolution, CA, vignette, and distortion).

Samyang AF 45mm F/1.8 @ f8.0, 1/60

Image from the lens looks very-very sharp - center sharpness from f1.8 is already very good and results in usable photos (e.g. portraits) for sure. Stopping down the lens to f2.2 gives some extra sharpness in the eyes and can make both eyes appearing sharp with a slightly bigger DoF without sacrificing too much on the quality of bokeh. From f2.8 up to f11 the lens gives excellent sharpness across the frame with a peak around f8. Corner darkening at f1.8 is like what you'd expect on similar lenses and it is corrected default by the built-in profile. To be honest, when I am shooting portrait, I often end up dialing back slightly the corner darkening to give more attention / focus on the subject. However, as I said above, this (and the slight CA at low apertures) can be adjusted/corrected later in post-processing.

Samyang AF 45mm F/1.8 @ f8.0, 1/60

Samyang AF 45mm F/1.8 @ f8.0, 1/60

When I buy an f/1.8 (or less than f/1.8) lens, I consider bokeh as one of the most important quality of the lens. So, I was naturally curious to see what the bokeh of this lens looked like. The good news is a that the bokeh is decent / smooth enough for an f/1.8 lens both for the minimum (0.45m) and the “close” (<1.5m) focusing distances. The front bokeh (i.e. the “blurry area in front of the DoF) is especially smooth while the rear bokeh can be slightly swirly when you have many small dark/light patches in the background. This swirliness is not very noticeable and not as pronounced as, for example, on the Batis 85mm lens. Under most circumstances the bokeh of the lens is decently smooth without hard edges, so in case you are looking for a lens with that swirly bokeh I recommend opting for other lenses.

Samyang AF 45mm F/1.8 @ f1.8, 1/500

Final (Very Subjective) Thoughts

So far, after a week of use, I like the lens. I appreciate that it is a small, lightweight lens that does not feel uncomfortable / heavy to carry around. I think keeping the lens lightweight and providing a “good enough” build quality by Samyang was a good trade off. The lens has enough resolution for making large prints and looking at the test and MTF charts, it will be likely future proof with upcoming higher resolution A7/A9 bodies. The quality of bokeh is decent for portrait photography – the 45mm focal length / ~52mm angle of view on a full frame body makes the lens ideal for environmental portraits. 45mm is still an interesting focal length for landscapes as well although switching to 35mm is sometimes unavoidable to capture enough context. In the samples below you will see a situation when I favored the 35mm over the 45mm; however, I must admit that this was the only situation during the two hours walk when I took these pictures.

Samyang AF 45mm F/1.8 @ f11.0, 1/60

Sony FE 35mm F/2.8 @ f11.0 1/60

I expect that street photographers will like the lens since a lens with this size does not draw too much attention and the 45mm is ideal to balance between subject and environment while f/1.8 gives enough room for subject isolation if needed.

There are two things that I wish Samyang would improve / have done differently: the lens hood and the docking station for firmware updates. As I mentioned above, the lens hood does not feel hard / strong enough when mounting / unmount the lens. Any time, when I want to remove the lens and I grab it together with the lens hood accidentally I get always worried that I am going to break it (even if the lens hood is strong enough in theory). I usually end up repositioning my fingers to hold only the body of the lens. I guess (or hope…:-) that this will become a routine after a while… Finally, having a dedicated docking station for firmware updates and paying 60 EUR for that station seems to be very strange (and waster of resources) when Sony and Zeiss can just update the lens firmware via the camera body. I hope Samyang will provide firmware updates via camera bodies in the future too.

Samyang AF 45mm F/1.8 @ f11.0, 1/60

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