The Rokinon/Samyang AF 35mm F1.4 FE ($800) is a lens that delivers a lot of speed at budget price, and is significantly less expensive than Sony's similar lens, the Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA, which retails for $1499. At that budget price, the Rokinon comes with a few compromises – but not as many as you might think.

Side-by-side, the Rokinon and Sony lenses are almost exactly the same size, and of similar cosmetic design. Whether or not this is intentional, it makes the lens feel somewhat Sony-esque. It has a 67mm filter ring, compared to 72mm on the Sony, and is just slightly heavier (645g vs. 630g). Subjectively speaking, it feels very solid in your hand.

Optical performance exceeded my expectations for a lens at this price point. It's surprisingly sharp wide open, though stopping it down does sharpen things up. The lens does exhibit longitudinal chromatic aberration (magenta and green fringing in front of and behind the focus plane, respectively), but even when looking at 42MP images from the a7R III you might need to look pretty close to see it. However, it can be distracting around high contrast edges, such as the specular highlights in the lower left corner of this shot at the beach. Lateral chromatic aberration is generally well controlled.

Optical performance exceeded my expectations for a lens at this price point

The lens has some issues with bokeh as well. You can see examples of onion ring patterns in the out of focus Christmas lights at the Pike Place Market. However, this was more the exception than the rule across the photos I took. Interestingly, neither of these aberrations are as bad as what we saw with the Rokinon 50mm F1.4.

Autofocus is neither as quick nor as decisive as on the native Sony lens (which is very fast, thanks to Direct Drive SSM). If you're used to quick focusing lenses, the Rokinon can feel slow, though I didn't find it sluggish enough that I would consider it unusable, and most of the time it slides into focus without much trouble. It performs better in this respect than Rokinon's AF 50mm F1.4 lens, which hunts noticeably.

Although the Rokinon AF 35mm F1.4 FE isn't a particularly fast focusing lens, it does focus in low light, allowing you to shoot reliably in dim settings.
35mm | ISO 800 | F2.8 | 1/250 sec.
Photo by Dale Baskin

Autofocus works reasonably well in video, but the autofocus motor is audible during operation. The good news is that it makes a lot less noise than its 50mm F1.4 sibling, which can be heard several feet away. It's unlikely to be noticed by anyone other than the photographer except in very quiet settings, but it's certainly loud enough to be picked up by on-camera microphones if you're recording video. The lens also supports Sony's Eye AF, and it generally worked reliably for me.

For the price, it delivers a lot of bang for your buck and could be a viable alternative if you're on a budget

If you're looking for a fast 35mm F1.4 lens to use with an E-mount camera, the Rokinon is definitely worth considering. Optical performance is good (in some cases, as good as the Sony), though it's still not in the same league as the Canon 35mm F1.4L II USM, which can be used on E-mount with an adapter. For the price, however, it delivers a lot of bang for your buck and could be a viable alternative if you're on a budget.