Product Review: Samyang 85mm F1.4 Nikon Mount AE Version

All product shots taken with Fujifilm x100.

Samyang? Yup that’s a Korean branded lens on my Nikon D200 crop sensor DSLR.  The Koreans are certainly not the first people we think of when it comes to lens, never mind about high quality lens.  I think the Koreans are having a tough time convincing the rest of the world what they can do even after Samsung, LG, Kia and Hyundai has done well in their respective markets especially Samsung with their high profile case against iPhone because of Android. That is of course another story altogether.

Samyang Optics is said to be established in 1972 with security CCTV system at the start of their business followed by DSLR lens.  They then merge with Seikou (not to be  confused with Seiko) of Japan to produce CCTV optical products in 2004.  Their first DSLR lens produced in 2008 was the 85mm F1.4 with manual focus and then came the other lens in their stable

  • 2008 – 85mm F1.4
  • 2009 – 8mm F3.5
  • 2010 – 14mm F2.8
  • 2011 – 35mm F1.5 and 7.5mm F3.5
  • 2012 – 8mm F2.8 and 24mm F1.4

The lens that I am testing has the following specifications:

Specification AE f=85mm / F1.4
Aperture Rang F1.4 ~ 22
Optical Construction 9Element in 7Groups(1 Aspherical Lens)
Angle of View 28.3˚ (18.8 ˚ at APS-C)
Minimum Focusing Distance 1.0mm(3.3ft)
Filter Size M72 X P0.75
Length 72.2mm
Maximum Diameter Φ78.0mm
Weight 520g
Mount Nikon
Functional A / S / M / P Mode

F1.4-F22. A nice wide range of Apertures to use. Notice the contact points? That would be for the focus confirmation feature as well as the Auto Exposure enabler.  That means I can use all the exposure modes in the camera instead of only using Manual Mode.

Oh. What big eyes you have!

The specifications are the same as the other mounts except for one small difference. The presence of the AE or Auto Exposure reading. What this does is that the lens is now able to feedback to the camera the aperture readings to the camera in order for the camera to set the shutter speed based on the ISO and Metering mode being used at the point of shooting.

In short, with the AE + Focus confirmation chip the camera can still function as per normal with the Aperture Priority Mode (Av mode), Shutter Priority Mode (Tv mode) and of course the Program Mode. What a user need to do is to do their own manual focusing.

The Samyang is a manual focusing lens, those who has old Rangefinder cameras will find it a tad easier to master than those who has been fed AF goodies when they first started off photography.

A bit of history: When photography started, there is a focusing prism or what we called the split focusing circle that is used to help with focusing in the view finder. At a particular point of focus, the split image of the subject will become whole once the subject is in focus. Fast forward to modern cameras, camera companies have totally eradicated the focusing prism and instead rely on Green dots or Red squares to denote focus being achieved.

So for manual focusing lens on a digital body, using visual confirmation is used (that means the eye will have to determine if the picture is sharp) and for those who has used the old FX lens on the new FX bodies will understand the frustration of not able to see if the lens is pin-sharp.

So to help things along, Samyang introduces the focusing confirmation mechanism along with the Auto Exposure chip/contact points.

For the newer Nikons body the lens will enable the camera to tell the user which way to turn the lens to get the correct focus. And once the focus is correct, the green dot at the bottom left corner of the viewfinder will light up. Do note that one must choose the focusing point that one is using to compose to arrive at the correct focus distance. This is important as the narrow focus field as allowed by the F1.4 aperture setting will throw subjects or part of the face off focus pretty quickly.

So how did it perform? For those who are used to manual focusing it is not a huge problem. Add to the fact that it has confirmation chip does make things easier than the non-chip equivalents.  My shots in Comedy Masala in a very dark performing stage attest to its usefulness.

The lens focusing ring is a bit tight perhaps due to the fact that it is pretty new. I would expect it to ease off as one uses more of it.

I chose the 85mm lens primarily for the fact that at 85mm for Full Frame or 127mm for Crop sensor, it would be the ideal lens for studio shooting, portraiture and even some close ups of stage performers.

At 530g, it is a serious piece of glass and the image quality witness to this fact.  Generally for the price I am paying, the Samyang is the extreme example of a lens giving good value for money by being cheap and yet did not skimp on the Image Quality.

Although Image Quality is a highly subjective matter for photography, I can safely say for sure that the lens is performing way above the price range it is commanding.  I have even heard of someone who has a Leica lens and commented that it is very close to the Leica quality at much less than 1/4 of what the Leica is commanding!

The colour of the Samyang is again another subjective matter to tackle. I personally think it promotes a bit of a yellow/red hue in bright sunlight. It may be due to the camera body in question with its AWB and/or Vivid settings in the camera. Otherwise I feel that the skin tone is close to excellent even after all these years of using Nikon and Sigma lens.

So for the Samyang to give a better skin tone means that the lens is doing something good for the old camera.  It may also mean that my Nikkor and Sigma is a bit redder than necessary too.

I will leave the pictures do the talking.

F1.4 Bokeh Effect test. The background is totally thrown off the grid. What’s heartening to see is the pretty good depth of field even at 2.5m away from the fan.

Still coming to grips with the exposure settings when used with this lens. Not bad actually.

Standing about 1m (the minimum focusing distance of the lens). Chromatic Aberrations are well controlled. Distortions are acceptable (85mm anyways!) See how the background was thrown off.

The very reason why we use a very low aperture F1.4. I did not move away from the spot when I shot the previous picture. And here it is, the grille/fence is completely Bokeh out to the point you can shoot the subject (the foreman) with relative ease and no distractions and obstructions. Notice how the foreman has popped out even more because the area immediately before and behind him has started to bokeh out too and that creates the illusion of sharpness as well.

Another F1.4 test this time with subjects in different lighting conditions. The above is illuminated with bright sunshine and the bottom is sunlight lit but is in the shadows. Focusing wise it was good as I can see the cloth weaving pretty easily for both pictures.

Took some time getting used to the tightness of the focusing ring. For the top picture I basically do a prefocus on the pavement where the lady would walk by and then I quickly take a shot as she pass by the point of focus.

Looking non too pleased but I got her eyes as sharp as I can thanks to the focusing confirmation feature. Shot in the shade and skin tones wise is very good.

I actually wanted to throw myself into the deep end of the pool by trying to do some picture taking at night with the lens. So off I go to the Gardens by the Bay Flower Dome for some cactus flower shooting. This exercise is even more tedious because one do not have ample light to confirm one’s focusing accuracy. So what I have done is to do a visual focusing first and then use the focusing confirmation as a backup. Yes there are some hits and miss as do the phase detection focusing would do to albeit at a lower frequency of error. But I am glad the mechanism was in place if not I would have die of frustration by then.

That little flower amongst the stones. My eyes would kill me trying to focus something this small!

Portrait of a Flower

Translucent Quartz. 

Drooping Flower

The Leaves Veins. Subtle beauty of Nature.

Tried to get the flower petals as defined as possible. Took me some time but it can be done. Do note this is done under the most extreme of lighting conditions (and yes my eyes hurts).

This is what the 85mm F1.4 is designed to do: Portraiture. Pops out Bokehlicious. The red? Yes the whole Flower Dome is bathed with red.

The 85mm will be very tight for the crop sensor but that would mean another perspective of things when the local focal length will create a dramatic look up close as compared to ultra wide angle where it is spread out and then brought in again through distortion. 

Flares or the lack thereof except for the green dot at the bottom. Not bad for a S$540 F1.4 lens.

I will be shooting more with this lens especially for stage performances during Comedy Masala (tonight at Home Club 9pm). If you are interested to get this lens, I do have a special arrangement with the local (Singapore) distributor.

Please click on to:


  1. […] In the end, to buy a camera or a system is to always judge the default output from the camera first and how one holds and use the camera is a close second. Lens (and good ones at that) should be third.  Once a person is into a system, it will always be lens first and the body second.  Yes I know this sounds kind of weird at first but you will understand it in the end. That said, even the most expensive lens out there doesn’t mean it will be good and vice versa, I have done a review on a relatively cheap Samyang Lens on the Nikon D200 and it breathe new life into the old camera ( […]


  2. I needed a fast lens to shoot indoor high school sports, no flash. Read your review plus some others and decided to take a chance. I’ve shot film since 1968 with my Nikon F so I totally understood the manual focus scenario. To be on the safe side I went “old school” , pre-focused and waited tor the action to come to me. Took hundreds of shots per event. When I “got it right”, the pics were some of sharpest I have taken at these events. The 85 mm on my Nikon D7000 gave me a good reach of ~ 132 mm and shooting between f/1.4 and f/2.0 I was able to freeze the action and seperate the athlete subject from the background. This lens can be very challenging to use for indoor gymnasium sports but I have gotten better results with this lens than with a prime 60mm f/2.0 with auto focus.


    • Yes. it takes some practice and when it is done right, it is a fantastic method to get beautiful shots though F1.4 will be a bit challenging. F2.8 should be just right Thanks for appreciating my article.


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