Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE lens mounted on the Sony a6500
Samyang AF 50mm F1.4 FE Lens – Review
I recently purchased the Sony a6500 for it’s size, speed and all round great performance. I’ve been watching the Sony cameras for a while and really wanted to jump in and get one of their latest. All the images here are shot with this camera, an aps-c sensor so keep that in mind as this lens will behave differently on a full frame body such as an a7 body.
I was absolutely stoked when Samyang Optics Australia sent me a couple of lenses to review with the new camera, the lenses were their two Auto focus lenses designed specifically for the Sony system, the AF 14mm f2.8 FE (review coming its a killer lens) and the AF 50mm f1.4 FE that this review is all about, I’ve been shooting with these two lenses for over a month now.
The following is from the Samyang Global website,
Samyang AF 50/1.4 FE is specifically designed to work in harmony with full frame mirrorless cameras in Sony E mount. The flow of light is devised based on the uniqueness of the distance from glass to sensor in mirrorless cameras to create optimal performance. Along with portability of mirrorless lenses, this new Samyang AF 50 lens is compatible with full frame sensors to deliver the wideness and sharpness of image to photographers.
The F1.4 of 50mm aperture is by far the brightest of full frame mirrorless lenses, offering a beautiful bokeh effect and the best quality images under various exposure conditions. Also the 67mm filter diameter brings the maximum amount of light into the lens to create the best work of light in photography.
Based on Samyang Optics’ exceptional optical technology, Ultra Multi Coating and three aspherical lenses have been included among nine glasses in eight groups to minimise aberration and unnecessary light dispersion, delivering high resolution from the centre to the corners of the image.
A quick breakdown of some of the important features mentioned above,
- The lens is usable on Sony FE and E mount cameras only (full frame and aps-c)
- It is an Auto focus lens
- It has a fast f1.4 maximum aperture with an aperture range between f1.4 and f16
- It is constructed of 9 elements in 8 groups, including 3 aspherical for optimal image quality.
- It has 9 aperture blades for pleasing out of focus areas, nice bokeh.
- It has Samyang’s Ultra Multi Coating to minimise flare and ghosting.
- Front filter size of 67mm
The Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE is a beautiful lens, well made, minimalistic modern and looks fantastic paired up with the Sony Cameras. The lens body is made of a metal alloy including the focus ring, sorry I couldn’t find information on the specific material, the petal lens hood is plastic and the front element is protected by a centre pinch lens cap. I really love the build and look of this lens and think it’s a great step forward for Samyang to build lenses of this quality. The metal focus ring has a nice finish with plenty of grip and operates very smooth.
As most purchasing this lens will be looking at it for its fast f1.4 aperture and Autofocus system this review will be largely about those features.
Firstly I will mention the fast aperture and what it is useful for. An f1.4 aperture allows you to get a lot of light to the sensor so its fantastic for low light situations, shooting at night, indoors and by available light only. It also allows you to draw focus on certain details and blur unimportant areas, it helps to create clean backgrounds eliminating distractions, it can be used for creative effect and so on, fast lenses are fantastic.
Here’s some examples using the lens wide open and close to wide open,
This is where a lens like this really shines portraits, focus on the eyes and effortlessly blur out the background. This lens has nice smooth out of focus areas.
Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE. Settings 50mm f1.4, iso200, 1/250.
Creative product shots. This is a sleeping matt I reviewed in my outdoor gear review section of this blog.
Samyang AF 50mm F1.4 FE. 50mm, f2, 1/1000, iso800
As you can see the lens allows you to create a very shallow depth of field, bringing emphasis to features and smooting out background and foreground elements. You will also notice how sharp this lens is, look at the eyes!! Performance wide open is very good.
Low light beast
This lens is perfect for low light situations, night photography, etc. The above image of a Sugar Glider at night was taken under available light, a few porch lights at Kalimna Woods Cottages, Lakes Entrance. Settings were 50mm, f1.4, 1/160 iso 6400, so very dark. This would have been extremely hard to capture with a slower lens, even 1/160 is a slow shutter speed for a subject like this, an f2.8 lens would have really struggled in this situation with you either needing to raise the iso or lower the shutter quite a bit. One note is how well the lens focussed in this low light, it really had no trouble, and these little guys didn’t stay still for long, this is awesome performance from both the Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE and the Sony a6500, well done Samyang and Sony!
A little bit of torch light to help out here. Settings 50mm, f1.4, 1/250, iso6400
Again no problem with focus.
Most of you would know that nearly all Samyang lenses are manual focus only so I was really keen to test the Auto focus ability of the 50mm as its a nice short telephoto lens that could double as a lightweight sport lens for me. I’ve already mentioned its excellent auto focus in low light but how does it handle fast moving subjects while tracking?
50mm, f5.6, 1/500, iso100 using continuous af tracking.
50mm f6.3, 1/640, iso400 again using continuous af tracking
50mm, f4, 1/500, iso400 continuous af tracking
As you can see in the above three pics this lens on the a6500 handles sport and fast moving objects well. I had very little missed pics in sequences and believe the ones I did miss were due to user error, not the lens or camera (not knowing the optimum set up on the new camera), really happy with this performance. I’m actually itching to get out and shoot some sports events with this combo and will be organising an A7R for this to see how the Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE lens performs on Sony’s flagship so keep an eye out for that.
One thing to note is this lens is quite noisy when auto focussing, you can not use this lens when shooting video with an on camera mic as the electronic focus sound is really evident. If you want to use this lens for video you need to get the mic away from the lens, other than that it performs really well on the Sony when focussing in its video mode.
Ok so the Samyang is fantastic, accurate and fast when Auto focussing but how does it handle manual focus? It works as intended, its a “focus by wire” style lens. Manual focus on mirrorless is fantastic as the mirrorless cameras have all sorts of features to help, cant really say much more.
Some boring stuff, but important. Centre and corner crops
Concrete wall at f1.4 full frame
Centre 100% crop at f1.4
top left corner at f1.4
The above three images are in order, the full frame at f1.4 a centre 100% crop at f1.4 and a top left corner 100% crop at f1.4
full frame at f5.6
centre 100%crop at f5.6
top left corner at f5.6
The above three images are at f5.6 first is the full frame, second is a centre 100% crop, third is a top left corner 100%crop.
Full frame at f16
centre 100% crop at f16
top left 100% crop at f16
The above images show how the lens performs at f1.4, f5.6 and f16. Performance is fairly good at each aperture but the lens is clearly at its best at f5.6 where its really good. I tested each stop (not shown) and the lens sweet point seems to be between f5.6 – f8 pretty normal really. At f1.4 the centre sharpness is good but not as good as at f5.6, I really didn’t notice that it wasn’t quite as sharp as f5.6 in my real world shots. The edge sharpness at f1.4 again isn’t quite as sharp as at f5.6 but still good for a lens of this kind and generally you will not notice this real world. At f16, the lenses smallest aperture, performance is good all round but not quite as good as the sweet spot.
I didn’t notice a lot of vignetting at f1.4, actually I only thought of it while writing this review and thinking of other things to mention, thats a good thing!
Remember this is just a simple test to give you some idea on how it performs, real world you wouldn’t be shooting concrete walls.
So far after quite a bit of time with this lens I’ve been really happy. It’s fantastic for portraits, product shots, low light and performed well for sport, it’s a really versatile lens. The AF is great although quite noisy, this noise is really the only thing I don’t like, that electronic noise just doesn’t sound great in video, but I guess thats not what this lens will be purchased for and you could always get an external mic off camera. Image quality is excellent and I love how you can melt backgrounds away at f1.4, out of focus areas look smooth, I’ll be shooting a lot more portraits with this lens.
At an rrp of $999 it’s a great option if you are after a native Sony FE/E mount fast 50mm.