Samyang Optics have been extremely busy lately and have just added another Auto Focus lens to their line up, the AF 35mm f2.8 FE. This lens joins Samyang’s AF 14mm f2.8 FE and AF 50mm f1.4 FE making this the third Auto focus lens specifically for the Sony system.
Samyang are very much marketing this as a small lightweight option for Sony Cameras at 85g (without end cap and hood) and 3.3cm it certainly is small, I can fit the lens mounted to a Sony a6500 in my jeans pocket. The lens itself features 7 circular aperture blades for pleasing out of focus areas, seven lens elements in six groups, two aspherical lenses and one high refractive lens plus Samyang’s Ultra multi coating to minimise aberration and unnecessary light dispersion.
It has a 0.35m minimum focus distance and is usable on both Sony full frame and aps-c cameras aperture range is f2.8-f22 and it accepts 49mm screw in filters.
I have been testing the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE lens on the Sony a6500 for about a month and have used it in many situations, walk around lens, street, sport, outdoors it’s very versatile, but I will start the review with my thoughts about looks, build quality, size.
On opening the plain white box sent to me from Korea I was happy to see this new lens came in its own small round semi hard protective case, fantastic, I’m not sure why more lenses do not come with their own cases. This little case offers enough protection to just grab the lens in it’s case and put it in a bag, backpack or your pocket.
Opening the protective case I was met with a small compact lens, the AF 35mm f2.8 FE. Picking the lens up I immediately noticed how light it was, lighter than the small Sony/Zeiss 35mm f2.8. The lens is made in the same style as the two other Samyang AF lenses for Sony, sleek lens body, knurled focus ring, black with distinctive red ring, but unlike the other two Samyang AF lenses the 35mm f2.8 has a plastic body, it still has a metal lens mount. The plastic body keeps the lens weight down although personally I would of liked a metal body, the lens feels well built despite this. The lens has a small twist on lens hood (plastic), the hood is very slim but gives the front element some protection not only against stray lights but damage. The hood has a small Samyang branded pinch type lens cap.
I immediately mounted it on the Sony a6500 it felt light, small and well suited to this small camera a quick test of the AF, the AF was quick and snappy even under the poor lights of my lounge room.
The Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE mounted on the Sony a6500, small lightweight and compact.
Small package and small protective case the lens comes in.
Clean looking lens with matching lens hood (above the red ring) and tiny pinch lens cap.
Tiny but mighty!
The 35mm focal length is a quite a useful length obviously 35mm on a full frame Sony camera but its also equivalent to approx 52mm on Sony’s app-c cameras, so a “standard” lens, this means its also got quite a bit of competition in the market so it has to be a well performing lens to stand out. Samyang have delivered here from the very first test shots it was very apparent this lens is razor sharp I also didn’t notice any aberrations, purple fringing, no random flaring despite not testing with a lens hood, so let’s look at some samples.
The above image is taken at f8, so sharp and pulling so much detail, the slight vignetting is added in post, there was no vignetting.
Un-edited at night, through glass at iso1600, showing plenty of detail, the fast aperture removing any marks etc on the glass window.
Plenty of detail, nice colour.
Above three images first the original image, slightly cropped for improved composition. Second a 100% cropp of the eye, Third a 100% crop of the feathers. The original image is taken at 35mm f4, 1/250, iso1600, I think this is pretty impressive performance on a crop body at this iso.
Here are some examples from the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE at various apertures
Followed by head to head examples with the Sony/Zeiss 35mm f2.8
Above three examples at f2.8 in order Full image, 100%centre crop, 100% crop from bottom left corner.
Above three examples at f4 in order Full image, 100%centre crop, 100% crop from bottom left corner.
Above three examples at f5.6 in order Full image, 100% centre crop, 100% crop from bottom left corner.
Above three examples at f8 in order Full image, 100% centre crop, 100% crop from bottom left corner.
Above three examples at f11 in order Full image, 100% centre crop, 100% crop from bottom left corner.
Above three examples at f16 in order Full image, 100% centre crop, 100% crop from bottom left corner.
Above three examples at f22 in order, Full image, 100% centre crop, 100% crop from bottom left corner.
Quite impressive. At f2.8 the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE is pretty sharp across the whole frame, this improvement to my eye peaks at f5.6 to f8 where I think this performance is simply fantastic. At f22 it looks to soften up a bit this is pretty typical but quite impressive and you will see why in the next test.
So how does it compare to other similar lenses?
Size comparisons Samyang Af 35mm f2.8 FE and Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8. The Samyang is smaller and lighter.
Obviously this lens performs well, but how does the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE compare to other similar lenses? I also own the Sony/Zeiss 35mm f2.8 an excellent lens and very similar size, I love this lens, its almost permanently attached to my a6500. As I think there will be a lot of comparison questions I decided it would be good to test both, same subject, same settings etc, real world, here goes.
Above two images same settings both lenses at f2.8, First is the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 second is the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8.
Above two images, this time a 100% crop of the centre of the frame, same settings both lenses at f2.8, First is the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 second is the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8.
Above two images are 100% crops from the bottom left corner same settings both lenses at f2.8, First is the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 second is the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8.
One thing I noticed was there is a different angle of view between these two lenses, the Zeiss shoots tighter, hence a little difference in the images.
The other thing this test shows is the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE is sharper in the corners at f2.8, the other corners were much the same with the Samyang being sharper.
Above two images same settings, 100% cropp from the centre of frame both lenses at f4 First is the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 second is the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8.
Above two images, same settings, 100% cropp from the bottom left corner of frame both lenses at f4 First is the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 second is the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8.
Again at f4 we are getting similar, the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE is slightly sharper in the corners than the Sony/Zeiss 35mm f2.8.
Above two images same settings, 100% cropp from the centre of frame both lenses at f5.6 First is the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 second is the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8.
Above two images same settings 100% cropp from the bottom corner of frame both lenses at f5.6 First is the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 second is the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8.
At f5.6 we are still seeing that the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 is slightly sharper than the Sony Zeiss in the corners.
This really surprised me, like mentioned earlier I love the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 and have been really impressed with it, I use it a lot as my standard lightweight lens on the a6500 when mountain bike riding, when small and compact is important, but the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE is clearly sharper at wide apertures, I hope you can see it in the review, it’s more apparent on my screen. Given I couldn’t find any image quality faults with the Samyang I would have to say the Samyang is actually optically better at wide apertures than the Zeiss. Obviously there is a lot more to a lens than this but it does surprise me, given the price difference between the two, I think the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE is going to be popular because of this alone. I did not test the Zeiss at smaller apertures as I think most would be more interested in how a lens performs wide open, maybe a test for another day.
The Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 is focus by wire like the other two Samyang AF lenses and most mirrorless AF lenses. I am quite new to the Sony system so not completely 100% familiar with all focus modes on the a6500 but having said that each mode and feature I tested seem to work as intended, It seems all AF functions work, here is what I found.
- General focus is quick and very reliable, all focus points seem to be available along with all focus modes.
- Eye focus works and works very well
- Manual focus works as intended
- Continuous tracking works well
- Lock on focus modes all work and are accurate
- Smile detection and auto shutter work well, thought it was worth mentioning here.
- Video focus worked quite quickly but it does make noise while focussing, this noise was audible when using the built in mic, when using an external shotgun mic mounted on the camera the noise disappeared. I believe other lens testers did not notice this, so
- Low light focus is good, especially for static subjects. I used the lens in AF for some “light painting” and landscapes just after dark with no artificial ambient light and it did extremely well.
I tested these functions in a variety of ways, photographing cars driving past, my children riding their bikes, “wildlife” in the park. Tested face/smile detection and eye detection on my wife and children in doors under low light, I couldn’t really fault the Samyang for its focus with stills photography everything worked as intended. I will add however the Sony/Zeiss 35mm f2.8 did seem quicker in some of these tests, in particular the eye detection focus, the Sony/Zeiss was clearly quicker in this regard.
Small compact package a great lens when size and weight is an issue.
I can really see this lens being one that is left on the camera for everyday general use, it makes for a great fast walk around lens on the a6500 something you can have with you at all times, as mentioned I can fit this combo in my jeans pocket although it’s a tight fit, maybe a jacket pocket would be a better option but you get the idea. The lens would also be fantastic for street photography, light, compact and unobtrusive. The focus length is useful for many subjects, portraiture being one that immediately comes to mind.
Personally I will be using it as a light weight combo paired with the a6500 for outdoors and mountain biking, something I can easily take in my camelback or backpack on a ride. I originally purchased the Sony/Zeiss for this exact reason, but the Samyang uses up less space and is lighter. I could even put the camera in a bag pocket and the lens in another in it’s protective case to help fit the limited space I have on the bike, likewise for hiking.
Below are some image samples showing the versatility of this lens.
Lens choice is always based on needs of the photographer, this lens really suits my personal needs for small light weight option with excellent image quality, if you are after the same it really is a good option. I think I will be choosing this over the Sony/Zeiss on future adventures, I just can’t fault the image quality.
I think at the price of $499 AUD it will be a very popular lens and is very competitively priced given it’s excellent image quality and great focus performance.
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