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All you need for a beautiful portrait: the Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 F

FOREWORD


In the vast opportunities of photography, I’ve always been trying to find my field. Nowadays almost every social networking channel offers unlimited inspiration. Some people are “hobby snappers” and mainly shoot with their smartphones for themselves, and some others are like me, constantly trying to improve their shooting and post processing skills, investing their time and money into developing. That’s how I ended up having already two camera bodies, two tripods, an expensive filter set, and a diverse set of lenses.

MY SAMYANG STORY


It is though very interesting to look back and realize how my relationship with photography unfolded. My start was “In medias res” which means into the middle of the things by falling in love immediately with astrophotography. For me, it is visually the most impressive photographic category but also technically one of the most challenging one. First things first, I needed a proper lens for this purpose. After doing a deep research on the market, I bought my first Samyang lens, the 24mm F1.4 ED AS IF UMC. It was a good four years ago, and my work with that lens made me to become a proud ambassador of Samyang. The astrophotography slowly drifted my interest into landscapes – as you aim for a gorgeous scene as a foreground to work seamlessly together with the Milky Way in the background. Since we travel on a regular basis with my wife, I have a solid and constant feed for my landscape/travel photography work.

Recently I’ve received a prestigious offer by Samyang: to test their brand-new Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 F lens on my Nikon full frame body. Nevertheless to say, I feel proud to be member of a group of talented photographers on a world-wide scale.

THE POWER OF A GREAT LENS


Since I was more focused on landscapes, I mostly used lenses on the wide-angle side of the spectrum. Due to this fact I was a bit concerned when I agreed to be one of the very first ones to photograph with this lens. The Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 F has fantastic characteristics to shoot portraits, and yet I have some portraits in my portfolio, it is not really my main profile. After setting up the lens on my Nikon D810, a completely new world has opened up through the viewfinder. I came to the biggest conclusion of my entire photographic career: a great lens has the ability to unlock your hidden potential and makes you to get interested in different photographic categories. After this long foreword, let’s investigate my experiences with this lens.

DISCLAIMER


I will not go into deep specs details with charts and graphs, since my approach is slightly different. I think specs are presented by engineers for engineers. Most of us using this equipment are artists not engineers. Perhaps it is handy to understand some basics of the build qualities but ultimately, we are interested in the outcome: what we can achieve together with the lens. Features like distortion, chromatic aberration, or vignetting can be easily corrected by a few clicks during the postprocessing. Some people however like to write articles about vignetting characteristics by photographing a white surface at different apertures. I will more look into the usability and real-life sample images.

PHYSICAL FACTS


After unboxing my first impression was very pleasant. The lens comes with a lens pouch – a nice gift to keep your equipment dirt-free and safe while not in use. There is a lens hood provided as well, which attaches to the lens flawlessly. The size and weight are also charming. The lens with the Nikon mount has a length of 7 cm / 2.76 inches and a largest diameter of 8.6 cm / 3.39 inches and weighs 472 gr / 1.04 lbs without the lens cap and the lens hood. It has a 77 mm filter thread. Back in a day, I didn’t care that much about the dimensions and the weight of a lens, but since I usually carry a huge set of equipment in my backpack it got bigger importance. The built quality is good, in overall the lens feels sturdy and resistant to weather. Actually, I’ve managed to test it in a heavy snowfall – without experiencing any problems with the lens during and after the photoshoot. There is a single switch on the side of the lens which lets you to switch between autofocus or manual focus.

SHOOTING PORTRAITS


With the 85mm fixed focal length, this lens is in the middle of the sweet portrait spectrum. The aperture can be set between f/1.4 and f/16. The f/1.4 maximum aperture gives the opportunity to express your artistic veins. It creates a very shallow depth of field and nicely blurs the rest of the scene. The only thing you need to keep an eye on, is focusing. Since the depth of field is super shallow, it tends to get hard to focus properly through the viewfinder. The autofocus feature of the lens becomes very handy at this point, however bear in mind that it has it’s limits as well. I would suggest you to always check your image if the focus is correct. I’ve set the single focus point on my camera’s autofocus setting for this purpose. Yet sometimes the autofocus performance wasn’t top-notch. To manually focus, the lens has a nice big focusing ring with smooth motion. There is no focusing range and distance scale on the lens, which I’m missing a bit. I guess it is a hint to use mainly the lens’ autofocus capability. Some of my sample images I’ve shot at very low light. The f/1.4 performed very well, sometimes I even stopped down to f/2 and still it worked out.

CONCLUSION


This lens has a surprising effect on my photography. It has changed the perception of my own work by making me realize that shooting portraits is as exciting and pleasing as chasing landscape compositions. It is a compact, handy, easy to use lens which seems to be reliable, sturdy and affordable. If the main body of your work consists of portraits, I definitely suggest you getting this lens. If you are more into landscapes, wildlife or astrophotography I would recommend you to try this lens if you have a chance, and see your own results!

The Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 F has proven it’s capabilities and became a permanent member of my camera bag.


Well done Samyang!




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