on April 13, 2010
I had really never heard of this company or their lens until I happened upon a few web threads from various forums, specifically fredmiranda and dpreview.
After seeing some amazing images posted from owners of pretty much every camera brand and seeing great bokeh and sharpness comparison shots, I knew I had to get one.
Just got it today (April 13) and it's awesome, awesome, awesome, especially given the price.
I'm using my lens on a D700.
OPTICS - Outstanding. Seriously. I started shooting this thing wide open at f/1.4 and it's just great. Before this lens, one of my more enjoyable lenses was the outstanding Nikon 105mm f/2.5 AI-S. I think this lens, though, beats it. It's a more comfortable length for me, and the build quality is pretty high - and the bokeh is just amazing.
Did I say amazing? How about just delicious. Creamy, smooth, great transitions from focus to unfocused areas. It's great after some initial testing and already I have a shot of my young daughter that is frame-worthy (straight from the D700 using RAW and "normal" profile).
BUILD QUALITY - Well, you don't get something for nothing, but you can come very close with this lens. It looks like it's a combination of heavy plastic and metal. The focus ring is of adequate size and mine has absolutely no play in it - damping is pretty good. And hurray for Nikon, Rokinon made the lens focus the "right" way, so that AF confirmation in your camera is going to match which way you actually need to turn the lens.
The lens hood is probably the weakest part - it's pretty flimsy, cheap, falls off too easy and is hard to line up to reverse for storage. But hey, this thing is dirt cheap and gives amazing, inspiring results. A Sigma-type lens cap (pinch on edges, not center) and cheesy felt carrying bag round out the deal. I also don't like how thin the aperture ring is, but I don't plan on stopping down all that often, so it's of no concern and I think I'll get used to it (I'm used to my 105 AIS).
If you have a Nikon body that will meter with AIS lenses (D300, D700 and up, maybe D200?), this lens deserves your attention. Don't be afraid of MF - it's not as easy as autofocus, but with practice it becomes pretty darn easy, especially with the AF confirmation and having a large viewfinder with D700+ camera models. Awesome lens.
on November 16, 2009
If possible, I would RATE THIS ITEM 3.5 STARS
I have been using the "Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical Lens for Pentax K20D" for about a month and have gotten to know the lens well. On the whole, the optics are good but what degrades the users experience with this lens has less to do with the optics and everything to do with the lens housing mechanics and matching accessories.
Optically, I would rate the lens a B+/A-. As a previous reviewer has noted, the image sharpness does not improve much as you stop down the lens, but the lens is fairly sharp to begin with. What's important for such a fast lens is that wide open the images look nice and the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 lens has that covered. I have noticed that the lens is not equally sharp in all four corners of the field. Instead, the upper left corner is slightly softer than the lower right corner (see photo). This sort of minor zonal error suggest to me that Samyang, the manufacturer of this lens still has some work to do in terms of Quality Control and Process Engineering.
In terms of exposure accuracy, I find that the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 lens shoots a bit on the underexposed side. For that reason, I find myself having to adjust the eV scale on the K20D about +1/3 of a stop. If you are in a hurry, the extra time needed to set the proper exposure compensation can be an issue, as the time to adjust takes away from photographing the subject and can cause lost opportunities. This needed eV adjustment is also why some of the photos I have taken with the lens differ from average to nice. I wonder if the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 lens would be more accurately advertised if it were labeled as having a maximum aperture of f1.7 as appose to being a true f1.4.
From a mechanical perspective the lens is solid and robust. The down side is that the lens takes too much force (inertia) to get the focusing collar moving. I'm not sure if the barrel housing for the internal focus (IF) optics are machined with too much "tolerance stack up" or if too much or too viscous a grease is being used or if a vacuum is being created somewhere within the housing but the lens focusing collar needs much more than average force to start rotating. Because of this, it is difficult to stay manually focused on a moving object by focusing with 1-2 fingers on the underside of the lens.
When shooting a DSLR camera, for greater stability, I rest the camera body base in the palm of my hand and rotate the focusing collar with my fingers. Since this is a fast lens with a very short depth of field, proper focus is critical. With the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 lens, the stiffness of the focusing collar is such that it now degrades the users reaction time as far too much inertia is required to get the focus collar moving and an equal amount of inertia is needed to stop the collar from over rotating from the point of perfect focus. For that reason, I do not recommend this lens for sports photography or for objects moving at moderate speeds (10-15mph) or higher from a distance of 40-50 feet.
The Rokinon 85mm lens mount is not machined with great dimensional tolerance or accuracy. For that reason, the lens can and does rotate at the lens, camera interface about 1+ degree. This doesn't cause any harm for most situations. But, because the thrust surfaces on the lens mount is very snug each time a person rotates the focusing collar after mounting the lens to the camera, the pair, camera and lens make a clunking sound as the lens barrel rotates about in the camera mount hitting the lens registration stops on the camera body. This repeated impact between the lens mount and camera body mount may in time cause the mechanical stops to show wear marks prematurely. Regardless, the clunking sound makes the lens sound like it has been heavily used and tired.
As mentioned in a previous review, the front squeeze clip lens cap that comes with the Rokinon lens is very cheap and marginally functional. Specifically, the portion of the cap that seats against the front of the lens and clips on the lens external ID filter treads is too deep to fit well on most lens filters. The Rokinon lens cap has a deep threaded clip portion for securely holding on to the lens barrel (see photo). However, most filters by design do not have a deep external ID thread section so as not to vignette the cameras field of view.
Unfortunately, the front cap for the Rokinon 85mm lens does not fit well on to anything but the Rokinon lens and every cautious photographer I know uses a filter on the front of their lens to protect the front element. As a side note, since the front cap will not seat flush to a filter, the lens cap can and does, come off unexpectedly. If you plan to use this front lens cap with filter, I suggest getting a leash for the cap or you stand a very good chance of losing the cap.
Also, the supplied lens hood does not fit over the front of the clip on lens cap (see photo). The lens cap dimensional tolerances are so dismal, that the O.D. of the lens cap is about 0.010" too large in diameter for the supplied lens hood to slip over. For that reason, the user needs to remove the front lens cap first, and then mount the lens hood. Same goes for when one wants to remove the hood, you have to first remove the front lens cap, and then remove the hood. Otherwise, the front lens cap gets pulled off by the lens hood when one try's to remove the hood. I plan to take a file to the lens cap to solve the problem.
The rigid lens hood supplied with the camera feels flimsy, easy to flex in the hand and makes me concerned that it I will break in the field. I'm just a causal photographer, but this lens hood looks like even casual use may be over taxing. The hood, like most other hoods, twist on with a bayonet type of mount. The hood feels so weak that it makes me nervous to rest a K20D with BG2 battery pack, flash and lens against the front lip of the hood like I might do with some of my other lens.
Last, the Rokinon lens sock is the cheapest lens sock I have ever received. Worst of all, the sock is too small in diameter to fit around the supplied lens hood (see photo). Hence, if you plan to keep the lens hood with the lens, stowed with the hood draped over the barrel of the lens, then you will need to get another lens sock. I got a cheap slightly padded soft digital camera case from Sony (model LCS-CSD) that nicely fits both the Rokinon lens and hood in the stowed position.
The faux pas above clearly indicate that the designers and marketing team at Rokinon are remiss in their understanding of a typical DSLR photographer's very basic needs.
Lens was promptly shipped and well packed by Cameta Camera.
Minus 0.50 for too stiff a focusing collar for a manual focus lens.
Minus 0.25 for over all optical quality
Minus 0.25 for sloppy lens mount fitting.
Minus 0.25 for front lens cap and hood build, design and function.
Minus 0.25 for lens with hood stowed does not fit into lens sock.
on March 1, 2010
This 85mm f1.4 lens is manufactured in South Korea by Samyang, and is sold under several other brand names besides Rokinon, i.e. Vivitar, Bowen, and probably others. It is a manual-focus lens, but the diaphragm is fully automatic on my Pentax K-20. The lens has some electrical contacts that send aperture information to the camera body, and my K-20 switched right to Aperture Priority mode. I had to manually input the focal length to the camera, but after that the aperture controls were fully automatic when I set the aperture ring to the "A" position.
1. Build quality feels really good. This lens is quite heavy, and it's weight makes it feel a lot like my old 1970's Asahi Takumar lenses, which had much more metal and a lot less plastic than lenses do nowadays. It feels really nice in my hand. As other reviewers mentioned, the focus ring feels a little stiff, and takes a bit more torque to turn it than my old Pentax and Minolta manual focus lenses. That being said, the stop-to-stop travel of the focus ring is very uniform and even, having no "rough" spots that I can feel. That tells me the quality of the machining of the internal cam that connects the focus ring to the moving lens elements is very good. The stiffness could just be that the lubricant hasn't "settled" yet, and after a few hours use the focus mechanism will lighten up a little. The stiffness isn't a put-off.
2. Focus is internal, meaning the front lens element does not rotate, a very nice feature if you use a polarizing filter.
3. The silk screened numbers on the focus scale and aperture dial are nice and sharp. They didn't cut corners there.
4. The moving parts, i.e. focus ring and aperture dial, feel very solid. No free play or loosey-goosey wobbling that I can detect, and the aperture dial "clicks" nice and firm. Of course if you use this lens on a Pentax DSLR (K10, K20, K7, K5), you will almost always leave the aperture dial on "A" and let the camera body control the diapragm. I have had Sigma and Vivitar zooms over the years that were so poorly made that every control dial was loose and shakey - not this Samyang lens!
5. Optical quality seems as good as you could hope for in a lens costing as little as this one. I have only taken a few shots with it but will update this review after I have the time to give the lens a thorough shakedown. Some reviewers have opined that the f1.4 rating is too optimistic, and that the lens is closer to f1.6, but with the diapragm wide-open, the depth of field at 7 feet is extremely shallow, about 3", so I assume that the f1.4 rating is pretty close. I took a shot of my wife at 6', f1.4, and with her eyes in sharp focus, her ears are blurred. Now that's shallow DOF all right, just like you would expect from the 50mm f1.4 Pentax prime lens that used to be the "kit" lens most people bought with a Spotmatic or K1000.
6. The diaphragm has 8 aperture blades. El-cheapo lenses often have fewer than this, say 6 blades, which makes the image circle less than "circular" when stopping down.
As the other reviewers pointed out, the lens caps, cloth storage bag, and hood are pretty basic. The one niggle I have is that the supplied lens cap is a couple millimeters bigger than the lens barrel, making it pretty much impossible to use with the hood in place. The good news is that you can get a better fitting lens cap for under $8 that will work with the hood and a UV filter. Hey, for $259 I'm not complaining. The build quality of the lens itself is much better that I expected, so if they kept the cost down on the accessories I'm not too upset.
Who should consider buying this lens, and what is it especially good for:
1. It's prime purpose is portraiture, shooting people who are posed and sitting still, so the lack of autofocus isn't a problem. In a portrait, the photographer might want the background behind the subject to be out of focus, and the big f1.4 aperture supplies just that, EXTREMELY shallow DOF. When shooting wide-open, at any aperture larger than about f4.0, be sure to tell your portrait subjects to sit very still, as movement of as little as a couple of inches towards or away from the camera will likely result in an out-of-focus image.
2. Landscapes. On a Digital SLR like the Pentax K20 with an APS-C sensor, the lens images a field of view equivalent (almost) to a 135mm lens on a full-frame 35mm camera. So, this 85mm Rokinon is really a medium telephoto prime lens with a HUGE aperture. You will really appreciate this when shooting at night or twilight with the hope of keeping your shutter speeds as fast as possible, for example to reduce blurring from camera shake when it's windy.
Other observations: Closest focus distance is about 3', so this isn't a Macro lens. The focus ring and internal mechanism seem to be quite accurate, in that infinity focus happens right at the end of travel of the focus ring. Other than the slight stiffness in the focus ring, the lens build quality seems very nice.
Conclusion: If you already own and enjoy some other manual focus primes, say a 28mm f2.8 and 50mm f1.4, this 85mm Rokinon will be a perfect companion to those lenses, giving you a little more telephoto "reach" for subjects that you can't frame as large as you want with your 50mm. For portraiture, on a Pentax K20, this lens will fully frame an adult's head and shoulders at about 6~7 feet.
I will update this review with more comments on the optical quality when I've had a chance to take it outdoors for a full day.
Note on price: The retail price of this lens seems to vary a lot. I've seen it as high as $349, and as low as $259. Be careful shopping and don't pay more than you have to. I got mine for $259. It came in USA retail packaging with warranty cards. Also, please don't stick a cheap UV filter on the front of this lens, it's optical quality is good enough to rate a Hoya or B+W filter. If you shopped carefully, you got the lens for less than $270, so you can afford $45 more for a quality, multi-coated UV filter.
UPDATE, FIELD TEST, May 2011. Achieving correct focus with this lens at close distances isn't easy, especially if your camera's viewfinder has a basic ground-glass focusing screen. A split-image focusing screen would make it easier. At f1.4, the depth of focus on a subject 7 feet away is only 2 to 3 inches! To help ensure at least one good shot, bracket your subject with 5 or 6 shots, changing the focus slightly for each. Or, use Live View with the focus spot magnified, to fine-tune the focus. On the Pentax K-20, this doesn't work very well, as the K-20's implementation of Live View is slow, and the LCD screen has very low resolution. Live View/Magnified focus would probably be a lot better on the Pentax K5, which has a much improved Live View mode and a full VGA resolution LCD, which would help increase your percentage of "keepers" with this lens. For close-up work at f1.4, forget about shooting this lens hand-held, it is far too difficult to focus sharply, so get out your tripod.
Test part 1:
I took a series of 16 photos of a subject seated approximately 8 feet from the camera, 8 shots at f1.4 and the other 8 at f2.4, all shot at ISO 400 in partial shade under trees, with the camera on a tripod and with focus checked and fine-tuned in Live View. All eight images were very good. Surveying them in ACR, at 100%, reveals the small variations in focus from one shot to the next, with the plane of sharpest focus being on the subject's face and eyes in some images, and slightly further back on the ears in the other images. The good news is that this lens seems to be very uniform in it's sharpness and luminance across the whole image frame, with little or no vignetting, and no obvious chromatic aberration or other color distortions. My test was mainly for sharpness; I didn't test rigorously for CA or vignetting, but anyway I didn't see any in these outdoor/daylight portrait photos. Overall color rendition was good, although slightly greenish due to the area being under trees; I used automatic white balance in ACR to correct the greenish tinge, and the resulting skin tones on the subject looked very good. I can't say this lens is "tack sharp" at f1.4; despite my best efforts to focus it as carefully as possible, all four of the f1.4 test shots were slightly soft. However, tweaking the sharpness in ACR made a significant improvement. And the four test shots at f2.4 were excellent right out of the camera; I didn't need to use extra ACR sharpness on them.
Test Part 2: Took several shots of flowering plants, to check depth of focus and color rendition. These images all looked nice, with rich, saturated colors, but a dedicated 50mm or 100mm Macro lens with 1:1 magnification is probably a better choice for shooting flowers if you do so frequently. This Rokinon was no better than my Pentax 18-55 kit lens for shooting flowers, and the 18-55 is a lot easier to use, being an auto-focus lens.
Conclusion: As a portrait lens, or for landscape photography in low light, this Rokinon (Samyang) lens may just become one of the more heavily used lenses in your gear bag. It produces very sharp images with very nice color rendition and pretty nice bokeh, if you take the time to focus it carefully. A check of the Pentax website shows they are not currently offering an 85mm Prime lens, and even if they were, it would likely cost at least double the price of this Rokinon. As long as Amazon is offering this lens for around $270, I'd recommend it if you have the patience to use it in Live View mode on a tripod. Let me re-iterate, to get the best results from this lens, don't shoot it hand-held, it's very difficult and chancy to focus it accurately through the viewfinder at f1.4 at close subjects, unless it's on a tripod.
UPDATE: August 5, 2014. I also own the Canon version of this lens, and took it out for a field test today with my recently purchased Canon 6D. Optically, the Canon and Pentax versions are identical, so this uodate/field test applies to both verions. The Canon 6D is a Full frame sensor camera (my other Canon, the 60D, and my Pentax K20, uses the 25mm x 15mm size APS-C sensor). The Full Frame sensor in the 6D will stretch the capabilities of this Rokinon to its limits. I am happy to report that the lens showed no significant distortions, vignetting, or color aberrations out at the edges of the frame (areas I had not been able to test on the 60D with it's 1.5x crop factor). I have posted three sample images on my Amazon Cloud storage site. Following are the links and descriptions of each photo:
"Canon-Gate.jpg" This is a screenshot taken at 100% pixel zoom in Adobe Camera Raw, of a small portion (crop) of a Canon 6D RAW photo of a wrought iron gate. The lens is my Canon 24-105 f4.0L. The settings were f8.0, 92mm zoom, ISO 100, 1/20 second, and the camera was on a tripod with IS turned off. The lens was on auto-focus, but I fine-tuned the focus manually in Magnified Live View.
"Rokinon-Gate.jpg" This is another screenshot from Adobe Camera Raw at 100% Pixel Zoom, of the same part of the gate, taken with the Rokinon 85mm f1.4. Settings were f8.0, ISO 100, 1/15 second. If you compare this image with "Canon-Gate", especially if you zoom in a little more, it's obvious that this $259 Rokinon is actually sharper and captured more fine detail than the $1100 Canon "L" series Zoom! Or at least it did at f8.0. Of course, at f1.4, the Rokinon will lose some of it's tack=sharpness, and I admit I deliberately shot these test images at f8.0 because it's well known that both of these lenses reach their maximum sharpness at this aperture. But bottom line is that the old adage about "budget" priced Prime lenses being potentially sharper and less prone to distortions and color abberations than "professional" priced Zooms, appears to hold true for this Samyang lens. My test today also proved, at least to my satisfaction, that the Rokinon 85 f1.4 will work well on any Canon DSLR, either Full Frame or APS-C models (and of course my Pentax version works great on my K-20).
"Flowers-Rokinon.jpg". This is a test shot with the Rokinon 85mm wide open at f1.4. The image is a screenshot from Adobe Camera Raw at 33.3% Pixel Zoom of a rose garden. Main purpose of this shot is to give you an idea of how the Bokeh on this Rokinon looks with the aperture wide open at f1.4. The two flowers at center right are about 8 feet from the camera, and focus was set on those. The other roses at left center are several feet further back, and the most distant part of the background, in the upper left, is 200+ feet away. Whether you think the Bokeh in this image looks pleasing to you or not, is up to your personal opinion. I merely provided this shot to give you an idea of how the lens performs.
SUMMARY TO AUGUST 2014 UPDATE: These test shots with the Canon 6D reinforce my opinion that the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 is an incredibly good lens - if you discount the fact that I was comparing a fully manual Prime to an Auto-focus/Auto-aperture Zoom, the fact remains that this Samyang, from South Korea, handily out-performed the Japanese-made Canon in sharpness and resolving power, and I wasn't even using a test chart! Looking at the fine metalwork details (and the splotches of bird poop) on the wrought iron gate, it's obvious that the Rokinon is sharper, if the user is careful to achieve perfect focus. I used Live View, magnified 5x, to manually focus both lenses as precisely as possible. Admittedly, the Samyang isn't easy to use, and I simply don't have the skill to get good shots with it handheld and using only the viewfinder, but if you can set it on a tripod, with a camera that supports Live View or has a split-image focus screen, it's optical and mechanical quality are both superb, and at a bargain price. I feel a little sad that sooner or later, lenses like this will probably be taken out of production, as the old-school photographers willing to do without auto-focus die out, and even expensive "L" series Canon lenses swap ever more metal parts for plastics. If you are willing to accept the extra work of manually focusing and setting exposure, this lens will richly reward you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.