Samyang AF 35mm f/1.8 FE – Tiny but All-Around

We’ve owned the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE – Tiny but Mighty lens for quite a few years now and it has been one of our favourite lenses for low light and street photography. To read our review of this lens click here.

So, we were quite surprised when Samyang announce another 35mm focal length in their ‘Tiny’ series of lenses, albeit a faster f1.8 lens.  Would this be a worthy contender for our much loved  ‘Tiny but Mighty’ lens and would it become less than mighty? undecided This post is both a review of the AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens and a comparison with the f2.8 version.

As mentioned in our AF 35mm f2.8 FE review, the 35mm focal length has always been a hugely popular focal length especially with street, travel, food, and film/video work. Many say that this focal length is the closest focal length to what the human eye sees. For those that shoot crop sensor (APS-C) cameras, this focal range will equate to around 52.5mm which is as close as you will get to the popular ‘nifty fifty’ focal range. Most lens manufacturers have this focal length in their arsenal, in fact, some have several iterations of the focal length. Just to give you an idea, here are just a few –

Sony FE 35mm f1.8
Sony FE 35mm f1.4
Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G
Nikon AF-S 35MM F/1.8G EDAF
Nikon 35MM F/2D
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD
Tamron 35mm F/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2
Sigma AF 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art Lens F/L-Mount
Samyang AF 35mm F2.8 FE
Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC

As Travel Photographers we tend to favour zoom lenses for their flexibility, and generally, we are happy to use the f/4 versions to save on weight, size, and cost. The 35mm focal length is represented in several of our lenses such as the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 zoom lens – click to read the post and the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 lens. We also have a Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 lens but this is purely used as a back-up lens these days. 

The Lens

As per usual, the lens comes with a small case which gives it some added protection although we do not use it in the field as space in our camera bags is at a premium. It also comes with a plastic lens hood which is considerably longer than the f2.8 version. Unlike the f2.8 version, the hood does not change the filter thread size of the lens it fits. Unfortunately, this was the first thing that we lost on the f2.8 lens and as a result, we had a lens that needed a different size filter and also a lens cap. The f1.8 lens has a 58mm filter thread.

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE
Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE
Sony A7RIII + Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

The Sony A7Riii with the Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

ON1 Photo RAW New Version 2021 - Professional Photos without the Hassle

The lens is considerably longer than the f2.8 version measuring 63.5mm in length which is almost double the length of the f2.8 lens, however, this is no surprise considering the f1.8 aperture. Surprisingly it is only slightly shorter than the Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE lens. The lens weighs in at 210g/7.4oz (without lens cap), which is well over twice the weight of the f2.8 lens.

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE and AF 35mm f2.8 FE Comparison

Above: Sony A7RIII with the Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE (left) and Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE (right)

Custom Switch

Similar to the Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE lens, it has a Custom Mode Switch on the side of the lens which allows you to change the aperture of the lens by turning the focusing ring. The switch allows you to change between Mode 1 & Mode 2 (see image below).

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE
  • Mode 1 – out of the box the default is set to Auto Focus (Normal Control AF). The focus ring is activated when Manual Focus (MF) is set via your camera settings.
  • Mode 2 – converts the focus ring at the front of the lens into an aperture ring allowing the user to quickly change apertures by rotating. When in A (Aperture Priority Mode) or M (Manual Mode) the camera dials will not let you change the aperture. Should you want to use Manual Focus when you are in these Modes the focus ring will revert back to focusing and you will have to change the apertures with the front (or back) dial of the camera. Naturally, this mode does not work in S (Shutter Priority Mode).

Like all the lenses in their “Tiny” series, the weight of this lens makes it so easy to handhold slow shutter speeds making it ideal for low light scenarios. The size of the lens is a key factor for us when shooting street and travel photography. Although this lens is still very light, and as demonstrated below, a bit sharper, the lens is edging back towards being a bit too “in your face”. For us, even though the lens has a faster aperture, it is not an ideal size if you want to be discreet.

Peak Design Travel Tripod

Aperture

The lens has an aperture range of f/1.8 up to f/22. Ideal for those that want to get even smoother out-of-focus backgrounds (bokeh). There is some slight vignetting when shooting wide open but this can be easily corrected. At the time of writing Adobe Lightroom still had not included a lens profile for this lens. As with most lenses, the sweet spot is in the f5.6 – f/11 range on a full-frame sensor and although we couldn’t test the lens on an APS-C sensor we would expect diffraction to kick in at f/11 on this lens.

Sharpness

At f/1.8, this lens is amazingly sharp in the centre. The corners are slightly soft but much better than the f2.8 lens when shot at f2.8. There is minimal vignetting at f/1.8 which improves as you stop down to f/2.8 and beyond. See images below for sharpness.

This lens’s firmware has been updated since its release so make sure when purchasing that it has the latest version installed. If not, take it back to the retailer and ask for it to be updated. The latest version at the time of writing is Version 2 which has improved the AF-C (Auto Focus Continuous) function. If you are buying secondhand or another update is introduced in the future you will need to purchase the Samyang Lens Station to update the firmware (these cost around AUD$90)

Weather Sealing

Finally, Samyang added weather sealing. This is a big benefit over the f2.8 lens. The lens features weather sealing for 4 spots to protect from light dust, rain and snow.

Angle of View

Strangely, the AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens has a slightly wider angle of view than the AF 35mm f2.8 FE lens. It’s only very slight but it was immediately noticeable when we performed the test below. The f1.8 is 63.6º as opposed to 63.1º on the f2.8 lens.

Bokeh

We rarely shoot at f1.8 on a lens unless we are in low-light scenarios. We don’t shoot posed portraits in our Travel Photography so bokeh is not a very important feature for us in a lens. However, for those interested in the bokeh qualities of this lens check out the image below shot at f1.8.

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens @ f1.8
Model: Marvin the Monkey – For bookings contact us wink

Specifications

Here are some of the key specifications of the lens. Other specs can be found on the Samyang website.

Aperture Range: f/1.8 – f/22
Min. Focus Distance: 0.29m (0.95ft)
Filter Size: 58mm
Weather Sealing: Yes
Mount: Sony FE
Angle of View: Full Frame – 63.6º, APS-C – 43.8º
Length: 63.5mm/2.5in
Weight: 210g/7.4oz

Pauly Designed Streetwear

Verdict

The lens was kindly loaned to us by Maxxum Australia (the Australian distributors of Samyang lenses). It has been used on the Sony A7Riii camera. As mentioned in other posts, our Sony FE 24-105 f/4 does most of the heavy-lifting in our photography but when we shoot in limited lighting the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE lens is our go-to lens. So, is this lens a worthy replacement for the ‘Tiny but Mighty” AF 35mm f2.8 FE  lens?

In terms of sharpness, the f1.8 lens is superior, especially in the corners wide open at f2.8. At f1.8 it is a touch soft but acceptable. We found that at all apertures the lens was slightly sharper than the f2.8.

As per usual it’s a trade-off with weight and size and although it is part of their “Tiny” series of lenses it is still significantly longer and heavier than its f2.8 cousin. For travel photography, it is still an incredibly light lens which makes it quite desirable.

The huge plus for this lens is the inclusion of weather sealing. This has been a bugbear for us with the tiny series of lenses. A welcome inclusion but not enough to sway us from the petite f2.8 lens.

The lens suffers from only slight vignetting at f1.8. The vignetting reduces as you stop down and is correctable in post-processing.  There is also no built-in IBIS (Image Stabilization), but that is to be expected in such a small lens and you can easily turn it on in-camera.

If we were a first-time buyer we would certainly snap this lens up immediately but for our purposes at the moment, the AF 35mm f2.8 FE version is sufficient for us.  Having said that, if we were offered the lens for free we would eagerly accept the offer laughing

Once again, Samyang has produced a fantastic lens. We can’t compare it to the Sony equivalent, however, for the price, weight, and size, it is a fantastic alternative. We rate this lens as EXCELLENT.

We were lent the AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens during COVID, so naturally, we have been unable to travel with the lens. We have tested it side by side with the AF 35mm f2.8 FE lens and you can check out the results below.

These were taken on Australia Day (Jan 25) using a Sony A7Riii camera. These are straight out of the camera with no lens correction. Hover over the images to zoom in.

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f1.8 – 1/5000th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f2.8 – 1/1600th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f2.8 – 1/2000th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f4 – 1/1250th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f4 – 1/1250th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f5.6 – 1/500th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f5.6 – 1/640th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f8 – 1/250th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f8 – 1/320th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f11 – 1/160th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f11 – 1/200th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f16 – 1/80th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f16 – 1/100th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f22 – 1/40th – ISO100

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE

Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f22 – 1/40th – ISO100

Sydney Harbour, Australia

Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens @ f8 – 1/250th – ISO100. Basic edit in Adobe Lightroom

An edited version of an image from above. The image was shot for testing purposes only. In reality, we would never have shot an image from this angle with a construction site in the foreground. A final edit would also have some sky cropped out but since was shot for a lens test we have only cropped out the ferry on the right-hand edge.

Sydney Opera House, Australia

Sydney Opera House, Australia
Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens @ f8 – 1/200th – ISO100

Japan Photography Workshop

If you are interested in joining us for an "Autumn in Japan" Photography Workshop from 11 November to 22 November 2022 then visit our website for more details by clicking on the image to the left.

Max 6 spots available.

Conclusion

This is a fantastic lens and worth every penny. If you love the 35mm viewpoint and want a lens that is light, sharp and inexpensive then this lens really is worth considering. The lens currently costs between AUD$600-$700 in Australia but with the link below, it is currently priced at USD$369 at the time of writing this post. 

Where to buy?

If you are interested in purchasing this lens or any of the other 'Tiny' lenses then click on one of the links below.

Samyang AF 18mm f/2.8 FE - Tiny but Super Wide - Buy here on Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8 FE - Tiny but Wide - Buy here on Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 35mm f/1.8 FE - Tiny but All-Around - Buy here on Adorama / Buy in Australia 
Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE - Tiny but Mighty - Buy here on Adorama / Buy in Australia 
Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE - Tiny but Premium - Buy here on Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE - Tiny but Absolute - Buy here on Adorama / Buy in Australia

Alternatively, if purchasing in Australia click on the banner below to visit Maxxum (Australian Distributor) and use the coupon code WSP10 to get a 10% discount off all products. *The discount cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers by the distributor.

Samyang Maxxum Blog Banner

Other equipment mentioned in this post can be purchased at the following links –

Sony A7Riii Mirrorless Camera – Buy here at Adorama / Buy in Australia
Sony FE 16-35 f/4 – Buy here at Adorama / Buy in Australia
Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 – Buy here at Adorama / Buy in Australia
Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 – Buy here at Adorama / Buy in Australia

Click the banner below to see what deals may be available for this and other photographic related products.

Please Note: We may receive commissions when you click links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews or recommendations. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice.