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? This post is both a review of the AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens and a comparison with the AF 35mm f2.8 FE 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, if not all, 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.
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.
* We recommend the use of Urth filters. Click on the banner below and use the discount code at checkout to receive a further 15% discount off all their products
Above: The Sony A7Riii with the Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE
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 though, 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.
Above: Sony A7RIII with the Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE (left) and Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE (right)
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).
- 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.
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 f/5.6 – 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.
At f/1.8, this lens is amazingly sharp in the centre. The corners are slightly soft but much better than the f/2.8 lens when shot at f/2.8. There is minimal vignetting at f/1.8 which improves as you stop down to f/2.8 and beyond. See the 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)
Finally, Samyang added weather sealing. This is a big benefit over the f/2.8 lens. The lens features weather sealing in 4 places to protect from light dust, rain and snow.
Angle of View
Strangely, the AF 35mm f/1.8 FE lens has a slightly wider angle of view than the AF 35mm f/2.8 FE lens. It’s only very slight but it was immediately noticeable when we performed the test below. The f/1.8 is 63.6º as opposed to 63.1º on the f/2.8 lens.
We rarely shoot at f/1.8 on a lens unless we are in low light and we rarely 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 f/1.8.
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
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 f/2.8 FE lens is our go-to lens. So, is this lens a worthy replacement for the ‘Tiny but Mighty” AF 35mm f/2.8 FE lens?
In terms of sharpness, the f/1.8 lens is superior, especially in the corners wide open at f/2.8. At f/1.8 it is a touch soft but acceptable. We found that at all apertures the lens was slightly sharper than the f/2.8 version of the lens.
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 f/2.8 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 entirely sway us from the petite f/2.8 lens.
The lens suffers from only slight vignetting at f/1.8. 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 f/2.8 FE version is sufficient for us. Having said that, if we were offered the lens for free we would eagerly accept the offer
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 were lent the AF 35mm f/1.8 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 f/2.8 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.
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f1.8 – 1/5000th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f2.8 – 1/1600th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f2.8 – 1/2000th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f4 – 1/1250th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f4 – 1/1250th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f5.6 – 1/500th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f5.6 – 1/640th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f8 – 1/250th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f8 – 1/320th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f11 – 1/160th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f11 – 1/200th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f16 – 1/80th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f16 – 1/100th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE @ f22 – 1/40th – ISO100
Above: Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f22 – 1/40th – ISO100
Above: Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens @ f8 – 1/250th – ISO100. Basic edit in Adobe Lightroom
The image above is a quick edited version. 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. In a final edit, we would normally have cropped out some of the sky.
Above: Sydney Opera House, Australia
Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 35mm f1.8 FE lens @ f8 – 1/200th – ISO100
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Max 6 spots available.
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. Over time we found that this lens really suited our shooting needs so we ended up adding this lens to our arsenal. For the type of photography that we do this lens will really get a workout over the coming years.
The lens currently costs between AUD$400-$500 in Australia or with the link below, it is currently priced at USD$349 at the time of writing this post.
RATED: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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 24mm f/1.8 FE - Masterpiece for Astrophotography - 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.
If you liked this post you may also like to read our reviews of the Samyang AF 18mm F2.8 FE – Tiny but Super Wide, Samyang AF 24mm f2.8 FE – Tiny but All-Around, Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE – Tiny but Mighty, Samyang AF 45mm F1.8 FE – Tiny but Premium, Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE – Tiny but Absolute, and Samyang 12mm F2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lenses. To read any of our other reviews click here
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
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.