Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE – Tiny but Mighty

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 the around 50mm which is also a popular 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. So when we came to the decision to purchase a 35mm prime lens with a faster aperture for low-light shots, there were a lot of choices, however, in our opinion there really was only one contender. Most of the lenses produced by lens manufacturers were either too large, too heavy or too expensive. We didn’t need a fast aperture such as f/1.4 and we really wanted something compact, lightweight, and inexpensive, that would easily fit into our Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L camera bag – read the post here.

Enter, stage right, the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE, also known as the “Tiny but Mighty” in their lineup of tiny lenses designed for Sony E-Mount cameras only. We had already owned the Samyang 8mm Fisheye Lens from our crop sensor (APS-C) days and subsequently the Samyang 12mm Fisheye Lens after moving to Full Frame so we knew that the results from Samyang lenses were exceptional. We also own the Samyang AF 18mm f/2.8 FE lens – read the post here.

The Lens

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 although it barely extends beyond the front of the lens so not sure why they bothered. The hood does, however, change the thread size of the lens. With the hood attached it fits 40.5mm filters but without, it will take 49mm filters. Unfortunately, this was the first thing that we lost on the lens and as a result, you have a lens that needs a different size filter and also a lens cap. Someone in Shanghai has probably found an alternative use for it! 

ON1 Photo RAW 2020

The lens is a minute 33mm in length, a bit longer than a pancake lens (but not much), weighing in at just over 85.6g/3.02oz (without lens cap). Like all the lenses in their “Tiny” series, the weight of these lenses make it so easy to handhold slow shutter speeds making it ideal for low light scenarios. The size is also a key factor for street and travel photography as the lens is not too “in your face” and as a result allows you to discretely capture more shots. The lens has an aperture range of f/2.8 up to f/22. Not as fast as some other lenses which offer you f/1.4 but as mentioned above these lenses come with a price – size, weight, and cost.

The lens performs admirably from f/2.8 all the way up to f/11. Beyond f/11 the lens starts softening from the effects of diffraction. At f/2.8, this lens is amazingly sharp in the centre and the edges of the frame are pretty good as well. It does, however, suffer from considerable vignetting at f/2.8 which is correctable in post-processing. It improves as you stop down to f/4 and beyond.

This lens’s firmware has been updated several times 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 5 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)

Below is a great video from Christopher Frost about the lens –

Specifications

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

Aperture Range: f/2.8 – f/22
Min. Focus Distance: 0.35m (1.14ft)
Filter Size: 40.5mm (with hood), 49mm (without hood)
Mount: Sony FE
Angle of View: Full Frame – 63.1º, APS-C – 42.9º
Length: 33mm/1.3in
Weight: 108.1g/3.8oz (with lens cap)

Verdict

The lens has been to Japan a couple of times as well as Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai and has been an invaluable addition to our bag. It has been used on both Sony A7Rii and Sony A7Riii cameras. 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 FE lens is our go-to lens.

The only things we do not like about the lens is its lack of weather sealing. This seems to be a frustrating feature for most Samyang lenses but certainly is not a dealbreaker and should not deter you from purchasing this lens. 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. Lastly, DO NOT LOSE THE LENS HOOD!, as you will need to buy a new one so you can still use the 40.5mm lens cap or alternatively you will need to buy a 49mm lens cap (this will also apply for any filters for this lens).

Once again, Samyang has produced a fantastic lens. It may not be as sharp as the Sony equivalent, however, for the price, it is a fantastic alternative. To sum it up in one word would have to be OUTSTANDING.

Below are some of the images we have taken with the Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE lens.

Kanazawa, Japan – Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE – Shot at f2.8 – 1/200th – ISO 400

Chinatown in Yokohama, Japan – Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE
Shot at f5 – 1/500th – ISO 100

Kanazawa, Japan – Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE – Shot at f2.8 – 1/40th – ISO 1600

Kanazawa, Japan – Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE – Shot at f2.8 – 1/40th – ISO 10,000

Kyoto, Japan – Sony A7Rii + Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE – Shot at f2.8 – 1/30th – ISO 320

Kyoto, Japan – Sony A7Rii + Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE – Shot at f2.8 – 1/30th – ISO 2500

Click here to see all our images from Japan

If you are interested in joining us for an “Autumn in Japan” Photography Workshop from 12 November to 23 November 2020 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$400-$500 in Australia but with the link below, it is currently priced USD$239 at the time of writing this post. In comparison, to purchase the Sony Zeiss 35mm F2.8 will currently cost in excess of AUD$700.

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/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 

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 A7Rii 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
Samyang 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye – Buy here at Adorama  /  Buy in Australia
Samyang 12mm f/2.8 Fisheye – Buy here at Adorama  / Buy in Australia (use WSP10 for 10% discount)

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 and Samyang 12mm F2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lenses. To read any of our other reviews click here

Click the banner below to see what deals may be available for this product.

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.   

Like this post? You may also enjoy our Newsletter. You can receive new posts direct to your inbox by subscribing here.