Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE – Tiny but Premium

The 45mm focal length is an unusual focal length. In all our years in photography (30+) this is not a focal length that we have ever come across. A few other manufacturers are producing lenses with the 45mm focal length but not for Sony E Mounts. Naturally, over the course of our career in photography, we have owned a 50mm lens, a focal length that has surely been the staple of just about every photographer that has picked up a camera, especially in the film era. So it will be interesting to see how a slightly wider version of the ‘nifty fifty’ performs.

As mentioned in previous posts, in our travel photography work we rely heavily on zoom lenses for most of the heavy lifting. We do still use prime lenses such as the Laowa 15mm f/2, Samyang 12mm f/2.8 Fisheye, Samyang AF 18mm f2.8 FE, Samyang AF 35mm FE, and a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro. We also occasionally use a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 MD lens that Paul originally owned in the early ’80s. This is a fantastic manual lens to use on the Sony A7 series camera although not that sharp at f/1.7.

Maxxum, the Australian distributors of Samyang lenses, was kind enough to lend us the Samyang AF 45mm f1.8 FE for this review. This review has been based on results from a Full Frame sensor camera (Sony A7Riii). As we do not own an APS-C camera anymore we recommend you watch this video to see results using APS-C cameras. For those that shoot crop sensor (APS-C) cameras, the focal range will equate to 67.5mm.

As mentioned above, 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 45mm focal length is already represented in our  Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 and Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 lens but the latter is purely used as a back-up lens these days.

So why would we be interested in a lens such as the AF 45mm f/1.8 FE lens? Well, we love small lenses – mostly because these days we have whittled down our equipment to largely fit into a Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L camera bag  But, as much as this is a positive, the lens still has to perform well before we would consider adding it to our arsenal.

The Lens

The lens comes with a small case, the same size as the AF 18mm f2.8 FE lens, 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. The lens does reside in the case when we store it in our E-Dry Cabinet. It also comes with a plastic lens hood although it barely extends about 1″/2.5cm beyond the front of the lens. The lens fits 49mm filters. 

Samyang AF 45mm f1.8 FE

Sony A7Riii with the Samyang AF 45mm f1.8 FE lens attached

ON1 Photo RAW 2020

Like all the Samyang “Tiny” lenses it is a minute 56mm in length and weighing in at just 162g/5.71oz. A little heavier than their other tiny lenses however to be expected with its slightly longer focal length and f1.8 aperture. The weight of these lenses makes 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/1.8 up to f/22. There is no OSS (optical steady shot) built into the lens however you can use the camera body’s IBIS (in-body image stabilization) to reduce camera shake at low shutter speeds.

The lens performs admirably from f/1.8 all the way up to f/11. Beyond f/11 the lens starts softening from the effects of diffraction. At f/1.8, this lens is amazingly sharp in the centre and the edges of the frame are pretty good as well although not as good as the centre of the frame. It does, however, suffer from considerable vignetting at f/1.8 which is *correctable in post-processing. It steadily improves as you stop down to f/8 and beyond. We’re not going to mention bokeh in this post as everyone has a different opinion on what type of bokeh they prefer, and as we rarely shoot portraits, the out of focus points of light in the background of our images is not that important.

*For some strange reason if you are applying the Lens Correction in Adobe Lightroom the lens is listed under Rokinon, not Samyang. Possibly because Samyang is referred to as Rokinon in the larger market of North America. 

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 3 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. Click on the image below to watch on YouTube.

Samyang AF 45mm f1.8 FE - Video

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: 0.45m (1.48ft)
Filter Size: 49mm 
Mount: Sony FE
Angle of View: Full Frame – 52.31º, APS-C – 35.31º
Length: 56.1mm/2.21in
Weight: 162g/5.71oz 

Photography Planner

Verdict

We love the AF 45mm f1.8 FE however we have not had the real opportunity to give the lens a field test as this post has been written during home isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We did manage to get it out to a park for some testing but there are no real-world shooting examples to post – yet. Should we still have the lenses after the ‘stay at home’ order has been lifted we will definitely be adding more images to this post. The test images below have been shot on the Sony A7Riii camera. Based on the images below the lens shows fantastic sharpness in the centre of the frame from f/1.8 to f/11 before diffraction starts to slightly soften the image. In the corners, it is exceptional from f/4 and beyond. The sweet spot for sharpness in this lens edge-to-edge is at f/8 & f/11.

As mentioned in previous posts, the Sony FE 24-105 f/4 does most of the heavy-lifting in our photography but when we shoot in limited lighting we can see the benefit of using the Samyang AF 45mm f1.8 FE lens. Would we buy it? At this stage probably not, as the focal length is too close in focal length to our Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE lens to warrant carrying around for the sake of roughly 1 stop of extra light.

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 OIS (Image Stabilization), but that is to be expected in such a small lens and you can easily turn it on in-camera.

Once again, Samyang has produced a fantastic lens. We rate this lens as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Sample Images

Below are some of the boring test images we have taken with the Sony A7Riii and  Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE lens. We mounted the camera on the Peak Design Travel Tripod. Hover over the images for a magnified view.

Above: Shot at f1.8 – 1/50 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. This is acceptably sharp in the centre although not as tack sharp as f8/f11

Above: Shot at f1.8 – 1/50 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. There is a hint of vignetting in the corners and slightly soft but acceptable.

Above: Shot at f2.8 – 1/20 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. The centre is now increasingly sharper

Above: Shot at f2.8 – 1/20 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. There is still a slight hint of vignetting but sharpness has improved.

Above: Shot at f4 – 1/8 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. The centre is minimally sharper than f/2.8

Above: Shot at f4 – 1/8 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. No vignetting and sharpness in the corners has improved

Above: Shot at f5.6 – 1/4 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Very sharp in the centre

Above: Shot at f5.6 – 1/4 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. The corners are now acceptably sharp.

Above: Shot at f8 – 1/2  – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Fantastic sharpness in the centre.

Above: Shot at f8 – 1/2 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Corners are now very sharp

Above: Shot at f11 – 1 sec  – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Fantastic sharpness in the centre

Above: Shot at f11 – 1 sec – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Corners are very sharp

Above: Shot at f16 – 2 sec  – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Slight softening of the image due to diffraction

Above: Shot at f16 – 2 sec – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Slight softening of the image due to diffraction

Above: Shot at f22 – 3.2 sec  – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Slight softening of the image due to diffraction

Above: Shot at f22 – 3.2 sec – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). Lens Profile applied in Lightroom. No other edits. Increased softening of the image due to diffraction

Conclusion

This is a fantastic lens if you love the 45mm viewpoint and want a lens that is light, sharp and inexpensive compared to name brands. The lens currently retails between AUD$680-$700 in Australia, however, if purchasing in Australia visit Maxxum (Australian Distributor) and use the coupon code WSP10 to get a *10% discount. On Adorama, it is currently priced USD$329 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/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 24-105mm 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.

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