Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE – Tiny but Absolute
Once again, Samyang (also known as Rokinon in North America) has released a lens with an unusual focal length. Their latest offering in their ‘Tiny’ series of lenses is the AF 75mm f1.8 FE lens for Sony E Mount cameras. If you would like to read our reviews of their other ‘Tiny’ lenses, please check out the links at the bottom of this post.
Generally, the majority of portrait photographers gravitate towards the 85mm focal range, so it will be interesting to see whether Samyang’s latest addition to their ‘Tiny’ stable of lenses will be as popular. Mind you, as these lenses are only produced for Sony cameras, the only real competition is the Sony FE 85mm f1.8, Samyang AF 85mm f1.4, Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art, or the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 STM lens. Any other 75mm lens would require the use of an adapter. Rather than compete with the 85mm focal length, Samyang has released this ‘Tiny’ lens with a 75mm focal length. Clever – as we are unaware of any 75mm AF lenses on the market for Sony cameras.
Above: Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE (Left) and Sony A7Riii + Sony FE 85mm f1.8 (Right)
As mentioned in previous posts, in our travel photography work we rely heavily on zoom lenses for most of the heavy lifting – notably the FE 24-105mm f/4, FE 16-35 f/4, and FE 70-200 f/4. These are all f/4 lenses as the Sony GM lenses (that open up to f/2.8) are just too large and heavy for our needs. We do still use a few prime lenses such as the Laowa 15mm f/2, Samyang 12mm f/2.8 Fisheye, Samyang AF 18mm f/2.8 FE, Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE, Samyang AF 35mm f/1.8 FE, Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8 FE, and a Sony 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 distributor of Samyang lenses, once again, was kind enough to lend us the Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE for this review. If you live in Australia check out our discount code at the bottom of this post to get 10% off. 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 please refer to the video below to see results using APS-C cameras. For those that shoot crop sensor (APS-C) cameras, the focal range will equate to 112.5 mm.
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 75mm focal length is already represented in our Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 and Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 lenses, although we probably wouldn’t use the larger 70-200 lens to for this focal length when we have the 24-105.
So what would pique our interest in a lens such as the AF 75mm f/1.8 FE lens? Well, we love small lenses – mostly because these days we have whittled down our equipment to fit into a Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L . The other major benefit is the fast aperture. Although fast apertures are generally not that important to us for portrait shots, they are important to us for low-light street photography. Having a lens in low-light that is over 2 stops faster can have its benefits when trying to keep your ISO low, although it can open a can of worms when it comes to depth-of-field.
But, as much as this is a plus, the lens still has to perform well before we would consider adding it to our arsenal. Keep in mind that we are NOT portrait photographers and in our travel photography we rarely take posed portrait images, however, this focal length is still suitable for a vast range of subject matter. As mentioned above, our go-to lens for most of our shots is the Sony FE 24-105 f/4 lens which covers this focal length. So this will need to be a damn good lens for us to consider carrying around. Read on…
The lens comes with a small zippered reinforced case which protects the lens quite well. We do not use the case in the field as space in our camera bags is at a premium, but it does reside in the case when we store it in our E-Dry Cabinet. The lens also comes with a substantial plastic lens hood which is the largest of any of the ‘Tiny’ series lenses. The lens fits 58mm filters*.
* 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 on all their products.
Although it is the largest of all the ‘Tiny’ lenses, it is still only 69mm in length, which is only 8.5mm longer than the AF 18mm f/2.8 FE. It weighs in at just 230g/8.11oz which is only 68g/2.40oz heavier than the AF 45mm f/1.8 FE lens. Considering the focal length, this is to be expected. One of the key reasons why we love the ‘Tiny’ lens series is their weight, which makes it so easy to handhold slow shutter speeds and ideal for low light. 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 major difference between this lens and other Tiny lenses is one new feature that portrait photographers may find handy. On the side of the lens, you have a custom switch that 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 setting.
- 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).
As an added bonus, if you own the Samyang Lens Station you will be able to customise the switch* (see image below). The settings we have below would convert the switch to an AF/MF switch and the aperture would need to be changed on the camera body. Naturally, you can change these custom settings to whatever works best for you.
*Note: Make sure you have the latest version of the Lens Manager software otherwise the Custom S/W field will not appear.
Similar to the AF 45mm f1.8 FE lens, it performs amazingly well in the centre of the frame from f/1.8 up to f/11. Beyond f/11 the lens starts softening from the effects of diffraction. At f/1.8, this lens is pretty sharp in the centre, although it is a bit better from f/2.8, and the edges of the frame are pretty good although a little soft in the extreme corners. The corner sharpness improves as you stop down. There is, however, some slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations) in the corners at all apertures. This is easily corrected in editing software.
The lens does, however, suffers from vignetting at f/1.8 which is to be expected, however, that is easily correctable in post-processing or in-camera if you turn on Shading Comp (Menu>Camera1>Lens Comp>Shading Comp)*. The vignetting improves significantly as you stop down to f/4 and beyond and keep in mind that we have not made any lens profile corrections as the profile is not available at the time of writing.
*Navigation to Shading Comp refers to Sony A7Riii but may differ on other models.
Below is a shot showing bokeh (the out-of-focus points of light in the background of images). As bokeh is not that important in our photography, we will let you decide whether the bokeh is acceptable or not, as everyone has a different opinion on what type of bokeh they prefer.
Above: Hover over image for a closer look at the bokeh. Model: Marvin – for bookings contact us
This lens’s firmware has not been updated at the time of writing 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 1. 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). You will also need the Lens Station if you want to customize the switch on the lens.
Below is a great video about the lens. Click on the image below to view on YouTube.
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: 0.69m (2.26ft)
Filter Size: 58mm
Mount: Sony FE
Angle of View: Full Frame – 32.9º, APS-C – 21.9º
Once again, in our opinion, Samyang has delivered the goods with the AF 75mm f/1.8 FE and we can understand why photographers will want to get their hands on this lens. 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 at f/16 and beyond. In the corners, it is exceptional from f/4 and beyond. Having said that, if you are using this lens for portraiture then corner sharpness is really irrelevant. For edge-to-edge sharpness of a scene with everything on the same plane where depth-of-field is not a factor, the sweet spot of this lens is between 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 75mm f1.8 FE lens. Would we buy it? Probably not, and that is only because the focal length is not one that we shoot at very often. Having said that, after a full day of testing the lens in the field, we really enjoyed it, so now we’re not so sure.
Once again, the only thing we do not like about the lens is its lack of weather sealing. This seems to be a frustrating feature for most Samyang lenses (with the exception of the AF 35mm f/1.8 FE and AF 24mm f/1.8 FE lenses) but this is certainly 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 the camera.
Samyang has produced a fantastic lens. If you love to shoot portraits and want a light, affordable lens then we would highly recommend this lens.
Below are some test images we have taken with the Sony A7Riii and Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE lens just to illustrate sharpness in the centre and corners. We mounted the camera on the Peak Design Travel Tripod. The images have not been edited and sharpening has been reduced to ‘0’ in Lightroom. Hover over the images for a magnified view. There are some ‘in-the-field’ shots below as well.
Above: f8 – 1/80 – ISO 100. No Edits.
Above: Shot at f1.8 – 1/1250 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. This is acceptably sharp in the centre although not as tack sharp as f8-f11
Above: Shot at f1.8 – 1/1250 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. There is vignetting in the corners and slightly soft but acceptable. Slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations).
Above: Shot at f2.8 – 1/500 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. There has been a slight improvement in sharpness in the centre
Above: Shot at f2.8 – 1/500 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. There is still a slight hint of vignetting but sharpness has improved significantly. Slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations).
Above: Shot at f4 – 1/320 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. The centre is minimally sharper than f/2.8.
Above: Shot at f4 – 1/320 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. No vignetting and sharpness in the corners have improved marginally. Slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations).
Above: Shot at f5.6 – 1/160 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Improved sharpness in the centre.
Above: Shot at f5.6 – 1/160 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. The corners are now marginally sharper. Slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations).
Above: Shot at f8 – 1/80 – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Fantastic sharpness in the centre. This is as sharp as the lens gets.
Above: Shot at f8 – 1/80 – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Corners are now sharp. Slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations). This is as sharp as the corners will get.
Above: Shot at f11 – 1/50 sec – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Maintains the sharpness in the centre.
Above: Shot at f11 – 1/50 sec – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Corners are the same as f8. Slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations).
Above: Shot at f16 – 1/25 sec – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Marginal softening of the image due to diffraction.
Above: Shot at f16 – 1/25 sec – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Marginal softening of the image due to diffraction. Slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations).
Above: Shot at f22 – 1/10 sec – ISO 100 – Centre
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Slight softening of the image due to diffraction
Above: Shot at f22 – 1/10 sec – ISO 100 – Corner
Shot in RAW (Compressed). No edits. Increased softening of the image due to diffraction. Slight CA (Chromatic Aberrations).
Above: the almost completed Crown Sydney due to open in December 2020.
Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE lens
75mm – f/13 – 1/160 – ISO100
As Travel Photographers, we were concerned that this would not be a lens that would suit our style of photography. Sure, it has its limitations due to its focal length but after a while, we really enjoyed using the Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE lens.
Above: Buildings in Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia.
Sony A7Riii + Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE lens
75mm – f/9 – 1/400 – ISO100
The lens provides wonderful compression and sharpness for architectural images. Sure, we could have captured the same image on our Sony 24-105 or 70-200, however, the size, weight, and fast aperture of the Samyang AF 75mm f1.8 FE, makes it a fantastic little lens.
THE FINAL WORD
This is a fantastic lens if you love the 75mm viewpoint and want a lens that is light, sharp and inexpensive compared to the other portrait lenses. The lens currently retails between AUD$700-$800 in Australia, however, if purchasing in Australia see below for details on how to get a *10% discount. On Adorama, it is currently priced at USD$379 at the time of writing this post.
RATED: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Above: The Samyang ‘Tiny’ series of AF (Autofocus) lenses for Sony E Mount cameras
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 - Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8 FE - Tiny but Wide - Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 24mm f/1.8 FE - Masterpiece for Astrophotography - Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 35mm f/1.8 FE - Tiny but All-Around - Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE - Tiny but Mighty - Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE - Tiny but Premium - Adorama / Buy in Australia
Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE - Tiny but Absolute - 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.
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.