Review: Samyang 85mm ED UMC CS lens

May 20th 2019, 05:29 | Written by Konstantin Koll

I've recently purchased the Samyang 85mm ED UMC CS lens to improve my portrait game. This is some serious glas!

What happened so far

I own a copy of the great SEL-50F18 OSS portrait lens, which slowly conquered the spot of my most used lens. While it is one of the sharpest lenses for Sony cameras, I was still a bit unsatisfied: the bokeh at f/1.8 is great, but not stunning—the depth of field however is too shallow for most portrait situations. Stepping the lens down increases the sharpness, but also degrades the bokeh.

I've read online that a larger focal length also increases the area of sharpness when increasing the distance to the subject, but maintains or even improves the bokeh. I wanted to try an 85mm lens, and settled for the Samyang 85mm ED UMC CS lens.

Overview

I'm very happy with my Samyang 12mm NCS CS lens, so it was natural to choose Samyang. My photography hobby runs on a budget, so I opted for a fully manual lens: there is absolutely no electric connection to the camera body, so autofocus is not available. The aperture has to be dialed in manually on the lens as well. I'm rather experienced, though, so saving a couple hundred Euros is definately more important to me.

This lens is some serious glas: it is by far the biggest and most heavy lens I own to date! It shifts the camera weight quite a lot, something to get used to—please try shooting some pictures over your bed first, in case you accidentally drop your gear.

Image quality

I went for a stroll around the lake again, and picked up a friend and her hellhound along the way. Most importantly, the 85mm lens works as expected: portraits are a bit more appealing when taken from afar with an 85mm lens compared to 50mm portraits. When I used the lens at f/1.4, the bokeh is stunning—so the minimum goal to keep this lens is easily achieved! It gives pictures taken with my APS-C Sony A6300 the awesome full frame look I've longed for. Center sharpness is also great if you can nail the focus! I'll definately need a bit of training with this lens before any serious shooting.

There's a drawback, though: the Samyang 85mm ED UMC CS introduces chromatic aberrations at f/1.4 I've never seen before! Take a look at the first picture in the series below: even when scaled down, you can see purple fringing at the top and green fringes at the bottom of the dog. Chromatic aberrations are as wide as 9 pixels at original size! To be fair, this improves a lot when stepping down to f/2 and beyond.

By the way, my next blog posts will be all about aviation again—I promise!

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