Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE Review
Samyang is now well established in the field of AF lenses, building on the solid base of high-quality manual focus optics. This new lens covers the field of view defined as being closest to the human eye, the standard lens. 45mm may seem slightly wider than usual, but this stems from tradition as so many things in photography do. The standard lens for a format is deemed to be the diagonal measurement of that format, so for the 24x36mm full frame that would be 43mm. In fact, only Pentax have a 43mm lens, but there have been many 45mm offerings and, given that many inscribed focal lengths are approximations anyway, this new lens is close enough to that standard. So we need to look at how the wider standard lens works in practice, as well as the performance of the lens itself. For this review, we couple the lens with the 42MP Sony A7R III full frame body.
First impressions reveal a well made, diminutive lens that weighs in at a very modest 162g, measured without caps or hood. It is not particularly more compact than any other 45mm lens, many of which have a more “pancake” design, but it does look small, feels light and forms an unobtrusive package with the Sony Alpha A7R III body. This combination could work very well for street photography.
From the front of the lens, working backwards towards the camera body, we first find the small, circular bayonet fit lens hood. This has a rather smooth design that actually looks very good on the lens, giving some variation to the otherwise smooth tube that is the lens. The fit is secure and there is no need for any locking catch as it is extremely unlikely that the hood could be accidentally detached. Within the bayonet, the fit is a standard 49mm filter thread.
Immediately behind this is the wide manual focus ring. This has no function in normal AF settings but activates when either the MF option is selected in the camera menu or DMF (Direct Manual Focus) is chosen. DMF means that the manual focus ring is active whilst AF is being employed. The ring is, of course, electronic in operation and as a consequence is utterly smooth in action, with just the right amount of resistance. Focusing is down to 0.45m (1.48 feet), giving a maximum magnification of 0.12x. This is actually what we would expect from a 45mm or 50mm lens and is close, but not any closer than any traditional lens would have been.
There are no other features or controls on the lens, everything being controlled by the camera. The metal mount is well engineered and the lens fits smoothly and firmly onto the camera body. There is no dust and moisture resistance, so some care may need to be taken in wet conditions.
Optical construction is 7 elements in 6 groups, including 2 Aspherical and 1 ED (Extra Low Dispersion). The diaphragm has 9 blades, aiming to improve the bokeh, the fine gradation of the out of focus areas in the image. Samyang’s UMC coatings are utilised to minimise flare and ghosting.
Samyang makes various claims regarding the optical construction of the lens, citing the fact that design can be very different when there is no space needed for the “flipping mirror” of the DSLR. This would of course equally apply to a Leica and it does tend to result in smaller lenses. The potential for innovative optical design is also there. Another interesting feature of the lens is the concave front element, not unheard of, but certainly relatively rare.
The 45mm focal length may well be a matter of taste for the individual. Focal lengths of between 35mm and 58mm tend to be used as a “standard lens” and 45mm sits comfortably in the centre of that range. It will depend entirely upon the sort of photography an individual does, but as a general purpose standard lens, it works very well.
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