Lens Sharpness, Contrast and Color Rendition
As I reveal in the subsequent sections of this review, the sharpness performance of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is very impressive when compared to other 35mm lenses. I was rather surprised by the resolving power of the lens – it actually outperformed the almost 4x times more expensive Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 lens at all apertures, from center to corner. When stopped down to f/5.6 and smaller, the lens performed almost on par with my new favorite Sigma 35mm f/1.4, which is very impressive.
Take a look at how Imatest measured the sharpness of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 in a lab environment:
As expected, the lens starts out a little weaker wide open, with fairly good overall sharpness. As you stop down the lens to f/2, sharpness starts to improve considerably, especially in the center. The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 reaches very good resolution at f/2.8 in the center, with its peak performance between f/5.6 and f/8. The lens does not show strong signs of field curvature, which is good news.
When it comes to bokeh, the lens renders strange-looking highlights. While the background highlights do not have a very defined outer shape to them like the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 and Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lenses do, there is some visible fringing on the edges and the inner parts of the highlights have dirty, directional “wavy” dots, as illustrated in the below image:
But this is not the worst performer of the group in my opinion – the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 renders strong outer rings with onion-shaped bokeh, which is not something very pleasant to look at.
Note that the above image shows “Rokinon 35mm f/1.4” instead of Samyang 35mm f/1.4. As explained earlier of this review, they are both exactly the same lenses.
Most prime lenses heavily vignette when shot wide open, especially on a full-frame body. As expected, the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 lens vignettes quite a bit wide open, with vignetting levels falling sharply when stopped down beyond f/2. Here are the vignetting levels measured by Imatest:
When compared to other lenses, the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 seems to have pretty similar vignetting levels as the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. The Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 is the worst in the group.
Here is the worst case scenario at f/1.4, as illustrated by Imatest:
Ghosting and Flare
One of the biggest weaknesses of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is its poor handling of ghosting and flares. Since the lens does not have the same high-quality coating on its elements as other 35mm lenses, it is very prone to flare and ghosting. When there is a bright source of light in the frame, the lens exhibits flare with defined edges, as shown in the below image:
There is also visible “rainbow” ghosting in the frame, which you cannot fix in post-processing without having to clone the affected areas. Still, I personally like this rendering of ghosting a little better than what the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 does with its magenta/purple streaks of colors. Due to the 8 blade diaphragm on this lens, it also renders sun stars differently than other lenses. Personally, I like the 8-edge stars in pictures better – they look cleaner in my opinion. Again, that’s a matter of personal taste.
If you like photographing sunsets and sunrises with the sun in the frame, I would experiment with this lens more to see where to position the sun in the frame best. Some angles are always worse than others, so you should watch out for those bad spots. Light intensity and use of filters also affects ghosting and flare quite a bit, so keep that in mind. The above shots were taken without the lens hood or filters.
Another disadvantage of the lens is its visible barrel distortion, which is quite evident when photographing straight lines. Imatest measured barrel distortion of 1.68%, which is pretty strong for a 35mm lens, especially when compared to others. The Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 lenses seem to be at about the same level, with some visible distortion, while the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is the worst of the group. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 performs incredibly well for a wide-angle lens, with practically no visible distortion.
Lateral chromatic aberration levels are pretty moderate, staying under 1.5 pixels at the maximum aperture and smaller than 1 pixel beyond f/2. In comparison to other 35mm f/1.4 lenses, the Samyang is the second worst after the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G lens:
I would not worry about lateral chromatic aberrations though, since those can be easily fixed in Lightroom and Photoshop.
As expected on fast aperture prime lenses, there is a visible amount of longitudinal chromatic aberration.
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