On Monday, I “accidently” won an eBay auction for a Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens. This is an all-manual lens: manual focus, manual aperture control and no electrical contacts (so no image stabilisation or EXIF data if that stuff matters to you). I’ve wanted a really fast lens in this focal range for a while, really since I started to appreciate that people will not live forever. There’s a family reunion on my wife’s side in August and I wanted to capture some good portraits.
I dearly love my Minolta f/1.7 but it often feels like it inhabits an awkward middle ground on the APS-C sensors: it’s often too long and sometimes not long enough. Sony do a nice (and cheap) 85mm f/2.8 lens but that isn’t really fast enough for me. The alternative might be the Sony Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 but that would set me back around £1000 — I’m not that into portraits! So my compromise is the Samyang lens which a great optical performer, fast and I got mine for under €200.
Obviously, this is not a lens for capturing the kids running around the garden — although I did try and, even though the shots didn’t have that critical focus, they would have been fine at 6×4. What I really wanted this lens for was candid shots using the liveview and flip-up screen. This way I can leave the camera on the table or down at my waist and take some photos without being noticed. The Sony a580 has liveview magnification which is extremely useful for getting the focus spot on. For the pixel-peepers (and let’s face it, who isn’t when they get a new lens), this is a 100% crop of the original RAW file in Lightroom (f/1.4, ISO 800). Not too shabby.