Samyang has devised a great marketing plan for summer 2016: instead of releasing 5 new lenses at once, they're rolling them out once a week, giving the products a lot more coverage as sites like this one report every lens release. While this means more attention for Samyang, it also means we get to dive into each lens in a bit more detail, so that we’ll notice good things we might have missed, but also means we’ll be annoyed by things we would’ve ignored in a more traditional “here are all our new things at once!” type announcement.
The good with this lens?
The most obvious is the F1.2/T1.3 widest aperture. While most of the progress is low-light shooting of the last decade has been focused on sensor sensitivity (such as with the Red Weapon Helium), there are still benefits to a wide aperture lens. Even with super fast sensors, you can often find yourself in need of a wider aperture for scenes where you don’t control the lighting, or where you are depending on dim natural sources. Of course, with wide aperture comes a shallower depth of field. It’s nice to see some manufacturers at the lower end pushing beyond the T1.4 we mostly see as the “wide aperture” lens. Of course, there are the Vantage ONE T1 lenses, but man, they cost a pretty penny.
Which leads us to the next positive on this lens: a $500 price point. That’s a great price for a lens that can provide such amazing wide aperture performance.
Speaking of that aperture, it’s 9 blades, which, if you do shoot wide-open, will make for smoother bokeh rings, as opposed to the triangular spread you see with a three blade shutter such as older Zeiss Super Speeds when shooting WFO (wide freakin' open).
Front view showing the aperture blades in a closed-down position.Credit: Courtesy of Samyang
The mirrorless-only design of the lens makes sense at this price point and explains why it's a design that won't likely make it to the PL-mount XEEN line. Creating lenses with such wide apertures often pushes the rear element of the lens back to where it might interfere with a spinning mirror (hence the reason Kubrick needed to use non-reflex BNC to use the Zeiss .7 glass on Barry Lindon), and by designing the lens specifically for APC-C and 4/3 cameras, they are able to engineer that aperture at an affordable cost. Combine with an A7S with APS-C mode (which some operators are using to reduce rolling shutter), and you've got a low-light monster.
But are there drawbacks?
The lack of full frame coverage will be a drawback for many, but for the price versus specs standpoint, the smaller coverage area makes a lot of sense. Overall, from what I’ve seen I’m a fan of the lens, with one small annoyance: marketing it as F1.2 so prominently. Yes, it’s F1.2, but it’s transmitted light T1.3, which is what you would use setting exposure. F1.2 is traditionally considered to be a full 1/2 stop wider than a F1.4. While T1.3 is only “.1” less, at this end of the scale, .1 actually matters, and makes the lens more like 1/3 of a stop wider than a 1.4 lens.
A 1/3 of a stop is definitely notable, but less so than a half stop. Since their marketing is how much “brighter” this lens is than others (and a 35mm T.14 is widely available), it’s a rings a little hollow. Of course, setting the lens to wide open at F1.2 will have a shallower depth of field than a 1.4, but that’s not what Samyang choose to highlight.
Would that stop me buying the lens? Absolutely not. The lens looks like it could be a great addition to any mirrorless kit. But if you’re going to roll out a lens a week, little annoyances are going to feel like a bigger deal. The specs also don't mention whether the aperture ring is smooth or notched which, considering the focus on the smoothness of the focus ring, makes me think it's clicked. Not particularly frustrating for a lens that's clearly intended to live most of its life wide open, and aftermarket de-clicking is available, but it would be nice if it came smooth from the factory.
What do you guys think, does this lens fill a need in your kit?