If you happen to be a camera enthusiast who's looking for something novel from Korea other than kimchii, taekwondo and Hyundai cars, your best bet would probably be Samyang. Established in 1972, they manufacture a wide range of optical equipment, CCTV and photographic accessories. Their manual focus SLR lenses are also sold under a variety of names such as Rokinon, Vivitar and Bower.
I was first introduced to Samyang lenses when a sales rep from fotogears visited us a month ago. I was quite impressed with their products, so I requested another set for review as their display set was for Canon mount. So here they are, the Samyang 8mm f/3.5 fish eye (for APS-C / DX sensors), Samyang AE 14mm f/2.8 IF ED AS UMC Aspherical and Samyang AE 85mm f/1.4 IF Aspherical.
Being manual focus lenses, the engineers at Samyang have placed a high priority on the build quality and tactile quality of their lenses while maintaining state-of-the-art optical quality comparable to or superceeding Canon and Nikon equivalents. And all of these come at a significantly cheaper price =). The lens barrels are made from high quality aluminum (without the plastic junk of some lesser lenses), while the focusing rings are sufficiently damped and operate smoothly without having too little / much resistance. All lenses are supplied with focus scaling rings and aperture rings.
The advanced aspherical formula of the lenses are designed to produce high resolution and contrast at the center and peripheries even at maximum aperture. I'm not going to produce MTF charts here, but if you'd like more information, you can check out the lens reviews at photozone.de
Despite all of these, I wish the lens pinch caps were better designed and the lens hoods were made from metal instead of plastic. Oh well, all for the sake of cutting costs I suppose.
Image taken with the Olympus E-3 and wonderfully sharp Zuiko 50 f/2 macro
The newest AE lenses for Nikon mount have electronic contacts to enable automatic exposure in all modes (P/A/S/M), and when a subject is focussed correctly a beep or indicator light is shown. The exif data from the lens is also conveniently stored into the image EXIF.
For older samyang lenses without electronic contacts, if a smaller f stop is chosen (eg. f/8 or even f/4 in poor light), the camera viewfinder will be dark and make may inhibit you to set the correct focus. Therefore, set the lens to maximum aperture to set the depth of focus, and then stop the lens down and change other image parameters (eg. shutter speed, ISO) with the camera set in manual mode.
*Note - all the example images here used medium file sizes at basic quality, with sharpening set to +6.
Samyang AE 14mm f/2.8 IF ED AS UMC Aspherical
Despite the large depth of field at f/2.8, there is still a need to manually set the focus instead of just setting it at infinity to get the correct plane of focus.
Samyang 8mm f/3.5 fish eye
Samyang AE 85mm f/1.4 IF Aspherical
This lens has poor macro performance due to the fact that its minimum focus distance is 1 meter. The slightly telephoto focal length compresses the background and makes it closer than it seems to the viewer, even though it really isn't that way. It also makes people's faces appear slimmer, which is a good thing.
As with all large aperture lenses, purple fringing is quite evident at high contrast areas when you use the lens wide open.