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Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF

Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF
Weight: 20oz
Filter Size: 72mm

   The older sister to the Samyang 14mm f/2.8. Made by the same Korean company and marketed under the same variety of names as the 14mm; Samyang, Rokinon, Vivitar, Bower, Falcon, Polar and perhaps even other names. My version happens to be labeled Rokinon.The build is quite similar to the 14mm f/2.8,  not as good as an old manual focus Nikkor lens, but about on par with a modern Nikkor professional grade zooms. That's really quite good considering the price!

  85-135mm is the standard focal length for portraits, with modern users tending to shift to the wider end of the spectrum. There are a several options for 85mm portrait lenses currently in production for the Nikon F mount:
Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G AF-            at $1,700
Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D                    at $1,230
Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D                    at $465
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM  at $960
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF               at $275

   I'll keep this short since there are plenty of long, in depth reviews about this lens. Performance nearly equal to the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 lenses for a thousand less. Better bokeh (rendition of out of focus area) than the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8. None of the quality control or price issues of the not exactly cheap Sigma 85mm f/1.4. What's not to like about the Samyang 85mm f/1.4? Lack of auto-focus. Shots will be missed because of focus. Depth of field is razor thin at f/1.4. Candid portraits can be near impossible. On the other hand, if you have a patient model or friend you are shooting for, the lack of AF isn't too much of a problem. That said, if I was shooting a lot of portraits for money I'd invest in one of the Nikkor 85mm lenses, just to lower the stress factor.

  Unlike most 85mm lenses that get bitingly sharp stopped down, the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 never really gets that sharp. This doesn't bother me, it's a portrait lens designed to be used at large apertures.

Shannamar Dewey, the background is about 7' behind her. 100% crop inset, unsharpened.

Nikon D700, Samyang 85mm f/1.4 @ 1/250 f/1.4 ISO 100

The lens is quite sharp wide open, about as sharp as you'd want for portraits. 100% unsharpened crop in upper right.

Nikon D700, Samyang 85 f/1.4 @ 1/125 f/1.4 ISO 1600

   This isn't a lens I'd use often for kayaking, but from time to time low light conditions do come around, and in that situation it's priceless.

Will Pruett makes a first descent on a dark, wet day. It turned from rain to snow a few minutes later.

Nikon D700, Samyang 85 f/1.4 @ 1/1000 f2.8 ISO 800

Shorter, but wider than the 70-300VR

  Build: 7/10                    - Nice mix of plastic and metal. Could use a better lens hood, it has to be aligned perfectly to attach. Would be nice if it could focus closer.
  Handling: 7/10              - Not much to handle, the AF ring is too stiff for my taste, but it does have a nice long throw.
  Performance: 8/10        - Nearly as good optically as the expensive Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 portrait lenses. 
  Value: 10/10                 - Far and away the best value for a new portrait lens.

  Overall: 8/10                - For the price, the optical and build quality is staggering.

Practicality for kayaking: 5/10  - it's just not something you're going to use on the river a whole lot, unless you live somewhere absurdly dark.

   If you want a new, 85mm portrait lens, this is the best bargain out there.
Provided you can deal with the lack of Auto-Focus. Unfortunately it's really a f/2 lens as far as ability to gather light. but 1.4 for DOF. The lack of AF drives me crazy sometimes. I also like a little more working distance from my subjects. I'd imagine I'd like this lens a lot more on a cropped sensor camera, where it comes near the classic 135mm focal length. On the other hand the Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 and 135mm f/2.8 can be had for less on the used market and have smoother focusing action. Tough choices.

Other links:
   LensTip Review

This is a busy background, with lights on and people in the background. Not that you can tell because the bokeh really is fantastic.

Nikon D700, Samyang 85 f/1.4 @ 1/800 f1.4 ISO 200

Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 on the D700 with the lens hood attached.