The long box contains the lens, an instruction manual, a soft bag, front and rear lens caps, and a bayonet-mount lens hood that does not obstruct the 72mm lens filter thread. No surprises here. I would advise getting a modern Nikon made lens cap (with the recessed slots) since placing and removing the Samyang made cap is nearly impossible with large fingers like I have. The hood is plastic, and seems to do a fine job at controlling stray light. The hood also reverses over the lens for better space saving in your camera bag.
One negative point about the Samyang is the fact that it doesn't provide a minimum aperture lock. If the ring does move accidentally away from minimum aperture, then FEE will appear in the viewfinder and top LCD warning the photographer of the error. No big deal since I haven’t had any issues yet. I don’t use the aperture ring since this version of the lens comes with an electronic chip which handles all communication with the camera. All data necessary for light measurement and aperture control are transmitted to the camera body. Flash is also fully usable and most importantly, all relevant lens parameters are displayed in EXIF. Like most modern lenses this optic is an internal focus design, meaning that the front element doesn't rotate or that the lens body racks in or out while focusing.
Sharpness: At f/1.4 the Samyang is nearly as sharp in the center and slightly catches up if not betters the Nikkor towards the edges. In real life, you wouldn’t really notice any differences unless you are doing what we are now, pixel peeping!
Contrast: OK, here the Nikkor is definitely a winner and it is noticeable. I mean show me two unprocessed portraits and I can easily pick the Samyang, since it has a noticeable amount of less contrast. But how negative is that characteristic? Color: The Samyang has an overly warm rendering which at times can be nice, but a neutral rendering is preferable. The Nikkor has a neutral rendering with a slight greenish bluish tinge that is really not noticeable.
Vignetting: Well, the Samyang doesn’t fair well in the vignetting department and its actually present throughout the aperture range, meaning you never really get rid of the noticeable vignetting. This is one of the reasons why you get darker images with the Samyang even though exposures are the same for both lenses.
Light Transmission: The f-number of a lens is the ratio of the focal length to the effective object lens diameter. It is a mechanical ratio and does not provide any guarantees to the actual light transmission. The Samyang compared to the AF-D Nikkor is about 0.5 stop darker for the same exposure. It’s not a slower lens, since it really is a f/1.4 but the glass within its construction does absorb more light than the Nikkor. Combine this with the already mentioned heavy vignetting and the darker result can be bothersome under testing/comparison conditions but in real life you probably won’t really notice it.
Fringing: So how does the cheap Samyang compare to the AF-D Nikkor? Well, the newer optical design of the Samyang manages to easily outperform the dated Nikkor and this is really no surprise, though I doubt it would beat the AFS version.
Another big advantage of the Samyang is how easy you can nail sharp focus. For some reason focus is just snappier, I mean I'm finding it easier to focus this lens than any other fast lens I’ve ever used before. I’m constantly amazed at how many shots keep showing up in focus compared to the AF-D Nikkor.
Another characteristic worth noting is that the Samyang is more like a 90mm lens or the Nikkor an 80mm take your pick. Now this may seem like cheating to some, because what’s happening is that from the moment you have focused on exactly the same plane for both lenses then the background blur (bokeh) will theoretically be better for the longer lens.
What to like:
- Excellent wide open
- Very little chromatic aberrations
- Practically zero distortion
- Vignetting not a real concern
- True f/1.4
- Very good build quality
- Excellent price-quality ratio
What not to like:
- No AF
- No aperture lock
- The first version doesn't provide AE chip
Images taken with the Samyang 85mm
NOTE: The above review was originally written & published 13 July 2010 on Nikonglass