If you like to shoot portraits, an 85mm prime lens could be one of the best investments you'll ever make for your DSLR. Richard Sibley and Michael Topham put five models through a rigorous test

Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF MC

Resolution

Given its price, the Samyang lens performs extremely well, and at f/5.6 it is on par with the sharpest of all the lenses in this test. However, there is quite a difference between the centre and corners, although at f/11 the corners and the centre of the frame are far closer.

Shading

Shading follows the familiar pattern for these 85mm lenses, with a darkening of around 0.6EV in the corners. This is largely reduced by f/2.8, at which point the very edges of the frame are around 0.16EV darker.

Curvilinear distortion

Once again, the Samyang lens is on a par with the competition, with a distortion that is just -0.3 at its very worst, and averages at a mere -0.1.

See our graphs explained

Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF MC

Price: £284
With sensational build quality for its price, can the Samyang lens match its rivals in other criteria?

Samyang is known for producing affordable manual-focus lenses, and the 85mm f/1.4 IF MC is a great example. At £284, it’s a much more affordable alternative to some of the primes in this group test, working out at more than £1,400 less than the slightly faster Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens and £895 less than the Nikon 85mm f/1.4.

It is available in a range of different mounts to fit full-frame and APS-C DSLRs, including Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax/Samsung. In terms of its construction, it features nine elements in seven groups, including one aspherical lens and an eight-blade aperture. To add to the very high level of light transmission, the lens features multi-layered, anti-reflective coatings.

This lens is of a very similar size and weight to the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*. The focus ring
just in front of the variable aperture ring is a substantial size and offers plenty of grip thanks to being rubberised. It operates over half a turn, and in use, the motion feels both smooth and superbly weighted. While the finish isn’t in the same league as the Zeiss lens, the build quality can’t be faulted in any way for the price.

Score: 3 out of 5 (Good value)

Data file

Filter diameter 72mm
Lens elements 9
Groups 7
Diaphragm blades 8
Aperture f/1.4-22
Minimum focus 100cm
Length 78mm
Diameter 74.7mm
Weight 539g
Lens mount Canon, Nikon, Pentax/Samsung, Sony

  1. 1. Anatomy of an 85mm lens
  2. 2. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM
  3. 3.
  4. 4. Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF MC
  5. 5. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
  6. 6. Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*
  7. 7. Second-hand alternatives
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