The newly announced Samyang 135mm f/2 has caused quite a bit of excitement with its wide aperture and modest ($550) price tag.
Now that all the specs have been revealed, it’s time to see how the lens compares to Canon’s version of the 135mm f/2 (@ $1,049.00 – almost double the price) .
A head-to-head comparison, conducted by South Korean blog Gear for Image, brings first results of the new portrait lens. Facing Canon’s superb lens, the Samyang has its work cut out.
Interestingly, according to entry date of the original post, this review was submitted on January 6, 2015. That’s almost a week prior to the official announcement. While possible that it’s simply an older blog post that was edited after the official announcement, the fact that the blog already has the lens in their possession leads me to believe that the post was in fact posted a week ago. If that is the case, this comparison might be using a pre-production copy of the lens so we can expect to see slight variations with the final production copies.
The comparison was done using a Canon 5D Mark II and a tripod. All photos were taken at, wait for it… 135mm lenses!
For this test the Sigma 70-200mm lens was used as well, giving you a comparison of Samyang’s lens with a standard zoom lens. We will focus on how the Samyang fares against its Canon counterpart, but you might find the results interesting if you own that lens.
Close scene comparison
Here is how I see the results:
- f/2 – The Samyang is better all over. Hands down the best performer at f/2.
- f/2.8 – Samyang is better in the center, with its advantage increasing the further out you go.
- f/4 – Samyang maintains just a slight advantage
- f/5.6 – Samyang seems to be a tiny bit better at C and L1. The gap is bigger for L2 and L3.
- f/8 – Same
- f/11 – At this point both lenses match up pretty much the same. Samyang has a slight advantage.
- f/16 – Diffraction has kicked in by this point so all lenses show a decrease in quality. For the first time Canon seems to have a slight advantage.
- f/22 – Canon still has the upper hand but just barely. Anyway, if you’re looking to maximum sharpness you won’t use either lens at f/16 or f/22 on this camera.
Far scene comparison
- f/2 – Samyang wins across the board. The Canon shows terrible chromatic aberration (more on that in a bit) which makes it hard to tell just how much better the Samyang is.
- f/2.8 – Same
- f/4 – The gap has closed somewhat, despite the CA.
- f/5.6 – The Canon is back in the fight – both lenses produce pretty similar results.
- f/8 – By now the Canon and Samyang appear equal. Canon might have a slight advantage in sections A and E.
Angle Of View & Distortion
Both lenses show negligible distortion.
At the distance the photos were taken the Samyang’s field of view was a bit wider, so a closer photo was taken for a same-frame comparison.
Longitudinal Color Aberration
Samyang’s ED (extra-low dispersion) element definitely pulls its own weight. The Canon doesn’t shine at f/2, but its gets bit better at f/2.8 and the CA is almost gone at f/4. By f/5.6 it is completely gone. Either way, this kind of CA can easily be removed in post production.
The Canon shows clear CA at f/2. Otherwise both lenses passed this test without incident, though it wasn’t the most challenging situation.
This is a clear win across the board for Canon, though this is also easily fixed in PP.
There’s no comparison here, just showing Samyang’s bokeh.
The Samyang has a nine blade iris that should help it achieve great bokeh. Perfectly round at f/2, the bokeh is no longer round from f/2.8. While the bokeh is not bad, keep in mind this photo was intended to show the shape of the bokeh and not the bokeh itself.
Gear for Image conclude that this is Samyang’s best lens so far, and based on what we’ve seen here I can’t disagree. While this review compared just one copy of the Samyang 135mm f/2 (so YMMV a bit), it seems like a lot of photographers and filmmakers will be adding a new item to their wishlists.
- Resolution – at close distance the Samyang absolutely crushed the Canon wide open and remained better overall until diffraction became an issue. At a longer distance Samyang once again blew the Canon out of the water at large apertures.
- Distortion – the lens has almost no distortion at all.
- Chromatic Aberration – Samyang have done a great job keeping chromatic aberration at bay with this lens.
- Mounts – this lens will be available in almost any mount imaginable.
- Price – A tremendous advantage, no doubt. The Samyang carries a price tag of just $549, compared to the Canon’s $1,049 or Nikon’s $1,299.
- Light Falloff – the lens does show pretty serious light falloff compared to the Canon, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a click of a button in PP.
- Manual Focus – while this contributes significantly to the reduced cost of the lens, most people tend to go for AF lenses. This will not be a problem for filmmakers or photographers who will use the lens on a tripod and have time to adjust focus manually. If your camera has an EVF, or Magic Lantern, you’re golden as well as you have focus peaking to help you out.
- Field of View – The Samyang’s FoV is a tad shorter than the Canon at a certain distance. At larger distances the FoV is equal.
- Lens Build – Gear for Image state that the aperture ring is flat and not easy to turn, which could be a problem if you wear gloves. They also mention that the lens hood is difficult to remove. Both these issues might be resolved with newer batches.
- Weight – despite the lack of AF, the Samyang weighs 80 grams (2.8 oz) more than the Canon.
- Nothing really. If I were looking for a 135mm lens I’d be pre-ordering the lens as I type this.
Lens and Example Images
Notice the photos are of the cine version.
Full size example as well as more info can be found at the bottom of the original post.
All photos from Gear for Image.
Note: a previous version of this post had the lenses mixed up. It’s been corrected and is ok now.