Samyang 135mm F/2 Compared To The Canon 135mm F/2

Jan 13, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

Samyang 135mm F/2 Compared To The Canon 135mm F/2

Jan 13, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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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!

Resolution Comparison

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

click image for full resolution

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

click image for full resolution
  • 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

click image for full resolution

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

click image for full resolution

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.

Color Aberration

click image for full resolution

The Canon shows clear CA at f/2. Otherwise both lenses passed this test without incident, though it wasn’t the most challenging situation.

Light Falloff


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.

click image for full resolution

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.

The Good:

  • 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.


The Bad:

  • 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.

The Ugly:

  • 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.

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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40 responses to “Samyang 135mm F/2 Compared To The Canon 135mm F/2”

  1. Charlie Avatar

    I would suspect that you have misunderstood the first image?
    The top row is where the 70-200 would be if it opened to f2, but is instead the key for the locations. Next is the Canon, and 3rd is the Samyang, which I would say is lots better than the Canon?

    1. Ben Bammens Avatar
      Ben Bammens

      Looks like you’re right… :) That changes the conclusion of the test

    2. NightPhotographer Avatar

      Can you please explain what you are talking about? The image in the middle (Canon) looks far better to me.

      1. rkas Avatar

        You blind? :)

      2. Charlie Avatar

        The layout is confusing, but try counting the rows from the bottom, and not the top :)

        1. Liron Samuels Avatar
          Liron Samuels

          Counting the rows from the bottom will mess up the results, as only two lenses are shown for f/22 (the Canon is one of them). Starting from the top and moving down, each 3 examples make a set: Sigma, Canon, Samyang.

          1. Richard Wong Avatar
            Richard Wong

            Count from bottom (to group them) is correct.

            The first set only has 2 example: Canon and Samyang because Sigma can’t do f/2.

            All the other has 3.

            Or just use the thick black borderline.

        1. Liron Samuels Avatar
          Liron Samuels

          Thanks for this, Ahmed. It is correct of course, and I will update the post and include this image.

    3. Liron Samuels Avatar
      Liron Samuels

      That’s exactly how I understood it, and how it is marked on the image – Sigma, Canon, Samyang.

      Did you fully enlarge the image?
      The Samyang isn’t bad (not at all), and this is very much pixel peeping, but the Canon seem better in most cases (in the resolution test, according to this one image).

      1. Richard Wong Avatar
        Richard Wong

        If you look at the full size image, the Samyang is significantly better than the Canon at f/2, f/2.8 and probably f/4 too.

        After that the two are very close, Canon might be tiny slightly better in some of the crops but it’s really really small difference even when pixel peeping.

        One significant difference is that the Samyang renders a much warmer image compare to the Canon and Sigma.

      2. Patrick Avatar

        Liron Samuels, I think you are skipping the grey row on the top. Since Sigma cannot do F2, the row is filled with grey tiles. Because someone put L3, L2, L1, C in the row, the viewer may think that the row shouldn’t be counted. But when you do count the rows with the top row as well, then Samyang clearly has the best resolution.

        1. Patrick Avatar

          You may want to correct the article, otherwise the reader may make a wrong assumption.

        2. Patrick Avatar

          You can also see some of Canon’s Chromatic Aberration in the resolution test, which confirms that you are mixing up the test strips. The Samyang has the sharpest and cleanest blacks.

        3. Liron Samuels Avatar
          Liron Samuels

          Patrick, you are correct! Please excuse my premature senior moment… I will be editing the post.

    4. Liron Samuels Avatar
      Liron Samuels

      Charlie, you are correct! Please excuse my premature senior moment… I will be editing the post.

  2. Laurent Roy Avatar
    Laurent Roy

    Probably more accurate if being tested with the same camera… :-(

    1. Liron Samuels Avatar
      Liron Samuels

      The lenses were both tested on a Canon 5D Mark II. Judging by the first image I assume they were both tested on the exact same camera, but I can’t be sure.

    2. Charlie Avatar

      I’m not sure what difference you would expect to see. Based on the top picture, I assumed that the Samyang was shot on a Nikon D700 and the Canon on the Canon 5DII.

      Pretty much every test here is to do with the glass and not the difference in sensors. As long as the sensors are correctly aligned and not covered in dust, then the camera has almost no difference to the test.

      Even if they did, that would mean that the higher resolution (and potentially built-in CA correction?) of the Canon would give it the lead, but I would argue that it’s the other way round!

  3. Richard Wong Avatar
    Richard Wong

    Close range samyang is much better than canon at f/2

    1. NightPhotographer Avatar

      Just at f2. at smaller apertures, I think Canon takes the lead.

      1. Richard Wong Avatar
        Richard Wong

        F/2 there is huge difference samyang is better
        Even up to f/5.6 samyang is still better
        After that very similar between the two i would argue samyang is just as good as canon

        for a large aperture lens the wide open sharpness is most important and samyang is completely outclassing canon in this area
        But no matter what the conclusion say canon is better is simply incorrect

        1. Liron Samuels Avatar
          Liron Samuels

          You’re correct, Richard. I had mixed up the order of the lenses.. Sorry about that!

      2. Gabriel Avatar

        You must be viewing a whole different test because the Samyang beats the Canon everywhere only finally allowing the Canon to match it at apertures that are pretty irrelevant for most of us buying such fast lenses.
        Goes to show that Canon has gotten lazy with their formulas and new comers are able to beat them easily in some cases.
        Competition is always good!

  4. Alun Harrison Avatar
    Alun Harrison

    Does it breath as it is focussed? This is usually a concern for the cine minded.

    1. Liron Samuels Avatar
      Liron Samuels

      This was not covered in the Korean review, so we will have to wait until more lenses get out there to find out.

    2. rkas Avatar

      “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.”

      1. Alun Harrison Avatar
        Alun Harrison

        Well spotted rkas! Though the description of the FoV as ‘a tad shorter’ is somewhat confusing. Perhaps it should read ‘a tad “wider”‘ instead?

        That said, the Canon is known to breath when focussed. Therefore the differences that the reviewer has experienced may be as a result of comparing a non-breathing Samyang to the Canon, which does vary in FoV as it is focussed?

        1. rkas Avatar

          Shorter as in shorter focal lenght, as in wider. ^^
          But yeah I was thinking the same, but I didnt say anything else since I have no idea if Canon was breathing or not when focused.
          I guess you’ll just have to wait for more reviews and see what they say :)

  5. John Griffin Avatar
    John Griffin

    If you would bother to read the article, they tested the lenses with a 5Dmkii.

  6. pincherio Avatar

    Too bad it doesn’t auto focus. Still looks like a winner for the budget minded and cine shooters.

    1. Liron Samuels Avatar
      Liron Samuels

      Absolutely. Canon’s 135mm would be in serious trouble if the Samyang had AF.

  7. Michael Zussman Avatar
    Michael Zussman

    Having AF would be nice, but Honeslty manual focus isn’t bad with Samyang lenses. Well that’s if you have a EVF and focus peaking. I think I see my next lens…

  8. echomrg Avatar

    it’s a bit (well… completely) out of topic but i really love how the last two pictures (camera and lens) look.
    could you share any info about the pictures’ setup?

    thanks :)

  9. Barry Goyette Avatar
    Barry Goyette

    Either this is a “souped” test or you’ve got an extremely bad copy of the Canon lens you’re working with. While I don’t doubt the quality of the Samyang lens (ok…I’ll be honest.. I do)…but when you compare your Canon results with the test made on back in 2009, it’s hard to imagine that’s a Canon 135mm f/2 lens we’re looking at there.

  10. Flodder Avatar

    tested by morons for morons….

  11. Melbar Avatar

    without AF it´s pretty much useless anyway.
    well except the person you shoot portraits of holds perfectly still.
    at f2 the DOF is so small that you would have to manual focus all the time to keep the eye in focus.

    now my camera manages that pretty good with my canon 135mm f2.0.

    but i doubt i would get many keppers in a typical portrait session i shoot with the samyang.
    the moment you have manually focuses the person probably moved a bit.

    this samyang lens may look nice on paper.. but it doesn´t mean it´s a PITA to use in real life.

  12. Bastian Kratzke Avatar
    Bastian Kratzke

    There is clearly something wrong with your Canon lens.
    How can it look this good on a 42mp A7rII and as bad as you are showing on a 5DMKII??

  13. Richard Kev Avatar
    Richard Kev

    I hope it is more reliable than the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical. I loved mine for its wonderful performance and for its even better price. I laughed at anyone who would spend $1200 for a lens that wasn’t as good as the Samyang.

    A month after the warranty ran out, the aperture started sticking, overexposing any shots that weren’t wide open. I contacted Samyang. They said ‘the warranty ran out. Send it to us and we can fix it, but not for free’

    I now have a dreadfully expensive Nikon 85/1.4D. Perfect? No. I preferred the Samyang for several reasons. But the Nikon just keeps working, something the Samyang was unable to accomplish.