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Review: Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 (Nikon With Focus Confirm Chip)

by G Servo on 06/07/2012

The Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 Wide Angle Lens is not your typical lens. Like the Nikon 24mm f1.4 G, which I tested so many moons ago, this is a well-built, wide, prime lens. It is balanced and great at capturing details. The lens handles very well. It is a  manual focus lens, but that’s not a drawback, though. The Rokinon 35mm f1.4 keeps the price nice and low. Rokinon is good for this. We have tested lenses from Rokinon like their 85mm 1.4 and their 24mm f1.4 and they have all been reasonably priced. This is the first time I’ve worked with a lens that was manual focus. Testing this lens on a Nikon D700 and a D90 was a much better experience than I thought it be.

What did I think of this lens? Let’s find out.

Gear Used

Specs

As found on B&H

Focal Length 35 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/1.4
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Nikon F
Format Compatibility Nikon DX
Nikon FX/35mm Film
Angle of View 63.1°
APS-C Picture Angle: 43.2°
Minimum Focus Distance 1.0′ (30.48 cm)
Groups/Elements 10/12
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus No
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 77 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.27 x 2.94″ (83 x 74.8 mm)
Weight 14.7 oz (416.75 g)

This lens is also available for Canon,  Sony, Pentax, Olympus, and Samsung NX mounts.

Looks and Ergonomics

First of all, this lens is a looker. The  color scheme seemed to fit with that of Nikon bodies. However the Rokinon also had a bit of a Darth Vader vibe to its color scheme. On my Nikon D700, it looked magnificent. So how did it feel? Well the Rokinon 35mm f1.4 felt like a well thought out, well-built piece of glass. One could say it gave the impression of a beautifully simple, budget Zeiss lens. That is not a bad thing. The plastic, rubber coated, focus ring was a nice size and had a great firmness to it. The focus ring takes up a good portion of the lens and is easily gripped. The lens is made with metal and plastic and is a decent weight. Overall, the entire lens felt solid.

Focusing

If you have never worked with a lens that is strictly manual focus, this is a great lens to start working with. because the Nikon version of the Rokinon 35mm f1.4 has the automatic chip for focusing and aperture control. This allows for accurate focusing. The size of the focusing rings gives you nice control to really fine tune your shot. While designed for full frame cameras, the D7000 and the D3200 work well with the lens, too, because they have manual focus assist as well.

Sharpness

This lens is insanely sharp. When shooting vast scenes at f8 down, everything is nice, clear, and crisp. Tripods help in this situation, but this lens gives a ton of detail. The sharpness at f1.4 is really nice and helps the subject to really stand out from its environment, giving it a beautiful look. The sharpness of images produced with the lens is really dependent on the photographer.  With the Rokinon you have to pay attention to how you focus and how you move.

Depth of Field and Bokeh

This lens handles depth of field very nicely. It is very smooth and enjoyable. You can also be very selective with the depth of field. Using a shallow depth of field with this lens, it’s really easy to the blur the background or the foreground of you subject. At f1.4 the bokeh is really smooth as well as the other ranges. The bokeh is as good or better than most of my prime lenses and achieving it manually allows you to adjust it enough to give it that extra bit of softness.

Color and Light

The Rokinon 35mm handles color very well. It can produce great contrast between highlights and shadows. The lens can also be nicely warm at times. I never got any flare or ghost with the Rokinon 35mm f1.4, even when shooting on super bright days.

Landscape

The Rokinon is brilliant when it comes to landscape photography. Being a wide angle lens, it allows for a nice sized scene to be captured. Because it’s a f1.4 you can shoot it in all types of environments, night or day. It’s built well and it travels well. The Rokinon 35mm f1.4 is not too heavy. You can walk with it for long distances. There’s something in the simplicity of the lens that makes it very satisfying for landscape photography.

Food, Still-life and Product Photography

With its minimum focusing distance being about a foot, you can get close to your subjects. Shooting at f1.4 you can really make your subject stand out. Playing with the focus you can give your subjects unique looks. Being a manual lens, it makes you take a little more time with your shot, helping you to think a little more about your composure.

Portraits

It’s a good focal length for portraits; it performs surprisingly well. I find this lens helps to create better portraits on crop sensors though. It does allow for great background separation on both types of sensors. If you like being close up to your subject for adjustments, or you are working in a tight space and want to include the environment,  this is a great lens. If you have to be quick with your portraits,  the focus ring allows for great control.

Photo Walking

I have talked about this a bit before. I find it great for photo walking. Then lens forces me to think a bit differently. I must say it’s up to the photographer though. It’s something you have to try out to see if you like doing. If you are doing a nature photo walk, you may find this lens more enjoyable.  You do not have to be as quick.

On a Cropped Sensor

This lens on a cropped sensor, multiplying it by 1.5, is 52.5mm. This makes it a great portrait lens. It really is good. I love shooting with 50mm so I used this lens on my D90 without hesitation. On the D90 it made a great normal lens. The Rokinon 35mm f1.4 did feel rather big on the D90 however it was a nice feel.

Video

This is a great lens for video. I think videographers with find the size of the focus ring a nice size for follow focus control. Again it is a very sharp lens, so it’s a great tool for big scenes and getting every detail in the shot.  This lens allows for great depth of field control. Between f1.4 and f4.0, however, you have to be careful of your subjects when things are up close.

Who is This Lens For?

This lens is not for everyone. If you have no patience for manual focus, this lens may annoy you. If you have eye issues, you may find manual focusing all the time tiring, especially if you are not using a Nikon. If you are not a focusing ninja, or willing to work at it you will have to shell out an a lot more money to get a 35mm f1.4 with autofocus or settle for a 35mm f1.8. There are many lenses on the market for people who want to be quick, but this lens is for people who want to put time into their photography.

Value For the Money, Should You Buy One?

In its time at my disposal, I had a lot of fun. It won me over and convinced me manual focus lenses are brilliant especially the Rokinons.  After shooting with this lens I find myself using manual focus much more. This lens is well worth the price. The quality of this lens is absolutely ferocious. I am glad I got to use it.

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