Review: Samsung 85mm f1.4 (NX)

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We’ve been using Samsung’s 85mm f1.4 for a very long time, and it’s tough to not fall in love with it. Exhibiting some of the best color rendition that we’ve seen, fast focusing, and superb sharpness, we don’t see how many could complain. Seriously, what more could you want from a lens?

Introduced a couple of years ago, Samsung’s offering differs from many others through controls and mainly in the rendition of its colors. And if you pair it with the right camera, it may never fail to take your breath away.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 review images (2 of 3)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 1.4

Pros

– Super sharp wide open with excellent bokeh

– Very low and non-visible distortion

– Fairly light

– One of our favorite portrait lenses

Cons

– Can have focusing trouble on the Galaxy NX at times

Gear Used

We tested the Samsung 85mm f1.4 with the Samsung Galaxy NX, Profoto XL Silver Umbrella with diffuser, Pocket Wizard Plus III transceiver,

Tech Specs

Technical specs taken from the Adorama listing

Aperture(Max)

  • F1.4

Aperture(Min)

  • F22

OIS

  • NA

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Minimum focus distance

  • 0.82m

Magnification

  • Approx 0.13 x

Lens Mount

  • Samsung NX

Focus type

  • 85mm

Angle of View Coverage

  • 18.8 °

Elements/Groups

  • 10 Elements in 8 Groups

Max. Diameter

  • 79mm

Length

  • 92.2mm

Weight

  • Approx. 1.54 lb. (without Hood)

Filter mount

  • 67mm

Operating Temperature

  • 0 – 40 ℃

Ergonomics

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As the company’s first real portrait lens, the85mm f1.4 is quite the offering and for the most part follows the standards of traditional lens designs. But it also sports a couple of interesting features that users from other systems will need to adjust to.

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For starters, the lens has a focusing distance scale and two rings that give the user control when using the camera and lens together. The front most ring is the focusing ring while the back is similar to an aperture control dial.

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Even more interestingly is that this dial sort of does control aperture. In fact, it can control aperture, shutter speed or ISO and/or exposure compensation when used with the pictured iFn button. The user can choose this or something on the camera instead when selecting controls.

You can also switch the focusing type with a switch found here.

Build Quality

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The Samsung 85mm f1.4 is built fairly solidly. The exterior is made of plastic and though it is still light for an 85mm f1.4, it has a hefty feel to it. In our experience, we found that it scuffs easily. But this doesn’t affect performance at all. However, Samsung could benefit from developing a new finish.

Ease of Use

Like any Samsung lens, it has the iFunction button on it. This button will let you control settings from the lens like shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. You’ll need to use it in conjunction with the ring around the bare part of the lens. Otherwise, you can use the dials on your camera.

Autofocus

During our shooting sessions, we found the 85mm f1.4 to focus quickly on a subject though sometimes it hunted. We blame this more on the performance of the Galaxy NX since our unit has recently seemed to go a bit haywire. This is only a recent occurrence though and for a very long time before, it worked flawlessly.

If used with another camera like the NX30 that doesn’t have Android as a platform, we’re positive that it would work with much less issues.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 portrait review images (1 of 3)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 2.5

f2.5, processed in VSCO film pack 3 for Lightroom

We’ve spent a very long amount of time with Samsung’s 85mm f1.4 and we have to say that it’s seriously beautiful. When combined with the Galaxy NX’s ability to send an image straight to someone it becomes something that you’ll fall in love with even more for its ability to help you create beautiful images.

This is something that is great for street photography shooters, fashion shooters, and those that put a really big emphasis on their mobile photo presence. In fact, there are professional Instagrammers out there.

When it comes image quality though, the Samsung 85mm f1.4 can easily be considered one of the leaders of the pack. It offers stellar out of camera color rendition, superb sharpness, and beautiful bokeh that may fool someone into thinking that you’re shooting with a medium format camera of some sort.

There is very little that we had to complain about with this lens. In fact when it comes to pure image quality we haven’t a single thing. Samsung has created something near to being a perfect lens for portraiture if you want something on the longer end for a mirrorless camera system. In some ways, it could be even better than the Olympus 75mm f1.8 but at any given aperture the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor will have more on a subject in focus.

Still, it’s a testament to the lens that this is the only thing that comes close on a mirrorless camera system.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 review images (3 of 3)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 1.4

Straight out of the camera this lens does a phenomenal job with color rendition. The colors are punchy and vibrant especially in the reds and blues. Sometimes this can lead to skin tones that are a bit too saturated but for the most part we didn’t have a major problem with it.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 portraits extra (1 of 1)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 2.8

In lots of our shooting sessions, we were tasked to shoot jewelry on a subject. In order to give products some extra pop and bring out more details, we needed to use a flash and mix the artificial light with strobe lighting. When doing this, we weren’t able to find any color fringing that seemed very problematic. Any little (and we really had to search for it) that was found was easily removed in post-production.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 review images (2 of 2)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Oh. My. God.

No, really–we found the bokeh to be that glorious. The fact that Samsung cameras use an APS-C sensor can also help to give great bokeh due to the 127mm field of view equivalent, but that isn’t always the only thing that determines bokeh.

Sure it would also be interesting to see what the full frame equivalent’s bokeh would be like but we still found Samsung’s to be incredibly good. In fact, portrait shooters that love putting an emphasis on shooting and sharing immediately might want to make this a standard lens in their kit. Heck, the guy that runs the Sartorialist could probably ditch his Canon system and shoot with this then immediately share the images to his WordPress backend. Scott’s images are usually very bokehlicious and this lens would probably be something that could interest someone that shoots like that.

Due to just how great the bokeh is, we never recommend stopping the lens down beyond f5.6. We typically never had it down below f4 and the only reason why we even stopped it down so much was to make objects pop when used with flash lighting.

Additionally, we think that this lens should only be used for portraits. If you’re using it for anything else, you’re just doing it an injustice.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 portrait review images (2 of 3)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 2.5

One of the biggest strengths of this lens is just how amazingly sharp it is. Given the right lighting situation, it’s probably amongst the sharpest mirrorless camera lenses that we’ve tested so far. Again though, good lighting really makes this lens shine and then puts it on steroids.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 review images (1 of 3)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 review images (1 of 2)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 portrait review images (3 of 3)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 1.8

Conclusions

We really love Samsung’s 85mm f1.4. For a company that for many years wasn’t taken seriously in the mirrorless world, they really have shown that they’re ready to take on the bigger competitors. As it stands, the company is #2 in the mirrorless camera space right now in the US for sales. This is a major upset to many other manufacturers–including the traditional kinds: Micro Four Thirds. But when you’re sitting on technology like this, it only just makes sense.

Samsung’s 85mm f1.4 is an excellent option for portrait shooters, but we don’t really recommend it to anyone else.

Recommended Cameras and Accessories

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung NX30 first impressions photos (2 of 11)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

– Samsung NX30: The company’s current flagship camera will surely give the best results with this lens.

– Samsung Galaxy NX: The Galaxy NX’s abilities to share an image nearly immediately are awesome. And your Instagram or VSCO Grid can be littered with beautiful images within minutes.

– PocketWizard Plus III, LumoPro LP-180 and Profoto XL Silver Umbrella: For the absolute best results, we recommend the extra pop that all three of these products can give you when used together.

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