Field Review: Rokinon 85mm F/1.4 (Day 5- Natural Light Portraits)

Not long ago, my co-worker Matt and I needed to get all dressed up for a wedding video shoot. We’re both the early birds of our departments, and I asked him if I could do a quick couple of portraits with him using the Rokinon 85mm F/1.4. He said go for it. It was around 8:30AM in the morning and the sunlight was very diffused. Previously, we’ve seen that the Rokinon has presented some challenges for me due to the manual focusing. So was it any better this time around?

Be sure to also check out our testing the lens out for portraits with flash, then street photography, for video and giving our initial impressions.

In Use (Focusing and Metering)

Since we went outside to get this shoot done, the camera was set to ISO 100 while the I set the aperture to wide open at F/1.4. That didn’t work out so well and focusing on Matt was extremely difficult to do. Event after resorting to the hyperfocal length style of shooting, it was still very difficult. We were running on limited time (a very real situation on any real photo shoot) and so I made the decision to stop down to F/5.6 and try to focus.

With the lens’s f-stop closed down a bit, it became easier to focus on Matt. Eventually, I nailed it and the shoot was over in less than five minutes.

Here’s the problem though: this entire scene had lots of contrast as you’ll see in the unedited files in this section of this blog post. There are brights and there are darks. The dynamic range of the Canon 5D Mk II can handle it in Adobe Lightroom: there’s no doubt about that. What’s amazing though is that I originally thought that the metering was off this time. But when I took some time to think and rethink, I realized that the Rokinon once again helped the 5D Mk II to nail better metering than what I’ve experienced with Canon lenses.

Perhaps a reason for the better metering could be the way that the lens communicates with the body. It’s a much simpler lens than the autofocus and confirmation chipped counterparts, but that may just be one of this lens’s saving strengths. I still much prefer the autofocusing of the Canon 85mm F/1.8 (reviewed here), but that could be because I do not have a split focusing screen.

Edited Files

The opening image in this story is an edited file and that needed a bit more editing than I initially thought. It’s still not quite perfect or the way I want it, but it’s quite close to what I want. A reflector would have probably helped me a bit more, or some fill flash. But the point of this shoot was to be as minimal as possible.

However, it’s still a very gorgeous lens and the sharpness is still really, really good.

With the sharpness there, do also note that the skin tone rendering was once again very accurate. In this case though, I desaturated Matt’s skin—he sunburns easily and was a bit too orange for my liking.

As proof of that sharpness from the lens, take a look at the photo above from Adobe Lightroom 3. Now, that’s zoomed in 100%. Note that this lens does have purple fringing, but that’s very easily corrected (I’m only now noticing it as I write this piece.)

Coming soon, the complete Rokinon 85mm F/1.4 review.

Gear Used

Canon 5D Mk II

Rokinon 85mm F/1.4

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.