Review: Rokinon 85mm F1.4 AF FE (This + Sony a7r III = Portra Colors)

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE is a very good lens overall, but you may still want to stick with Sony’s options.

When testing the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE, I admittedly ran into problems with the autofocus performance that needed to be fixed. Luckily, I knew how to do it with a quick clean of the communication contacts. But the fact that I needed to have this knowledge is something that I’m not sure the average photographer has–at least those who would be attracted to the more affordable Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE option. If you get beyond this, you start to realize it’s a fantastic lens for portraiture. On the Sony a7r III, it’s capable of focusing very accurately, albeit still slower than Sony’s options. But I’m positive in saying that if one looked at the images side-by-side from each lens without pixel peeping, no one would be able to tell the differences between them.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • More affordable than Sony’s higher-end option: it’s $699
  • Good image quality
  • Smooth bokeh
  • Sharp image quality
  • Nice colors

Cons

  • Lacks weather sealing. This has been a consistent problem of Rokinon’s. Editor’s Note: Rokinon has updated their specs to say that there is weather sealing.
  • The lack of weather sealing at the mount sometimes means that the autofocus performance can degrade due to debris getting into the mount.

Gear Used

We tested the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE with the Sony a7r III and the Profoto B10.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE official page listing

Model: IO85AF-E
UPC: 0-84438-76607-3
Focal Length: 85mm
Maximum Aperture: F1.4
Coverage: Full Frame (FX)
Optical Construction: 11 Elements In 8 Groups
Aperture Range: F1.4 to 16
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Coating: Ultra Multi-Coating
Minimum Focusing Distance: 2.95ft (0.90m)
Filter Size: 77mm
Lens Hood: removable
Maximum Diameter: 3.46” (88.0mm)
Weight: 20oz (568g)
Length: 3.92″ (99.5mm)

Ergonomics

 

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE is a very typical Rokinon lens for the Sony mount. Here, we see the lens’ design. It’s very minimal with a smooth body and a grooved focusing ring. There are no major controls to speak of.

The front of the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE has a 77mm filter thread–pretty standard at this point. Just know that you’ll need a big filter.

Without the lens good attached, the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE looks like a much smaller lens overall. It’s more like a big apple sitting in your hand.

 

Build Quality

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE lacks weather sealing, something that I think is a major flaw in the company’s options. They’re leaving just the very high-end lenses to have weather sealing but I think that in order to make them more competitive, they need to incorporate this into the design. Beyond that, the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE has a very smooth exterior with the focusing ring being ridged and therefore the best place to grip. Luckily, the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE doesn’t feel like a cheap, Chinese made optic. These are made in Korea. If anything, I’d liken it to the early Sigma art lenses that didn’t have weather sealing or substantial robustness.

Editor’s Note: Apparently there is weather sealing in this lens, but not at the mount.

Ease of Use

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE screws onto your Sony FE camera flavor of choice. After that, you point, focus, shoot, and enjoy the image. It’s pretty simple to use and doesn’t have any controls on the lens body itself.

 

Autofocus

When using the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE with the Sony a7r III, we encountered some problems with the autofocus related to the mount. Once we did a cleaning the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE operated fine. In terms of a comparison to Sony’s options, the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE and Sony GM are still faster to focus. Eye detection AF still worked well during my tests. Photographers who use the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE for portraiture shouldn’t have a problem, and with the pace of a normal portrait shoot, the autofocus speed won’t at all prove to be problematic. However, we noticed at times that it would change the eye that was in focus throughout the shoot. With Sony’s lenses, we’ve found there to be more consistency when it came to Eye AF and face tracking.

 

Image Quality

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE really excels in terms of image quality. Where Sony has very saturated looks to their lenses, the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE somehow or another is muted but still gorgeous. It’s an odd one for Rokinon to me; their lenses have always provided what I’d describe as crunchy and saturated images. But this time around, the images are nice and muted. Combine this with the versatility of the Sony RAW files and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Bokeh

The bokeh from the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE is very creamy. Portrait photographers are going to enjoy this. You should, however, note that due to the more muted images, your subject may pop less. That’s easily fixed with the use of an off-camera flash and some specular highlights. But if you’re the type who likes natural lighting, you may want to go with Sony’s.

Chromatic Aberration

I couldn’t find anything really wrong with the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE’s image quality. When working in Capture One, the files look nice.

Color Rendition

As stated earlier on, the colors here are more muted than the previous options from Sony. So if you’re the portrait photographer who likes the look of Portra, then you’re going to appreciate the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE for what it can do.

Sharpness

I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness that the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE offers. This will show the most advantages with the Sony a7r III of course due to the higher resolution sensor. I found it to exhibit good enough sharpness for most photographers’ needs. If you combine this with the muted colors, it can sometimes even really look like well scanned film.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Muted colors
  • Light weight
  • Affordable price point

Dislikes

  • Small issues with autofocus
  • Lack of weather sealing
  • Editor’s Note: Apparently there is weather sealing in this lens, but not at the mount.

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE is a very nice lens for what it is: a more affordable version of the Sony G Master with fewer features designed to be a mid-way point between Sony’s two options. The photographers who will go for it will arguably do so for the colors and because it means that they’ll need to do less post-work. If that sounds like you, then the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE lens is for you. Just be sure to watch the build quality and always shoot in settings ideal for portraits.

We’re giving the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE four out of five stars. Want one? They’re $699 on Amazon.