Great for a Sony a7 Series Camera: Samyang 45mm F1.8 Review

The Samyang 45mm f1.8 lens provides a unique experience for the Sony a7 camera system.

Contrast–that’s one of the things I think of when we talk about Samyang lenses. The Samyang 45mm f1.8 is no exception here. For a super affordable price point, you’re getting character in a lens. It doesn’t have some of the features that licensed companies have, but with the addition of the Samyang Lens Dock, you can make your own additions and adjustments. If you’re a hobbyist, you’re going to love this lens. Most of those folks care just about image quality, bokeh, and having a fast aperture. In fact, this is the closest thing to an alternative nifty 50 on Sony. If you want something in between a 35mm and 50mm field of view, the Samyang 45mm f1.8 could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • It can freeze the camera and the autofocus up at times, but that’s a primary hiccup it eventually gets over
  • Incredibly plastic fantastic
  • Has a weird metering problem at times, but this hiccup goes away after a while
  • Can’t take full advantage of continuous tracking with lock-on AF

 

Gear Used

We tested the Samyang 45mm f1.8 with the Sony a7r III. We’ve been told the results aren’t so fantastic on higher megapixel cameras, so please be vary if you’re getting a Sony a7r IV.

Tech Specs

Taken from the Samyang 45mm f1.8 official listing page.

Model NameAF 45mm F1.8 FE
Aperture RangeF1.8 ~ 22
Lens opticalConstruction7 Elements in 6 Groups
Special lensASP 2, ED 1
CoatingUMC
Minimum Focusing Distance0.45 m (1.48ft)
Magnification Ratiox 0.12
Diaphragm Blades9
Filter Size49.0mm
Maximum Diameter61.8mm
MountSony FE
Angle of viewFull Frame52.31 ˚
APS-C35.31 ˚
Length56.1mm
Weight162g
AF MotorLinear STM

 

Ergonomics

The Samyang 45mm f1.8 is part of the company’s series of Tiny lenses. In fact, this one is so small you can compare it to a little Chapstick pretty easily. Of course, it’s far more girthy, but it needs to cover a full frame sensor. And with a 49mm filter tread on the front, it’s still quite small.

The lens has a plastic exterior. It’s characterized by one control: a focus ring. This is an autofocus lens though. There’s also a red ring–insert your own tiny L lens jokes here.

 

Build Quality

The Samyang 45mm f1.8 is really good enough for most hobbyist uses. The body feels very, very plasticky. But in my tests, it stood up pretty well to normal wear and tear. It’s not weather-sealed, so don’t take it out in the rain. For less than $400 and an f1.8 aperture, it’s very hard to complain. If you’re the type to treat your camera like an egg the way Reviews Editor Paul Ip does, then you’re probably a perfect match for the Samyang 45mm f1.8.

Ease of Use

This is a standard autofocus lens for the Sony FE camera system. So the controls are done via the camera. The only times we ran into issues were during the first week of testing. Sometimes the camera and lens would freeze up and we’d need to pull the battery. But once that was over, it worked together pretty easily. At one point, we had an issue with metering in bright sunlight. But after that one time, it functioned normally. Samyang indeed says that the lenses need updates via their dock. Here’s an official explanation from them:

If you read through this link from Sony Support even indicates that if it is “too tedious or confusing” for you to do your own Autofocus Micro Adjustment (which is a menu function in their mirrorless cameras), they can do it for you.

This is another article from Sony about back and front focus issues being adjusted through the Micro Adjustment menu function on their E mount mirrorless cameras.

Even Sony’s own E mount lenses out of the box when used directly on their E mount mirrorless cameras can require micro adjusting for best results.

Also, as lens mounts wear, focus issues can occur which can be corrected.

The lens stations allow you to do the calibration (micro adjusting) of ROKINON AF lenses that will reside in the lens not the camera.

On speaking with an engineer from another company, we found out that Samyang and Rokinon need to do this because they’re not licensed by Sony. Doing this ensures the long term usability and support of their products. During my testing, I didn’t have the dock available. So as long as you do this, you’re golden.

 

Autofocus

In AF-S mode, the autofocus is snappy and accurate as it normally would be. The problem for some may be with autofocus tracking. We weren’t able to get the Samyang 45mm f1.8 to use the full abilities of the Sony a7r III’s autofocus tracking such as Lock-on AF. But that might be fixed with a firmware update. Instead, it worked a bit more like Nikon where you need to pan with the subject and keep them in the frame and in focus. With this method, it was very quick and responsive.

Luckily, it uses the full EyeAF function and you won’t have a problem with portraits. The 45mm focal length is great for portraiture too!

Image Quality

This is where I’ve got the least fuss, but I’ve heard from other reviewers that the Samyang 45mm f1.8 doesn’t do so well on higher megapixel bodies. On the Sony a7r III, it did just fine. Samyang has this characteristic extra saturation and contrast that’s really lovely. Let’s take a look!

Bokeh

With an f1.8 aperture and 9 aperture blades, the bokeh from this lens is super creamy. It’s not as creamy as a proper telephoto lens but it’s much better than a 35mm lens. In regards to bokeh, we have no complaints, and we doubt you will too.

Chromatic Aberration

None, we couldn’t find any. Let’s move on!

Color Rendition

As stated earlier, the Samyang 45mm f1.8 has more saturation and contrast than most Sony lenses. So if that’s the look that you’re developing in post-production, why not give it a shot in-camera?

Sharpness

The best sharpness from the Samyang 45mm f1.8 comes when you’re using off-camera lighting. And we’re very impressed with the sharpness from this lens. Sony lenses and Sigma lenses are still better, but for the price point, we can’t complain.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Contrast
  • Image quality
  • Sharpness
  • Performance overall

Dislikes

  • The initial hiccups were a bit offputting
  • I wish it were weather sealed

The Samyang 45mm f1.8 is a great lens that gives you quite a bit for a small price point. For $329 you’re getting a lens that delivers on image quality and delivers well enough on autofocus performance. What you’re mostly paying for here is the lens character. It’s very stark and very signature to Samyang in the same way that Zeiss and Leica lenses have a particular look to them. Overall, I can’t complain majorly about this lens: I just wish Samyang were licensed by Sony.

The Samyang 45mm f1.8 receives four out of five stars. Want one? You can get one for $329.