Can You Believe the Quality? Samyang 75mm f1.8 AF Review

The Samyang 75mm f1.8 AF is an excellent first portrait lens for a Sony a7 series camera shooter.

I need to preface this review of the Samyang 75mm f1.8 AF by saying that we didn’t test it on the newest cameras. We’ve done this for years. We, like you, don’t always have a justification for upgrading cameras every generation. And this site was designed to mimic the consumer experience of photography. I’ve been told that the Samyang 75mm f1.8 AF isn’t that sharp on the Sony a7r IV. And you can head over to PCMag to learn more about that from my good buddy Jim Fisher. But if you’re using an older camera body, you’re going to enjoy what this lens delivers. It’s not perfect, but it’s priced to be an impulse buy. Portrait photographers and candid shoots alike will appreciate what this lens can do. For the most part, I did too. But it lacks my favorite feature.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Pretty sharp image quality with the Sony a7r III and below.
  • Despite a few autofocus issues, it’s still pretty fast.
  • Lightweight build quality
  • It’s only $400

Cons

  • No weather sealing
  • Autofocus isn’t as good as it is with a dedicated Sony camera.

Gear Used

We tested the Samyang 75mm f1.8 with the Sony a7r III and the Profoto B10.

Tech Specs

We’ve summarized the specifications listed on Samyang’s website.

  • f1.8-f22
  • 10 elements in 9 groups
  • No weather sealing
  • 2.26-foot minimum focusing distance
  • 9 aperture blades
  • For Sony E mount cameras, and covering a full-frame imaging circle
  • 65mm filter thread
  • Linear STM focusing motor

Ergonomics

The Samyang 75mm f1.8 looks like many other lenses on the market, but there is a red ring on the front. That will make it look like a Canon L lens, but it’s the furthest thing from it. Instead, the exterior is mostly plastic. And the main control ring on this lens is a focus ring. That’s about it.

Without the lens hood attached, the Samyang 75mm f1.8 looks a whole lot smaller. There is a 67mm filter thread on the front–that shows just how small this lens is.

On the side, there is an autofocus switch control. This sets it to mode 1 or mode 2. I didn’t really see a difference between the two.

Build Quality

Unfortunately, the Samyang 75mm f1.8 isn’t weather sealed. Despite the few other issues I have, this one feature would have made this lens an impulse buy for me personally. But my needs aren’t necessarily that of other photographers. Some genuinely don’t care about weather sealing. Around my house, we’d call these people fools. That’s because camera manufacturers still make their mounts more uncompromising and more moisture resistant. But to each their own. When you hold this lens, it will feel cheaply made because there are many lightweight elements inside of a very plastic body. Despite my feelings, real-life use proved me wrong. It stood up to being bumped around in my camera bags. But the lack of weather sealing at the mount let dust get inside. Still, if you appreciate lightweight build quality, you’ll like the Samyang 75mm f1.8.

Ease of Use

Like many others, this lens lacks a lot of direct controls. There is one control, but I honestly never used it. Nor did I see a significant difference. If you want to change the autofocus, you have to do so from the camera. But using it is otherwise straightforward. Just point, autofocus, shoot, and enjoy the photo you take. Considering that this isn’t a manual focus lens, there isn’t a focusing distance scale. That’s a rarity for Samyang, but it is becoming more common.

Autofocus

Focusing on the Samyang 75mm f1.8 is a mixed bag. There were times when it wouldn’t focus on the Sony a7r III. So I would turn the camera off, pull the battery, put it back in, turn the camera back on, and then it focus. I don’t believe the Samyang 75mm f1.8 uses the full autofocusing capabilities Sony allows companies like Tamron and Sigma to use. To that end, Samyang recommends using their lens dock. This will let you update the firmware and fine-tune the lens’ performance.

Despite this, the Samyang 75mm f1.8 performed very well when it wasn’t experiencing problems. It’s fast to focus even in low light. The accuracy is pretty incredible. And even in tracking autofocus mode, it did a decent job. If you’ve used lenses from Sigma and Tamron, you’ll totally be able to tell the autofocus performance differences. But if you’re looking for something super affordable with a fast aperture, you can’t go wrong here.

Image Quality

Pound for pound, I can’t really hate on the image quality from the Samyang 75mm f1.8. It’s sharp on the lower megapixel camera bodies. It has a nice bokeh. But the bokeh isn’t as pronounced as it is with their higher-end lenses. At this price point of under $400, you shouldn’t be expecting a performance from the top of the DXOMark charts. But if you weren’t pixel-peeping, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell much of a difference.

Bokeh

The bokeh from the Samyang 75mm f1.8 is smooth. Because it’s a fast telephoto lens, it’s also very creamy when shooting wide open. This is thanks to the 9 aperture blades. Portrait photographers will love this. And if you’re using it casually, then you’ll like the minimum focusing distance. At 2.26 feet, the bokeh will really stand out for a food photographer. Of course, this isn’t a Macro lens. But it’s still terrific.

Color Rendition

Samyang and Rokinon have always had their own unique color and contrast. For those wondering, they’re the same company, but primarily tackle different regions of the world. The optics in their lenses give a saturated color. This color looks best when you lock the white balance. Try shooting at 5500 Kelvin Daylight or 3200 Kelvin Tungsten. On your Sony camera, choose a more vivid color rendering. You’ll see magic appear on the back of the camera screen if you do it right.

Chromatic Aberration

In my tests, I didn’t find anything worth complaining about here. Amazingly enough, this lens has less distortion than the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN FE. Crazy, right?

Sharpness

The best sharpness from this lens is realized when using a flash. Only then will you get the specular highlights that make it something extraordinary. And quite honestly, we’re sure that you’d be happy with the results too. If you’re a natural light shooter, first proceed to smack yourself for doing it all in Photoshop. Then cry. And feel bad. I’m kidding, of course, sort of. I’m partially writing it this way because if you click on the Listen to Article feature on the site and get this far down, it’s going to sound much funnier if we’ve stuck with the British voice. But anyway, you’re only going to get the sharpest results when you use a flash. And that goes with any lens.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • The price point
  • The colors

Dislikes

  • No weather sealing
  • Autofocus issues

The Samyang 75mm f1.8 isn’t a bad lens. But I personally wouldn’t buy one. I demand the best durability a lens can offer. But if you’re a hobbyist just looking for a cheap thrill, then this lens is the equivalent of your beer and a shot at your local pub.

We’re giving the Samyang 75mm f1.8 three out of five stars, and on Amazon, it’s around $399.

Chris Gampat

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