Why Didn’t Canon Make This? Samyang 85mm F1.4 RF Review

The Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF is an affordable option for Canon RF shooters and has everything you want.

This is the lens so many have been asking for. Canon currently has two main 85mm lens options. There’s the 85mm f1.2 RF, which we adore, and the Canon RF 85mm f2. The Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF sits right between both of these. For many, it’s perfectly positioned. There’s no image stabilization, but it has a bit of weather sealing, and it also focuses quickly. And best of all, this lens has its own character to it. It could very well be the option you’re looking for if you’re a portrait photographer.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Weather sealed
  • Affordable
  • Sharp
  • Beautiful
  • Anyone in front of this lens looks wonderful

Cons

  • Malfunctions, especially with autofocus and sometimes with exposure metering
  • Messes with exposure simulation

Gear Used

We tested the Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF on the Canon EOS R and Canon EOS R5.

Tech Specs

Specs are taken from the Samyang website.

Model nameAF 85 mm F1.4 RF
Aperture rangeF1.4 ~ 16
Lens opticalConstruction11 Elements in 8 Groups
Special lensHR 4, ED 1
CoatingUMC
Minium focusing distance0.90m (2.95ft)
Maximum maginification ratiox 0.11
Filter sizeΦ 77.0
Maximum diameterΦ 88.0
Number of blades9
MountCanon RF
Angle of viewFull Frame28.9˚
APS-C19.1˚
Length99.5mm
Weight without lens cap, hood582g
Weather Sealingo
AF/MF mode switcho
AF MotorLSM

Ergonomics

The Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF looks like many other modern lenses. The most remarkable thing about it is the red ring. It’s not quite the same shade as Canon’s Red. But this is more of a maroon. Characterizing the lens is the smooth plastic body. The exterior feels a bit like the material you’d have on a Canon AE-1. Then there is the giant focusing ring. This ring is textured to make it easier to grip.

On the side of the lens, you can spot the Autofocus/Manual focus switch. This is common and welcome in the Canon RF lens lineup. Most other manufacturers don’t have this feature. It’s annoying when it’s not there.

The front of the lens has a 77mm filter thread. To protect the front element, you can put a UV filter here. Alternatively, use a Polarizer to get better colors.

Build Quality

One of the most incredible things about the Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF is the build quality. It’s fantastic. And better yet, it’s also weather resistant. This is what’s really missing from the Canon lineup. Canon restricts weather sealing to only their L lenses, so it means you have to go super pricey to get it. But if you can’t afford their 85mm f1.2, then you can reach for the Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF.

Unfortunately, this graph is from Samyang’s own lens listing. The weather resistance doesn’t seem to be all that perfect. Canon’s older EF mount L lenses needed a UV filter on the front. That completed the sealing. And the Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF seems like it requires the same thing. Ideally, I’d put a polarizing filter on the front for better colors. Your lens hood can also work, but I wouldn’t rely on just that. There’s no mention of sealing around the AF/MF switch either.

Otherwise, the build quality is good overall. It feels nice in hand and isn’t overly large for an 85mm f1.4 lens. While it’s not Sigma’s tiny one, the Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF doesn’t exhibit distortion.

Ease of Use

The Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF abides by Canon’s old school way of doing things. It has a single control located on the side. It’s a switch that sets the lens to manual or autofocus. Otherwise, you just rely on Canon’s fantastic autofocus to nail the image quality. If everything goes correctly, it’s pretty much perfect. However, some small, rare issues occurred. At times, the lens malfunctioned. It would either freeze up, or it would mess with exposure simulations. Other times, it wouldn’t focus on the subject correctly or even at all. But again, these occurrences were rare. (And I didn’t update the firmware on the lens either.) If these sound like a dealbreaker for you, then don’t pull the trigger on it. But if you can get around it, you’ll be rewarded.

Autofocus

95% of the time, the Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF is a godsend to the Canon RF system. It focuses quickly and accurately. Canon’s face and eye detection are fantastic. And luckily, this lens utilizes it very well. It works in high contrast situations and even in low light. Personally speaking, it just means that you can keep shooting with a model over and over again. The flow of a shoot becomes more normalized. This is in contrast to Samyang’s manual focus lenses. I like the autofocus lenses from Samyang so much more. They somehow still retain their character and accuracy. Any problems that we found are the same that you’d get with any other camera system.

Image Quality

Sometimes what I like about Samyang and Rokinon lenses are their character. When I tested the 50mm f1.4 for Sony, I adored the way images looked. And the Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF is no exception. It retains a unique and distinctive character from Canon’s own lenses. Canon lenses also have character, mind you. This goes against the grain of so many other manufacturers right now who are engineering characters out of lenses, so they all look the same and very sterile. But this lens has a look, and I adore it.

Bokeh

With the right amount of color and balance to a scene, the Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF’s bokeh can really make the subject stand out. Here’s a photo of me being lit by my iPhone. Look at how beautiful and creamy the bokeh is. More importantly, look at how much separation there is. The focus fall-off is gorgeous. Because this lens focuses so closely too, you can compress your subject. During the pandemic, there are days where I feel and look like I’ve put on 5 lbs, but this lens makes it all okay.

Color Rendition

Some of the color rendition for this lens comes from the sensors. Canon’s color science is pretty unique, even though some folks think otherwise. But the colors from this lens aren’t supersaturated. That’s going against the grain of what they were before. Instead, they’re more mellow–even a bit muted while still having some contrast to them. I can’t really complain, and again, I adore the colors.

Chromatic Aberration

I didn’t experience any fringing or major distortion issues here. Let’s move on!

Sharpness

The Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF delivers the best sharpness when you shoot with a flash. And that can be done wide open or stopped down. I love how sharp this lens is. Even though you’re not going to get the insane sharpness you have with the Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM, it’s still great. As always, we don’t really care about pixel peeping. But our images are uploaded at 3,000 pixels on the long side. Go take a look.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • It’s $699
  • Autofocus capabilities
  • Sharp images
  • Samyang is getting better at weather sealing

Dislikes

  • A few incompatibilities. But you can get over those quickly.

The Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF is a beautiful lens. It doesn’t feel like a Canon lens, so if you’re considering one, get that clear in your head. However, it feels like a high-quality optic, and it shoots like one. The colors, bokeh, etc. are all gorgeous. And for the most part, the autofocus is too. My only major complaints are the slight compatibility issues and the weather sealing. It’s not perfect weather sealing, and I think that we should have it at this price point. Still, if you want a Canon 85mm f1.4 lens for the RF system, this is your best bet.

The Samyang 85mm f1.4 RF receives five out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon, where they’re around $699.