The Classic Look You’ll Love. Rokinon 85mm F1.4 II MF Review

Follow along with this article by click on the Listen to this Article button. Give it a try!

I’ve had mixed feelings about the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 II MF. I’ve been told there are versions of this lens with autofocus contacts. And if you’re choosing this lens, then I recommend that version. I also have a few qualms with the way Samyang and Rokinon state their lenses are weather sealed. But if you can get beyond those things, you’ll have a beautiful lens. There’s something about it that feels both classic and modern. Portraits will have a 3D look to them. At the same time, it won’t be overly sharp the way some new lenses look. This is because it was designed for both cinema and still photo use. Unfortunately, that makes this review very complicated.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Nice colors
  • Weather sealing at the mount
  • Low contrast, it’s a more film-like look for a Rokinon lens
  • Low saturation for a Rokinon lens
  • Sharp without being overly sharp for portraits

Cons

  • Not so sharp wide open
  • Why no lens contacts?
  • Very hard to focus even with magnification

Gear Used

We tested this lens with the Canon EOS R5 and the Sony a7r III.

Tech Specs

These specs have been summarized from the Samyang website:

  • Weather sealing
  • 72mm filter thread
  • 9 elements in 7 groups
  • 1 hybrid aspherical element
  • Minimum focusing of 3.6 feet
  • UMC coating
  • 9 aperture blades
  • Different weight depending on which mount you get

Ergonomics

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 II MF is a pretty beautiful lens to look at. It resembles a modern classic. The front element and filter thread size will change depending on what lens mount you’re using.

The lens is very atypical for a prime. There’s an aperture ring, a focusing ring, and that’s it. There’s also a depth of field scale to it.

New to this lens is an interesting but pleasing aesthetic. The silver ring above the aperture ring will set the lens to either click or de-click mode. That’s very nice and explains a lot about its design.

Build Quality

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 II MF is said to be weather sealed. But when I asked the Samyang reps about it, their response made me think otherwise. Below is a graph that they sent to me showing where the weather sealing on the lens is.

As you can see, the weather sealing is only at the mount. The rest of the lens isn’t sealed. For those wondering, lots of other brands have weather sealing near any moving parts. This includes near the front element, around the focusing ring, zoom rings, and aperture rings. The sealing isn’t just at the mount. With that said, I can’t recommend that you take this lens and a camera out into the rain. Saying this lens is weather-sealed, at least in my opinion, is misleading. Even saying that it’s weather-resistant is misleading. Instead, I’d opt to say that it’s partially sealed at the mount. And for me, this is a big disappointment. I wish that Samyang and Rokinon stepped their game up and made their lenses completely weather sealed. It’s pretty much a requirement in 2020.

With all this aside, the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 II MF isn’t built all that bad. It’s got a plastic, metal, and rubber feel to it. Have I felt better lenses? Sure. But I’d be okay with the build quality on this. A plasticky lens doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing.

Ease of Use

Here’s the part that’s going to annoy a lot of folks. We got the version of this lens without the AF contacts. If you’re buying this lens, search for a version with AF contacts just so that manually focusing it is easier. The communication between the lens and the camera will be that much better. To really use this lens, you need to stop and slow down. This ultimately means that you’ll shoot less and enjoy the process more. But there’s a fine line here. The process is best when the lens and camera work together via lens contacts. That’s not the case here. You’re going to need to compose, focus, magnify, touch up, and then shoot. It’s best to do this with a tripod or an image-stabilized camera.

With all that said, shooting in aperture and manual mode is really the only way to go with this lens. If you’re a beginner, I’d probably stay away from it.

Focusing

I’ve already explained my frustrations with the way this lens manually focuses. I really just wish that Samyang and Rokinon slimmed their line up a bit. Just give us well built, weather-sealed lenses with manual focus and AF contacts. Honestly, I wouldn’t even need autofocus.

Image Quality

The overall image quality from the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 II MF is very pleasing. As I stated earlier, you’re getting a classic look. And overall, what’s important is that it’s going to create very pleasing portraits. In fact, I purposely used it for more than that. But my favorite images are the portraits I shot of my friend Kevin and that he shot of me. Again though, you’re going to really work for them.

Bokeh

This bokeh is beautiful. It’s creamy and not incredibly busy. I think this is very important for portrait photographers. In some ways, it gives off a rendering that makes the background look like a studio shoot. Again though, it’s also not very contrasty. So you’ll need to use lighting and color to make your subject stand out from the background and the scene more.

Chromatic Aberration

This is a scene where we should’ve gotten a lot of fringing. But there is none. And luckily, there’s also no distortion. Let’s move on!

Color Rendition

As I’ve said a few times, the color rendition is less saturated than other Rokinon lenses. And I like that. It’s got this interesting combination of colors that I can’t put my finger on. But I appreciate it a whole lot.

Sharpness

Wide-open, this lens isn’t as sharp as lots of others on the market. But when you stop it down, it starts to get a lot sharper. Still, though, I think this is ideal for portraits. It’s almost like a Lensbaby on steroids.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Image quality
  • Small size

Dislikes

  • No AF contacts in my version
  • Weather sealing

The strongest suits of the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 II MF are the image quality. I don’t think it’s going to win any awards, but it’s got a characteristic look to it. Samyang and Rokinon seem to be embracing the classic look that I’m discussing through the piece. And that’s very appreciated. The lens is also pretty small. But all of this means almost nothing if there isn’t a lot to back it up. It’s difficult to use. Additionally, I don’t like the fact that it’s not fully weather sealed. Every lens these days should have full weather sealing. And that’s a pity.

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 II MF receives three out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon, where you’ll find them for around $399.

Chris Gampat

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