Grinding for Quality. Samyang 100mm F2.8 Macro Review

The Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro shows that some things change, but a lot of things stay the same with Samyang and Rokinon.

I’ll start this review by stating a significant fact: I seldom wanted to pick this lens up. Even for an experienced photographer and camera tester like me, the Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro annoyed me. This version doesn’t have AF/AE contacts. So focus confirmation is a lot more complicated. And if you didn’t know so already, it’s a manual focus lens. You’ll work really hard for great photos. When you get them, you’ll be elated, but I’m really not sure it’s worth the grind.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • No weather sealing
  • No lens contacts unless you buy that version

Gear Used

We tested the Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro lens on the Sony a7r III, Sony a7c, and the Canon EOS R

Tech Specs

The specs have been summarized from this page on the Samyang website.

  • 15 elements in 12 groups
  • 1-foot close focusing
  • 67mm filter thread
  • 720 grams

Ergonomics

The Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro lens isn’t small. If it were a human, you’d equate it to a tall, lanky fellow. But he’s a tad soft in the middle. Indeed, that’s a perfect way to describe this lens. It’s characterized by an aperture ring towards the back and a focusing ring towards the front. Between that is a distance focusing scale.

This scale honestly doesn’t work that well. Zone focusing scales only work with wide-angle lenses. But at 100mm, you’re desperately trying to get focus. As you focus even closer into the macro ranges, you’ve got even more issues to worry about.

Luckily, the Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro lens focuses pretty much internally. The focus barrel doesn’t really extend past the front of the lens. So even though it’s a large lens, you don’t need to worry about the 1:1 focus abilities.

To also be fair, this lens looks larger because we’re using an adapter with it. This one is meant for Canon EF bodies. But we don’t really think DSLRs are the future, so we test all DSLR lenses on mirrorless camera bodies.

Build Quality

It’s a real shame that the Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro doesn’t have weather sealing. I can do without a metal exterior the way some of their other lenses have. But one of the most fun times to go shoot macro images is in the rain. Most of the cameras folks will use this lens on are weather resistant. In fact, if you’re using an older Sony camera body, then you’ll really not like the lack of weather sealing. I have to admit that I spent more time cleaning my Sony sensors than I’d like. I’ve heard much better things about the newer camera bodies, but I have yet to truly experience that for myself. Still, it’s sad that you’re limited in what you can do with this lens.

Otherwise, the Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro feels nice in the hands. I’d like to equate it to a well-built toilet paper roll made of hard plastic. Except for the fact that it’s long, it’s a very accurate statement. The lens is otherwise lightweight. I rarely wanted to take it out of my apartment, but it’s still fun to use indoors if you’re quarantined.

Ease of Use

Unfortunately, the Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro has a few things working against it. These things are so bad that I’m not sure it can help people with purchasing the lens. The first is the manual focus. For some people, manual focus is a bad idea. I personally like it, but Samyang and Rokinon haven’t included lens contacts on some of their products for years. And it baffles me. Why not do it? It will help the community get better focus accuracy with your products. That means more photos get spread on social media, which means more interest. More interest means more sales! It’s a no brainer to me. What hurts even more is that it’s a low contrast lens, so using focus peaking is tougher. You have to magnify in on the zone you’re focusing on. Only then will you nail the focus. Now, this would be much easier if we were working with a wide-angle lens, but this is a telephoto.

I can already hear former contributors complaining about the lack of image stabilization. But I didn’t have a problem with it. Just control your breath or use a tripod.

Focusing

As I previously stated, the focusing is manual. And it’s very tough to do even at the macro ranges. Samyang desperately needed to give this lens AE/AF contacts. Magnification and putting the camera on a tripod are your best bets. Mind you, focusing on a telephoto lens is very difficult. When you turn the focus ring, the entire camera setup shakes if it’s not on a tripod. So your focus plane is thrown off. In all seriousness, focusing the Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro sometimes feels like grinding in a video game unnecessarily to get unique loot. For some folks, it’s pretty fun. But after a while, it gets annoying when you’re not rewarded.

If you’re going to buy this lens, look for the one with AE contacts.

Image Quality

Despite all my qualms with using the lens, I’ll admit that I like the image quality. I’ve seen much sharper lenses out there. However, the colors from this lens are very nice. They don’t look like typical Rokinon and Samyang colors, though. I’m not sure what it is, but they feel almost like Sigma’s earlier stuff. When Sigma released the Art series, the color saturation was very high. And that’s what I think we’re getting here. Lots of folks will like it, but will it be enough for a purchase?

Bokeh

Overall, the bokeh here isn’t that bad. You get the best effects when you’re focusing with the aperture wide open. Of course, you have to couple that with the close focusing abilities. The bokeh is very creamy and positively beautiful. There are zero complaints here from me on that. I wish that other manufacturers made bokeh like this.

Color Rendition

Earlier on, I said that the colors here are very saturated. And that’s true. This is what I get out of the camera with the Sony a7r III. The colors are incredibly saturated, which is excellent for a multitude of subjects.

Chromatic Aberration

I didn’t see any significant distortion or fringing issues here. Let’s move on.

Sharpness

The Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro lens isn’t the sharpest optic, but it’s also not the softest. It’s relatively standard. Mind you, this lens still has character. That’s something I adore about Samyang’s lenses.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Saturation in the colors
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • I like the image character

Dislikes

  • This version doesn’t have an AE/AF chip
  • No weather sealing
  • I really think Samyang needs to actively push their higher-end lenses more.

I’m very lukewarm about the Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro lens. It’s not a bad lens. And the more I write reviews, the more they start to sound the same. All of these products don’t have enough to make them stand out from one another. It’s time for serious innovation. The Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro lens has excellent image quality, but it’s not enough to make you want to sell your other lenses for it. There’s no weather sealing, and the non-chipped version is difficult to use. At times, I honestly didn’t even wanted to pick it up. Samyang has shown that they and Rokinon can make higher-end glass, and they need to focus on that.

The Samyang 100mm f2.8 Macro lens receives three out of five stars. Want one? Head over to Amazon.

Chris Gampat

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