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Samsung NX 85mm ƒ/1.4 lens review

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by stratokaster, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    Samsung NX system may be obscure, but Samsung's ambitions as a camera maker are pretty bold. And Samsung NX 85mm ƒ/1.4 ED SSA is a testament to those ambitions because right now it's the only ultra-fast portrait prime lens for APS-C mirrorless cameras. Sony or Fujifilm don't offer similar lenses (yet).

    The optical construction of this lens features 10 elements in 8 groups, including one element of the extra-low dispersion type (hence the letters ED in the lens name). Minimum focusing distance is 0.81m, maximum magnification — 1:7.7. The lens ships with a nice matched carrying case and deep hood.

    Design and build

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    First things first: this lens is both large and heavy. It weighs ~700g without the hood and takes 67mm filters. It looks funny on tiny Samsung NX bodies and one-handed shooting with NX 85mm is a big no. (I also don't recommend using this lens on a tripod because it will put an inordinate strain on the camera's lens mount. Those small mirrorless cameras are delicate, delicate things.)

    The build quality of Samsung NX 85mm ƒ/1.4 is excellent. The lens barrel is mostly made of metal and the mount is metal as well, but filter threads are plastic, which is a bit disappointing. The focus ring is very broad, well-dampened and covered in rubber. Focusing throw is very generous for an autofocus lens. There even is a distance scale.

    NX 85mm ƒ/1.4 is also equipped with the so-called "i-Function" button and command ring, which is a common feature of Samsung NX lenses that allows you to change certain shooting parameters using on-lens controls instead of pressing buttons on the back of your camera. In my opinion, it's nothing more than a gimmick.

    Performance

    Samsung NX 85mm ƒ/1.4 features an ultrasonic motor ("SuperSonic Actuator") which is completely silent, but you will definitely hear some sliding and also an occasional soft "thud" as the lens reaches the limits of its focus range. The AF speed is very decent, but not instantaneous, although it depends on the camera body. Recent bodies, such as NX300 and NX2000, will focus this lens faster than older cameras.

    Shooting with this lens wide open requires some skill, because at ƒ/1.4 the DOF is razor-thin and even the slightest movement of either the camera or the subject will result in misfocused photos. But if you manage to nail focus, you will discover that NX 85mm ƒ/1.4 is actually pretty darn sharp even wide open (100% crop):

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    At ƒ/2.8 the lens already reaches its peak performance and becomes too sharp for portraits (100% crop):

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    The rendering of out-of-focus areas is very smooth both in the background and the foreground:

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    There is some slight spherochromatism (magenta/green outlines around contrasty OOF areas) wide open which, surprisingly, doesn't go away as you stop down. Axial color fringing, on the other hand, is almost nonexistent.

    Conslusion

    Samsung NX 85mm ƒ/1.4 is a great lens and one that is worth buying into Samsung NX system alone. Currently no other mirrorless system offers direct counterpart of this lens, with its closest competitor probably being Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm ƒ/1.8 for Micro 4/3. Samsung NX 85mm is slightly wider (~130mm EFL vs. 150mm). I don't usually shoot with telephotos (I think they're too claustrophobic) and for me personally those 20mm are the difference between "long, but still manageable" and "almost unusable," although I suspect great many folks will either not care or actually prefer the Olympus lens because of its longer reach. The Samsung lens is faster, but much bigger and heavier. It's also less sharp wide open, but at ƒ/2.0 it's a draw.

    I'm not a Samsung NX shooter, but even if I was, I wouldn't buy this lens because it's too long, too large and too heavy for me. However, if you think you want a relatively compact camera system with an 85mm ƒ/1.4 lens, Samsung NX is your best bet. Of course, you can use adapted lenses with other mirrorless cameras, but I definitely wouldn't want to focus such a lens manually.

    Sample shots

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    [​IMG]

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    • Like Like x 1
  2. zapatista

    zapatista SC Regular

    132
    Jul 28, 2012
    Denver, Colorado
    Mike
    Thanks for the review. Same kinda feeling I have with the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8. It's a fabulous lens...really really good even wide open. But at 2 pounds, well I'm not going to keep a DSLR body just to use it and the EOS M +adapter +18-35mm is too much for me.
     
  3. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Stonking lens. It definitely raises an eyebrow about Samsung's intentions. Certainly a very specialised piece of equipment.
     
  4. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    Thanks for the review and photos Pavel. Looks like a great lens. I love my Oly 75/1.8. But I rarely use it. Probably for the reasons you discussed!
     
  5. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    I was told by a Samsung employee that the guy who was in charge of NX planning was a huge fan of his Nikon 85/1.4 and wanted something similar for the NX system. But I can't attest to veracity of this anecdote.
     
  6. retow

    retow SC All-Pro

    Jul 24, 2010
    Do I see a Leica 3 D rendering and the famous Leica glow even thrown in for free:biggrin: Sorry, my old joke, but I can`t help it.
    This Samsung looks like a great performer of a lens. But it indirectly also makes the case, at least for me, why mft might be the sweet spot if camera body, performance, sensor quality, outstanding glass are trying to push into the top segments of the market, yet size and weight advantages should be maintained.
     
  7. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    To be honest, Samsung also makes 5 very small and lightweight prime lenses and only their 60mm macro and this 85mm lens are rather big. And I'm willing to forgive the 60mm Macro its size because it's an internal focus lens and as such doesn't extend when focusing — unlike, say, Fujifilm XF 60mm Macro which is smaller but becomes twice as long as Samsung at short focusing distances.
     
  8. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    the combination of focal length and wide aperture in this combo really appeals to me. It's one of my only regrets slimming my kit down. There's no substitute for that look. nearly every system has one, and they're all good....and they're all expensive. And I don't mind expensive....if it's a focal length I can use all day long. But that's why I just need to stand on the sidelines and enjoy someone else using it. Nice review.
     
  9. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    With lenses of this focal length and speed I think that you're right, but as Pavel says there are a few Samsung lenses that disprove the rule. My NX200, 20/2.8, and 30/2 is my "compact system" compared to my Micro 4/3 gear. Comparing the Samsung 30/2 to the Panasonic Leica 25/1.4 (similar DOF at max aperture, similar FOV) is like David and Goliath in terms of size. The Samsung is even better behaved wide-open than the Panasonic. The Panasonic is still just about my favourite lens ever (and my favourite m4/3 lens) but it doesn't subscribe to the school of small-is-beautiful.
     
  10. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    I wonder if there is anyone there who is a huge fan of, say, a not unreasonably priced, 24-80ish fast zoom :smile:
     
  11. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    My sources indicate that we will probably see 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 pretty soon. And/or 16-50mm f/2.8.
     
  12. RT Panther

    RT Panther SC All-Pro

    Dec 25, 2012
    You know I'm a Samsung fan - thanks for posting this! :smile:
     
  13. romi.gilles

    romi.gilles SC Veteran

    338
    Jun 8, 2013
    idk anymore. all over the country.
    romi gilles
    i wonder how the upcoming PZ18-105G lens will look on a nex body. now, that's a huge lens.
     
  14. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    I think this lens will be mainly used on Sony NEX video cameras.
     
  15. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants SC All-Pro

    Mar 3, 2013
    John Griggs
    Not terribly useful to me, lol -- but you did a nice job on the review and that lens certainly seems to peform well. Bravo Samsung.
     
  16. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
  17. romi.gilles

    romi.gilles SC Veteran

    338
    Jun 8, 2013
    idk anymore. all over the country.
    romi gilles
    ^
    FF? i did see something about video. don't forget the expected FF nex camera coming.

    ^
    for someone already being invested in both a larger system (canon, nikon, alpha) and a compact system, i personally would save for a lens for my larger system especially at that size.

    i love that shot at the green benches though.


    (Sent from my EVO via Tapatalk)
     
  18. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    I will be very surprised if somebody is able to create a 18-105mm lens that covers full-frame.

    So far all Sony lenses for NEX have been APS-C only.
     
  19. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
  20. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    On an NX20 it might be a nicer match.