Rokinon 85mm vs Zeiss Quick Test
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flashinm
Registered: Aug 23, 2010
Total Posts: 373
Country: N/A

Most people would agree that the Rokinon is the best bang for the buck for a fast 85, but some still dismiss it as just a decent performing, inexpensive lens. So I decided to test it against a Contax mount Zeiss 85mm f1.4 to see how it really stacks up. This is a quick and dirty test, however I tried my best to keep everything equal. All images were taken at identical exposures, tripod mounted, with live view focus and shooting.

The contestants:







Zeiss 85mm f1.4 AEG version and Rokinon 85mm f1.4 EOS mount

Test 1 - Performance near MFD (Zeiss will focus a little closer).













































Test 2 - Wide open, medium distance























Test 3 - Stopped down at infinity























I report, you decide


Douglas_Bush
Registered: Mar 15, 2008
Total Posts: 506
Country: United States

I will say that a test like this doesn't take everything into account, but given what it shows, I am impressed by both. The "sharpness" of the Rokinon is clearly better at wider apertures.

Thanks for putting these together, its always interesting to see comparisons like these.



mpmendenhall
Registered: Aug 09, 2008
Total Posts: 2034
Country: United States

The Rokinon's wide-open performance at MFD to mid distances, especially towards the edges of the frame, allowed me to sell my EF 85L II (also no slouch of a lens) with no regrets about losing image quality. There are better lenses than the Rokinon for stopped-down work (your f5.6 image shows a distinct contrast/CA advantage for the Zeiss if you flip back-and-forth between the two images), but wide open the Rokinon is, in my opinion, the lens to beat. Fortunately, getting the Rokinon plus a slower lens better for stopped-down work is cheaper and lighter than many competing 85/1.4 options.



jcolwell
Registered: Feb 10, 2005
Total Posts: 19056
Country: Canada

Hi flashinm,

Thanks for posting the results of your considerable efforts. In my experience on the 5D and 1DsIII, the Rokinon is very similar in terms of sharpness/resolution to the Planar 85/1.4 and the Summicron 90/2. For most subjects, when wide open and at f/4, the older, classics have a slight advantage over the Rokinon. At f/8, they are all excellent in the corners, but the Rokinon lags slightly in the centre. IOW, they're all excellent lenses. On the basis of cost/performance, the Rokinon wins, hands-down.

IMO, the most important distinction is that they have very different characters. I continue to own and use all of them. You might be interested to know that the humble Mamiya C 80/2.8N is consistently sharper than all of them, at the same apertures. Of course, it's not as fast, wide open.

Did you use LiveView with MLU and a shutter release cable, on a tripod? Also, I note that the images seem to be slightly over exposed. It's quite possible that the 100% crops would show considerably more detail, if there was higher contrast [sharpness = resolution + contrast].

IMO, the biggest advantage of the Rokinon is that it has peerless bokeh when wide open. Otherwise, I prefer the Planar for rendering fine detail, or the 'cron for colour and 'separation' at reduced apertures.

Thanks, Jim



flashinm
Registered: Aug 23, 2010
Total Posts: 373
Country: N/A

I didn't use a cable release, but all shots were taken with the mirror up, tripod mounted, at shutter speeds at least double the focal length. I did this testing for myself initially, to decide which one I wanted to keep. As I will use this lens for portraits only, I kept the Rokinon. I decided to post the pictures because I've seen some comments down playing the Rokinon's performance by posters I can only assume simply don't think much of it because of the name and price.

Both are excellent lenses that are capable of outstanding results, but yes there is certainly a difference in style. You can see the difference in bokeh in test 2. The Rokinon is much smoother, but I could see how someone might prefer the Zeiss. You can see the difference in microcontrast in test 3 where the Zeiss clearly wins, although I doubt anyone is buying either of these lenses to shoot landscapes. I was surprised however, that the Rokinon was sharper wide open. It's also much better corrected for CAs which isn't a surprise given the much newer design.

One question about EXIF. All of my Rokinon shots registered as 50mm f0.0. Isn't it supposed to transmit proper focal length and aperture?



mpmendenhall
Registered: Aug 09, 2008
Total Posts: 2034
Country: United States

flashinm wrote:
One question about EXIF. All of my Rokinon shots registered as 50mm f0.0. Isn't it supposed to transmit proper focal length and aperture?

The Rokinon doesn't have a chip on the mount to tell the camera its focal length / aperture (unless someone has added a third-party one, which still wouldn't be able to tell where you had set the aperture ring). This is perfectly normal for the lens.



flashinm
Registered: Aug 23, 2010
Total Posts: 373
Country: N/A

Ok thanks.



jcolwell
Registered: Feb 10, 2005
Total Posts: 19056
Country: Canada

flashinm wrote:
...I was surprised however, that the Rokinon was sharper wide open.


In my experience, the Rokinon, Planar, and 'Cron have very similar sharpness, wide open. OTOH, the EF 85/1.2l II is even sharper, wide opem, but it's often hard to tell, as its DOF is so shallow.



trumpet_guy
Registered: Jun 23, 2006
Total Posts: 3487
Country: United States

Your Rokinon seems to be performing very well.
The Rokinon excels at portrait distances, where the Zeiss is at it's worst
at these distances, wide open.

My Rokinon may be sub-par, but the color performance, contrast, and sharpness are
not what I had hoped for. Still, it's more than worth the little money I paid for it.
Still, I hope to get an 85L one day.

I'm glad your Rokinon is doing so well.



mpmendenhall
Registered: Aug 09, 2008
Total Posts: 2034
Country: United States

jcolwell wrote:
In my experience, the Rokinon, Planar, and 'Cron have very similar sharpness, wide open. OTOH, the EF 85/1.2l II is even sharper, wide opem, but it's often hard to tell, as its DOF is so shallow.


I suppose there is likely non-negligible sample variation to explain different people's evaluations of these lenses. From my experience, the 85LII may have had a very slight center-sharpness advantage over the Rokinon at f1.4 at short focus distances (typical upper-body portrait distances), but the Rokinon was significantly more uniform with better performance towards the frame edges and corners (where the 85L detail was increasingly washed out and hazy). The Rokinon also showed less tendency towards purple fringing around highlights (although still plenty to be problematic in adverse circumstances).

At f2, my experience would still put the Rokinon ahead of its "competitors" (like the 85L, 'Cron R 90 pre-asph) in raw detail and sharpness, although I often prefer the "character" of other lenses (the 'Cron, for example, is commendably good for color richness). At f2.8, the field of contenders expands significantly, and the Rokinon no longer has any particular optical advantage over the many choices available, though it is still a good performer (I can support JColwell's commendation of the Mamiya 85/2.8N, an excellent lens that costs less than an adapter to use it; the Contax 85/2.8 is also reputed to be excellent, perhaps better than the CY85/1.4).



trumpet_guy
Registered: Jun 23, 2006
Total Posts: 3487
Country: United States

The Contax Zeiss 85/2.8 Sonnar is indeed excellent at all apertures. I like it very much.
However, there are many times where f/1.4 would be advantageous. Hence my
desire for a top-class wide aperture 85mm lens.



AhamB
Registered: Jul 11, 2008
Total Posts: 4854
Country: Germany

In the medium distance shots, the Rokinon shows a good example of what was called "sissy bokeh" by someone in this forum. I actually like the rendering of the Contax better here. The light in the background seems to be flatter and colder in the Rokinon shot though, so there were probably some clouds blocking the sun at that moment.

@Michael: I can't detect even a trace of CA in the f/5.6 shots.



edwardkaraa
Registered: Sep 27, 2004
Total Posts: 6861
Country: Thailand

I wonder who could come up with such a term as sissy bokeh
50 years from now I will be remembered as being the first who coined that expression



oldmiller
Registered: Feb 26, 2010
Total Posts: 65
Country: Germany

flashinm wrote:
.. You can see the difference in bokeh in test 2. The Rokinon is much smoother...


Sorry, your pictures for test no.2 are both overexposed at the point of focus (and also in the sky). On top of that the one from the Zeiss is even more overexposed than the one from the Rokinion is.
Therefore you must see considerably more CA in the Zeiss picture as shown in the crops and naturally the highlights/bokeh will be much more prominent with the Zeiss.

Kind regards,
Bernd



Makten
Registered: Jul 14, 2008
Total Posts: 4035
Country: Sweden

oldmiller wrote:
Sorry, your pictures for test no.2 are both overexposed at the point of focus (and also in the sky). On top of that the one from the Zeiss is even more overexposed than the one from the Rokinion is.
Therefore you must see considerably more CA in the Zeiss picture as shown in the crops and naturally the highlights/bokeh will be much more prominent with the Zeiss.


Talk about really trying to find something that makes the test useless. Anyone can see that the Rokinon bokeh is way smoother, no matter the exposure.
If you open the image in PS you can see that it's only a small part of the sky and the white top of the pole that's overexposed, which definitely won't affect the overall bokeh.

Why is it so hard to accept that the Zeiss isn't always best? I prefer the Zeiss bokeh, but if I wanted an as smooth bokeh as possible, I would definitely not choose it. I've owned it and I know that it's an amazing lens.



oldmiller
Registered: Feb 26, 2010
Total Posts: 65
Country: Germany

Makten wrote:
Talk about really trying to find something that makes the test useless.


This is fiction, Martin. Neither did I state so nor did I imply.


Makten wrote:
Anyone can see that the Rokinon bokeh is way smoother, no matter the exposure.


That may be so, but with different exposures differences are distorted. That is what my post was all about.


Makten wrote:
If you open the image in PS you can see that it's only a small part of the sky and the white top of the pole that's overexposed, which definitely won't affect the overall bokeh


It does affect the impression of sharpness/contrast, the amount of CA and it also affects how strong highlights are reflected.


Makten wrote:
Why is it so hard to accept that the Zeiss isn't always best?


I would prefer you'd stay objective instead of searching for motives I do not have.

Kind regards,
Bernd



runamuck
Registered: Oct 29, 2006
Total Posts: 6444
Country: United States

Actually, Makten has a very good point. You see this not only with lenses, but other photography gear. Tripods are another example.

"How could you go out and spend $5,000 on a camera and put an inferior (read, non Gitzo) tripod under it?" If you pay attention, you will see it a lot on this and other forum sites, and it is not restricted to photography.



flashinm
Registered: Aug 23, 2010
Total Posts: 373
Country: N/A

oldmiller wrote:


Sorry, your pictures for test no.2 are both overexposed at the point of focus (and also in the sky). On top of that the one from the Zeiss is even more overexposed than the one from the Rokinion is.
Therefore you must see considerably more CA in the Zeiss picture as shown in the crops and naturally the highlights/bokeh will be much more prominent with the Zeiss.

Kind regards,
Bernd


I'm not sure what that has to do with bokeh, but in regards to CA the Rokinon is clearly better. I will post some more pictures later. On one test that I did indoor the Zeiss was bursting with CA's while the Rok showed virtually none. You can disagree with a lot of things in this test that are subjective. CA performance is not one of them.

Also, all the shots were taken at the same exposure. However, it was a partly cloudy day and the light was changing constantly. The pillar in test 2 was in the shade on both shots, but in the Zeiss shot the background was receiving more sun (as someone already noted). Personally, I like Zeiss bokeh here, even if it isn't as smooth. Zeiss has never been known for buttery smooth bokeh, and I think it has something to do with the high microcontrast. I don't think you can have both.



mpmendenhall
Registered: Aug 09, 2008
Total Posts: 2034
Country: United States

flashinm wrote:Zeiss has never been known for buttery smooth bokeh, and I think it has something to do with the high microcontrast. I don't think you can have both.
I think that the tradeoff between microcontrast and smooth bokeh is true for "traditional" lens designs that use all spherical optics. The characteristic aberrations introduced by spherical optics in fast lenses tend to force a tradeoff between high focus plane sharpness/contrast and harsh background bokeh. However, the increasingly common inclusion of aspheric elements, even in budget lenses like the Rokinon, opens up interesting possibilities to get the best of both worlds, with sharp focus and smooth backgrounds (the new Sigma 50/1.4 also takes advantage of this).



wayne seltzer
Registered: Dec 22, 2007
Total Posts: 3968
Country: United States

edwardkaraa wrote:
I wonder who could come up with such a term as sissy bokeh
50 years from now I will be remembered as being the first who coined that expression


I think it is the same person who disliked that type of bokeh who now enjoys it with his Sony 50/1.4G.
I nominate the new Zeiss 35/1.4 as the king or should I say queen of sissy bokeh! Lol!



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