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Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical

Screen_Shot_2013-11-14_at_4_38_14_PM
Review Date: Jan 10, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $190.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, cheap, sharp, compact, sharp, well built, sharp.
Cons:
Manual focus.

I had been looking for a fast 85mm for a while now, and the Samyang/Bower/Pro Optic/Bell & Howell/etc. 85mm F/1.4 caught my eye with its low price and positive reviews around the web. Figured "at worst, I can return it", so I picked one up when the price was right.

Wow.

That basically describes this lens. Something this cheap and fast should NOT be this sharp. Even wide open, despite lacking contrast (correctable in post), this lens is extremely sharp, even on my Nikon D7100. Stop it down, and look out! It gets razor sharp in the center by just F/2.8. The corners catch up at F/8 for landscape use, but aren't bad at all even wide open.

And then there's the bokeh. O lord, the bokeh! Sooo smooth and creamy wide open! Everything just melts away behind the subject.

As far as the build quality, most of the lens is surprisingly metal, with a well dampened focusing ring and positive aperture clicks. The lens by itself is roughly the size of a Nikon 35mm F/1.8G AF-S prime without the hood. Quite compact while being loaded with glass. The only letdown (of the entire lens, really), is the hood, which doesn't snap into place very securely. Haven't had an issue with knocking it off yet, but it's a possibility.

I mainly use the lens on my Sony NEX-6 with a Metabones Speed Booster, where it behaves very well. Focus zoom and peaking make manual focus a breeze, and the shallow DOF from the full frame appearance is just jaw dropping. On my D7100, the focus confirmation light works, as does metering via the aperture ring. The image is sharp even on the 24MP sensor without an anti-aliasing filter!

In the end, if manual focus doesn't scare you away, this should be your next lens, no matter what else may be next in line on your list. The absurdly low price, combined with the buttery bokeh and high sharpness wide open, make this lens a no brainer.


 
Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G AF-S DX

DX-17-55_L
Review Date: Nov 2, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Super Sharp, great color and contrast. No contest vs Tamron 17-50 F/2.8 VC
Cons:
Some people may be put off by the size/weight of a pro lens (not me :D )

I originally thought my Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 VC, which everyone claims is 95% as good as the 17-55 , could get me through whatever I encountered. Didn't happen. I purchased a Nikon 80-200mm F/2.8 two ring right before a wedding, and was blown away by the quality. That instantly became my favorite lens. I shot that wedding using it and the Tamron, and was very displeased to find the results of the Tamron were noticeably sub-par in comparison, every area that could be rated. Good thing most of the wedding was shot with the big lens, and I could handle making the other shots match it (though it was time consuming).

So I spent a while checking eBay till I found a good deal on a 17-55 F/2.8 AF-S. Finally got it a couple weeks ago, and yeah, you definitely get what you pay for with Nikon pro lenses. It's just as sharp and contrasty as the 80-200, making it the ideal companion, and making my workflow seamless between lenses. I can even use wide open shots at full crop if necessary, since the lens is so sharp the D7000 can take full advantage.

Speaking of the D7000, it balances perfectly on the camera when you add a grip. The center of gravity is right at the mount. Even though the combo is technically heavy, the balance makes it very easy to hold and shoot with. It's now displaced the 80-200mm as my favorite lens. Wink

All in all, if you want the best DX zoom in the 17-50 range, or are on the fence between Tamron/Sigma/Tokina and Nikon, the 17-55 can't be beat.