Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: Samyang 100 mm f/2.8 Macro


I have to admit, I find the Samyang concept very solid: remove autofocus to cut down cost, but give the best image quality you can (within the price tag). Result? A cheap but optically very capable lens. The 85mm f/1.4 was sensational, and the 14mm f/2.8 was no slouch either. When I heard that Samyang prepared a macro such lens, I was thrilled - because in macros, more than in any other case, the lack of autofocus is even less of an issue. I got one for reviewing purposes, hoping it'd be good enough to keep it. Here are my findings...

Center sharpness is just fine, really (although, this is a given for a macro prime lens)


+ Well built, like its siblings. No shortcuts when it comes to construction quality
+ manual focus is well implemented, allows for precision adjustments.
+ sharpness what you'd expect from a macro lens. No complaints really, except...

- ... wide-open in the corners. Not bad, but definitely not what I'd call great.
- the bokeh wasn't as great as I hoped for (of course this is subjective), especially in front of the subject and stopped-down a bit. Wide-open is somewhat better (but still not ideal).
- value not great, it's more expensive than it should have been.

Intended Users

Great for:
  • As a dedicated macro lens, it's very good - I wouldn't call it "excellent" though.
  • Particularly good for entry-level cameras (it has an AE chip, so you have metering and you can control the aperture from the dial).
  • DX in general: great working distance, and corners not as much of an issue.

Not for:
  • If you plan to use it for things other than macro, the lack of autofocus can be a show-stopper.
  • Sadly, I can't recommend it for FX. Why pay $500 for such a lens, when with the same amount you can get an autofocus macro (with better corners, to boot)? And with another $150 or so, you can get optical stabilization, too!
  • portraits. I disliked the bokeh - opt for the optically no-nonsense Samyang 85mm f/1.4 instead (which is way cheaper, too).
It's a difficult scene, to be sure. But there just seems to be something busy about the bokeh, which makes this not what I'd call 'creamy'

This is taken with the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 and I offer it as a bokeh comparison. If you're interested in portraits, the 85mm f/1.4 is far superior.

Final Verdict

I wanted to like this lens so much. The price was higher than I would have wanted, but I kept telling myself that maybe the optical quality was really extraordinary. Sadly, it wasn't. If the price of the Samyang 100mm f/2.8 was less than $300, perhaps I could recommend it - although, it would compete against the breathtakingly brilliant AIS Nikkors, and I'd pick the 105mm f/2.8 AIS any day over the Samyang.

Ultimately, the biggest issue of this lens is not so much its quality (which, despite the so-so corners is still very good), but all the little elements put together. It's a matter of scope and competition, really. To be recommended, this lens would have to be $200 cheaper; or, there shouldn't exist a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 HSM OS, or a Tamron 90mm f/2.8; or, a Nikon Nikkor AIS 105mm f/2.8. Too many "if", "or", "what not", "perhaps", and "maybe". Not a bad lens, but there are options that are better or cheaper (sometimes both).

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