Lens Comparison: Affordable 85mm f/1.4

samyang85I was having breakfast with Canon Blogger, Jason Anderson one day and we were talking about lenses when I mentioned that my favorite for photographing people was Canon’s EF 85mm f/1.8. Jason said that he really wanted to own the EF 85mm f/1.2 I tested for Shutterbug magazine. There’s about a thousand dollars differences between those two lenses, which got me to thinking about why Canon doesn’t offer an 85mm f/1.4. as Nikon does for users of their system and while both Sigma and Zeiss offer one for the EOS mount neither is what you might call inexpensive.

I was browsing Adorama catalog and saw just what I was looking for: The Pro-Optic 85mm f/1.4 (now available as the Samyang SY85M-C) lens priced at $269. That’s less than the EF 85mm f/1.8 so I knew there had to be a catch in there somewhere. The lens is manual focus but then again so is the Zeiss 85mm which costs $1000 more! The Pro-Optic lens is also only recommended for use with Canon or Nikon SLRs that have a APS-C sensor size and the automatic diaphragm that we take for granted in most lenses is sorta semi-automatic. The minimum Aperture is f/16 and the design uses 9 Elements in 7 Groups. It provides a 28.3 degree angle-of-view and focuses as close as 3.3 ft. Filter size is 72mm and a lens hood is included. I decided to do a side-by-side comparison between the Canon EF 85mm f/18 and the Pro-Optic 85mm f/1.4  and, ya know, see what happens.


Pamela Simpson modeled for this headshot made in my in-home studio while I testing the EOS Digital Rebel T4i. Lighting was from a Flashpoint 300 w/s monolight at camera right with a white Flashpoint 16-Rib 86-inch parabolic umbrella mounted and a 32-inch reflector at left, although I’m not sure how much it added. Exposure was 1/100 sec at f/8 and ISO 400 for both shots. First I attached the Canon EF lens, then I made a few shots with the Pro-Optic 85mm f/1.4. (This lens lacks viewfinder focus confirmation.)  Can you tell which one is which? To help you decide, I enlarged a section of Pam’s eye. Now can you tell? (Answer at bottom of post.)


 (The Pro-Optic lens shot is at right.)

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.04.28 AMMy book Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography is full of tips, tools and techniques for glamour and boudoir photography is available from your friendly neighborhood book or camera store as well as at Amazon at very nice prices.

Author: Joe Farace

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