Rokinon 85mm F/1.4: The Affordable 85mm

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Manual focus lenses are popular amongst videographers and some photographers that want an old-time feeling to their gear. The Rokinon 85mm F1.4 is a portrait lens that will appeal to the crowd that wants a budget-friendly lens with great image quality.





Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Web site.

Used On

Canon 5D Mk II

Canon 7D

Ergonomics

The Rokinon 85mm F1.4 is roughly the same size as the Canon 85mm F/1.8 USM. In the hand though, both lenses feel very different. The Canon lens has a smoother shell and feels like a much more modern lens. The reason for this is because of the glass focusing scale and the lack of an aperture ring. In contrast, the Rokinon lens has a slightly vintage feel to it with a textured surface and very large focusing ring. If I could liken it to anything, it would be very similar to the Sigma version of this lens.

Sorry old-schoolers, you'll have to go to Zeiss to get the metal construction—and pay the premium for it as well. However, the Rokinon 85mm F1.4 is targeted to the budget level crowd.

The front of the lens has a large front element and an area for you to attach the included lens hood. When attached, the hood makes the lens look quite a bit more intimidating. That hood will protect the lens from bumps and when reveresed on the lens body it will protect roughly around half of the entire lens: which adds even more protection for when the lens isn't in use.

In Use

For Portraits

The Rokinon 85mm is one very tough lens to focus if you don't have a split focusing screen. Even when in Live View, it will be best to ensure that you're using a tripod to ensure that camera shake doesn't throw off focusing when shooting wide open. If the lens is stopped down, it will be a bit simpler.

With that said though, it should be noted that the rendering of skin tones is where this lens really shines. Coupled with the Canon DSLRs, the metering is also spot-on.

Because I didn't have a split-focusing screen, ensuring that I've achieved accurate focusing required switching the camera into Live View, adjusting the metering, moving the focusing area over Lauren's eye in the photo above, zooming in, focusing, then coming out of Live View and metering again. After ensuring that I had the area perfectly focused, I needed to make sure that I didn't move much lest the plane of focus be thrown off.

On the Canon 7D, the Rokinon 85mm F/1.4 has an approximately 136mm field of view. This is a preferred portrait focal length for many photographers. Combined with a fast F/1.4 aperture and the way the lens renders skin tones, many photographers will be very pleased with just how much they get for so little money.

As a Walkabout Lens

An 85mm focal length isn't often the choice of many that like to casually walk around taking photos leisurely, but with the right angles it can still deliver interesting images. The Rokinon 85mm will do something that autofocus lenses don't necessarily do though: force you to slow down.

When you're forced to slow down and are limited to only one focal length, the human mind tends to take more time to compose the images, meter correctly, and sometimes even look through the viewfinder and wait for that one special moment to snap.

As stated earlier, it's best to have a split-focusing screen in place if you want to manually focus while looking through the viewfinder. Otherwise, you'll be using either:

- The Live View screen (best if the camera has a vari-angle LCD to maintain stealth)

- The hyperfocal length style of street photography which harkens back to the old adage, "F/8 and be there!"

Though if you stop the lens down, the viewfinder gets considerably darker. If you're shooting in bright and sunny situations, this is fine because there will still be plenty of available light to give you a usable display in the viewfinder.

The lens is already quite sharp wide open (and providing that you execute absolutely perfect focusing) and only gets sharper as you stop it down. By F/2.8, it is already very sharp.

But how sharp is it against the closest competitor in the price range: the Canon 85mm F/1.8? Here's a test at F/2.8 with daylight white balance and focus being placed on the word range finder on the dial. This test was done on the Canon 7D because most readers of this site have APS-C sensor cameras. Both images had the same exposure levels:

Canon 85mm F/1.8 at F/2.8; Click here to see the full image.

Rokinon 85mm F/1.4 shot at F/2.8. Click here to see the full sample.

For Video

 

Many videographers use manual focus lenses because they don't often need to focus back and forth very quickly with subjects. Additionally, tracking subjects walking into the camera can be much smoother and easier when done manually with items like a follow-focus system.

The video above shows what video will look like when the lens is attached to the Canon 5D Mk II. This was done in natural light and is a very rough preview.

Conclusions

In the end, this lens is one that will provide users with the most bang for their buck if they don't mind manual focusing. Videographers will greatly appreciate this since they manually focus anyway, but still photographers may perhaps not be so happy with manually focusing unless they have a split-screen focusing screen. For the price, the build quality is very good and photographers that are used to manually focusing their lenses will feel right at home with this one.

Because of my failing vision though, I prefer to autofocus or I'd at least like an autofocus confirmation chip. So for the moment, I prefer my Canon 85mm F/1.8 though the Rokinon is a viable option for me if I want to shoot more video.

Add new comment

I tried the chip confirmation version of this lens on the Nikon D7000, hoping to be able to change the aperture by rotating the aperture ring on the lens. The reason this is important for shooting video in live view is because the Nikon D7000 restricts the abilitiy to change aperture in live view unless the lens has an aperture ring. Unfortunetly it doesn't work that way with this lens, even when I have aperture ring set in the F6 menu, for some reason it only moved the numbers in the camera but the aperture doesn't really change. For video, this is a bad thing. I'm thinking that the Rokinon 85mm version withOUT the chip confirmation will work perfectly, as you simply set it up as a non-CPU lens and you can change the aperture on the lens freely in Manual mode.

Optically, the lens itself takes very nice photos/videos and it has a nice weight to it, fit and finish. I found the metering WAY off on the Nikon (says it's exposed properly, but after I take a photo it is totally blown out), it could be the lens itself that I used (a dud perhaps?), but I'm thinking it's that Nikon doesn't fully support this lens. I will try the other (non-chip) version of this lens as this one doen't work for my purposes.

 I have been using this lens, that is the "with chip" model - Using a Nikon D3100. I am a medical student on a budget, for whom photography is a hobby.For the price I am very happy with the results.

Important note about focusing. 

With the chip model the camera can use its own rangefinder to help focus. A little green light in the corner of the viewfinder lets you know when your in focus. And with the D3100 you can manually select which of the 11 focus points you want the rangefinder to use - a very helpful tidbit for those of us looking through a small viewfinder. 

Also for those consumer level cameras, like the D3100, the user can't set the aperture for a non CPU lens- this, in my opinion, makes the chip model essential for those models of camera. In that case you don't actually use the aperture ring at all - just set it to F22, and the camera, via the lens chip, changes the aperture for you. Without the chip these consumer level cameras don't "know" what the aperture is - and your left guessing on exposure. 

All in all a great lens for a great price.

 want to try this lens so badly...does anyone have any experience with it on a Rebel T2i??

Does this lens with the chip beep when used on the nikon d7000? I get the green light but no beep. Camera is set to AF.