Although the Rokinon 85mm Cine DS lens, which is affordable and versatile, doesn't perform at f/1.4 well, it shines when it is stopped down.
- For cinema use
- Very sharp when you slow down.
- Even lighting across the frame
- Minimal distortion.
- Multiple systems are supported.
- A bit soft at f/1.4.
- Not everyone is able to use manual focus design.
- Optical stabilization is not available.
Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine DSM ($399) shows that you don't need to spend a lot to buy a prime 85mm lens. As long as autofocus is not an issue, the Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine T1.5 Cine TDS ($399) will prove you can get wide-aperture lenses with 85mm focal lengths. Portrait photographers love the 85mm focal length. It works well with both full-frame cameras and APS–C cameras. Rokinon's version of the design has some softness at 1.5 t, but it is sharp when stopped down.
It also offers tactile and mechanical feedback when you adjust focus. This lens is a great value when it comes to selling for less than the retail price. The Editors' Choice Nikon AF–S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G, which costs $359.00 at Adorama is our favorite 85mm lens. It supports autofocus, and takes sharper images.
Editor's Note: The Samyang 85mmF1.4 ASIF UMC was used in this review. The lenses, apart from their branding and mechanics, are identical optically and should perform similarly.
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Rokinon's Cine DS series was designed for cinema. Its maximum aperture is measured using t-stops. These measure actual light transmission through the glass rather than the common f-stops which measure diaphragm size in relation to focal length. Technically, there is a slight distinction between a 1.4 and 1.5 lens. However it's a minor one.
The 85mm T1.5 Cine DS (Amazon: $299.00), but is a bit heavy at 1.3 pounds and uses large 72mm front filters. The T1.5 Cine DS is available in 2 versions, each under two brands. The 85mm T1.5 VDSLRAS IF UMC II, which is its cinema counterpart, can be purchased at Amazon for $249.00.
You can choose a model that is better suited to still photography if you are not a videographer. The Samyang 85mmF1.4 AS IF UMC is available at Amazon for $29.95 and we were able to review it. However, you can also purchase the Rokinon85mm F1.4 AS IF UMC at Amazon ($279.00)
The optics will work regardless of brand or barrel design. Rokinon also sells the 85mm lens for most major cameras. It is available for Sony, Canon and Nikon SLRs as well as Micro Four Thirds or Sony mirrorless cameras. Although the lens cannot be optically stabilized it isn't a common feature in prime 85mm lenses.
The lens hood can be reversibly removed. The lens barrel and it are made from high-quality, durable plastic. Although it feels very similar to modern Nikon lenses' plastic barrels, it is not as strong and durable as the high-end Zeiss Otus Otus 85 ($4,490.00 on Amazon).
You can use the accessory knob to adjust focus with the geared focus ring. It turns smoothly and offers a long throw for precise adjustment of focus—that's important for a lens that can capture images with an extremely shallow depth of field. Eight blades make up the aperture diaphragm.
It maintains its circular shape as it stops down. Expect a smooth area of focus behind your subject with circular highlights. The diaphragm can be adjusted gradually with no click stops. This is a great feature for changing the depth of field or incoming light when you record video. You can place your focus puller on any side of the lens during a shoot.
This lens can focus to 3.28 feet (1 meter), which seems quite normal for an 85mm f/1.4. The Zeiss Otus does focus closer—to 2.6 feet—but you pay a lot for that extra bit of magnification. Lenses with f/1.8 maximums, such as the Nikkor85mm f/1.8G or the Zeiss Batis85mm, are better than the Rokinon for close focus and matching the Otus.
However, none of these lenses can replace a macro lens that has 1:1 reproduction capabilities, such as the Sony FE90mm F2.8 Macro OSS ($1,098.00 Amazon) or Nikon AF-S ED VR 85mm f/3.5G EDVR 85mm f/3.5G EDVR 85mm f/3.5G EDVR ($539.95 Amazon). However, these lenses are not as good at capturing light wide open. There will always be tradeoffs.
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Imatest was used to test the sharpness of the lens when it is paired with the Nikon D810, a 36-megapixel camera ($1,889.00 on Amazon). It scored 1,957 lines per picture on a center weighted sharpness test at t/1.5. This is better than the 1,800 lines we usually look for in photos, however we tend to scrutinize results from high-resolution D810 more closely.
Although 1,800 lines is a great result for a 16-megapixel sensor and an even better one for a 24-megapixel, the results are noticeably less sharp in a 36-megapixel photo. There's also some chromatic aberration at f/1.4—it's visible as purple-and-green color fringing in high-contrast areas of the frame, as well as in areas that are on either side of the plane of focus.
Quality is improved by lowering the threshold to t/2. Sharpness increases dramatically up to 2,590 lines. This is a sharper line with similar performance from edge-to-edge. And there's steady improvement as you stop down further—2,631 lines at t/2.8, 2,749 at t/4, 3,051 at t/5.6, 3,454 at t/8, and 3,669 line at t/11. At f/16 (3343 lines), and at f/22 (2856 lines), diffraction can cause some loss of fidelity.
The Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G, which was also tested on the D810, puts up better numbers all around—it scores 2,598 lines at f/1.8, approaches 3,000 lines at f/2.8, and peaks at 3,779 lines at f/11.
The Rokinon shows no distortion. At t/2, illumination is uniform from corner to corner. For narrower apertures, it's more even. At t/1.5, there is some dimming around the edges (-1EV), and in the corners (-1EV). Software tools can easily compensate for this. It isn't dramatic.
The Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine DS lens is worth considering if you aren't afraid of manual focus. The lens is a great performer, even starting at t/2. While the t/1.5 images are slightly softened, it's still very usable. Portraiture is a good example of this. A little softness can help you draw your subject more naturally. The lens can produce razor-sharp results at smaller apertures.
The lens is priced at around $400 but can be purchased for as little as $100, which makes it an excellent bargain. Videographers will love the clickless aperture control, and focus gears. Although it isn't as good as our Editors Choice Nikon AF–S Nikkor 85mm F/1.8G 85mm, this lens can be used with multiple cameras systems.
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