85mm lens battle….

Does it even make sense to compare a $300 lens to an $1800 version?

Yup.

This is a quick, only somewhat scientific comparison of the
Sony 85mm f1.4 Gmaster
and the much less expensive, manual focus,
Rokinon 85mm f1.4

First of all, you’ll not find anyone, anywhere, that claims the Rokinon is as good as the Sony.  The Sony, in lab tests, is sharper (though that’s hard to prove in reality) and the bokeh is better (though again, it’ll be hard to prove much of the time)

The Sony is built better, and has bonus features, its one of the 5 or 6 best portrait lenses in the world. (currently, my opinion)  That’s tough to argue against.

The QUESTION is, does it matter?  And believe it or not, depending on how you shoot, it may not.

But if you choose the Rokinon, you ARE giving up some features:

…and some of those features may be MANDATORY for you, like autofocus.

But let’s assume, for a second, that AF is not a major issue.  For instance, we’re testing them today on the Sony a6000, and with Sony’s focus peaking, unless you want TRACKING focus, manual focus is super easy and accurate.

Let’s assume the details aren’t important, we just want a GREAT PORTRAIT LENS.

Both are sharp, the below images are EXTREME crops from much larger images taken in very controlled conditions:

But if you look closely, the Sony has a slight advantage at f5.6 and that advantage is just a little wider at f1.4

In practical use, you really can’t tell them apart.

Regarding colors.  Both lenses are contrasty with vibrant color, but in my SUBJECTIVE OPINION, the Sony colors are more natural and it’s easier to capture skin tones.  This is one of those features you more or less have to take my word on, it’s based on having shot about 30 people with the Sony, and about 200 with the Rokinon.  The Rokinon does fine, but I’m certain for my own purposes, the Sony colors are better.

That said…you may not notice unless you spend a lot of time with both.

The Sony:

The Rokinon:

The Sony is a clear winner when it comes to chromatic aberrations.  (purple fringing)  BUT, again……that proves to be easy to remove in software from the Rokinon images.

The Rokinon does have two obvious advantages.

  1. It’s FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS CHEAPER!
  2. It’s a full two pounds lighter

The Sony is a little fatter, but otherwise, they’re the same length.  Frustratingly for me, the GMaster on a Sony E Mount Body won’t fit into my favorite waist pack 🙁

But that leaves us with the BIG QUESTION.  How beautiful are those out of focus backgrounds.  The lenses can both capture plenty of detail……but what about the BOKEH?

This is where it gets very very interesting.  The Sony wins.  No surprises, the Sony was engineered in a whole new way to provide the best bokeh ever.  But, the Rokinon actually holds it’s own, enough that it’s kind of hard to tell them apart:

 

So when do you buy the Sony?  Well, the easy answer is when money doesn’t matter and you want the absolute very best.  If weight is not an important consideration and you’re just after the bar-none best possible image quality.

…or when autofocus is a must.  But you can also consider the Zeiss Batis and the Sigma ART with an adapter.

When do you choose the Rokinon?  When you are on a limited budget, or when you want to STRETTTTTTCH your budget, because let’s face it, with an extra $1500 you can do an awful lot.

The Rokinon is also a great option for being part of a smaller, lighter setup.

The images OF the lenses were taken with an a6000 + Sigma 30mm f1.4
And if you combine two Sony a6000’s with these two fast primes, you get one sleek, fast, efficient little duo:

ASTERISK.

Much of this is just my opinion, but it’s based on extensively using the cameras and all of the lenses involved.  This is NOT a case of me grabbing a lens for a day and making a snap judgment, I’ve pushed a quarter million pictures through these two lenses over the last year.

Also keep in mind that I’m making the bokeh comparisons using APS-C cameras, not full frame.  Both of these lenses ARE full frame lenses.  Of course, you do get all that awesome light gathering and creamy bokeh of an f1.4 lens with the field of view of a 127mm lens…..when you shoot on those tiny a6000’s.

And something to keep in the back of your mind…whether you shoot Sony, or Canon or Nikon or whatever…the Rokinon is just $300.  You may find it easier to leapfrog that cheap 50mm f1.8, and get a TRUE portrait lens with all the power of a 127mm  equivalent focal length and that beautiful, HUGE aperture 🙂

 

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