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09-16-2017, 01:30 PM   #1
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Samyang 85mm f/1.4 or SMC Pentax M 85mm f/2?

In pursuit of the perfect portrait lens for my Pentax, I have been perused a plethora of publications and the the time for pontification is pretty much up. It is time to put my money where my mind is and pull the trigger. Okay, enough with the pathetic poetry. Let me get on with it.

I have been thinking about rounding out my inadequate collection of lenses for a while now. In my mind there is now a gap between 50mm and 100mm. On the one end I have an M 50mm f/1.4 and and an A 50mm f/2.8 macro. On the other end there is an M 100mm f/2.8. I also have three zoom lenses that cover the 80mm mark but the need for a fast short tele remains unfilled, leaving me unfulfilled. The budget is about $300 US.

The ne plus ultra of eighty fives is the A* 85mm f/1.4 but they are scarce and expensive. The same goes for the FA 85mm f/1.4. A more obvious choice would be the 77mm f/1.8 Limited. Autofocus, compact and highly regarded but it is outside of my budget. The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art is nice but pricey and getting harder to find. There is also the Zeiss ZK 85mm f/1.4, probably the scarcest of all the fast 85mm lenses made in K mount. However, expensive glass such as these do fit my budget. I would like to have a few pennies left in the piggy bank for other things.

On the other end of the budget spectrum is the Jupiter 9 85mm f/2. Not a bad lens but the quality control and condition on the older cheaper ones are all over the place. You pay your money and you take your chance with them. Later ones are a safer bet but they are hardly cheap. For the sort of money being asked for them I would rather have something with an automatic diaphragm, please. And fiddling with M42 adapters tends to break one's speed when out on a shoot.

In the middle of the money spectrum, there is a lot of choice. There are a few oddballs such as the f/2.2 and f/2.8 85mm soft focus Pentaxes. Interesting but very much an acquired taste. Definitely not a good choice for your first 85mm, maybe the second or third. The DA 70mm f/2.4 does not hold much appeal. I am sure it is a fine piece of kit but it is a bit on the short and slow side from where I am sitting.

Having eliminated a whole lot of lenses on a whole lot of whims, there are still a few choice left. Staying with the Asahi Optical Company, the obvious choice is the M 85mm f/2. There are not many around, but they can be found within my budget. If I want one, I had better move now while there are still a few fungus free examples left. It has been out of production for forty years, after all. The only problem with this choice is its older brother, the legendary K 85mm f/1.8. According to the interwebs the two are not in the same league. Why Pentax chose to discontinue the f/1.8 is a question that may never be answered. Perhaps the quest for added lightness led them on the wrong path. Perhaps I should stretch the budget and shell out for the famous f/1.8. It has a near identical Takumar twin in M42 but as said before, fiddling with adapters does not float my boat. But let's leave this pricey classic out of the equation for now.

There are still a couple of 85mm lenses that can be bought brand new in K mount. The Mitakon 85mm f/2 is supremely good value if one can live with a manual diaphragm, but I am not that guy. The Samyang/Rokinon/whatever 85mm f/1.4 looks really, really tempting. It is right inside the budget. It even has an 'A' position on the aperture ring, meaning that programmed exposure is available. No green button pressing to worry about. One less thing to worry about is always good. The problem here is that there are some questions about quality control on these. Most owners praise the construction but a few hard luck tales are to be found on the interwebs. One sad fellow had his Samyang develop a noisy focus mechanism. This is a bit of grind(!) for still photography but is a real deal breaker for videos. Apart from that it is not easy to focus but that goes with the fast lens territory.

So, do I go for the classic or the modern? The f/2 Pentax would be easier to focus. But an extra large aperture makes shots possible that would otherwise not be attainable. I am thinking low light as well as shallow DOF and bokeh here. I have some experience with regards to manual focussing the two extremes in aperture. I have an M 200mm f/4 as well as a K 200mm f/2.5. The latter is a real beast but the extra magic is worth the effort. For fast moving subject in good light, the former is a much safer bet. I suppose that this would apply to the eighty fives as well.

Wide open, the Samyang is a bit soft. Good for portraits and something that one lives with in low light. How the old and the new compares at say f/8 is not easy to say without owning both. That may be a an option as well, hehehe. At this stage, the Pentax is ahead slightly but I have not made up my mind.

Thoughts on the above? I am sure that there are a few Pentaxians who have experience with both lenses.

09-16-2017, 02:12 PM   #2
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I would go with the Samyang. CA/PF on older lenses at wide apertures isn't worth dealing with if there's an easy way around it, IMO. Also, based on my experience the QC issues have mainly been with wider lenses. If you get a bad copy you can always exchange it until you get a good one

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09-16-2017, 02:46 PM   #3
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I'm looking at the sky 85 1.4 myself, I had it in my mft kit when I was in that world, was a nice enough lens but i thunk it would be better on a ff. I'm confused why Pentax doesn't have an affordable 85 1.8 that every other system has

Last edited by awscreo; 09-16-2017 at 02:52 PM.
09-16-2017, 03:20 PM   #4
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I'm with Adam. I don't have it (FA*85 for me), but the Samyang/Rokinon 85/1.4 is very well regarded.

You get modern coatings and a new lens warranty. Plus an A setting on the aperture ring (I think).

09-16-2017, 03:43 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
Plus an A setting on the aperture ring (I think).
Yes, there is an A setting. I can also highly recommend the 85/1.4.
09-16-2017, 04:27 PM   #6
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I think A* is better.

SMC Pentax A* 85mm F1.4 Reviews - A Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

---------- Post added 09-16-17 at 04:29 PM ----------

I think A* is better.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-Pentax-A-Star-85mm-F1.4-Lens.html
09-16-2017, 05:35 PM   #7
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Funny this popped up today. I had just so happen to put the M 85/2 on my K5ii this afternoon. Not much bigger than my M50/1.7 Haven't had the 85 very long but have been very happy so far. I did get some PF wide open but have gotten great results otherwise both outside and with stills and speed lights. I've never used a Rokinon so I can't comment on how they compare but will say I enjoy shooting with the older Pentax lens. Just something about the feel. I guess I'm one vote for the M.
09-16-2017, 05:43 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by KDD Quote
I think A* is better.
Yeah. We know. But it is almost impossible to acquire, and about four times the price, so out of contention for the original poster.

09-16-2017, 05:54 PM   #9
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Since you haven't mentioned it among eliminated lenses, I'll throw it out there. What about DA 55mm? It was sold in the market place for $300... Classic portrait length on the crop sensor.
09-16-2017, 06:09 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by IgorZ Quote
Since you haven't mentioned it among eliminated lenses, I'll throw it out there. What about DA 55mm? It was sold in the market place for $300... Classic portrait length on the crop sensor.
The original poster has a 50mm and 100mm prime, and is looking for something in between....
09-16-2017, 06:09 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by mbceft Quote
Funny this popped up today. I had just so happen to put the M 85/2 on my K5ii this afternoon. Not much bigger than my M50/1.7 Haven't had the 85 very long but have been very happy so far. I did get some PF wide open but have gotten great results otherwise both outside and with stills and speed lights. I've never used a Rokinon so I can't comment on how they compare but will say I enjoy shooting with the older Pentax lens. Just something about the feel. I guess I'm one vote for the M.
I'll put in another vote for the M. I've owned both lenses. First the Samyang, then I got the Pentax to replace it. Samyang often disappointed wide open - need to stop it down to f/2 for good results. Sure the bokeh was plentiful at f/1.4, but whatever was "in focus" wasn't very sharp, and there was lots of green CAs on the edge of the bokeh discs that weren't very appealing.

So if I'm going to have an 85 f/2, then I'd rather a tiny SMC coated variety instead of a big heavy f/1.4 I need to stop down.

The M 85 is a tiny little thing, well constructed, and makes great images at f/2.
09-16-2017, 06:47 PM   #12
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I wonder if sy 85 1.4 is sharper at f2 than the pentax 85 2? I remember it being very sharp at 2.8 where I used it most of the time, due to essentially zooming in with my x2 crop 1.4 was fairly soft.
09-16-2017, 08:28 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by awscreo Quote
I wonder if sy 85 1.4 is sharper at f2 than the pentax 85 2? I remember it being very sharp at 2.8 where I used it most of the time, due to essentially zooming in with my x2 crop 1.4 was fairly soft.
For using Samyang 85 f1.4,no need to use the green button.Sharpness is another thing, it's not bad, but even stopped down in the center is not as sharp as even the DFA28-105 @ 85mm, could be due to some focus shift between wide open and stopped down,, I having figured it out. Now, without pixel peeping, I can tell it render like expected for such 85 f1.4 lens, 3D pop and smooth bokeh. Sharpness is good enough for portraiture, I would say, eventually razor sharp for portraits is not very useful.
09-16-2017, 11:23 PM   #14
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The M 85mm is a lovely lens but needs to be stopped down to at least f/2.8 for sharpness and to get rid of blue fringing. I don't think I'd ever sell mine though as the photos from it have a magical quality. It also has the advantage of being much, much smaller than the Samyang, hence mine has gone on quite a few travels with me.

I have heard good things about the Samyang though, despite several reports of the aperture blades falling out place. Build quality seems to be significantly behind later modern Samyang lenses.
09-17-2017, 12:57 AM   #15
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If you are specifically looking for a portrait lens you may want in future to use flash as either a fill or as primary light. You will need a modern lens if you want to use P-TTL in these circumstances, although with a bit of experimentation manual flash control will also serve you well. In fact if you end up using multiple flash in a studio type set-up you will find that working in manual flash mode gives you more control.

Just something to bear in mind.
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