Samsung 85mm F/1.4 ED SSA Lens Review

April 4, 2012

Samsung 85mm F/1.4 ED SSA

  • Ultra-fast Aperture
  • Internal Focusing
  • Manual Adjustment In AF
  • Robust Build Quality
  • Low-dispersion Element

In the days of 35mm film photography, many professionals chose either 85mm or 135mm lenses for portraiture. Samsung’s new NX-mount 85mm prime has the same angle-of-view as a full-frame 130mm lens. The company’s launch press release describes it as a ‘premium portrait lens’.

The lens offers an ultra-fast f/1.4 maximum aperture setting which is coupled with quick and quiet autofocusing that also permits full-time manual adjustments. It also looks and feels very solid, immediately inspiring confidence in its handling and durability.

The broad manual-focusing ring is located towards the front of the lens and offers just the right amount of resistance across its 100° throw. Manual focusing can be applied in AF mode and activates a magnified view to make critical adjustments easier to apply. There is also manual-only focusing mode that is most likely to be used when photographing static subjects under difficult conditions.

To the rear of the focusing ring is a focused-distance window, complete with depth-of-field markings for f/22, behind which sits Samsung’s incredibly useful i-Function collar. An i-Function activation button and a focusing-mode selector complete the lens controls. The obvious omission is any form of image stabilisation.

As well as a protective pouch, Samsung has included a generous hood with the lens but its surface finish is so slippery that there is a real danger of the lens being dropped if grasped by the hood. This is equally important whether the hood is fitted for use or reversed over the lens for storage, in which case it hides the entire barrel except for the two buttons at the very rear.

Technical testing produced a very impressive MTF curve that remained above the critical 0.25 cycles-per-pixel level right across the aperture range save for the final one-third of an F-stop. Peak resolution occurs at f/4, achieving a remarkable 0.4 cycles-per-pixel. There was only the faintest hint of chromatic aberration on the high-contrast test target and no signs of it in any of the real-world photographs, which exhibited excellent visual sharpness. Taken together, these results justify a maximum 20/20 sccre for image quality.

The sheer size of Samsung’s 85mm f/1.4 prime means it dwarfed the NX200 body used for this review (it would be better suited on the NX11). There is also a potential issue when using a tripod as the lens barrel extends beow the camera’s base-plate, making it difficult to seat a large tripod plate.

Inevitably such a lens carries a considerable price-tag. The slippery lens hood is a frustration and the lack of image stabilisation is an omission that some users may resent. Otherwise this is an excellent lens in its own right and truly is, as Samsung claims, a premium portrait lens that is worthy of very serious consideration.

PROS: Excellent image quality and ultra-fast maximum aperture.
CONS: Slippery lens hood and no image stabilisation.

SCORE: 94%

Samsung 85mm F/1.4 ED SSA

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Category: Gear