As with the Samyang MF 14mm, the key issue for me before trying out this lens was the manual focus and how well it would work. In practice it proved slightly tougher to achieve than expected but overall I was impressed.
The key benefit of using a Nikon Z6 or Z7 mirrorless body with this manual lens is the focus peaking system. Combined with the MF 85mm I could nearly always tell which areas of the scene were in focus and which weren’t. Coloured focus peaking on screen allows me to quickly and clearly check where the true focus of the lens is. If it isn’t initially clear on the screen or electronic viewfinder, then I can electronically zoom in using the side buttons and make minor rotations of the aperture ring to find the perfect focus.
The slight struggle I found with the MF 85mm F1.4 Z lens is the combination of its long focal length and shallowest depth of field. For portrait work especially, it can prove slightly tricky to find focus especially if you have limited time to take a photo. Tweaks to the aperture ring have to be very small in order to get a perfect focus on the subjects eyes, especially if you are doing full length photos where the focus peaking may not pick them up. However, once you take time to nail the focus, the images are a dream!
The images are very sharp, providing crisp details when zoomed in. I personally can't see any drop off in quality away from the centre of the frame and there’s negligible distortion and vignetting at this focal length.
Utilising the higher apertures and in the right environmental conditions, the lens gives a clean 8-pointed lens flare. In my opinion it looks great and provides a slick look for night time photography especially. Low light photography works fantastically here, especially as the lens is able to open out to f1.4.
One of the most impressive aspects of this lens is the beautiful creamy bokeh which I’d put on a par with many top 85mm lenses. For portraits or urban photography the depth of field is fantastic and gives a magical sense of perspective and bokeh.
I am genuinely really impressed with the quality of images taken with this lens, and love seeing the results in camera!
Nikon Z6 Compatibility
Using the Nikon Z6 with this lens generally works well. However, there is limited talking between the lens and body. The Z6 doesn’t recognise the aperture or focal length in camera and therefore they are not shown in the exif data. There is also no in-lens stabilisation, but the low-light capabilities and stabilisation performance of the Z6 (or Z7) outweigh that issue for me.
As a whole, I am very impressed with the Samyang MF 85mm F1.4 Z. The high-quality performance of the lens is all apparent when you look at the images it can produce. Yes there can be some testing moments finding focus at its lowest aperture but perfect manual focusing is very possible to achieve, particularly with the focus peaking capabilities of the Nikon Z series cameras.
The lens is very well built and produces dreamy images with lots of bokeh - as good as many of the
more expensive lenses out there. I’ll certainly be using it for portrait work all the time now!