The Rokinon 75mm F1.8 AF Sony E ($399) is a low-cost lens with full-frame coverage and a portrait-friendly focal length. Its short telephoto design and f/1.8 aperture work together to blur backgrounds, and it supports all of the advanced autofocus features of the Sony cameras with which it works. Optics aren’t top-notch, though, and the lens skips out on weather protection. We think it’s worth it to spend $200 more and go with the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 instead.
A Budget Price and Build
Rokinon is no stranger to using metal materials for its lenses, but has opted for plastic barrels for many of its offerings for the Sony mirrorless system. The 75mm F1.8 is one of its lighter lenses, at 8.1 ounces, and gets there by using lightweight plastic construction. It’s also quite compact, at 2.7 by 2.6 inches (HD), with support for 58mm filters.
Sony a7R IV, f/1.8, 1/1,600-second, ISO 100
The lens is also sold under the Samyang banner. Aside from branding, there are no differences between Rokinon and Samyang versions.
Its angle of view is a little wider than 85mm designs, the typical go-to focal length for most portrait photographers. It’s an f/1.8 lens, with an aperture that’s narrower than Rokinon’s other portrait specialist, the 85mm F1.4 Sony AF (3.9 by 3.5 inches, 1.3 pounds).
Sony a7R IV, f/1.8, 1/2,000-second, ISO 100
Still, it’s a good fit for portraits and for other shots where you want to blur the background behind a subject. I tested it on a full-frame camera, but it will work with APS-C models as well. It’s sized well for the a6100 and a6400, and while its angle of view is narrowed when paired with a smaller sensor, you won’t mind for portrait work.
There’s no dust or splash protection, so you’ll want to take some extra care for outdoor photography. Rokinon does include a reversible lens hood, as well as a zippered protective case. Stabilization is also omitted—it’s a feature built into almost every full-frame model from Sony, but is only included in a couple of APS-C models, the a6500 and a6600.
Sony a7R IV, f/1.8, 1/400-second, ISO 100
Autofocus is quick and quiet, and all of the expected Sony features are supported, including eye detection and Real-Time Tracking. The STM motor takes a beat to drive from the minimum focus distance to infinity, but is generally quick and quiet. The angle of view does change visibly when adjusting focus, making the 75mm a less than ideal choice for video shots.
The control ring supports two functions. In Mode 1 it’s the manual focus ring. It turns smoothly, but with some resistance, for a pleasing manual focus experience. In-camera aids, including frame magnification, are available to help you get your subject perfectly sharp.
Flipping the toggle switch to its Mode 2 setting changes the function of the ring. Out of the box it sets the f-stop, but Rokinon plans on extending its functionality via future firmware updates. A $60 accessory, the Rokinon Lens Station, is available; in addition to loading firmware, the Lens Station makes it possible to fine-tune autofocus response.
Focus is available as close as 27.2 inches (69cm), so you will need to put some distance between your camera and subject. It’s a fine working range for portraiture—we substituted some statues for live models for the purposes of this review.
Sony a7R IV, f/1.8, 1/800-second, ISO 100
Don’t reach to the lens for macro work, though—with just 1:7.7 magnification, you can’t get in for the really close details. The dandelion, above, was captured at the minimum working distance with a full-frame camera.
Not for a7R Models
I tested the 75mm F1.8 AF along with the 60MP a7R IV and software from Imatest. Lab results are disappointing. At f/1.8 the combination nets a just-okay 3,070 lines across the frame. It’s mitigated by stronger center performance, a very good result (4,100 lines)—if you frame your subject toward the center, bokeh will hide many imperfections.
Sony a7R IV, f/1.8, 1/500-second, ISO 100
Center resolution holds steady at f/2 and f/2.8, but the average ticks up slightly due to improved contrast away from the center of the frame. The average enters good territory at f/4 (3,575 lines), and it crosses into the very good range at f/5.6 (3,910 lines).
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It never gets better than that, though. The peak, at f/8, is still in the very good range (4,200 lines). It’s disappointing, as we typically see excellent or even outstanding resolution from short telephoto prime lenses, even low-cost options. Rokinon’s 85mm F1.4 Sony AF delivers crisper detail at f/1.4 than the 75mm F1.8 ever manages.
Sony a7R IV, f/1.8, 1/800-second, ISO 100
There are other areas that hold up better. Distortion is well controlled, and there’s barely any vignetting, even if you opt to disable in-camera correction. Chromatic aberration is all but absent. I wasn’t able to induce any sort of purple fringing around tree branches. I did note a very slight bit of false green in bokeh; it took a close look to find it, and Lightroom removed it with a one-click correction.
Even without critical sharpness, images look quite good resized for the web—the a7R IV is overkill for Instagram. The drawbacks are more apparent when viewing on larger, high resolution displays, making prints, or cropping shots.
If You Can’t Swing the Sony…
While it’s not the sharpest lens I’ve ever used, there are some marks in the Rokinon 75mm F1.8’s favor. It’s one of the more affordable lenses of its type, adding appeal to photographers who may want to use this style of lens on occasion. It’s light and compact, so you don’t have to debate leaving it out of your pack to save some weight. The price also means that it’s more likely to end up in the hands of owners of 24MP camera models, like the a7 II and a7 III, where its drawbacks are less apparent.
I’d more strongly recommend the lens if the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 wasn’t such a good value. It’s a bit pricier, at $600, but it brings better optics to the table, along with the dust and splash protection Sony system owners expect. This is one time where it’s worth it to go for the name brand.
Rokinon 75mm F1.8 AF Sony E Specs
|Dimensions||2.7 by 2.6 inches|
|Filter Thread||58 mm|
|Focal Length (Wide)||75 mm|