Samyang’s 135mm lens could be telephoto bargain for Sony mirrorless cameras

If you’re a Sony mirrorless camera owner with a penchant for shooting portraits, landscapes and the night sky, Samyang has just released a potential bargain in the form of its new 135mm f/1.8 AF telephoto lens.

Compatible with both full-frame and APS-C cameras with Sony’s E-mount, the 135m prime lens is the latest in a series of autofocus-equipped contenders from the South Korean manufacturer (which also trades under the Rokinon brand in the US).

The lens’ specs and bright maximum aperture suggest it could be a fine alternative to the pricier Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM, which costs $2,099 / £1,750 / AU$2,649. By contrast, Samyang’s new 135mm alternative will cost only $999 / £799 (around AU$1,515) when it lands in March.

Naturally, it’ll be difficult for Samyang’s prime to fully match the optical performance of Sony’s ‘G Master’ lens, with the latter being a marker for money-no-object quality. But previous Samyang primes (including the 24mm, 35mm, 45mm and 75mm) have given Sony’s top-end lenses a run for their money, and this new one is its longest option with autofocus.

Thanks to weather-sealing and a rubber focus ring, the AF 135mm F1.8 FE is protected from light rain, snow and dust. The Linear STM (Stepping Motor) should also ensure quiet autofocus performance, making it suitable for video shooters, too.

A focus range limiter, which only works in AF mode, is also on hand to make your focusing snappier. Alongside the standard ‘full’ focus range (where the AF searches from its minimum focus distance of 0.69m to infinity), you can set it to hunt between 0.69m-2m or from 1.5m-to-infinity. Those three options should set you up nicely for portraits, landscapes and astrophotography.

As you’d expect for an 135mm f/1.8 prime lens, it isn’t exactly a small. But it is slightly lighter and more compact than Sony’s ‘G Master’ equivalent, weighing in at 901g and measuring 129.6mm long. Both lenses also share the same filter 82mm filter thread size.

With other bonuses including a focus hold button and custom switch, the Samyang 135mm f/1.8 AF should prove a popular choice when it lands in March for $999 / £799 (around AU$1,515). We’re looking forward to testing it out to see just how close it gets to its Sony rival.

The fact that Samyang’s 135mm f/1.8 AF telephoto lens is its fifth telephoto prime for the E-mount illustrates the strength-in-depth that Sony’s mirrorless cameras enjoy when it comes to full-frame glass.

While its main rivals, the Canon RF and Nikon Z systems, have quickly improved their lens ranges in the past couple of years, those systems remain more closed than Sony’s and don’t offer the same level of third-party choice.

This may well change in the near future, but the benefit for owners of Sony mirrorless cameras is the potential for more affordable equivalents of Sony’s pricey G-Master lenses. Even if Canon and Nikon’s mirrorless cameras do offer adapters that allow you to use their older DSLR lenses.

While Sony’s FE 135mm f/1.8 GM is an excellent lens, Samyang’s new 135mm f/1.8 AF is effectively half the price – and that could represent great value for hobbyist shooters who can’t justify pro-level price tags, particularly for a relatively specialist focal length.

Of course, we’ll have to wait to see how Samyang’s new lens performs in the real world, but it’s shaping up to be another fine option for portrait and landscape shooters looking for a lens that offers a bit more reach than its existing 75mm prime.

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