The Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 FE is a compact and lightweight prime lens designed for use with Sony full frame mirrorless cameras (can also be used on APS-C cameras at 52.5mm focal length). Coming in at a mere 3 oz in weight and 1.3 inches in length, this is the smallest and lightest native full frame e-mount lens that I’ve reviewed. This lens isn’t just small and light, it’s also capable of taking some fantastic images with impressive color, contrast, and sharpness. To top it all off, you can pick up the Rokinon 35mm f/ 2.8 for under $400.
My experience wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though. To produce a lens with this size and weight, some concessions were made in regards to build quality. That’s a tradeoff I can live with. The tradeoff that was a little harder for me to work with was the less than stellar autofocus on this 35mm prime. It really likes to hunt. Unlike some other reviewers, I don’t think the autofocus on the Rokinon 35mm f/ 2.8 is a deal breaker, and in this review I’ll tell you why.
Lens Construction, Handling, And Build Quality:
The Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 FE measures 2.43 x 1.30″ and feels very light and compact on my A7ii and A7rii. As I mentioned above, at 3 oz, this is the lightest and smallest full frame lens I’ve reviewed. Without ever taking a picture, I began to love this lens. It reminds me of the joy I experienced when I first switched from a DSLR to my old lightweight Sony a6000. For some photographers, size and weight don’t matter. For a blogger and traveler that takes almost all of my photos on the go, every ounce matters.
As you turn this 35mm to view it’s profile, you’ll see the iconic red Rokinon ring alongside a wide and fluid focusing ring. I sometimes struggle to focus manually on smaller lenses with thin rings, but didn’t have any issues with this one.
This lens utilizes 7 diaphragm blades and has seven lens elements in six groups. This setup renders some surprisingly sharp images and a very pleasant bokeh. You can see sample images in the section below.
The Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 FE is made almost entirely of plastic and has no weather sealing. Don’t expect this lens to endure through a storm or take much of a beating. At this price, I don’t think any reasonable person would expect a metal build with weather sealing though. Much like my love of the Sony 28mm f/2, I’ll take cheap and light over heavy and expensive if the optics are up to snuff.
I don’t usually mention lens caps in reviews, but the cap on the Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 is worth mentioning because it’s small, cheap, and impossible to replace at the time of this review. I read a comment from a guy that lost his lens cap who said he searched high and wide without being able to find a replacement. I figured I’d look into that claim for this review, and he’s right. Hopefully Rokinon or a third party will make replacements available in the future.
Specs and Stats:
Dimensions: 2.43 x 1.30″
Weight: 3 oz
Filter Thread: 49mm
Focal Length: 35mm (52.5mm on APS-C)
Aperture: f/2.8 – f/22
View Angle: 63.1°
Minimum Focus Distance: 13.8 inches
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Image Quality And Performance:
When I first started researching this $400 3-ounce lens, I was very skeptical about the optics and image quality when paired with a full frame sensor. I’ve really enjoyed using manual focus Rokinon lenses in the past, and my lightweight and cheap Sony 28mm had me believing that price and build quality don’t always equal superior optics. I’ve put this lens to test over the past few months, and will share my thoughts along with sample images in the section below.
*Images have been cropped and resized in Lightroom with no other post processing.
Landscapes and Outdoors:
As a landscape photographer who mostly shoots outdoors while on hikes or while traveling, 35mm isn’t a focal length I use often. This lens made me remember why I used to love shooting at 35mm on my DSLR, and makes me want to give the well reviewed Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 a look, too.
As I mentioned above, the size and weight of the Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 makes this a lens that’s very easy to take anywhere I go. The images I’ve been able to capture have been really nice. The corners are a little soft when I shoot in low light wide open, but as I stop down, things sharpen up nicely.
At f/2.8, the Rokinon 35mm isn’t going to set any speed records, but I’ve found that it more than holds it’s own shooting low light photos handheld. This is the kind of lens I like to bring to dinners, parties, evening walks, and other outings when a small and compact kit make the most sense.
I don’t do a lot of long exposure or astrophotography, but figured I’d include a few images for those that do. These were backyard shots taken on a hazy night.
The bokeh is a little harsh on this little lens, but not in an overly distracting way for my eye. At 35mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8, you really have to put some distance between your subject and the background to flatten things out and create seperation.
As I mentioned above, my only real gripe with this lens has to do with the autofocus, especially in low light. When trying to shoot a moving subject, the continuous autofocus gets bogged down. It’s worse on my a7ii than on my A7rii. The Rokinon 35mm hunts when trying to lock on, and has a noticeable motor noise when doing so. This isn’t a problem for most photography situations, but would probably irritate me a lot more if I was into video.
Vignette, Sun Flares, and Distortion:
The Rokinon 35mm has very little distortion and a very slight vignette when shot wide open. What I really like about the Rokinon 35mm that surprised me, was the quality of it’s sunstars.
This lens is a great buy if you’re willing to accept it for what it is: a budget bargain lens that’s lightweight and has above average optics. If the Rokinon 35mm had better build quality and weather sealing, it would be much heaver and more expensive. If this lens was faster than f/2.8, it would have to be a lot bigger, and again, much more expensive. The fact that you can purchase this 3-ounce lens for less than $400 makes it a bargain in my book. My only added caveat is that the sluggish autofocus would rule this lens out for video enthusiasts and those shooting fast moving subjects.
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