Home > Uncategorized > Review: Samyang 135 mm f/2 Astrograph

Review: Samyang 135 mm f/2 Astrograph

IMG_2663

By calling the Samyang 135 mm f/2 lens an astrograph in the title, I’m giving away a bit of the conclusion, so let me just state the conclusions up front: I found this lens to be sharp from corner to corner with a reasonably flat field across a full-frame sensor. This is better performance than all but the best prime telephoto lenses, and also better than many telescopes I’ve owned claiming to be astrographs. Even more impressive is the fact that it accomplishes this at a focal ratio four to eight times faster than “fast” refractors. Finally, it’s hard to beat the price: currently just over $500.

While the performance was adequate at f/2, I found that stopping down the lens one full stop to f/2.8 improved sharpness. This is true of any lens, and even stopped to f/2.8, that’s still four times the light gathered per sensor area than an f/5.6 telescope. It’s easy to forget how fast this is, but my first night using the lens reminded me. My usual telescopes are two f/5 William Optics Star 71s and a Takahashi FSQ-106ED, also f/5. I usually shoot narrowband exposures of 20 minutes with these. So the combination of broadband and f/2.8 put me in the realm of 30 to 120 second exposures—anything longer at ISO 800 overexposed the stars.

The infinity focus point is about 2 mm left of the mark on the lens barrel, so you’ll have to carefully dial in focus. There isn’t much tolerance for error at such fast focal ratios, as the zone of focus is very narrow.

Vignetting is substantial in the corners, but it is more reasonable if you move slightly inward.  For very fast optics, this is typical, though it does lead to lower SNR toward the corners. I was able to keep the full frame images without cropping by using good flat frames, but this is essential.

Master Flat created from 33 pictures (Average)

Master Flat created from 33 pictures (Average)

The quick 99×1 minute image below of the Rosette Nebula area gives you a sense of how wide the view is with a Canon 6D. In the center is the Christmas Tree/Foxfur/Cone Nebula area, with huge dark nebula Barnard 37 prominent. This was taken without a CLS filter, so light pollution prevented me from adequately revealing the Foxfur nebula well. The Rosette Nebula shines brightly to the left, though. (Note that this image is reduced to 25% of the actual image resolution.)

Samyang 135 Rosette_widefield 25 percent size

As you can see from the full resolution close-ups below, the lens is impressively sharp across the Canon 6D’s entire field of view, with very minimal distortion even in the extreme corners.

Samyang 135 corner performance

The 9-blade diaphragm of the Samyang results in a pleasing radiant around bright stars, but the lens does exhibit some internal reflections.

Samyang 135 reflection

I look forward to using this lens as my (very) widefield astrograph. Depending on your sensor size, the ideal targets for this lens will vary, but I’m looking forward to shooting:

  • The Orion Molecular Cloud Complex
  • IC2177 and Thor’s Helmet area
  • The California Nebula to Pleiades area
  • Orion’s Head/ Meissa Nebula
  • Heart and Soul Nebulae area
  • The Rho Ophiuchi area
  • Cygnus
  • The IC405/IC410 area
  • Taurus Molecular Cloud
  • The Milky Way’s Pipe nebula region
  • Sagittarius

After complex mosaics and multi-night narrowband CCD projects, it’s a joy to throw a simple setup like this onto the mount to grab bright widefield images in a few hours.

Pros:

  • Fast focal ratio
  • Sharpness
  • Flatness of field
  • Price (currently ~$529 USD)

Cons:

  • Some internal reflections
  • Limited targets available for this focal length
  • Will require adapter to fit CCD cameras
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  1. March 8, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Nice writeup, the Samyang looks like nice glass! Recently I realized that there are lots of good manual telephoto primes of 1970s vintage available at really inexpensive prices. I chose M42 threaded mounts because I already had adapters and extension tubes that would work with them. Modern mirrorless cameras with their short flange to sensor distance will work with almost any old lens with the right adapter because there is lots room to work with to make sure you come to focus. I use a much lighter weight mount – a Vixen Polarie and keep exposures to less than a couple of minutes. I recently picked up a nice Vivatar 135mm for $25 and am looking forward to some quality dark skies with it.

    • March 8, 2016 at 8:44 am

      Thank you! I’d love to see your results with the Vivitar once you have some images. Be sure to use some kind of UV/IR cut filter, as most lenses made in the film-era do not focus light well in those ranges, which can lead to bloated stars.

  2. March 17, 2016 at 11:50 am

    I haven’t had a chance to try the UV/IR filter, but so far I’m pleased with my $25 Vivitar investment. Here is a 100% crop stack of Omega Centauri with a bit of stretching: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robpettengill/25786116626/

  3. voidcast
    August 29, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    I own this lens and by now have shot most of the list above with it, as well as some other objects. In most cases the results were amazing.

    Unfortunately it is not perfect either:
    – My lens was unable to focus on infinity until I removed the rubber band and adjusted the limiter ring. This, however, was a quick and simple procedure.
    – Halos around planets and large stars have ugly darkened sectors on f/2. This can be fixed by making additional f/2.8 shots and combining in post processing. Obviously, everything may be shot on f/2.8 or narrower, but for dim objects you want every last bit of this amazing speed.
    – Worst of all, it has stabbed me in the back several times by getting strong coma and astigmatism all of a sudden. On next sessions it was fine again. This could have been caused by low temperatures (-5…-10F) and/or position of the lens, I could not find out.

    All in all a good lens for its price.

  4. December 15, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks for your review of the Samyang 135 mm f/2. Looks like a great lens for AP.

  5. March 9, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks for a nice report with full details.

    • March 12, 2017 at 4:59 am

      You’re welcome. Glad it was helpful!

  1. March 7, 2016 at 9:01 pm

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