The Rise Of The “Cheap” Brand Lenses

There was once a time, not so long ago, when brands like Samyang, Rokinon, Bower, Quantaray, Promaster, etc, etc, were laughed at by more “serious” enthusiasts and pros.

Well today, some of them may still be laughed at, but not many are laughing at the lenses being released by Samyang, and also sold under the brand names of Rokinon, Bower, or Vivitar. I’m sure the “Big Boys” of camera lens makers are not laughing at these lenses 🙂

In the past few years, Korean lens maker Samyang has been producing some amazing lenses from ultra-wides to fast telephotos that rival or exceed equivalent lenses from Canon, Nikon, or Sony.

And these lenses are also sold under a variety of other formerly “no name” or “cheap” brands such as Rokinon, Bower, and Vivitar.

Many of these lenses use exotic glass, aspherical elements, and special coatings that were once only seen on lenses from Canon or Nikon. And the best thing? Their prices are significantly lower than the Big Boys. For example, if you look around, the original 35mm f/1.4 Samyang can be found for a little over $300, whereas the Canon equivalent is over $1000.


“Not Funny” 2015. Sony A7R, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC. Baby Zay, quite serious and not finding me amusing any more, just like the “Cheap Lenses” from Samyang, Bower, Vivitar, and Rokinon are offering serious performance for the money and no longer something to be laughed at 🙂

But there is a hitch. Well, maybe a few. First of all, these lenses are not built nearly as well as the Canon, Nikon, or Sony equivalents. Not to say the build quality of the Samyang/Rokinon lenses are bad. They’re quite good actually, but I’m not sure how durable they will be. Secondly, as of this time, the lenses being offered are manual focus only. That’s not a problem for me and many others, but surely some would prefer autofocus. And lastly, there have been reports of sample variation and quality control issues.

Still, on the whole, people seem to rave about these lenses. If you get a good copy, you will be pleased. My copy of the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 is excellent and really surprised the heck out of me when I got it. I was a skeptic at first, but not any more.


“Superfly” 2013. Sony Alpha A99, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC. Please double click to see best quality.

This is truly the “age of the people” where nearly everyone can have access to great equipment, not just pros or the “elite” 🙂

Two new Rokinon lenses have been released for those using mirrorless systems, including an incredibly fast and wide 21mm f/1.4 and a super fast 50mm f/1.2. The prices for both are $499 which is really quite a feat. I’m sure their optical performance will be amazing and I hope some of you report back if you get one of these lenses before I do.

Thanks to Samyang and all the “cheap” brands. Power to the people 🙂


5 thoughts on “The Rise Of The “Cheap” Brand Lenses

  1. I looked really hard at a Samyang 50 1.8 for my Canon EOS bodies. I don’t shoot them that often and so to get a 50 I wasn’t willing to spend a ton. The reviews were generally positive — and the comparison photos (Samyang to Canon) were indistinguishable. But in the end I found a used Canon 50 1.8 for 40 bucks and bought that. Because I remember all to clearly when off brand lenses all were just terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jim, thanks for your comment, I probably would do the same if given a choice between a Canon or Samyang for $40! Yes, it doesn’t feel all that long ago when the off brand lenses were really, really bad. They had a horrible reputation, and honestly, they earned it 🙂


  2. thank you for this “review” or explain. i really love to have Some Samyang lens, i think the 21mm cos this 50 1.2 is only for the mirrorless system.
    when i was in my Ethiopia tour i tried the 85mm – our video operator had three of Samyang lens, so i loved the feel of using it and the unusual build. maybe one day i will decide about to have it 🙂
    thank you again !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Victor, hopefully they will make a full-frame 21mm or 5omm f/1.2, although I’m sure it will cost a little more. If you get a good copy, and the key word is “if” because the sample variation is not super consistent, then you should be quite happy with it. I think a fast ultra wide would work well in your hands. Thanks again for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

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