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Date: 23/06/2016 | By: Mathieu

Portrait lens battle! – Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 vs Samyang 50mm f/1.2


Portrait lens battle! – Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 vs Samyang 50mm f/1.2

If you are looking for a portrait lens for the Fujifilm X series, the first choice that comes to mind (and that most photographers would recommend) is the XF 56mm f/1.2. Released two years ago, it was the first lens designed specifically for portraits by Fujifilm. I’ve never hidden my love for this glass; it is one of my favourite Fujinon lens.

Before that the only viable option was the XF 60mm f/2.4 semi-macro lens released with the X-Pro1 in 2012. Today the choices for portrait photography have increased with the addition of the 56mm f/1.2 APD version and the XF 90mm f/2. However up until last year the system was lacking an alternative, less expensive solution. This is where Samyang comes in with its 50mm f/1.2 which was released in 2015.

Despite the slight difference in focal length, the two lenses are designed for the same purpose. The common fast aperture of f/1.2 naturally pits them against each other. There are many differences that we are going to see in this article but the discrepancy in price in particular leads us to ask the following question:

How big is the difference in optical quality? Let’s find out!

Main Specs

Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R

  • Focal length: 56mm
  • Focal length (equiv. 35mm): 85m
  • Maximum aperture: 1.2
  • Minimum aperture: 16
  • Number of aperture blades: 7 circular aperture diaphragm
  • Angle of view: 28.5°
  • Closest focusing distance: 70cm
  • Lens configuration: 11 elements / 8 groups
  • Special elements: 1 aspherical, 1 extra low dispersion elements
  • Lens surface coating: Yes (HT-EBC)
  • Maximum image magnification: 0.09x
  • Optical Image Stabilizer: None
  • Dimensions: 73.2mm Ø, 69.7mm
  • Filter diamater: 62mm
  • Weight: 405g (excluding lens cap, lens rear cap, lens hood)

Samyang 50mm F1.2 AS UMC CS

  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Focal length (equiv. 35mm): 75m
  • Maximum aperture: 1.2
  • Minimum aperture: 16
  • Number of aperture blades: 9 rounded diaphragm blades
  • Angle of view: 31.7°
  • Closest focusing distance: 50cm
  • Lens configuration: 9 elements / 7 groups
  • Special elements: 2 aspherical elements
  • Lens surface coating: Yes (UMC)
  • Maximum image magnification: nd
  • Optical Image Stabilizer: None
  • Dimensions: 67.5mm Ø, 74.5mm
  • Filter diamater: 62mm
  • Weight: 380g (excluding lens cap, lens rear cap, lens hood)


Note: the Samyang lens is distributed under the Rokinon brand in certain countries. The lens has been designed for APS-C mirrorless cameras and is also available in E-mount, EF-M mount and micro four thirds mount.

Design and ease of use

  • Fujinon 56mm f/1.2: 73.2mm Ø, 69.7mm, 405g
  • Samyang 50mm f/1.2: 67.5mm Ø, 74.5mm, 380g

The two lenses are very similar in size: the Samyang 50mm is slightly longer while the Fuji 56mm is a little bit larger and heavier. In the real world, these differences become irrelevant. Both lenses are supplied with a plastic hood and neither is weather-sealed.

fuji 56mm vs samyang 50mm

The Fujinon lens has an all-metal barrel that gives the product a premium feel when used.

However because the focus and aperture rings occupy most of the barrel’s surface, there is an annoying lack of space to grip onto when mounting or unmounting the lens (and having the hood attached doesn’t help either).

The Samyang lens gives you more grip and doesn’t feel any less robust than the Fuji lens, but most of the barrel is finished with plastic, including the aperture and focus rings.


The focus ring on the XF 56mm is a “focus by wire” type which gives you a decent manual focusing experience but it isn’t as pleasant or precise as the mechanical focus ring of the Samyang 50mm.

fuji 56mm vs samyang 50mm

Both lenses feature an aperture ring. The one on the Fuji lens moves in 1/3 steps and features an A step at the end to switch to the Shutter priority mode. The aperture ring on the Samyang lens moves in 1/2 steps. There isn’t an A option because the lens lacks electronic contacts on the mount. This also means that no EXIF data concerning the focal length, focus distance or aperture will be transmitted to the camera.

fuji 56mm vs samyang 50mm
The Samyang lens lacks any sort of electronic contacts.
To overcome this problem I recorded a very short video clip by pressing a function button and stated the aperture used before taking the shot. It is a little bit annoying at the beginning, and you will definitely forget to record your aperture a few times but you can get used to it. There is also a tip to record the correct focal length, which is useful if you are using more than one manual focus lens. In the Menu you can find the Mount adaptor setting that is meant to be used with the Fujifilm M-mount adaptor for Leica M lenses. If you set the focal length to 50mm, the input value will display it in the EXIF data.


Autofocus vs manual focus

One of the main differences between these two lenses is the focusing system.

The Fuji 56mm is an autofocus lens with decent performance on the X-T1 and X-Pro2. The AF motor is a little bit noisy and it isn’t the fastest Fujifilm prime lens. For portraits, I used the smallest single AF point on the eye. The result is accurate most of the time but it is better to take two shots at least: the camera can occasionally misfocus and the eye will be slightly out of focus as a result.


The Samyang lens is manual focus only. The mechanical focus ring is smooth without being too loose so the experience is pleasant. Adjusting the focus distance at f/1.2 or f/1.4 is not easy however. I used the red peaking MF assist set to Low and the magnification feature to make sure I was nailing my focus correctly. The peaking MF assist on Fuji cameras is precise but at f/1.2 only the magnification can give you a precise idea of where your focus point lies.

Optical quality: sharpness, flare and CA test

Before showing some portrait examples, let’s assess the difference in sharpness between these two lenses with a simple test done on a tripod with a static subject. Doing so minimises human error or the subject shifting position between one shot and another (useful since the Samyang lens is manual focus only). Note that I performed the test twice to make sure my focus was accurate.

The first test shows the optical performance at a close focus distance. We notice right away that at the fastest aperture, the Fuji lens is clearly superior. The Samyang also has more vignetting even with the correct profile applied in Lightroom.

fujifilm 56mm 1.2 vs samyang 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/850, f/1.2, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
Click on the image to open the full res version.
fujifilm 56mm 1.2 vs samyang 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/800, f/1.2, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
Click on the image to open the full res version.


The Samyang 50mm improves at f/1.4 but the 56mm remains slightly sharper. From f/2, the Fujinon lens becomes razor sharp and outclasses the Samyang lens at every aperture. We can also noticed that the Samyang images are always underexposed even when the exposure settings are exactly the same. It seems that the Fujifilm lens has more accurate light transmission.




Although the two lenses are not designed for landscapes or genres that require you to focus near infinity, it is always a plus when a portrait lens can perform well at long focus distances.

Here as well, the Fujinon lens wins while the Samyang lens appears softer at every aperture including f/5.6 and f/8.


Note: you can see the entire test at all apertures here.

Concerning flare and chromatic aberration, the Samyang 50mm defends itself quite well. CA is absent from both lenses. The XF 56mm minimises colour flares a little bit better while the Samyang lens can produce a small rainbow flares in direct sunlight.

fuji 56mm 1.2 vs samyang 50mm 1.2
X-T1, 1/32000, f/1.2, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
Click on the image to open the full res version.
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs samyang 50mm 1.2
X-T1, 1/32000, f/1.2, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
Click on the image to open the full res version.
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs samyang 50mm 1.2
X-T1, 1/6400, f/5.6, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs samyang 50mm 1.2
X-T1, 1/3000, f/5.6, ISO 200 – 50mm CS

The Fujifilm lens is clearly superior in terms of optical resolution. Now let’s see up to what point this makes a difference with concrete portrait examples.

Optical quality: portrait examples

In the first set of pictures we can see the slight difference in angle of view because the two lenses don’t have the same focal length (28.5° vs 31.7°). Both lenses produce a pleasant shallow depth of field at f/1.2 with good separation of the subject from the background and foreground. Once again the Fuji lens is sharper overall while the Samyang 50mm produces a softer look. However in this real world example, I find the Samyang lens defends itself better in comparison to the sharpness test seen above.

fuji 56mm 1.2 vs samyang 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/3500, f/1.2, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
Click to open the full res version.
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs samyang 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/3200, f/1.2, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
Click to open the full res version.
At f/1.4 the results are very similar. From f/2, the superior sharpness of the Fuji lens becomes more relevant and from f/2.8 the difference in depth of field also becomes more noticeable. Of course I could have moved closer to my subject with the Samyang lens to reproduce the same composition but I find it more interesting to show the differences at the same distance.

fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/950, f/2.8, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
Click to open the full res version.
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/950, f/2.8, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
Click to open the full res version.
We also notice a tiny little difference in colour rendering. The Samyang lens seems to have a slightly warmer/yellowish tint than the XF 56mm.

The Fuji 56mm can focus as close as 70cm while the Samyang 50mm can focus as close as 50cm. So despite the Fuji lens having a narrower field of view, the Samyang lens has better close focusing capabilities. Sharpness also appears to increase on the Korean lens but we must not forget that details are magnified when shooting closer.

fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/1800, f/2, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
Click to open the full res version.
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/1800, f/2, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
Click to open the full res version.

Let’s move on to one of the characteristics portrait photographers are most interested in: bokeh.

At the fastest aperture, we can see that neither lens has perfectly rounded out of focus circles. The Samyang lens has more “cat eye” shapes at the edges and overall produces a more relevant swirly effect in comparison to the XF lens.

fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/950, f/1.2, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/640, f/1.2, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
At f/1.4 the results are more similar and the Samyang lens loses the swirly effect, producing more rounded bokeh circles.

fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/750, f/1.4, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/500, f/1.4, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
From f/2, the Fuji lens start to render a hexagonal-type shape while the Samyang bokeh remains more circular. This is also noticeable at f/2.8. The circles in the Fuji version are plainer however, while the Samyang lens displays more of an onion ring effect.



Our last set of examples show the performance for a full-body shot. These show how well the lenses separate the subject from the background at a longer distance. At f/1.2 the performance isn’t dissimilar despite the Fuji lens having a longer focal length and therefore a slightly shallower depth of field once again.

fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/340, f/1.2, ISO 200 – XF 56mm
Click on the image to open the full res version.
fuji 56mm 1.2 vs rokinon 50mm 1.2
X-Pro2, 1/210, f/1.2, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
Click on the image to open the full res version.
This last example confirms the various findings seen up until now. The Samyang lens gives the best performance with short focus distances which means upper body and head shots. Sharpness is worse at longer focus distances. Even at f/2.8 the 56mm’s advantage is noticeable.


Note: you can see more portrait examples between f/1.2 and f/2.8 here.


If sharpness is your main concern, there isn’t a lot to discuss: the Fujinon 56mm wins hands down.

The amount of detail at f/1.2 is excellent and the lens performs well up to f/11 with short and long focus distances. The bokeh is more uniform at f/1.2 and f/1.4 and I don’t have to remind you of the advantage of having autofocus.

The Samyang 50mm must be seen as a cheaper alternative that still gives you a fast f/1.2 aperture. However I find its use limited to head and upper body shots (or in other words, short focus distances) if you want acceptable sharpness. At f/1.2, images can look very soft in some situations while the performance improves a little at f/1.4. The bokeh doesn’t look bad and actually from f/2 it is even more pleasant than the Fuji 56mm lens.

samyang 50mm 1.2 vs fuji 56mm
X-Pro2, 1/1250, f/2, ISO 200 – 50mm CS
The price difference is relevant. The Samyang 50mm can be found for half the cost of the Fujinon 56mm (retail prices). That being said the Fuji lens is now two years old which means you can find occasional discounts, interesting deals or second hand options. The price might not reah $500 but an extra $100 or $200 is definitely worth the investment in my opinion.

The Samyang 50mm can be a decent alternative if you really don’t want to invest more money, need the fast aperture (but do you really?) and intend to use the lens for amateur purposes. Perhaps with a slightly lower price, this 50mm could be a more attractive solution.

All things considered, I wish that Samyang had designed an f/1.4 or even an f/1.8 lens. It could have been even less expensive and perhaps have better sharpness, making it a more interesting alternative to the Fujinon 56mm. I guess the f/1.2 value is more attractive and since the lens has been designed for other systems as well, it is a more unique option for other mirrorless systems.

samyang 50mm 1.2 vs fuji 56mm
X-T1, 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 200 – XF 56mm

As far as the X system is concerned, I would be sorely tempted to reply: go with the Fujinon 60mm f/2.4 if you don’t have the budget for the 56mm.

If you are serious about portraits, you probably won’t be satisfied with the sharpness. And if you want a nice portrait lens to take pictures of your family, you might find an AF lens more convenient unless you already have experience with manual focus.

Am I being too severe? Share your thoughts below!

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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Jonas N

    I agree. I loved the perfect softness in the portraits of the 50mm here. In the bokeh test, I also found the colors and handling of highlights better. However I think sharpness becomes more of a clear advantage in the full body shot. These properties are the most useful in smoothing skin so that it doesn’t look clinical, and instead maybe more film like and forgiving.

  • Mathieu

    I agree! 😉

  • Kevin Starr

    The 56 is magical !!

  • Mathieu

    For most of the shots yes.

  • Kevin Starr

    Was a tripod used ?

  • Romeo Bravo Photo

    I agree with everything you guys are saying. I did this comparison with skin tones in mind, but it was also to test the best portrait lenses on all three systems:—sony-85mm-g-master-comparison-part-2
    I think the Fuji 56/1.2 is the Goldilocks of the bunch. The best considering rendering, size, performance, and cost.

  • Zuikocron

    I thought about buying the Nocti too, but it was just too expensive. I ended up buying a used X-T1 and new 56mm for less than the 42.5mm f/1.2 would have costed. I got a chance to compare both lenses and even my friend who owns the Nocti (and because of whom I even considered buying it) had to admit, that the Fuji was at least as good in most aspects (sharpness, CA, color rendition) and better at some (subject isolation and especially price!)

    I think that Fuji has produced the best 85mm equivalent (on mirrorless) for a long time. The Sony 85GM probably is better, but it’s huge, heavy, expansive and slow to focus.
    And at the moment Oly and Pana are moving to much more expansive lenses too, one has to wonder why to buy them and not directly go the the (cheaper) Fuji versions.

  • Jensaddis

    Yes, the Fuji Lens may be razor sharp and that’s where my problems start: when I look at the results they are sharp but kind of sterile and kind of antiseptic, to clean imho. I love the Fuji Xpro cameras but not the results with their lenses. That’s why I only kept the 35 1.4, otherwise I shoot manual with vintage canon fd lenses mostly. Here my favourite lenses are the old Fl 55 1.2 or the 50 1.4 or 85 1.8 and 135 2.0 in combination with a metabones speed booster. But to come back to the 50/56 discussion: the results confirm my impression namely that the Fuji lens may be sharp as can be but does it render a want-to-look-at look? Not for my eyes, do I want to count every wrinkle or eyebrow? I think we are often taken away by technical details and performance but forget about aesthetic and emotion that makes the beauty of a photo. But all lenses have their field: Fuji for clean-washed technical razor sharp photos, a samyang or vintage manual lens for beautiful photos. Always good light!

  • Wing Yip

    Great comparison.

    Although I love my current Fujinon prime lenses, I also have to admit, I do find most, if not all, the fujinon prime lenses a little annoying to handle… as you say, there isn’t much real estate to grip the lens most of the time.. I find I have to lock the focus ring wide open end to mount onto camera, and the reverse at closed or “A” end to dismount the lens. Both the focus and aperture rings can spin so freely, it doesn’t make the twisting action to mount or dismount the lens quite as secure.. alternatively, you simply have to wrap as much of your hand around the lens to get a confident grip. It works, but I find having the aperture ring, in particular, being moved and needing to be reset a fair number of times after handling the lens a small peeve.

    Other than that, I love my 56mm f1/2.. it’s hard to find a better portrait lens for the Fuji system over that one. Coming from M43 as well, I was interested in how the Nocticron compared to it.. I’ve tried the Nocticron at least 3 times and despite the greater majority of reviews and their conclusions, I was disappointingly unimpressed with it.. I think it was over hyped and perhaps my expectations were exceedingly high. I was not unimpressed by the sharpness and bokeh as much as the color rendering.. I personally found it a bit flat and boring.. and I used it on the OM-D E-M1 & E-M5 MkII.. perhaps it was color profile I had set, but what I had set was what I usually used with the lenses I did own and I was fine with that… Also, for the price to get a Nocticron, I feel it could have been spent better on other lenses for almost as much, more often a lot less. For example, I preferred the Oly 40-150mm f/2.8 for the greater majority of my portrait work.

    And if we’re comparing fast f/1.2 portrait lenses between M43 & Fuji, then I’m happy to say the 56mm f1.2 performs better than the Nocticron, imho, and the price is right for the high quality you get from it.

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