A non-review review of the Viltrox 85mm 1.8 lens (on Fuji X-T2)

In my film days, I worked with 5×4 for product and architectural shots, 120 for fashion, portraits and landscape, 35 mm for everything else.

I mainly used Nikon and Leica starting with third party lenses updating to Nikon and Leica lenses as my photographs earned me more money.

I always felt that the third party lenses were good but not as good as the originals.

I bought Fuji’s first digital compact and gradually moved with developments to 3 Sony A900s which were my workhorses.

For some reason whilst I used all types of lenses on film and digital I always had a love of the 85 and 135 mm focal lengths.

The Zeiss ZA 135 1.8 lens was magnificent and I miss it to this day although not the weight or size.

In 2011 I bought what I think was the first Fuji x100 to be sold in the UK and I was hooked.

When I stopped working commercially I sold the Sonys and went totally Fuji.

X-E1, X-E2, X-Pro1, X-T1, X100, I loved the first series sensor and processing. I think first series were special but changed from XPro1 to 2 because of the diopter correction and viewfinder primarily, I then bought other models with the same sensor for processing workflow.

Lens list comprises 14mm, 23mm (X100F), 35mm, 56mm, 55-200mm. I did have 10-24mm and 100-400mm but they were seldom used so I sold them.

I was always attracted to the 90mm (135 equiv.) Fuji lens because of the focal length which as I mentioned before was a favourite, but not for the normal use for this lens which is considered to be portraits, I find the 135 mm lets you get relatively close, not macro but just a bit closer and the usually wide aperture these lenses have, give you a shallow depth of field.

I read a couple of good reviews of the Viltrox lens and decided to take the plunge based on the reviews and the very good price on Amazon for Black Friday.

The lens arrived very well presented, simple design and nice packaging.

Out of the box, the lens felt very well made and solid reminding me of Leica, Zeiss and early Nikon metal lens.

Its weight and balance sit perfectly on an X body, feeling great in the hand.

My main reasons for buying the lens were: focal length, subject stand off distance and very shallow depth of field.

I am a sucker for wide-aperture lenses and always have been, loving selective focus.

Using the lens…

Negatives first…

Lens hood feels a bit flimsy compared to the lens, also I think it is slightly too short and is a little awkward to fit.

Personally, for me I would have preferred an aperture ring instead of using the front wheel but I guess that the addition of a mechanical ring would put the cost up.

Positives

Firstly I will not discuss Bokeh because I am convinced the term was invented by someone with a sense of humour and for me does not exist, I have read review after review of lenses that talk about Bokeh this and Bokeh that.

The out of focus highlights or objects no matter what lens you use are partly governed by the lighting conditions for each particular image you make.

Yes, mechanically some lenses render out of focus parts of an image better than others but in practice un Bokeh knowledgeable viewers would not have a clue and judge the photo on content and their emotional response.

FACT: according to me, this lens wide open produces a beautiful out of focus images and shallow depth of field, the in-focus part of the image would split a hair it so sharp.

The colour rendering is great and the handling, including manual focus, inspires confidence.

I occasionally go out with just this lens and, okay while my 55-200 is more flexible and a great lens, the discipline of one lens and using my feet is therapeutic.

Final thoughts

Had I not had access to the internet I would have never discovered this lens but it can be an infectious area for GAS, I am glad that I do not lust after equipment and concentrate on making images for no goal other than my own satisfaction.

It does make wonder when I read the hype about the X-T4 and know within 6 months or less that the hype will switch to X-H2 or X-Pro4, maybe even X-T5.

Will I go X-T3 or X-T4? No – WHY? – I can produce high-quality A2 prints with ease, I have no need for higher resolution and it is a thought that however high the resolution most peoples images are posted on social networks and can be produced with the cameras in the latest mobiles.

My next and possibly last purchase (breakages and failures excluded) will be an X-H1 when the prices drop even lower, I am nervous about digital dust and live in a very dusty area so each lens is permanently attached to its own body which is quite extravagant I know, the Viltrox will sit on the X-H1 with its IBIS as a bonus.

I would recommend this lens in a heartbeat and whilst a great sharp lens I sometimes abuse it by putting close up lenses on the front to allow me to get closer, and can introduce a softness a bit like when I used to put tights over a €2500 Zeiss lens to get soft effects.

Images are out of camera with a bit of cropping and processing in Lightroom.

David A.

"I was born in the UK and worked as a graphic designer and photographer for most of my life and I feel privileged to have been doing what I love throughout my life and been paid for the pleasure. I started to take photographs with a Box Brownie at the age of 7 or 8 years old, but the big revelation came when I was 10 and I watched my cousin develop a black and white print using a home made enlarger, 'that was it, I was hooked'. The next momentous photographic event came on top of a mountain in Switzerland at the age of 13 when I suddenly thought how do I capture the whole scene. ‘I suddenly knew!’ if I took a series of photographs with my Kodak 127 then join the prints later that should work. It did! 50 years later I am still making panoramic photographs but now digitally though I do occasionally miss the Xpan panoramic camera which stands out among the mass of 5 x 4, roll film, 35mm cameras I have used over the years. I have shot fashion, cars, musicians, products, hung out of helicopters, photographed air to air and covered the Silver jubilee of the British Queen, but I now work solely on my personal projects."

2 Comments

  1. Uh, what a great eye. I am deeply impressed. Thanks a lot, everything You said, is right.
    I love Your work
    with regads
    Volker Krüger

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