Before I start this mini-review I would like to give a quick shout-out to Michael from Arahan Photos for this sending this amazing piece of glass for me to review, they have also offered an exclusive discount for FXA members, I’ll mention the details at the end of this post. As with all my ‘reviews’, they are not your typical in-depth reviews focusing on pixel peeping and colour charts there are plenty of those around, they are also not sponsored and what I write is my own personal opinion. In this mini-review, I will talk about what characteristics of this lens that sets it apart from the other prime telephoto lenses out there.
Viltrox is not a common household name in the world of photography unless you’ve been using their adaptors to mount other non-Fujifilm lenses. There are a number of key characteristics about the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 that make it enticing for enthusiasts but before we get into what those are, here is a quick list of the physical specs:
- Construction: 10 elements in 7 groups (1 ED lens)
- Min/Max Aperture: f/1.8 – 16
- Field of view: 11.32 degrees
- Minimum focusing distance: 0.8 m
- Maximum reproduction ratio: 1: 8
- Focusing: AF
- No# of apertures: 9
- Filter size: 72 mm
- Dimensions: 80 x 92 mm
- Weight: 636 g
- EXIF data support and electronic iris adjustment
- HD Nano anti-reflection coatings
Straight off the bat, this lens is a little on the heavy side, to give you an idea, the XF56mmf/1.2 is approx. 405g while the XF90mmf/2 is about 540g while the Viltrox 85mmf/1.8 is a whopping 636g. It’ll be the first thing you’ll notice when handling this lens, when mounted on smaller camera bodies it is front heavy and you will need a hand grip to counter the weight. When paired with the likes of the X-H1 or X-T3 it is balanced quite well and doesn’t cause too much strain when holding for long periods but you may find it challenging to operate when using one hand.
Despite the weight, there are lots to like about this lens, for instance, it has auto-focus. Typically lenses of this price range are only available with manual focus so for a 3rd party manufacturer to produce a lens with AF in this price point is a bonus. The AF performance isn’t groundbreaking but it actually performs better than I expected, I found it to be snappier than the XF56mmf/1.2 when locking onto subjects in ideal lighting conditions. In low light it struggles a little, it’s worth mentioning that the review unit I have had the latest firmware upgrade which is said to have improved the AF a great deal, so anyone purchasing this lens is reminded to update the firmware.
The other aspect that makes this lens appealing is the image quality, which once again has exceeded my expectation. The images are sharp in the centre wide open, but I found stopping down to f/2 to f/4 is where you’ll be pleased with the results. I mentioned earlier that I’m not going to pixel peep, the images straight out of the camera is one of the best I’ve seen and has nice background isolation from the subject. It’s hard to believe that this exists on a budget lens, many companies have tried but often fall short of expectation. Many of you may be thinking how the image quality compares to the XF56 and XF90 (or even the XF80), although I can’t say that it’s on par with any of those mentioned, it’s not far behind either.
One of the other things that make heads turn and are probably the single thing that makes this lens more appealing to the consumer is its price! With an RRP of $630 AUD, it’s hard to look the other way especially if you’re price conscious as many of us are. When you compare this with the XF56mmf/1.2 which retails for $1135 AUD (before any cashback) or the XF90mmf/2 at $1185 AUD or even the XF80mmf/2.8 at $1768 AUD it’s easy to see why this lens is starting to pop up on peoples radars as an alternative to native Fujifilm lenses.
So here are my final thoughts and who this lens is for. The Viltrox 85mmf/1.8 is a welcome addition to the native Fujifilm lineup, it won’t replace any of the current Fujifilm lenses any time soon but it offers a great alternative for the consumer. Its stellar performance in both AF and image quality combined with the low entry price tag makes this lens a no brainer for anyone looking for a telephoto prime on a budget. If the price is not a factor I would say go for the XF90mmf/2, it’s quad-liner motor makes it the fastest prime for Fujifilm while producing some of the sharpest images you’ll find.
LIMITED OFFER – Courtesy of Arahan Photos, FXA members will receive a 7% discount valid until 30 June. The code can be found in the Discount & Promo section, the password will be posted in the Facebook group.