Thanks Pergear for sending me the sample for this review (affiliated links):
If you are looking at buying a portrait lens for your APS-C mirrorless camera, you need to check out this Viltrox AF 56mm f/1.4 lens.
Viltrox AF 56mm f/1.4 is an autofocus lens specially designed for APS-C mirrors cameras. It gives you an equivalent focal length of 85mm which is one of the most popular focal lengths for taking portrait photos. The lens is available for three different mounts: Canon EF-M, Sony E and Fujifilm X. The price of this lens is slightly different between which version you choose but they are all around 300 US dollars so it is quite an affordable portrait lens that has auto focus support. We are going to have a look at the Fujifilm X version today but optically they should be identical.
Design and Build Quality
For a 56mm f/1.4 lens, the size of this Viltrox lens is pretty compact. The lens is mostly made of metal. It has a metal body, metal lens mount and metal lens hood and it feels very solid. Despite the full metal construction the lens is not very heavy at all. The weight of the lens is just under 300 gram so when i mount it on the Fujifilm xt3, the overall balance is very nice. I imagine even if i mount it on a smaller camera body, it still won’t feel front heavy at all. The lens has a de-clicked aperture ring and you can choose the aperture value from f/1.4 all the way to the minimum aperture value f/16. Just like most other fuji lenses you can also put it to the “A” position and that would allow the camera to adjust the aperture value.
At the back of the lens, there’s a micro usb port on the metal lens mount which allows you to update firmware. Compared with a lot of other third-party manufacturers which they may give you a USB port or some other way to update firmware but they never release any new firmware Viltrox is actually very good as i noticed there are new firmware released for their products very regularly. While i do wish it was a USB-C port instead of the outdated micro USB port, it is okay as we don’t need to use that port very regularly.
Usually the lens hood that comes with third-party lenses either has very average or terrible design. Third party lenses lens hood are usually made of plastic and feels very cheap. But the lens hood that comes with this Viltrox AF 56mm f/1.4 lens feels absolutely amazing! It is completely made of metal, feels very solid and premium. There is also a very satisfying click when you mount it onto the lens. A great lens hood like this is something that we don’t usually get from third-party lenses and even a lot of first-party lenses they don’t have such a nice lens hood design.
One thing that Viltrox managed to do while most other newer third-party lens manufacturer hasn’t is there is autofocus support for their lense. With this Viltrox AF 56mm f/1.4 lens, no matter you choose the canon EF-M mount, the sony E Mount or this fuji x mount you have the autofocus support. It is a STM / stepping motor and the autofocus operation is relatively quiet and quick. i think most people would be very happy with the autofocus performance of this Viltrox lens especially as a portrait lens.
The center sharpness of this lens, even at the maximum aperture f/1.4 is already excellent! Because of that, when i stop down the lens, there isn’t much changes in center sharpness.
The corners at f/1.4 is a bit soft. Stop down the lens to f/2 would improve the corner sharpness a bit but i really have to stop down to f4 then the corner sharpness become very good
When shooting at the maximum aperture f/1.4 the bokeh balls from this Vitrox lens are round with smooth transitions. I also don’t really see much cat eyes effect near the corner of the frame as well.
Even when stop down the lens to f/4, the bokeh balls still remain very round and nice. Overall i think the bokeh from this Viltrox’s lens is very pleasant looking which is very important for a portrait lens.
Vignetting is surprisingly well controlled by this Viltrox lens. Even at the maximum aperture f/1.4, i see very minimal amount of vignetting. Once i stop down to f/2, vignetting is virtually unnoticeable. For a f/1.4 lens, it’s not very often I see such a minimal amount of vignetting when shooting at the maximum aperture value.
In terms of chromatic aberration, it is quite average. While i don’t see any super nasty color fringing in my photos, quite often i would see a bit of chromatic aberration in my real world photos and also quite noticeable in my LOCA test photos. It’s not too hard to remove most CA in post processing but don’t be surprised to see them when you shoot high contrast scene.
Let’s have a look at this brick wall sample photo. There is a very small amount of barrel distortion. When taking real world photos, distortion is virtually unnoticeable.
When shooting directly into the sun or a bright light source, very often i see some strong lens flare. It may be not as strong as the Laowa Argus 33mm lens which i have also reviewed recently on a Fuji body, but it’s also not as cinematic looking as the Laowa Argus lens (which is just beautiful!). At least the contrast remains quite good even when shooting directly into a bright light source. Lens flare is definitely not the strongest area of this lens.
With the 9 aperture blade design, you could get 18 points sunstars in your photos when stop down the lens. Starting from f/8, sunstars become apparent in the photos. When stopped down to the minimum aperture f/16 sunstars become really quite sharp and looks very nice. For a lens that is primarily designed for portrait rather than landscape, I think the sunstars from this lens is really not bad at all.
Videographers would love the de-clicked aperture ring on the lens. While i do see a small amount of focus breathing in some of my test videos, it is usually only noticeable when I change the focus distance from very very close to very very far away.
For the price of around US$300, this Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 lens is a very good choice for people who is looking at buying a portrait lens but don’t want to spend a lot of money.
I was a bit worried about the autofocus performance because a lot of the third-party lens manufacturer their autofocus implementation is not really that good but with this Viltrox’s lens, the autofocus performance is actually very good! Even shooting at f/1.4 of the autofocus is very very usable and the overall autofocus performance is not that much different from the lenses from the first party manufacturer.
I really love the lens hood that comes with this Viltrox lens. It is one of those smaller thing that a lot of third-party manufacturers don’t spend too much effort on. But i’m glad to see Viltrox they did put a lot of effort into it and created such a fantastic lens hood for this 56mm f/1.4 lens.
I guess the biggest downside of this lens would be, if you need to shoot when there is a very strong light source in front of the camera. The lens flare control is not the best and there could also be a bit of chromatic aberration around high contrast areas. This is a bit of problem for me as when i’m taking portrait photos, i quite often love to have a strong light source behind my subject to create some beautiful rim light wrapping around my subject. That means there’s quite a bit of chance i would have a bit of lens flare in my photo, and also some colour fringing as well. So this is something i have to be very careful when taking portrait photos with this lens.
Other than that, there isn’t much I can complaint about this very affordable and good value for money portrait lens from Viltrox