Viltrox has been manufacturing thirrd party lenses for some time now and has been hitting the mark with build and quality at a very reasonable price range. Their latest release, the 13mm f/1.4 is aimed at photographers and vloggers.
Firstly, I’m going to say I do favor Viltrox lenses, in particular, the 85mm f/1.8, which I have owned on two different bodies for the Nikon system and I’m currently using it on a Nikon Z 7II. But that is not to say that this review is biased in any form. I wanted the lens for one reason in particular, and that is vlogging so that I can lock it off at a wide aperture and let the lens do the rest. My current setup for vlogging is the Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens at around the 20mm mark, so combining the Viltrox 13mm f/1.4 and the crop factor gives me the focal range I am after at a wider aperture and at a lower cost than Nikon.
Build and Handling
The lens is solid with metal construction machined to a high standard and feels more expensive than it actually is. Whether that’s a benefit or not is up to the user, but it certainly makes your investment feel worth it, and at a mere $429, you certainly get your money’s worth. I have the Viltrox AF 85mm f/1.8 Z, and I love using the lens for different subjects, but the one gripe I have about it is the lens hood. It’s really irritating, and I am very lucky if I can get it to go on correctly the first or second time. When I popped the metal lens hood for this lens out of the box and tried to attach it, it went on with no problems, as it should.
There’s a USB-C port at the lens mount, which should mean future-proofing the lens with firmware updates. I haven’t needed to update yet, so I can’t say if it’s a smooth process or not, but I’m sure it will be. There is no weather-sealing on the lens, but as it is an internally focusing lens, there shouldn’t be too many worries about dust entering. The apertures can be controlled via the lens, which I do prefer. The lens feels like a Fuji lens in its build and operation, so that’s a plus. The aperture ring is also really easy to use manually or can be locked off to work automatically with your camera.
There is no lens stability, which means you have to rely on your camera’s own IBIS for handheld shots or filming. This is not a bad thing, however, as most cameras nowadays have IBIS. This also keeps the price of the lens down and competitive.
The autofocus is surprisingly quick, not that I thought it wouldn’t be, but it performed quicker than I actually expected and produced good results each time. For the following examples, I used spot focus and have provided the initial shot plus a 100% zoom on the focus area to allow you to see the results. The following images were captured at f/1.4 to see how the lens performed wide open, and for the purposes of this review, I simply enabled auto in Lightroom.
It’s not a bulky or heavy lens at only 429 g and can easily be carried around all day if you want the ability to shoot in different lighting conditions. It also performed well at different apertures with no discernable flaws that would ruin an image. For myself, the sweet spot is between the f/5.6 and f/8 range, and although it performed brilliantly at f/1.4, I tended to favor the results at f/2.8 for photography. Filming at f/1.4 was a dream, and for any vloggers reading this that are considering this lens, I would definitely go for it, as it has such a lovely bokeh transition at this stop.
The phone shot below should hopefully provide you with a context of the distance of the lens from the wall of the bridge. This image relates to the first image in the gallery, which is a series of shots at varying apertures from f/2.8 to f/16.
I’m a fan of an aperture ring on a lens. This can be locked so that your camera controls the aperture. The weight of the lens itself is not heavy, although I wouldn’t like to vlog for an entire day with it. The lens coupled with a gimbal would be the right combination for longer vlogging sessions. Did I mention the lens hood? Well, it connects exactly as it should with no fumbling around or frustrations involving expletives as with my past efforts with the 85mm.
What I Didn’t Like
So far, I haven’t found anything untoward with the lens. If anything, the aperture ring is so smooth that I think you could possibly knock it when using it manually. I’ve been using the lens mostly locked off on a tripod for filming, so there is really no chance of moving it slightly, and your screen display will indicate if the aperture has been moved at all before taking a shot or filming. On the Nikon Z 7iI, the choose image area in the menu was disabled, so I can only assume that will be coming in an update perhaps.
At this price and with a wide aperture of f/1.4 this lens is really worth considering adding to your kit. Whether that’s for photography or vlogging, it has performed well. For me, it will mainly be used for vlogging, but that was its intended use anyway. However, I can see this being used when I’m out on walks, in the city or countryside, as a general lens. It’s not the smallest of lenses, but it’s also not the most obtrusive for day-to-day carrying. It packs a lot into the size.
The bokeh at the wider apertures is very acceptable, and there is a lovely transition between focus point and background. It is a sharp lens with minimal distortion at the edges.
If you are using it for vlogging, I don’t think currently you could get a better lens with such a wide aperture anywhere near this price range, so it would be money well spent. The focal length is just right for handheld face-to-camera snippets, allowing your background and face to sit well within the scene. The wide aperture helps to set this apart as well, and considering there is little focus breathing, it will certainly provide you with the results you are after.
From the general photography point of view, I am really enjoying using this lens in different situations. I also enjoy the challenge of being fixed to one focal length when out shooting, as I feel it tightens your compositional skills somewhat.
The Viltrox 13mm f/1.4 features great sharpness and is very portable at a very competitive price, making this a lens to definitely think about.