Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 review
Written by Thomas
The AF 35mm f1.8 from the Chinese manufacturer Viltrox is a mild wide-angle prime lens designed for mirrorless cameras and corrected for full-frame sensors. A popular focal length for street photography and general-purpose use, it features a relatively bright f1.8 focal ratio. On a cropped sensor the angle of view is equivalent to a 53mm “standard” lens. Viltrox was the first third-party manufacturer of lenses for Nikon Z-mount with autofocus and the AF 35mm f1.8 is one of four full-frame prime lenses from Viltrox – the others being the AF 85mm f1.8 II, AF 50mm f1.8, and AF 24mm f1.8. The Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 is made in China and was announced in September 2021. It is also available in Sony E-mount and costs 350 EUR / 379 USD / 375 GBP.
For this review I tested the Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 on the 45MP Nikon Z7 camera to judge optical performance and quality of autofocus against the Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S and Sony FE 35mm f1.8. I also included comparisons with the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN (available for Sony and L-mount mirrorless cameras). So if you’re interested in whether this inexpensive wide-angle lens is right for your Nikon or Sony mirrorless camera, you’ve come to the right place!
Facts and features
As usual I’ll have a look at the technical data of the new Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 first. I’ve rated the features with a [+] (or [++]), when it’s better than average or even state of the art, a  if it’s standard or just average, and [-] if there’s a disadvantage. For this comparison I use the Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S (“Z-Nikkor” for short), Sony FE 35mm f1.8 (“Sony FE”), and Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN (“Sigma”).
Size (diameter x length): 70 x 85mm (2.8 x 3.3in.). The lens hood adds 38mm and is 78mm in diameter. This is comparable to the Z-Nikkor at 73 x 86mm + 48mm lens hood, but the Sony FE at 66 x 73mm + 25mm lens hood and Sigma at 70 x 65mm + lens hood are clearly shorter. 
Weight: 384g (13.5 oz.) plus 29g for the lens hood. The other lenses are all a bit lighter: The Z-Nikkor is 364g + 30g lens hood, the Sony FE is 280g + 16g lens hood, the Sigma is 325g + lens hood. 
Optics: 10 elements (including 4 special dispersion and 2 aspherical) in 8 groups. The Z-Nikkor and Sony FE are 11/9 designs, the Sigma is 10/9. [+]
Closest focus distance in manual focus is 0.42m (1.38ft.) with working distance of 0.32m and a magnification of 1:9.5 which is a bit disappointing. A magnification of 1:10 is achieved at 0.43m giving a working distance of 0.29m with the lens hood attached The maximum magnification of the Z-Nikkor is 1:5.3, the Sony FE goes to 1:3.9, the Sigma achieves 1:5.7. [-]
Filter-thread: 55mm on the Viltrox, the Z-Nikkor has 62mm, the Sony FE 55mm, the Sigma 58mm. [+]
Image stabilization: The lenses in this comparison don’t have optical stabilization. You only get the built-in sensor-shift stabilization which most modern mirrorless camera bodies provide. 
Auto focus: Yes with built-in AF drive. Manual-focus override is by simply turning the focus ring (unless you’ve assigned a different task to this mulit-function ring). The focus ring has the usual variable gearing similar to the Z-Nikkor, Sony FE, and Sigma. [+]
There’s a type C “USB upgrade port” on the lens mount to update the firmware, see below (shows the AF 50mm f1.8). The lens came with firmware v1.0.4 which was the latest version at the time of testing. Their Nikon Z lens mount is not up to specs, again: When you turn the lens fully to unmount it wont come off – just turn it a bit back to get the lens off the camera body. 
Covers full frame/FX or smaller. Same with the alternatives. [+]
Price: The lens is priced at around 350 EUR (incl. 19% VAT) / 379 USD / 375 GBP which makes it the least expensive in this comparison. The Z-Nikkor currently goes for about 900 EUR / 850 USD / 830 GBP, the Sony FE is around 520 EUR / 750 USD / 550 GBP, the Sigma is at 599 EUR / 589 USD / 549 GBP. [+]
Comes with a soft pouch and the lens hood is included, reversible for transport. That’s similar to the Z-Nikkor. The Sony FE and Sigma come without a pouch. 
Aperture ring: The Viltrox, like the Z-Nikkor, has a multi-function control ring which can be assigned by the Nikon Z camera to operate the focus, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity – or simply switched off. But on the Viltrox there is also a dedicated aperture ring with 1/3 stops (without clicks) from f1.8 to f16 and a position “A” for aperture control from the camera. The Sigma has a similar dedicated aperture ring but with click-stops (which cannot be de-clicked). Turning the multi-function control ring on the Viltrox other than in focus mode reveals a pretty aggressive gearing: Even small turns of the ring result in large changes in aperture, exposure compensation or ISO. This works much smoother on the Z-Nikkor. [+]
Sealing: No, the Viltrox doesn’t even have the rubber grommet at the lens-mount which the Sigma offers. The Z-Nikkor and Sony FE has further special weather-sealing throughout the construction. [-]
At a score of 2[-]/5/6[+] the lens has no outstanding features – except for its low price and the combination of multi-function ring plus dedicated aperture ring. But the Viltrox does not offer basic weather protection at the lens mount plus its maximum magnification of 1:9.5 is a bit disappointing.
Focus accuracy and repeatability is critical to consistently produce sharp shots especially with large aperture lenses. Repeatability (the accuracy of focus on the same subject after repeated focus-acquisition) of this lens was measured 97.7% in Reikan FoCal (the Z-Nikkor and Sony FE were around 98.5%). There was one outlier over a series of 40 shots on the well lit and contrasty focus test target and results depended a bit on whether the lens was coming from infinity or from closer.
Regarding focus speed: The Viltrox focuses in around 0.5 sec from infinity to 0.43m (1:10 magnification) – which is comparable to the Z-Nikkor and a bit faster than the Sony FE. There was no hunting under the well-lit test conditions. The focus ring (which also can be assigned other tasks by the Nikon Z camera) is 32mm wide. Its surface is not rubberized and feels a bit too smooth for my liking.
AF-operation of the Viltrox is barely audible from the outside or if you record video with the built-in microphone. But operation of the aperture ring is not noise-free. As you pull-focus, you’ll notice pretty little focus breathing: the image became only 2% more magnified when I adjusted focus from infinity to 0.43m. This is barely visible when shooting videos.
Next check out my quality results!Check prices on the Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 at B&H or Adorama. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!