The Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 is an affordable mild wide prime lens for modern mirrorless cameras from Sony and Nikon with the distinct feature of being the only third party 35mm lens to date which can autofocus on a Nikon Z camera body. It is relatively soft wide open but responds well to stopping down – except for a zone in the middle third of the image-circle: To achieve good resolution in this zone you need to stop the lens down to f8.0. Bokeh is nice on less contrasty backgrounds but it can produce double contours in the distance and some onion rings on specular highlights. And there are other weaknesses too: There is no weather sealing, maximum magnification of 1:9.5 is a bit disappointing, and distortions become really prominent on closer subjects where they are no longer corrected by Adobe’s lens profile – not even at 200%. On the plus side is its low price, minimal focus breathing, no focus shift, and the lens retains pretty good black levels even in strong contra light.
Let’s put this into perspective and have a closer look at how the Viltrox compares to the Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S, Sony FE 35mm f1.8, and Sigma 35mm f2.0 DG DN.
Compared to Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S
Nikon’s Z 35mm f1.8 S is rendering a clearly sharper image in the APS-C/DX-image-circle at f1.8 than the Viltrox does at f4.0 and even still at f5.6. Focus action seems almost on a par with the Viltrox suffering a bit from its softness making it harder to exactly determine sharpest focus. Bokeh of the Viltrox seems a tad softer than from the Z-Nikkor but with contrasty backgrounds or specular highlights it becomes more prone to onion rings and double contours. Regarding features and price: The Z-Nikkor has a much better maximum magnification of 1:5.3 and is hardened well against the elements while the Viltrox does not even have a rubber grommet at the lens mount. On the plus side for the Viltrox is the dedicated aperture ring – and the much lower price. So if you’re on a budget the Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 is an alternativ to Nikon’s original – if you’re prepared to stop down quite a bit for sharp architecture and landscape shots.
For more details see my Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S review where it earned a Highly Recommended.
Compared to Sony FE 35mm f1.8
The Sony FE 35mm f1.8 is a small, light and reasonably priced lens which produces images at f1.8 which are sharper in the APS-C/DX-image-circle than from the Viltrox at f5.6. It offers a maximum magnification of 1:3.9, is fully weather sealed, and has a multi-function focus hold button. The Viltrox on the other hand offers a dedicated aperture ring, has less longitudinal colour aberrations, less coma, and also produces a slightly softer Bokeh (on less contrasty backgrounds). And the Viltrox is still cheaper than the Sony. But if you can stretch your budget the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 would let you shoot wide open without worrying about the images being soft.
For more details see my Sony FE 35mm f1.8 review where it got a recommendation.
Compared to Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN
I didn’t test the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN myself but from Gordon’s review and the MTF-chart the lens should be very appealing for Sony and L-mount mirrorless owners with very good sharpness across the full frame, an attractive Bokeh, and a maximum magnification of 1:5.7. It also has a manual aperture ring, a metal body which feels a bit sturdier than the Viltrox, and offers at least weather sealing at the mount. It may be 50% more expensive than the Viltrox but all-in-all the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN strikes a convincing balance of price, size and performance.
For more details see Gordon’s Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN review where it came Highly Recommended.
Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 final verdict
The Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8 is a decent large aperture mild wide prime lens with autofocus for Sony E-mount and Nikon Z-mount. It offers a dedicated aperture ring, has minimal focus breathing, fares pretty well in contra-light situations, and has a relatively consistent AF – at least on high contrast targets. It also has a nice soft Bokeh on less challenging backgrounds. But the lens lacks any form of weather sealing, has a meagre maximum magnification, and shows strong distortions when focusing closer. It’s also relatively soft wide open which makes it more adept for street photography or environmental portraiture than for shooting landscapes or architecture where it needs to be stopped down to f5.6 or even f8.0 for really sharp images across the full frame. But looking at the low price those flaws might well be acceptable. With this caveat in mind I can still recommend the Viltrox AF 35mm f1.8.
- Nice Bokeh (for a 35mm f1.8 lens) but can show double contours on more contrasty backgrounds and onion rings on specular highlights.
- Very little focus breathing.
- Dedicated aperture ring plus multi-function ring assignable to manual focus, ISO or exposure compensation.
- Low price.
- Relatively soft wide open across the full frame.
- Especially soft in the middle third of the image-circle up to f5.6.
- Meagre maximum magnification.
- No weather sealing.
- Strong distortions especially at closer distances, not easily corrected.