Viltrox AF 50mm f1.8 review
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Viltrox’s AF 50mm f1.8 is an affordable standard lens for modern mirrorless cameras from Sony and Nikon with the distinct feature of being the only third party lens to date which can autofocus on a Nikon Z camera body. It produces a soft Bokeh – but then the lens renders a pretty soft image even in the plane of sharpest focus. You need to stop the lens down to f5.6 or even f8 to get really sharp images. And there are other weaknesses too: there is no weather sealing, the lens shows longitudinal CAs plus magenta haloing, and distortions become really prominent on closer subjects. On the plus side is minimal focus breathing, consistent autofocus (at high-contrast targets), 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 50mm f1.8 S, the Sony FE 50mm f1.8, and Voigtländer 50mm f2 APO-Lanthar.


Above from left to right: Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S, Viltrox AF 50mm f1.8, Voigtländer 50mm f2 APO-Lanthar

Compared to Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S

Regarding sharpness Nikon’s Z 50mm f1.8 S wins the comparison with the Viltrox easily: You need to stop the Viltrox down to f8.0 to get the same level of crisp details which the Z-Nikkor already produces at f1.8. The Z 50mm f1.8 S also suffers much less from magenta haloing and blow-out against bright highlights. And its focus action seams more reliable than from the Viltrox on less contrasty targets – and it’s faster too. Regarding Bokeh the Viltrox renders a softer transition zone and background than the Z-Nikkor but shows loCA and has some of the ugliest Bokeh balls with very prominent onion-rings. Then there’s features and price to consider: The Z-Nikkor 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 lower price: Depending on which rebates are currently on offer you might find that the Viltrox saves you around 200 EUR/USD/GBP over the Z-Nikkor. All-in-all the better overall performance of the Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S justifies the higher price over the Viltrox AF 50mm f1.8.

For more details see my Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S review where it earned a Highly Recommended.

Compared to Sony FE 50mm f1.8

As the price of Sony’s FE 50mm f1.8 is even lower than that of the Viltrox the decisive question is in what way is the Viltrox optically superior to the Sony FE. Bokeh of the Viltrox is a bit softer than from the Sony FE – unless you trigger the onion-rings. The Sony FE has a slight advantage in sharpness but the Viltrox produces less coma, much lower color aberrations, and has less focus breathing. Flare, glare and ghosting is similarly well controlled. Regarding features: The Viltrox has the dedicated aperture ring, while the Sony at least has a rubber grommet at the lens mount to prevent water to get in. And the Sony is much shorter and lighter than the Viltrox.

For more details see my Sony FE 50mm f1.8 review where it earned a recommendation.

Compared to Voigtländer 50mm f2 APO-Lanthar

The Voigtländer 50mm f2 APO-Lanthar is manual focus only, has a 1/3 of a stop smaller focal ratio and costs three times as much as the Viltrox. So this is a no-brainer, right? Well, if you want to produce the sharpest, crispest images the Voigtländer even beats the very good Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S and leaves the Viltrox “in the dust”. It might not have the smoothest Bokeh but is free of onion-rings, has the least color aberrations, and lowest coma of all the lenses in this review. So if your photographic subject allows you to focus manually the Voigtländer can net you shots that are visually outstanding.

Check back soon for my full Voigtländer 50mm f2 APO-Lanthar review.


Viltrox AF 50mm f1.8 final verdict

The Viltrox AF 50mm f1.8 is a decent large aperture standard lens with autofocus for Sony E-mount and Nikon Z-mount. Its soft rendering makes it more adept for portraiture than for shooting landscapes or architecture. But it offers a dedicated aperture ring, has minimal focus breathing, fares relatively well in contra-light situations, and has a consistent AF – at least on high contrast targets. But you should definitely try to avoid the onion-rings which mar the otherwise soft Bokeh when there are specular or bright highlights in the background. The lens also lacks any form of weather sealing and shows some longitudinal CAs and haloing. But if you’re into portraiture and people photography those flaws might well be acceptable. With this caveat in mind I can still recommend the Viltrox AF 50mm f1.8 if you’re looking for a lower-cost standard lens.

Good points:

  • Soft background Bokeh – but beware the onion rings.
  • Little focus breathing.
  • Low price – compared to Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S.

Bad points:

  • Relatively soft up to f5.6.
  • Ugly onion rings on specular/bright highlights in the background.
  • Longitudinal colour aberrations and haloing.
  • No weather sealing.
  • Strong distortions at closer distances.
  • Higher price than Sony FE 50mm f1.8.
Check prices on the Viltrox AF 50mm 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!
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