Viltrox AF 13mm f/1.4 STM XF Lens Review: Great Lens, Better Price

The Viltrox AF 13mm f/1.4 STM lens slots neatly into an present vary of Viltrox primes for APS-C cameras, a focal size that’s notably absent from Fujifilm straight. The 13mm, which is equal to 20mm on 35mm full-frame, is pretty broad and works effectively for landscapes or structure, particularly for the low value of $429.

Viltrox has constructed a strong repute over the past decade as an organization that gives high quality optics at low value. It has expanded from guide focus choices at core focal lengths to full autofocus fashions which can be extra esoteric and – more and more – throughout a large number of mounts.

Viltrox is a China-based pictures firm that has been making equipment since 2009, together with lenses, LEDs, and video displays. The raison d’etre of the brand new breed of pictures startups — more and more Chinese — is to supply the near-latest expertise at considerably decrease costs than the named manufacturers. Long gone are the low-quality, low-tech, equipment of yesteryear, changed with rather more trendy designs and supplies. 

For Viltrox’s lenses, it correctly opted to start its vary with easy optical designs which can be out there to the most important doable market. This has meant focusing on full-frame Sony E-mount and APS-C Fuji X-mount fashions, nonetheless, additionally it is increasing into Nikon Z-mount and Canon RF-mount, though extra on that later. It solely focuses on primes as they’re less complicated to design and manufacture; it’s additionally controversial that they’re extra well-liked with professionals and discerning amateurs the place revenue margins are increased.

The AF 13mm f/1.4 STM, which was introduced in January with two extra mounts added in June, slots neatly into an present vary or Viltrox primes that features 85mm, 56mm, 33mm, and 23mm; do not forget that these are APS-C lenses so a 1.5x crop issue provides 35mm equivalents of 128mm, 84mm, 50mm, and 35mm. The 13mm, due to this fact, rounds out this vary with a 20mm equal. It’s an attention-grabbing focal size to decide on because the pretty broad 13mm inevitably makes for a extra complicated optical system.

Viltrox Lenses

So why would you need a 20 mm equal? Intriguingly it’s a focal size I’ve by no means shot with and don’t have in my digicam bag. My “gotos” have all the time been 24, 35, 50, and 85 mm, with a 14 mm for these extra esoterically broad photographs that aren’t fisheye. It’s not that 20mm is essentially unusual, however it’s one which has by no means appealed to me as 24mm is brief sufficient, at which level I transfer all the way down to the 14mm. So has Viltrox made the appropriate resolution? That’s a private alternative and, for some, 20mm might be excellent. Yes, it’s extra distorted than 24mm however not disastrously so and will due to this fact be an excellent match for landscapes or inside architectural photographs, alongside the inevitable vlogging permitting you to get actually near the motion.

Build Quality and Design

The lens is constructed of 14 components in 11 teams, which incorporates 4 ED and two aspheric components and a multi-layer coated, waterproof, entrance optic. It has a nine-blade aperture, weighs 420 grams, and takes a bigger 67mm filter. As it’s a fly-by-wire design, it comes with a micro-USB port that permits firmware upgrades which Viltrox has be forthcoming with. Out of the field, there are entrance and rear lens caps, a material case, and a lens hood.

As you possibly can see from the lineup, the Fujifilm 27mm is a svelte pancake lens that basically fits the ergonomics of a road digicam; the Viltrox 23mm and 56mm look positively DSLR-like in origin by comparability. The 13mm is a step above these in each dimension and weight.

Viltrox 13mm on Fuji Viltrox 13mm Top Down

While the pretty chunky 56mm f/1.4 weighs in at 260 grams, the 13mm ups that once more to 420 grams. This, in fact, is predicted due to the broad field-of-view and bigger (domed) entrance optic; the lens is 74x90mm versus 65x72mm for the 56mm f/1.4. In brief, this can be a comparatively large lens when placed on a extra modest digicam — corresponding to my X-E3 — so is probably higher suited to the bigger X-Series cameras.

What has been noticeable about the entire Viltrox lenses that I’ve used is the “premium” really feel to them, and the 13mm isn’t any completely different. Metal is used extensively all through and the machining is of a excessive commonplace. For instance, the lens hood that reverses onto — and is neatly stowed — the barrel with a reassuring click on; every thing matches completely. In brief, the lens feels nice within the hand, quite than a plastic creaking, light-weight, finances mannequin. It needs to be famous that there isn’t any climate sealing, so it doesn’t match the easiest at school, though there are inside mud seals with all focusing inside so any mud ingress needs to be minimized.

Viltrox 13mm Side On

Behind the lens hood is a big ribbed focus ring that’s easy and has properly weighted resistance to it. After the barrel markings, you then have the clicked aperture ring in one-third stops. This is completely different to the sooner 56mm and 33mm which have been de-clicked; this would possibly go well with video shooters (noiseless and easy publicity change) however I discovered myself regularly knocking the ring which was irritating when taking pictures stills. At 13mm, this isn’t a lens you’d select for the bokeh, so maybe the selection is a practical one to go well with as many customers as doable.

One ultimate level — and it’s a small factor — there’s a purple circle to mark lens orientation for attaching to the digicam physique. This is white on earlier lenses, however surprisingly I discover it a lot simpler to find!

Image Quality and Performance

On the X-E3 the lens unsurprisingly feels a bit entrance heavy, nonetheless not unduly so. It was nonetheless nice to make use of, however could be higher balanced on a bigger digicam.

As far as autofocus efficiency is anxious, I used to be happy with the efficiency. I’ve my X-E3 arrange for single spot focus (the lens additionally helps eye focus) utilizing the joystick to maneuver the main target level round. This matches the invoice for many scenes and I discovered the stepper motor was fast and correct at focusing. If something, this was higher than the earlier 33mm and 56mm lenses I’ve used; this was maybe most noticeable in low gentle the place there was little looking and it failed much less typically.

Viltrox AF13 Closeup

From my expertise, this can be a sharp lens, though predictably softer on the edges the place you additionally get better distortions. Diffraction additionally inevitably turns into a problem whenever you cease proper down and the lens candy spot appears to be round f/5.6 to f/8 which is confirmed by Viltrox’s MTF charts. Unusually for such a wide-angle lens, the aperture is broad at f/1.4 (about f/2.1 equal) which opens up barely extra uncommon functions with astrophotography and better inventive use of bokeh.

Viltrox AF13 Meadow

Viltrox AF13 Utilising Wide Angle

Viltrox AF13 More Macro

Viltrox MTF

The lens has a aggressive minimal focus distance (MFD) of twenty-two centimeters, with a hyperfocal distance of 57 cm which implies every thing from 30 cm could be nominally in focus. The f/1.4 aperture can create some surprisingly efficient bokeh. This clearly isn’t a bokeh monster, however it may be efficient for shut topics. The bokeh itself is easy and impartial if maybe neither overly nice nor disagreeable.

Viltrox AF13 More Macro Viltrox AF13 More Macro

Flare was dealt with fairly effectively, one thing that may all the time be tough for a large lens. It goes with out saying that you need to all the time use this lens with the equipped lens hood and there’s no excuse given it’s saved on the barrel. Direct on to the solar there’s a slight discount in distinction, with flare understandably turning into extra problematic at about 45-degreses to the lens though it’s by no means outrageous and one thing all shooters would concentrate on anyway.

Viltrox 13mm Lens Flare

Great Lens, Great Price

By this level, I haven’t actually talked about the value: $429. That’s remarkably low for the quantity of lens you might be getting. At 13mm, it’s wider than something Fujifilm sells and presents a fantastically broad possibility with out going into the realms of extreme distortion.

It’s ideally suited to vlogging the place you need that sense of breadth, house, and intimacy. Likewise, it might discover a house in lots of stills shooters’ baggage the place it might excel in panorama, structure, and astrophotography. If you haven’t shot with a 20mm equal lens — no matter system — then give it a attempt. You may discover it matches a distinct segment that you just had been on the lookout for. Viltrox has additionally coated plenty of bases right here from the standard building, quick AF, and well-controlled pictures.

It’s not excellent, inevitably affected by flare when stopped down and smooth corners, significantly at wider apertures. Its candy spot is round f/8.0 the place you possibly can anticipate to routinely seize high quality pictures. However that f/1.4 most aperture will enchantment to these in quest of gentle — assume to mosh pit or starry sky — whereas additionally providing bokeh potential at a large angle.

Coming again to my earlier level about different lens mounts, Viltrox has taken the weird step of an Indiegogo marketing campaign to fund the manufacturing of Nikon Z-mount and Sony E-mount APS-C variations of the lens. Some producers (Peak Design is probably probably the most notable) observe this path to lower the monetary danger whereas gauging the scale of the market. It’s an natural manner of rising a lens vary primarily based upon demand, quite than the likes of Nikon and Canon who regularly construct out their ranges primarily based upon perceived want. It additionally reveals that mirrorless APS-C lens designs are alive and kicking with Fuji, Sony, Nikon, and Canon now all on this house.

Are There Alternatives?

Of course there are, though maybe unusually nothing that’s straight comparable when it comes to focal size and aperture. Fujifilm has a plethora of lenses, though the closest is the XF 14 mm f/2.8 R — together with 16mm and 18mm variants — whereas Sigma has additionally just lately launched its 16mm f/1.4 for X-mount. That locations the Viltrox 13mm in a category of its personal, and maybe that was the intent.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. While I might need questioned the 20mm equal focal size at first, it’s fairly clear that — whereas possibly not as well-liked as different focal lengths — there’s a market. The lens provides a focal size possibility that isn’t out there in Fujifilm’s first-party lineup and what Viltrox has made right here works effectively, particularly for the value.

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