Interesting optics don’t have to cost a fortune. Andy Westlake tries out some inexpensive lenses to stimulate your creativity - and finds some to avoid, too
NewYi 35mm f/1.7
At a glance:
- For mirrorless
- Covers APS-C
- Fits most cameras via C-mount adapter
You’ll find this curiosity advertised on eBay as a Fujian 35mm f/1.7, presumably to take advantage of that lens’s cult popularity. But while it might conceivably use the same glass, it’s a very different design. It’s still a C-mount optic, which means adapters are available for every mirrorless mount, but it has a completely different housing that sports conventional-looking aperture and focus rings. It’s also shorter, lacking the built-in front shading of the CCTV lens, and has a considerably nicer 12-blade circular aperture diaphragm.
You can buy the lens either alone, or in a set with a metal hood and the mount adapter of your choice – mine is set up for Canon EF-M. Screw the lens into your adapter and you’ll almost certainly find the focus and distance scales pointing in a random direction, but it’s possible to fix this by adjusting the rotating mount, via four set-screws at the base of the lens. You won’t find this explained in the instructions, though, because there aren’t any.
Optically this lens is much like the Fujian, with a small central sharp region corresponding to the tiny sensor size it was originally designed for, surrounded by ever-increasing blur and vast curvature of field. It’s hugely prone to flare from bright light sources, so getting the hood makes sense; alternatively, this effect can be used creatively. On mine the aperture and distance markings bear little relationship to reality, but that’s not necessarily a problem, as you’re unlikely to use them to set focus and exposure anyway.
This absolutely isn’t a lens for conventional photography, but it can be really interesting for selective focus shooting, giving quirky swirly bokeh and much greater subject isolation than its maximum aperture might suggest. It may cost more than the Fujian CCTV lens, but it’s rather nicer to use.