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
DJ Optical Viltrox 35mm f/2 (7artisans 35mm f/2)
At a glance:
- For mirrorless
- Covers full-frame
- Canon EF-M, Fujifilm, Micro Four Thirds, Sony E
For a long time, this lens’s claim to fame was being the cheapest full-frame E-mount lens available. It’s since been eclipsed by the Meike 50mm f/1.7, but still promises excellent value. It’s mostly sold under the 7artisans brand, but mine has a Viltrox badge. At just 42mm long, it’s one of the smallest lenses you can use on a Sony Alpha 7.
First impressions are really positive. The robust-feeling, weighty metal barrel has a smoothly-rotating focus ring, complete with distance and depth of field scales. A slim traditional aperture ring adjacent to the camera body closes the 10-bladed diaphragm down directly; it clicks firmly at full-stop increments, but with large enough gaps to be set at intermediate positions. The 43mm filter thread is surrounded by a shallow slide-out lens hood, and the minimum focus is 35cm.
Optically, though, this lens is best described as patchy. While it’s advertised as covering full-frame, image quality is downright poor towards periphery of the image, with massive vignetting and barely any corner detail when shot at f/2. Even stopped down, the corners never properly sharpen up with distant subjects. However at closer range it’s possible to get images that are pretty sharp across the frame, at least when stopped down to f/8 or so. Alternatively you can take advantage of the f/2 aperture for selective focusing. Overall, though, this lens is probably better suited to APS-C cameras.
If you can pick up this lens cheaply it’s worth a play, but to me its questionable optics outweigh the benefits of its fast aperture, at least on full-frame. For most purposes, you’d probably be better off using an adapted 35mm f/2.8 from an old manual-focus film system. Likewise, I’d recommend Alpha 7 users who can stretch to £250 or so should buy the autofocus Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE instead.