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

Kamlan 50mm f/1.1

At a glance:

  • £170
  • For mirrorless
  • Covers APS-C
  • Cannon EF-M, Fujifilm, Sony E and Micro Four Thirds mounts

Kamlan 50mm f/1.1

At £170 the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 may be the most expensive lens here, but this is still a staggeringly low price for such a fast maximum aperture. It’s half of what you’d pay for the Samyang 50mm f/1.2 AS UMC CS, which is itself remarkable value, or indeed for a film-era 50mm f/1.2 manual-focus prime.

The Kamlan is also surprising small, measuring just 60mm in both diameter and length and sporting a 52mm filter thread. Something’s got to give, of course, and a quick glance at the specifications reveals a surprisingly simple optical construction of 5 elements in 5 groups. Even classic 50mm f/1.8s use 6 elements, while the Samyang employs a 9-element, 7-group design.

Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 on Canon EOS M50

The lens is nicely-constructed though, with an all-metal barrel and smoothly-rotating focus and aperture rings. The latter is clickless, with wide spacing between stops that allows fine adjustment. The 12-bladed diaphragm is a particular highlight, giving a near-circular opening right down to its f/16 minimum setting. A yellow ring around the barrel provides a cosmetic flourish, while a shallow plastic lens hood and chunky grey caps complete the package.

Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 on Canon EOS M50

So how about the optics? Well let’s be clear, this isn’t the best lens to use when you need ultra-sharp detail right across the frame; a cheaper 50mm f/1.8 will do that job better. But that’s not why you should be buying an f/1.1 lens anyway. Instead this optic is all about selective focusing, with vanishingly shallow depth-of-field and beautifully blurred backgrounds. It has the characteristics of a classic portrait lens, with some flattering softness wide open due to spherical aberration, and noticeably crisper detail on stopping down to f/2. There’s a touch of chromatic aberration at large apertures, but less than I’d expect. Play to its strengths and it’ll give lovely images.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Fujian 35mm f/1.7
  3. 3. NewYi 35mm f/1.7
  4. 4. DJ Optical Discover 25mm f/1.7 (7artisans 25mm f/1.7)
  5. 5. Neewer 50mm f/2 (Meike 50mm f/2)
  6. 6. Meike 50mm f/1.7
  7. 7. DJ Optical Viltrox 35mm f/2 (7artisans 35mm f/2)
  8. 8. Kamlan 50mm f/1.1
  9. 9. Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8
  10. 10. Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens
  11. 11. Holga 60mm f/8
  12. 12. Lensbaby Spark
Page 8 of 12 - Show Full List