On Assignment with the Viltrox 23mm f/1.4

I usually use the Fujifilm 23mm (35mm equivalent) f/2 because I don’t normally need fast apertures, plus I like the size and the fact that the Fujifilm lens is weather sealed. However, a couple of months ago I was given an assignment and my little lens was broken so I needed to find a replacement.

By chance, I came across the option of the well-known (by some) Viltrox 23mm f/1.4 and although I have always been of the belief that it is better to spend money on experiences rather than things, when it comes to work I think that It is definitely important to use equipment that you know is reliable.

Even if it was just for one assignment, I thought long and hard on whether to give this lens a go and eventually due to the circumstances and the short time frame I decided to buy the Viltrox -for some reason the Fujifilm material had a long delay in its deliveries while that Viltrox made same-day deliveries.

Today I am going to share my experience working on-location with with this small lens and show you the results.

WORKING VS. BRICK WALLS

As many of you know or can imagine, there is a big difference between the real world and the tests or reviews that you can find on the internet. In this article there are no brick walls or photos of cats or plants to see the quality of the so-called “bockeh”. What interests me is how a double-page photo in a magazine looks, if the focus in very complex light situations responds well and if it can physically endure the hustle and bustle.

Tucson, Arizona. 2021.
1. IMAGE QUALITY

Solid. Slight chromatic aberration in some very specific lighting situations but other than that, good. Without a doubt, I felt comfortable delivering work done with this lens. The photos of course required some processing, but that is true with practically all lenses, the difference being that with this lens I had to focus on the occasional purple fringing, whereas with other lenses I would focus on other aspects of processing.

Tucson, Arizona. 2021.
2. AUTOFOCUS

While it is true that my assignments do not usually require a super efficient autofocus performance, as you can see in these photos, this project took me a little out of my comfort zone in that regard. Not so much for the speed of what I was documenting but for the light conditions, which were very poor. In addition, while having a faster aperture is interesting for low-light scenes it also means being in a hurry to focus since you lose depth of field, therefore it must be precise. In my opinion the Viltrox 23mm 1.4 did surprisingly well.

Tucson, Arizona. 2021.
3. THOUGH ENOUGH?

The lens held it’s own against flamethrowers, fireworks, heat, dust and pieces of burnt rubber flying about, not to mention a couple of direct blows. I could not tell you how many more of these types of assignments it could withstand, but to this day, months later, it continues to work perfectly and without signs of faltering.

To conclude, I’d say that this $300 (+/-) Viltrox passes the test with flying colors. And going back to the philosophy of spending money on experiences and not things, I think that if your preferred focal length is the 23mm, then this lens is an interesting option. I will certainly continue to use it when I need it.

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