First Impressions: Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm F1.8 (Sony FE)

Chinese photography accessories maker Viltrox is expanding their portfolio with brand new camera lenses.

When Viltrox extended an invitation for us to check out their brand new line of lenses at this year’s Photo Plus Expo, our interest was certainly piqued. Up until this point, China-based Viltrox’s focus has been on the manufacturing of photography accessories like lens mount adapters, external monitors, speedlights, and LED lighting. We were quite eager to see how they fared with their first foray into lens manufacturing. As of right now, all of the lenses Viltrox is working on are designed for Fujifilm and Sony mirrorless camera systems, which includes the Viltrox PFU RBMH 20mm f1.8 ASPH (Sony FE, manual only), Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE, manual only), and the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 STM (Fuji X and Sony FE, autofocus). At their booth at Photo Plus, Viltrox had both the 20mm and 85mm Sony FE manual lenses as well as the Fuji X mount version of the autofocus 85mm STM lens on display, with the manual lenses being the only functional prototypes.

Viltrox’s explained that the we should expect the finalized version of the autofocus Fuji lens by the end of this year, with the Sony version arriving sometime during Q1 of 2019. Due to our extremely packed schedule at Photo Plus, we only got to spend some very limited hands on time with the prototype lenses, and this first impressions article will focus on the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 manual focus prime lens for Sony E-Mount.

Gear Used

We tested the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE) using the Sony A7R II.

 

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE) was taken from Viltrox’s marketing pamphlet

Focal Length  85 mm
Aperture f1.8 – f16
Aperture Blades No.  9
Camera Mount  Sony FE-Mount
Format Compatible Frames Full Frame
Shooting Distance  0.8 m (31.50″) – ∞
Field Angle  (Diagonal / Horizontal / Vertical) 28°46′ / 23°58′ /15°58′
Focus Mode  MF (IF)
Image Field Diameter  43.2 mm (1.7″)
Close Range Coverage 192 x 288 mm (7.56 x 11.34″)
Image Ratio at Min. Distance  1:8
Lens Structure  10/7
Flange Distance  18 mm (0.71″)
Pupil Position (Image Surface Benchmark) 10 mm (0.39″)
Auto Focus  – –
Image Stabilization Support camera’s five axis stabilization
Auto Iris  Electronic auto iris
EXIF Information Support
Filter Specification M72 x 0.75
Rotation Angle of the Focusing Ring 145.9°
Max. Diameter 79 mm (3.11″)
Diameter of the Focusing Ring 72.6 mm (2.86″)
Length (with Lens Cap) 100 mm (3.94″)
Length (without Lens Cap) 92 mm (3.62″)
Weight 665 g (1.47 pounds)

 

Ergonomics

Here is a look at the side profile of the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8. Coming in 3.62″ long with a diameter of 3.11″, it’s nearly identical in size when compared to Sony’s own 85mm f1.8, but weighs just over 2/3 pounds more. The only movable part that you will find on this lens is the focusing ring, which felt very smooth when turning. You will need to use one of the mode dials on your Sony camera to adjust the aperture setting of this lens, which goes from f1.8 to f16.

The front of the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 is pretty Spartan. Without the lens hood attached, the only thing you will see up front is the waterproof and anti-fog coated front element. The filter thread diameter of this lens is 79mm.

Turning our attention to the top of the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8, we can see the model number as well as a depth of field scale clearly etched onto the top half of the lens. This makes it easy for photographers to quickly dial in the focal length of the lens. You can of course use the EVF or live view for more precise focusing.

 

Build Quality

Designed for Sony Full Frame mirrorless cameras, the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 is a manual focus prime lens that features a nine bladed “hypercircle” aperture design, and is housed within a precision crafted brass enclosure. The lens features an optical design consisting of seven lens groups with ten optical elements, including a large diameter, double-sided aspherical front element, four ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements, as well as a low wave high transparency glass element. The optical elements are coated with what Viltrox calls “HD Nano multilayer” coating, with the front element being waterproof and fog resistant. While we only got to spend a very limited amount of time with the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85Mmm f1.8 at Photo Plus, the lens felt well constructed overall. We didn’t run into any issues when attaching and removing the lens or when adjusting the aperture values of the lens using the mode dials on our own Sony A7R II. The manual focus ring also felt very smooth during our tests of the manual focusing capability of the lens.

 

Focusing

As we had previous stated, the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 is a manual focus lens. If you’re one of the photographers who has manual-focus-phobia, this is definitely not the lens for you. Those of you who are not allergic to manual focus will find the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 to be a fairly user friendly lens. With a built in depth of field scale, as well as focus peaking and zebra being available via your camera’s EVF or live view, it’s really not that hard to nail focus using this lens.

 

Image Quality

Due to our overwhelming schedule at Photo Plus this year, we literally only got to spend a few minutes with the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 lens. Here are a few images that we shot using this lens paired with our own Sony A7R II.

Curiously, when we imported the images shot with the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE) into Capture One, we were surprised to see the EXIF data report that they were shot using a Zeiss Batis 85 mm lens, and reached out to Viltrox immediately for clarification regarding this issue. Viltrox’s representative explained that this was to be expected, and stated the following:

“Our engineer explains that since we just have three lenses at the moment, we have not made our own configuration file on the lens, so we use the configuration file of Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 for calibration first. Later when we carry out more and more lenses, we will submit relative documents to the Image Processing Company to normalize everything.”

Ease of Use

Like most manual focus lenses, the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE) is very easy to use. Aperture value can be adjusted using the mode dial on your camera, while focusing is adjusted manually using the focus ring that felt buttery smooth.

 

First Impressions

While we only got to spend some very limited time with the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE) lens, our experience with it was pretty positive overall. At press time, pricing and availability are TBD. We will be receiving a review unit of the Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE) later this year, and we look forward to evaluating this lens in depth upon its arrival. Please stay tuned for the full review.