I never know what to expect regarding the more affordable lenses made in China. I mean, what could you possibly hope for from a lens that’s $129? Well, the Pergear 35mm f1.4 is changing my mind a bit. A Canon RF 50mm f1.8 doesn’t cost much more than this lens and offers autofocus and good image quality. But for less money and no autofocus, you’re getting an f1.4 aperture and incredible image quality. It’s not as crispy and clear as Canon’s, but the Pergear 35mm f1.4 offers quality akin to the character photographers crave these days. And it’s about time!
My original title for this review was “The Sweetest Dream.” And that’s because the Pergear 35mm f1.4 gives you incredible dreamy bokeh with a little bit of outside swirl, just enough sharpness, and colors that amaze me. I’ve never been a big fan of the color and render of Sony’s native lenses. But testing this lens out on the Sony a7r III made me really, really happy.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
It’s here, and it’s terrific! The Pergear 35mm f1.4 offers photographers so much for an insanely affordable cost. This full-frame lens delivers the image quality of photographers’ dreams. There are tons of Sony shooters who crave Leica-style image quality. And if you can get something similar for the native Sony E mount, the Pergear 35mm f1.4 is at the top of my list. With a clicked aperture, smooth focusing, just enough sharpness to make the focus peaking matter, and beautiful bokeh, I can’t fault the Pergear 35mm f1.4’s image quality. But indeed, it indeed does have faults.
I tend to say every lens these days should have weather resistance. But I’m more forgiving of a $129 lens. Pergear isn’t a multi-billion dollar company like the Japanese manufacturers. So I won’t use this lens in the rain at all. And considering how much of a dust magnet Sony’s sensors are, I’ll be very cautious.
Despite these shortcomings, I’m giving the Pergear 35mm f1.4 an Editor’s Choice Award. It’s getting five out of five stars. Want one? They’re available for Sony E, Canon RF, Nikon Z, and Leica L mounts.
- Gorgeous bokeh
- Nice bokeh swirls
- Just enough sharpness
- Colors that make me stare at the photos
- Metal build quality
- Clicked apertures
- It’s only $129. I’ve spent more on a bar tab.
- I really wish it had a bit of weather sealing.
We tested the Pergear 35mm f1.4 (given to us to keep) with the following:
- Sony a7r III (ours)
- Sony a7 original (ours)
The Pergear 35mm f1.4 isn’t necessarily innovative. But it’s doing what many other lenses do at a significantly more affordable price. To boot, this is also a full-frame lens.
The Pergear 35mm f1.4 lens is pretty simple and straightforward. That’s because it’s a fully manual focus optic. On the front, you can find the 43mm filter thread. I strongly recommend using a lens filter. It didn’t come with a lens hood, and I wouldn’t use one anyway because it might negate the character of the lens.
Towards the front, you can find the focusing ring. This has a specific design and texture, enabling you to easily find it when the lens is to your eye. Behind that is the aperture ring, with a much thinner design and audible clicks.
Between all that is the zone-focusing scale.
The Pergear 35mm f1.4 isn’t weather resistant. Be careful if you plan to take it into the rain or in dusty situations. I wouldn’t bring it on a safari or into a situation where I can’t predict what the environment will be like.
That aside, when I took the Pergear 35mm f1.4 out of the box, I expected a completely different design. Most current manual focus 35mm f1.4 lenses are based on Leica 35mm f1.4 M mount lenses. But this is more akin to the Fujifilm 35mm f2 in design. It’s lovely, but I’m not used to it. However, it’s easy enough to reach for the focusing ring with its knurled design and the aperture ring towards the back. Having clicked apertures also makes it easy to figure out what the aperture will be just by counting their clicks in my head.
Ease of Use
First off, this lens doesn’t have autofocus contacts. So you won’t see the aperture data in the viewfinder. You’ll either need to look at the lens then set the aperture, or count the clicks that you’ve memorized. If you’re not used to manual focus lenses and their intricacies, you’re not going to be happy with this lens. I’ve met many photographers who dream of Leicas, pick them up, and hate the manual focus nature.
Let me offer a different philosophy: not everything needs to be done for me. I’m legally blind, one of the youngest photography publishers in the world, an entrepreneur, and I’ve faced racism, ageism, and my disability. But I’ve never let a manual focus lens stop me from making great photos and bringing people to my website.
If I, a mere mortal, can face down these odds, then you too can simply twist a ring on a lens to achieve focus. And you probably will have an easier time of it than I will.
To reiterate, this is a manual focus lens. I recommend using a combination of focus peaking and magnification to ensure the Pergear 35mm f1.4 focuses on precisely what you want. I say this because Sony’s focus peaking, while it’s improved, is still pretty awful. Canon’s is better. But I’m convinced most of the industry uses Sony’s focus peaking system. So magnify if you want sharp focus on your subject.
Alternatively, I strongly suggest learning how to zone focus. We did the video above is one many years ago on YouTube. Take a look.
Well, imagine how impressed I was when I saw this photo? The photos from each section in our Image Quality analysis are unedited and straight from the camera. I never thought a clinically clean Sony render would work in conjunction with this lens to deliver such a gorgeous photo. The colors are muted but have character. There’s also a balance of both softness and sharpness. Let’s go on!
Look at this! There’s sharpness, beautiful bokeh, etc. When I shot the above image, my friend Juan predicted pretty much what this image would look like. 10 aperture blades help make this bokeh look stunning and cinematic. Combine this with the close focusing distance of just under one foot, and you’ll be very pleased.
And trust me, it gets better.
Let me put it this way: I bought a Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia lens because I wanted Zeiss colors. And the Pergear 35mm f1.4 is giving me what I feel is close to Zeiss colors at a much more affordable price point. There’s a muted nature to them while maintaining a vibrant quality. And that’s undeniably stunning.
Around the edges, there’s a bit of bokeh swirl: something many of us have wanted in the past few years. When lots of our reviews team joined, they were used to clinical lenses. But when they began looking at the swirly bokeh of other lenses, they started to change their minds. Lots of folks I know have. And this is no exception.
There’s a sharpness to this lens when you carefully focus and have your subject perfectly shot. Because this isn’t a lens with coupled aperture and focusing, I’m not sure I’d use it with a flash. However, if you think this output is sharp, it will be even sharper with a well-metered flash.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy the Pergear 35mm f1.4?
I’m tempted to ask another question: who shouldn’t buy the Pergear 35mm f1.4? The photographers who work in demanding environments, can’t work with zone focusing or manual focusing, and need autofocus shouldn’t get the Pergear 35mm f1.4. But it’s so affordable you should probably get one and throw it in your bag.
If you’re a video shooter that changes the aperture while shooting (like a weirdo), then don’t get this lens.
These specs were given to us by Pergear
- Focal Length: 35mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Lens Mount: E/Z/EOS-R/L
- Lens Format Coverage: Full-frame
- Angle of View: 63.2°
- Minimum Focus Distance: 30 cm
- Aperture Ring: Clicked Aperture
- Optical Design: 7 Elements in 5 Groups
- Diaphragm Blades: 10
- Focus Type: Manual Focus
- Image Stabilization: No
- Filter Size: 43 mm (Front)
- Dimensions (ø x L): 59.6 x 49 mm
- Weight: 245g
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