When you take the typical bright nifty fifty and add a tilt function, magic happens. The Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt is a bright prime lens shooting straight on. But, use the tilt feature, and create art with a narrow slice of focus. While the Astrhori is far from being the only 50mm Tilt for under $300, the price, metal build, and wide range of compatible mounts will undoubtedly grab the attention of a few photographers.
The question is, is that magic too good to be true? What kind of image quality can you get from a sub-$300 lens from Astrhori? I tested the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt to find out.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt is a lovely little metal tilt-shift lens that sells for under $300. The wide aperture and tilting design create some beautiful bokeh and a narrow slice of focus. Directed at the sun, the lens can generate some epic creative flare. With mounts available for Sony E, Leica L, Micro Four Thirds, Canon R, Nikon Z, and Fuji X, it’s also a lens that will fit a variety of different bodies — and budgets. The metal build will also win over many photographers.
While the lens is excellent glass for the price, pixel peepers may be irked by some chromatic aberration. The mix of manual focus and tilting design can also make getting a sharp shot a challenge that requires patience, focus peaking and sometimes trial and error. The lens also isn’t weather-sealed — but it’s hard to hold that against this lens, considering the price point.
Overall, the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt is a great lens for any photographer that wants to break from the sterile, technically excellent optics for a creative challenge. I’m giving the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt four out of five stars.
- Tilt capabilities create a fun narrow slice of focus.
- The lens flare is pretty epic.
- The colors are great.
- Bokeh, and the tilt blur is rather lovely.
- Yes! This lens has a metal design.
- Very affordable.
- Comes in multiple lens mounts.
- Some significant chromatic aberration under certain conditions, which also creates some onion ring bokeh.
- As a manual focus only, this lens can sometimes take some practice to get right.
- No weather sealing.
I tested the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt in the E-Mount variation with the Sony a1. The lens was gifted by Astrhori; the body was on loan from Sony via LensRentals.
What’s unique about the Astrhori is that it’s an affordable tilt shift lens, yet it has a full metal build. Is it the only 50mm f1.4 tilt shift found for under $300? Well, no. It shares some competition with TTArtisan and Lensbaby.
For a bright lens with twist capability, the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt maintains a compact profile. The lens weighs roughly 12 ounces and sits at just under three inches long.
Despite having very little real estate, there are three twisting rings on this lens. The ring closest to the mount locks and unlocks the twist capabilities. This allows the photographer to twist the sphere-like shape that the remainder of the lens sits on in order to get a narrow slice or focus or a miniature effect. A dotted line serves as a guide for when a standard, non-titled look is desired. This ring does allow the lens to twist all the way around — when I first opened the box and mounted the lens, the labels were on the wrong side. It’s an easy fix — just don’t get too overzealous with the twisting, or you’ll lose the aperture labels and focal distance scale.
The next two rings are the focus ring and the aperture ring. Both turn smoothly without any clicks and are accompanied by labels. The middle piece that doesn’t move lists the range of apertures so it’s easy to see what distances will be in focus at the selected aperture setting. I also really liked the old-school look the focal distance scale gives this lens.
The Astrhori lacks weather sealing — unsurprising for a $259 third-party lens. But what was surprising was the build quality. It’s a metal lens. The body feels just as nice as some of my pricier Fujifilm lenses. That’s great news since, with both manual focus and a tilt function, my hands spent a lot of time on this lens. While I wish it had some sealing to keep dust out of the many rings, it feels pretty sturdy for the price point.
The Astrohori 50mm f1.4 Tilt is a manual focus lens only. Using focus peaking, focusing wasn’t terribly challenging unless I was trying to focus up close at f1.4. The lens is capable of shooting from about 1.3 feet or .4 meters away from the subject. The focus ring turned nice and smooth, and the manual focus-only design forced me to slow down and put more thought into each shot.
The real challenge to focusing with this lens is when intentionally adding blur from both the wide aperture and the tilt shift function. In that scenario, I did find myself needing to step down the aperture occasionally in order to get a sharp shot.
Ease of Use
Manual focus lenses tend to be more challenging to use than autofocus optics — and then you toss in a tilt-shift feature. Using the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt isn’t as quick and simple as a basic kit lens. Like other manual focus lenses, it forced me to slow down — which is almost always a good thing. The lens requires some patience and experimenting. Focus peaking will also help here as well. But, while the lens slowed me down, I didn’t find it frustrating either.
While the lens isn’t terribly difficult, I wouldn’t recommend it for brand new photographers. That’s because the lack of electronic contacts means the lens needs to be shot in P, S, A, or M modes. Photographers should be comfortable shooting in manual or semi-manual modes before picking up this lens.
For such an affordable lens, the image quality coming from the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt is quite excellent. The bokeh and tilt blur is rather stunning, and so are the colors. Point this at the sun and get some entertaining flare effects. It’s not all fun and games — there is some occasional but strong chromatic aberration to tend to.
Even with the lens not tilted, the f1.4 aperture is plenty to create some nice background separation. Tilt the lens, and there’s just a tiny slice of focus. This can really draw the eye when used creatively.
Points of light, most of the time, are rendered into soft, circular bokeh that smudges towards the edges when the tilt function is used. When the lens is pointed directly at a light source strong enough to create some chromatic aberration, then the bokeh balls tend to take on an onion ring edge as well as a green and purple coloration.
In most scenarios, the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt delivers great colors. The tones were deep and dramatic without being so overdone that they didn’t feel true to the scene. When this lens is directed towards the sun, however, it can create some strong chromatic aberration, noticeable even when not pixel peeping at 100 percent. There’s a really fine line between creating fun flare and wreaking havoc on the image quality with purple fringing, so experimenting with the right angles is a must.
I love playing with lens flare, and here, the 50mm didn’t disappoint. Sometimes, the sun turned into a starburst through the trees. Placed on the edge of the frame, the sun creates a horizontal streak of flare with a little bit of color. The variety of flare here is fun to play with, but, again, the challenge is shooting to maximize creative flare while still minimizing chromatic aberration.
When tilted to the extreme, parts of the lens itself will create black vignetting that’s irreversible even in RAW files. That’s just something to be cautious of when shooting and using the tilt function.
Tilt-shift lenses are better known for creative blur than tack sharpness. With some patience, however, the subject is acceptably sharp. It’s not the razor-sharpness of most modern lenses, but I thought it was a refreshing break from the overly technical. Pixel peepers may not agree with me — or need to narrow down the f1.4 aperture a bit.
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 It?
Buy the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt if you need to break free from technically sterile images and want to do so with a slice of focus, fun flare, and an affordable price tag. The lens delivers some pretty great images with it’s tilt capabilities and wide aperture. The metal build also makes it a joy to shoot with.
Avoid the Astrhori 50mm f1.4 Tilt if chromatic aberration is one of your pet peeves, you want a lens that can go out in a drizzle, or you love pixel peeping. Beginners that haven’t yet mastered manual mode should also steer clear at least until some of those modes are mastered.
Astrhori lists the following specifications for the 50mm f1.4 Tilt:
- Focal length: 50mm
- Filter size: 46mm
- Aperture size: f1.4-f16
- Frame: Full frame
- Size: 50mm diameter, 75mm length
- Angle of view: 43.2
- Focusing range: 0.4m to infinity
- Focus method: Manual
- Diaphragm blade: 12 pieces
- Optical structure 7 elements in 6 groups
- Weight 339g
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