If there’s one lens that convinced me that Viltrox is a 3rd party lens manufacturer to really watch out for, it’s the Viltrox AF 16mm f1.8 full-frame lens. This lens blew me away from the moment I took it out of the box. The build quality for this price point was jaw-dropping. The sharpness nearly made me tear up with happiness. And the autofocus wasn’t just speedy; I can’t remember one frame where it missed the mark. It’s almost too good to be true, except it is. Viltrox knocks it out of the park with this lens, which will surely be a hit with landscape, cityscape, architecture, and night sky photographers.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The autofocus on the Viltrox AF 16mm f1.8 lens is blazing quick; the sharpness is incredible for a lens at this price point, and the build quality is exceptional. The distortion? Almost non-existent. Weather sealing? You got it. Want a physical aperture ring? It’s there for you. Worried about your 77m screw-on filters being left unused? Not anymore; this lens has no bulbous front element. In short, Viltrox may have just created the perfect ultrawide lens for amateur and professional photographers and videographers. Currently available for Sony’s FE mount, it’ll soon make its way to more brands’ cameras. This lens could and should have other manufacturers shaking in their boots. It’s a fascinatingly good lens for such an affordable price, and it will tick off all the boxes that many photographers (and videographers) looking for an ultrawide lens would have.
There’s really no way this lens is getting less than 5 stars for its excellent performance and fantastic value for money. Want one? You can get it from Amazon right away.
- Exceptional sharpness, even at f1.8 (yes you read that right. It’s f1.8, not f2.8)
- Super-useful LCD screen on the top that also acts as a distance scale
- Surprisingly low minimum focal distance of 27cm(10 5/8 in).
- Aperture ring with de-click option
- Really quick autofocus
- Weather sealed
- Only USD 549
- Just 550g (19.4 oz) in weight
- USB-C port allows firmware updates in the future
- Two programmable FN (function) buttons
- Non-bulbous front element allows you to use 77mm screw-on filters.
- Currently only available for Sony FE mount. I hope this is released for other mounts ASAP.
- I wish the lens hood wasn’t made of plastic. It doesn’t go with the premium feel of the lens body.
This is possibly the fastest 16mm autofocus lens, with a wide aperture of f1.8. It’s not quite the fastest ultrawide lens though; that honor goes to the recently announced Sigma 14mm f1.4 lens.
Several firsts appear to have made their way to Viltrox with this lens. They have added an MF/AF switch here, something that seems to be missing in the rest of their lineup. While they do have aperture rings on many of their other lenses, this one seems to be the first that has a de-click option for this ring. Viltrox has also cleverly added two programmable function buttons on this lens. And the cherry on the cake is the handy LCD screen on the top of the lens.
The finishing on this lens is very similar to most of Viltrox’s recent lenses. What immediately distinguishes this model, visually, is the LCD screen on the top. This displays focal distance while you’re autofocusing or manually focusing. It also shows aperture values, among other things.
Coming in at around half a kilo in weight, this lens feels solid in your hands. Adding to that solid feel is the smooth-finished all-metal body. Even the manual focus ring appears to be made of metal. At no point do you feel like you’re using a sub-1000 USD lens.
Most of the ultrawide 3rd party lenses I’ve used so far have always felt like a compromise of some sort. That is almost immediately evident when you first hold the lens. They’ve often looked plasticky and cheap or don’t have the best quality materials on the outside. Optically they may do the job, but they’ve not often made you want to use them for passion projects because they don’t feel good to the touch. This lens is quite the opposite of all of those lenses in this regard.
You’re getting weather sealing and dust resistance in the Viltrox AF 16mm f1.8 FE lens. The lens mount is also made of metal which aids in this.
Would it have really cost much more to have a metal lens hood too? I can’t say for sure, but the plastic lens hood just does not go with the feel of the lens. Not a deal breaker in any way though.
Ease Of Use
I think it’s fantastic that Viltrox has allowed the use of screw-on filters here. Especially since their 20mm f1.8 lens has such a bulbous front element. They’ve kept the filter thread diameter to the more common 77mm size, making it much easier for me to use my existing filters. Gone are the days when ultrawide lenses required you to buy expensive filter adapters and bulky square filters.
You can customize those two FN buttons to the various options that your Sony mirrorless camera allows you. It’s super cool to see these in Viltrox lenses now, as they open up many possibilities for professional photographers that require frequent usage of these features.
Nothing to complain about in the autofocus department. I recently reviewed Viltrox’s 35mm f1.8 lens, which, while it was good to autofocus, wasn’t great. This 16mm f1.8 lens is not just faster to autofocus but also supremely more accurate. I don’t think I missed focus (even slightly) on any photos while using the Viltrox AF 16mm f1.8 FE lens. And their STM stepping motor is so silent that you hear nothing. It works well with face and eye auto-focus modes.
The manual focus ring has around 200 degrees of rotation. It’s silky smooth but not so smooth that you have to micro-adjust it to nail the focus.
Focus breathing might be more noticeable if you do a lot of video with this lens. For photographers, the focus breathing on the Viltrox AF 16mm f1.8 lens is really no biggie.
“This 16mm f1.8 lens is not just faster to autofocus but also supremely more accurate.”
Wide angle distortion, especially at the edges, is very well controlled in this lens. The distortion is almost undetectable, I’d say.
I was skeptical about getting much bokeh out of this 16mm lens, but the 1.8 aperture really shines here. The 9 aperture blades give you creamy, smooth bokeh balls. The depth of field falloff looks so pleasant.
I wouldn’t say colors are flat, but rather more on the realistic side. Expect to want to bump up saturation just a little bit during edits. Especially the browns and greys.
Flare is reasonably well controlled, even at narrow apertures. Nothing dramatic to be seen here.
Look at the palm tree in the above two images to observe the distortion at the sides of the lenses. Viltrox has managed to almost eliminate barrel distortion here, which I can’t say I’ve seen in many 3rd party ultrawide lenses.
This is the standout feature of this lens. Viltrox is absolutely killing it here, and even at f1.8 the sharpness of the subject really jumps out at you.
It’s hard to even believe this lens can be so sharp at f1.8. This is the kind of sharpness wide-angle lenses exhibit at apertures f8 and above.
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 Viltrox AF 16mm f1.8 Lens?
If getting ultrawide cityscape, landscape, and even night sky photos, with a super wide aperture of f1.8 and almost distortion-free results is what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed by this lens. It is probably their best one so far, and if this is a sign of things coming from Viltrox, then other brands have something major to worry about.
Taken from the Viltrox Store product page: