Viltrox PFU RBMH 85MM F1.8 STM lens Review

Fuji’s ace in the hole

There is no doubt that one of the strong aspects of the Fujifilm platform is that, like Canon, Fujifilm puts a strong emphasis on the making of excellent quality glass for their X and G line of camera products. For me, Fuji’s attention to the production of exceptional lenses for their X line of cameras has always been a key factor in my decision to switch to Fuji. I have always thought that you can have the best technology in a camera but if it is capturing crappy light from a bad lens, the result will still be a bad picture.  I would say with confidence that 80% of all Fuji glass is exceptional. And that even their lowest quality glass (made for entry level) is still the best in class.

But what about affordable lenses?

So Fuji supplies a whole bunch of excellent quality lenses for its platform but with that comes a cost. Unlike some of the big manufacturers like Canon, and Nikon, Fuji suffers from not having a great deal of 3rd party manufacturers making lower cost good quality alternatives to their native lens line. Mitakon, Rokinon/Samyang, Meike, 7Artisans, Opteka make good lens options but often supply a cut down no auto-focus style that many of us see no added value in getting. But now Viltrox, a munufacturer out of HongKong, that has specialized for years in the production of lens adapters, has hopped into the auto-focus lens game with a line of auto focus lenses for Fuji X-mount, and Sony E-mount. Viltrox sent me their new PFU RBMH 85MM F1.8 STM lens to look at and give you guys a bit of an assessment. I can tell you now that in its price range I was pretty darned impressed.

Viltrox PFU RBMH 85MM F1.8 STM Lens specifications

  • Focal length: 85mm fixed
  • F range: 1.8 – 16
  • 9 aperture blades
  • Made for X mount Fuji APS-C
  • No F ring aperture is controlled electronically
  • 10 elements in 7 groups including one ED lens and four short-wavelength high-definition nano multi-layer coating
  • Antifouling coating and waterproof front lens
  • 72mm filter size
  • Weighs 636 grams

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Build quality and ergonomics

First and foremost you must understand that this lens is not light. Weighing in at 636 grams, one can feel it on the end of your lightweight X-T3 and especially on an X-T30. Also understand that it is not a small lens either but, as always I say, great lenses tend to be big and heavy.

The lens itself is extremely well constructed showing all the tell tale elements of solid construction. This includes thick metal lens tubing, strong front element ring thickness, all metal lens mount and great in-mount fit when mounting to a Fuji camera. Even the lens hood and front and back lens caps are very solidly made. The devil is in the details and for build construction I can only say way to go Viltrox.

What no F ring?

This lens has no physical ring to adjust aperture. Therefore, all those who got into the Fuji system to have that “old school” analogue experience, this might not be the lens for you. Stick to Fuji if an F ring is absolutely a necessity. When first mounting this lens your camera will most likely default to an auto F setting. I myself struggled on getting to get my X-T30 to work manually but with a bit of custom button settings I came out with a good way to manually and electronically adjust aperture.

 

The Viltrox comes with a small sun shade and a lens bag

The Focus ring that you either love or hate

Although extremely well constructed, the focus ring has a higher than normal resistance. I personally like this but know that others might not be as charmed. For anyone who uses manual focus a great deal in a workflow where focus changes quickly and extremely this would not be that great, but for those who like that sure type of feel will fall in love with the resistance on this particular focus ring.

Focusing performance is damned snappy

I used the lens with the Fujifilm X-T30 body and was quite impressed by the focus snappiness of this lens. Beating out some of the native, less performing Fujinon lenses that I already have.  Namely, it left the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 in the dirt. Its focus performance was definitely on par with what I would want out of a portrait lens for sure. This is just not something you would expect from any 3rd party lens. Again Viltrox really scored high for me on the performance side. I am very pleasantly surprised.

Who is the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 for?

It goes without saying that the Viltrox lens will appeal highly to those on a limited budget. Its price pulls you right in and says “buy me!”.  Although I would forcefully say that the Fujinon 90mm f/2.0 outperforms the Viltrox for CAs and overall sharpness opened up, the margin by which it outperforms the Viltrox is surprisingly small. Sure it is sharper at f/2.0 but that margin is narrows when reaching f/4.o. The Viltrox offers a more opened aperture and will attract people who care a tad less on that pixel peeped sharpness and more about creamy bokeh and super shallow depth of field. The Bokeh delivered by the Viltrox is also extremely impressive as is focus speed and build quality (Things one looks for in this focal range). I think that the photographer who loves to get a portrait feel and vibe out of a photo might want to think about this lens very very seriously. Therefore, it is, no doubt, and extremely serious option for the portrait photographer, nature photographer and even fashion studio photographer as it is quite sharp closed down.

This focal makes the Viltrox 85 even more attractive

The nature of this focal also makes it an extremely attractive option because one does not use any fixed focal lens in the 70 to 135 range a great deal. Although needed, it often stays in the camera bag. For this reason one would tend to want to minimize costs on a lens that is a necessity but will be used a lot less than say a 50mm full frame equivalent. So Cudos to Viltrox for delivering a great low cost option in this focal range. With weak points where one using this focal range will not care and strong points where one needs them.

Although I still stick to the idea that the Fujinon 90mm f/2.0 is THE best APS-C lens out there but I have to highly recommend this lens to anyone shopping in this focal range. Way to go Viltrox.

Pros

  • Fantastic when closed past f/4
  • Great creamy Bokeh
  • Price is great for what you get
  • Surprisingly quick and snappy auto focus
  • Seemless auto focus integration
  • Overall great sharpness

Cons

  • Quite soft totally open at 1.8
  • Weight is substantial
  • Analogue F option (using a physical dial) is lost
  • Focus ring resistance is not for all
  • Lens hood lets in reflections. I believe it is a tad short for this focal length

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