Viltrox AF 56mm f/1.4 STM review

Lens review summary

 

The Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 along with the 23mm f/1.4 is Viltrox’s latest Fujifilm mirrorless camera 3rd party lens offering. In this blog post, we will be analyzing image quality, build construction, and focus performance. 

 

Small note:

Although this is not a full comparison of the Viltrox 56mm to the Fujinon 56mm, I cannot ignore that I have both the viltrox 56mm and the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 in my possession. Therefore, even though this review is a single product review, it sort of doubles as a comparison review as well.

Two 56mm lenses in front of a Fujifilm camera
On the left is the Fujinon XF56mm f/1.2R. To the right is the Viltrox AF 56mm f/1.4 STM. Both lenses will be tested on the Fujifilm X-T3 seen in the background.

Can the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 measure up?

 

A while back I was amazed at the quality of the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8. This lens was a pure dream. The Vilrox 85mm f/1.8 was fantastic in build quality, image quality, focus performance, and most of all, price. Viltrox just added a new autofocus focal length offering for the Fuji X mount cameras with this 56mm f/1.4 autofocus lens. Let’s see if this 56mm can keep up to the goodness of the 85mm f1.8.

Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM lens Specifications

  • Focal length: 56m fixed
  • F range (Aperture opening range): 1.4 – 16
  • 9 aperture blades
  • Made for X mount Fuji APS-C
  • Non stepped F-ring
  • 9 elements in 10 groups
  • 52mm filter size
  • Weighs 290grams
  • Focus motor STM+Lead screw
  • Focus range .6m – infinity
  • Not weather sealed
  • USB firmware upgradable (Cannot test though)
Viltrox 56mm back element view with Fujfilm XT3 in the background
Side view of the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM with lens cap
Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM with lens cap.

Construction, build quality and feel in hand.

 

Construction on the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 is excellent. The lens tube, bayonet mount, and lens hood are made out of very sturdy metal. It has that old school quality feel that many hardcore photographers like having. The construction quality of this lens will not disappoint anyone. Even the plastic lens cap has a solid click when putting it on the lens.

lens bayonette mount
The Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM has metal construction through and through.

Viltrox has taken an interesting approach to their aperture ring, being that it is non-stopped. The aperture ring does not physically click or step between each aperture value. A non stopped aperture ring has always been a plus for videographers*. However, some photographers like it, and some do not.

 *Please note that, although your physical aperture has no steps, the aperture by wire adjustment is stepped. Therefore, only the feel when adjusting is gradual.

I liked the aperture ring feel for both photography and video. I also think that this aperture ring is a better approach than not having an aperture dial at all. The amazing Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 has this problem, forcing you to adjust your lens aperture electronically.

close up photo of a fire hydrant

Feel in hand is excellent for both the aperture ring and the focusing ring. Resistance is nice and definitely to my liking. It is smooth but not too loose. I was surprised that such an inexpensive lens could feel so professional. 

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Performance Focus speed

 

When using the Fujifilm X system, all focussing and even aperture settings are by wire. FBW (focus by wire) means that the focusing ring sends a signal to the body and lens mechanism, which interprets the information to make the necessary adjustments. For both aperture and focusing, the Viltrox 56mm is extremely quick. 

 

Focusing tests at both single and continuous focus settings show that the lens is as fast as it can be. I tested the lens on the Fujifilm X-T3. I was not disappointed. 

 

Both filmmakers and photographers will be happy with this lens. It is reliable at getting focus quickly and very reliable when using point focus or eye detect continuous autofocus.

Optical quality

 

Optical quality of this lens is quite sharp across the board for a 56mm. For sharpness, it easily matches the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2. However, like the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8, it softens out at the edges compared to its Fujinon counterpart. The difference is totally negligible, however. Personally, I feel that you can ignore this for a lens that retails at $329 on Amazon.

leaves lying on the ground

Image quality and color fidelity is spot on. The micro-contrast for the Viltrox 56 is very nice. I was also surprised at the lovely image rendition when processing my photos in black and white. All my images in Adobe Bridge and  Adobe Photoshop looked stunning.

Purple fringing with the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM is present and is not something to be ignored. Although it is nothing that you cannot take out in post, be aware that it is there when shooting backlit and very high contrast scenes.

Bokeh

 

To me, the highlight of this lens is its bokeh. It is smooth and very creamy. It might have a lot to do with the rounded aperture blades and many other technical reasons. To be quite honest with you, I do not really care. The results tell the tale. Please look at the photos below and judge for yourself.

photo of leaf in focus and a blurry background
Bokeh on this camera is really unbeatable. Subject isolation is made easy with such an almost unreal blur like this.

Semi-macro minimum focusing distance

 

Another cool feature worth mentioning is that the minimum focusing distance on this lens is .6 meters. I tested and measured and found this claim to be true. By playing around with closer shots and a bit of crop hacking, you can get a macro-ish feel to your photos.

small close up picture of a camera shaped key chain
With a .6 meter minimum focusing distance you can get an almost macro like feel to many photos.

USB firmware update port available

 

Although it is worth mentioning, this 56mm lens also has a USB port at the base. It will, most likely, be for future firmware updates. It is a bit too soon to tell you if it works or not as this lens just came out. Make sure to check the date of this post. If it is more than a year old, drop a comment to make sure that I return and do a small update on this port’s effectiveness.

Conclusion

 

The retail price of the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM lens is $329 US. Its quality rivals, and sometimes even surpasses, the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 that retails at about $850.

Although I believe that the Fujinon has a small edge optically, it struggles to justify the enormous price hike. Especially due to the fact that the Fujinon 56mm struggles with sluggish focusing speeds and almost no optical edge on the Viltrox.

In 2020, you will get a whole lot of value for your money, a whole lot of bokeh, stunning image sharpness, and incredible fidelity out of the less expensive Viltrox lens. Anyone looking to get into the portrait photography or street photography game will not be disappointed.

The price of the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM is entry-level, but the lens itself is professional all the way.

Highly recommended!  

thumbs up with stars

Pros of the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM

 

  • Price to quality ratio is amazing
  • Small and lightweight for such a fast focal length
  • Quality construction
  • Excellent dial smoothness and operation
  • Image quality is excellent

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Cons of the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM

 

  • Somewhat softer than its more expensive competitor
  • Too soon to know about support options at Viltrox
  • No others at this price range
  • Some CAs in high light high contrast situations

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The Viltrox 56mm f/1.4 STM is for?

 

  • Any and all portrait photographers
  • Street photographers looking for an inexpensive prime lens
  • Product photographers due to its short focusing distance
  • If you love primes in general, get one

Jacques Gaines looking in a camera pointing upward

About the author

I am a photographer, videographer, and copywriter living in Quebec City, Canada. I also have a YouTube channel and an Instagram account dedicated to creation and creativity via my main loves of photography, music, and writing.

To get in touch with me and discuss your collaboration, service needed, or advice, either go to the contact page and write to me via the contact form at the foot of this page.

Other pertinent articles

 

Looking for bokeh but might want to check out other lenses?

The Viltrox 85mm is a dream. Check out my review!

Watch the vlog of my bokeh pursuit with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART lens!

Working with a GFX? Check out this review on the best bokeh lens for that camera system The 110mm f/2

For those of you who want to see why I decided to not compare my copy of the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 and the Viltrox 56mm f/1.4, watch this video

8 Responses to Viltrox AF 56mm f/1.4 STM review

    • Well. All the innards of the X-T3 and the X-T3 are the same. So I would imagine that the results, image-wise, would be pretty darned similar. As for actual ergonomics, I would prefer this over the Fujinon 56mm as it is way lighter and smaller. The video review is coming soon so stay tuned but I am thoroughly impressed. Cheers and thanks for commenting!

  1. Jon

    “The Viltrox 56mm f/1.8 along with the 23mm f/1.4 is Viltrox’s latest Fujifilm mirrorless camera 3rd party lens offering. In this blog post, we will be analyzing image quality, build construction, and focus performance. ”

    Might want to fix that typo in the first sentence. f/1.4 not f/1.8.

      • Norbert

        I think is from the aperture blades because it only makes when is in auto mode and trying to adjust the brightens.
        The noise is similar to the older Fuji lenses like the 35 f1.4
        The focus motor is smooth and silent.

        • Yup. It’s the aperture blades. Just got to hear it now. I agree it does make of a small scraping sound as if it is the blades rubbing against each other. It is a good point as this might be another reason for video-makers to not jump up and down. The sound is loud enough to affect audio capture when a video mic is on the camera though.

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