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Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 II Lens
4/5

About


The all new 85mm f/1.8 II (mark ii) lens from Viltrox is a moderate improvement over the previous generation - the PFU RBMH 85MM F1.8 STM. The autofocus is a bit faster than the already capable performance of the Mark I, and perhaps a tad more accurate. Weight is the only area the Viltrox shows marked improvement, being roughly half the weight of its predecessor (2.16 down to 1.06 lbs) . This comes at the cost of a little less glamour feature wise and you'll notice that the markings are now painted on rather than being engraved as with the previous version. In addition to this, the 85mm Mark ii boasts a better lens hood, which viltrox say is a Japanese lotus design. Based on their verbiage, it's difficult to know if this is a lens hood designed to look like a Japanese lotus or if it is a lotus style hood, designed by the Japanese.

Overall, it's an upgrade, albeit a moderate one. Of course, at its current price point of $399, it's hard to complain about anything.


Where to get it



Note: We purchased the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 Mark II lens used in this review with our own money. This review is independent and is not sponsored by Viltrox or endorsed by them in  any way.

Lens model: Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 STM ED IF Mark II
Release date: June, 2020


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Pros and cons


Cons.

No firmware updates (currently)
No tactile controls
No weather sealing
Average flare resistance
Somewhat heavy

Pros

Great build quality
Excellent value
Sony full-frame e-mount native
Nice minimalistic appearance
Smooth bokeh
Fast, accurate autofocus
Lighter than M1 predecessor
Built-in firmware update port


Alternatives to Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 Mark II

  1. Comparable: Tokina ATX-M 85mm f/1.8 Lens for Sony E ★★★★
    In my opinion, the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 lens is a bit sharper than the Tokina and it goes for about $100 less. It also seems like the colors are a bit warmer and closer to life than Tokina's. What's more, the Viltrox has a firmware upgrade port built in, whereas there is currently no way to upgrade firmware on the Tokina. It's rumored that Tokina will release a firmware upgrade dock at some point, but that will likely come at an extra premium beyond the already $100 heftier price tag. For those wanting to save even more, there's also an even cheaper manual focus version of this Viltrox lens with virtually identical optics and a buttery smooth mechanically actuated focus ring that sells for about $300 less than the Tokina 85mm f/1.8.
  2. Comparable: Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 STM Mark I Lens for Sony E-Mount | ★★★★
    Optically, this lens is nearly identical to the Mark I version from what I can tell as is the overall design. The mark II currently sells for the same price as its Mark I counterpart, but features an upgraded lens hood, faster autofocus, and noticeably lighter constuction. Unlike the Mark I, the Mark II version does not yet have a way to upgrade the aperture to a faster, wider f/1.6 aperture.
  3. Better: Samyang/Rokinon AF 85mm f/1.4 Lens for Sony E SYIO85AF-E | ★★★★
    At its current price point of just $599, Samyang’s 85mm f/1.4 autofocus lens is about $200 more than the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8. This lens offers comparable build quality and autofocus. At it's best, the Samyang has a bit creamier bokeh and offers a slightly faster and brighter aperture. Firmware updates are provided via an optional and sometimes rather hard to find Samyang lens docking station which comes at an additional premium.
  4. Better: Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 Lens SEL85F18/2 ★★★★
    The bokeh quality of Sony's 85mm f/1.8 FE isn't quite as smooth as this new Viltrox lens in my opinion. The Sony's autofocus is about as accurate as the viltrox, although somewhat louder and it seems negligibly slower as well. I'd say the Sony has marginally better perceptual sharpness than the Viltrox, although I'm not sure that it's actually any sharper resolution wise. You'll currently pay about $200 more if you opt for this lens.
  5. Better: ZEISS Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens for Sony E 2103-751 Our score:★★★★★
    While significantly more expensive, this lens does outperform the Viltrox with arguably better build quality, sharpness, color, contrast, and autofocus performance. It's also got built-in image stabilization and features a sleek looking OLED display, which could be useful for some low ligh shooting scanarios and, let's face it, just looks cool. All of that coolness will run you almost $700 more.
  6. Better: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens SEL85F14GM ★★★★★
    Sony's 85mm GMaster is one of the best prime lenses you can get at this focal length and, besides being wider and faster, it outperforms Viltrox in sharpness across the frame, flare resistance, orbital bokeh quality, features, color, contrast, and handling. It's currently about $1300 more though, so I'd only recommend it to serious pro photographers and enthusiasts with deeper pockets who know why they need it versus excellent lower cost options.
  7. Better: Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Sony E 321965 ★★★★★
    While heavier, much larger, and a lot more expensive, Sigma's no-comprmise 85mm f/1.4 outperforms Tokina's lens and rivals Sony's GMaster 85mm f/1.4 at a significantly lower price-point. While I think that the the GMaster does have a bit better autofocus performace, I still consider Sigma's offering to be among the best 85mm e-mount lenses that money can buy. In fact, I personally prefer it optically to the GMaster. I also love that it's hand crafted in Japan to some seriously high standards and rigorous quality control.

Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 Mark II first impressions

Upon taking this lens out of the box, the first thing that really struck me was how much lighter the Mark II is in comparison to the Mark I version I own and have been using for about half a year. Don't get me wrong - the same solid feeling you get with the mark I is there, it's just lighter somehow.

Aesthetically, it's pretty much identical to the Mark I from what I can tell, with the exception of a new plastic lens hood that's petal shaped this time around. Without this new additional, you'd be hard pressed to visually differentiate between the two lenses.

As far as performance goes, it does seem that the Mark II is a bit faster and more accurate autofocus wise, although I didn't really find the first 85mm iteration to be sorely lacking in that department.

The one thing I found rather disappointing was that the magic firmware upgrade to a faster, brighter f/1.6 aperture that you can do with the Mark 1, doesn't appear to exist yet for the Mark 2. Of course, this isn't to say that Viltrox won't do something like this for the Mark 2, but it's yet to be seen if they will and that's worth keeping in mind if you're trying to choose between the two lenses.

Image quality wise, I found both the original 85mm f/1.8 and the mark 2 version to be more-or-less identical, so don't expect to notice any meaningful sort of difference here.

If you currently own the first version of this lens and are looking to upgrade, it's worth noting that the two benefits you'll get from this lens are faster autofocus and an overall lighter construction. If you're happy with the current weight and speed of the mark 1, I'd say stick with it because everything else, except the lens hood, is going to be virtually identical to the previous generation. If you don't own either lens, think of the choice as being between a faster maximum aperture (f/1.6) on the Mark I and faster autofocus on the Mark II.

Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 II specifications

Model #: AF 85/1.8 II FE
Focal range: 85mm
Magnification range: 0.12x
Maximum aperture: f/1.8
Minimum aperture: f/16
Number of aperture blades: 9
Angle of view: 28.5 degrees
Optical formula: 10 Elements in 7 Groups
Minimum focal distance (MFD): 2.62' / 80 cm to infinity
Filter thread size: 72mm
Lens hood: PL-07 (included)
Mount type: Sony Full-Frame E-Mount (FE)
Feature name Feature (Y/N/NA)
Zoom ring N/A
Focus ring Yes (textured metal)
Autofocus Yes
Focus type Focus-by-wire
Focus motor Yes (ST-M Stepping AF Motor)
Image stabilization No
Optical coating(s) Yes (Super Low Reflection Multi-Coating)
Front element rotation while focusing No
Internal focusing Yes
Lens extension while focusing No
Lens extension while zooming N/A
Dedicated autofocus on/off switch No
Dedicated focus hold button No
Zoom lock to prevent focal length shift N/A

Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 MII image Quality

The image quality of this lens is surprisingly good, especially at this price point. As far as I can see, it doesn't appear to have changed since the previous version one bit, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Rendering is crisp on the subject and soft and subdued in the defocused areas of the background, especially wide open. Also like its predecessor, this lens is fairly prone to green and purple chromatic abberation, which is fairly typical for lenses at this focal length.

Sample Images

Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 II bokeh

Bokeh is definitely one of the strong points of this lens along with very sharp rendering at center, even when shot wide open. At this price point, there's really nothing that comes close to matching this lens in these two areas.

Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 MII build quality

Like the mark 1 version of this lens, the mark 2 seems to be exceptionally rugged in its construction. While lighter than its predecessor, it still feels solid and the housing is metal. My only minor complaint is that the letters are now painted onto the lens instead of being engraved into the metal housing, as with the previous version.

Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 II autofocus

I thought the previous generation of this lens was respectably fast and could hold its own against more expensive competitors. Viltrox has still managed to squeeze even more accuracy and speed out of their autofocus system with the mark II and it's a joy to use and on par with some of the very best in this focal range.

Features

Features aren't an area that this lens excels as it has no tactile buttons or switches to speak of. Optically, like the mark 1, it features a 9 blade "hypercircle" aperture that helps produce pleasing and buttery smooth bokeh, a micro-usb type-b type firmware update port located at the base of the mount, and single fluorite glass element. Like the previous version, this lens supports Sony's eye autofocus, and in-body image stabilization (if your camera happens to have it).

Optical construction

Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 STM ED IF Mark II lens design elements
Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 STM ED IF Mark II Lens Design
  1. Large diameter, double-sided aspherical short wave length, high transparency front element
  2. HD Nano multilayer coated optical element
  3. Short wave length, high transparency optical element
  4. HD Nano multilayer coated optical element
  5. Short wave length, high transparency optical element
  6. Short wave length, high transparency optical element
  7. HD Nano multilayer coated optical element
  8. Short wave length, high transparency optical element
  9. ED (Extra-low Dispersion) optical element (fluorite glass)
  10. HD Nano multilayer coated optical element

Ideas for improvement

  • As with the mark I, a physical aperture ring would have been an inviting addition to this lens for filmmakers, but at this price point I can't complain that it doesn't have one.
  • Weather sealing would have been a big plus. Even something as simple as a splash proof/dust proof seal at the mount would have been massively appreciated.
  • A physical switch to toggle between autofocus and manual focus modes would have been something I would have loved. I do a lot of product photography and find lenses that have this feature to be tremendously useful. It makes switching between modes a lot more intuitive. Again though, at this price point, it's not something I would expect to see as a feature.