VILTROX 40MM F2.5 REVIEW

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Viltrox is releasing their 40mm F2.5 soon (I am not sure when the exact date is at the moment) at the price of USD158. This is the second lens in their budget primes line up, after the first Viltrox 20mm F2.8. They both look very similar, and have similar price tag too. I am privileged to get an advanced copy for review purposes, and I took the lens out for some street photography action. I have made a video review if you prefer to watch in video format (here). I am sharing my thoughts after having used the Viltrox 40mm F2.5 on the streets quite extensively. 

VIltrox 40mm F2.5 for Nikon Z

Full disclaimer: I am not associated or affiliated with Viltrox. They did send me the lens sample for review purposes, and I do get to keep the lens after that. However, I made it very clear to Viltrox that I am free to say my honest opinion about the lens in my review. 

DESIGN, BUILD & HANDLING
The lens is quite small for a full frame lens, with a reasonable wide aperture of F2.5. The compact size and the light weight of 180g only made it a good companion to the small-ish full frame mirrorless Z5, keeping it quite small in footprint. The design is quite minimalistic and in all black. The body construction is made of fully plastic, but it does feature a metal mount, which is appreciated at this price point. There is only one control on the lens, which is the manual focusing ring, and the lens does come with a lens hood provided in the box. While it was in all plastic, the build quality feels fine, there are no creaky parts, and it does not feel filmsy. Of course, you will know this is a budget lens when you put it in your hands, it does not pretend to be a high-grade lens. Pairing it with the Nikon Z5, it was quite a joy to use, handling was good, and I did not feel any discomfort using this combination walking about on the streets for several hours. 

LENS SHARPNESS & BOKEH
The optical construction of this lens, according to Viltrox, consists of 10 elements in 6 groups, which is quite remarkable for its asking price. The higher priced Nikon Z 40mm only has 6 elements. The Viltrox 40mm also features 1 extra low dispersion lens, 1 aspherical lens and 3 high refractive lenses. In real life shooting scenario, I am generally very satisfied with the results rendered by the Viltrox 40mm lens. Images came out decently sharp even shooting at wide open F2.5 and will get a little better when stopped down a little bit. The lens is capable of creating smooth blur background, with no noticeable harshness or nervousness. The bokeh balls look fully round if you shoot at wide open, but if you stop down, the shape will change. 

LENS FLAWS HANDLING
The Viltrox 40mm F2.5 handles lens technical flaws reasonably well. I was most impressed by the strong flare resistance. I was shooting outside, under harsh Malaysian sun without attaching the hood (yes I am one of those photographers who don't use lens hoods). I did not see any flare or ghosting, even when I was pointing the lens directly against the sun. Contrast remains very good in these situations. I notice some degree of barrel distortion, but that was nothing to worry about, as you can easily correct it in post if you need all your lines to be perfectly straight. In most cases, I did not even see the distortion. Chromatic aberration will only appear if you shoot in high contrast areas, and purple fringing is noticeable when you shoot wide open with this lens. As I stopped down the aperture to F4, most traces of purple fringing have diminished. The lens can create very pleasing looking starburst, if you shoot at F16. Overall, the Viltrox 40mm never exhibited any issues or concerns when it comes to image quality.

WHAT I DISLIKE
1. The minimum focusing distance is quite disappointing, at about only 0.34m, giving a maximum reported magnification of 0.14x. If you look at the attached photograph of a burger (there is only one photo of burger here), you can see that the burger appears to be far away and I wish I can go closer and fill the frame with the burger, which was not a small burger to begin with. That will open up more opportunities for creative compositions. 
2. Autofocus generally was quite good, but not stellar. There are chances that the lens will hesitate or hunt for focus, even in bright light. I notice this occurrence maybe 1 in every 10 shots, so it is still performing quite well most of the time. Unlike native Nikon lenses which would give almost 100% hit rate of course. 

VILTOX 40MM F2.5 VS NIKON Z 40MM F2
Of course, we cannot end this review without doing a quick comparison against the Nikon's own Z 40mm F2. I have owned the lens for several months now and have done enough shooting sessions on the street with the lens, on the similar camera body, the Nikon Z5. Do take note that this is not a full detailed side by side comparison, I just want to share some quick and obvious observations. 

Both lenses are very similar in size and weight, the Viltrox being slimmer and longer, while the Nikon being shorter and wider. I'd say Nikon had a bit of advantage here as it does have a brighter aperture of F2 vs F2.5 on Viltrox to begin with, but the size difference is negligible in my books. 

On Nikon's advantage, the image quality appears to be generally a little better overall. I prefer the rendering on Nikon 40mm, there is more pop to the image output. The contrast is also generally better on Nikon, while images look somewhat flatter on the Viltrox 40mm. Nikon's bokeh quality also looks nicer. When it comes to AF, Nikon wins, hands down. The human Face/Eye AI detect is so sticky on the Nikon, while the Viltrox does struggle in rare situations. Nikon claims their 40mm to be drip and dust resistant, but the weather sealing is negated by the plastic mount that is not sealed. 

On Viltrox's advantage, the lens does have a metal mount versus the mere plastic mount on Nikon's lens. Flare resistance is better on Viltrox, the Nikon 40mm is quite prone to flare and ghosting. Also, the starburst effect on Viltrox looks so much nicer than what the Nikon can do. 

There is no clear winner here, but if you are purely after the image rendering on the lens and AF performance, then Nikon is your pick. However, if you do not intend to spend so much on a 40mm prime, and 40mm is not your priority but you just want one for whatever reasons, the Viltrox is a good consideration, since it costs about half of what Nikon is asking for. And Nikon is not twice better than Viltrox as well in this regard, so you do get a lot out of what you are paying for the Viltrox. 

CONCLUSION
Viltrox is getting serious in their lens game, and I am glad they did not neglect the budget segment, which I think can help a lot of people who may not want to spend so much on gear, but still expect some good quality and performance. The Viltrox 40mm F2.5 is an example of what a great budget lens can do, in a truly small and compact form factor, the lens can deliver really good results. 

Viltrox 40mm F2.5 on Nikon Z5

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The lens is generally very sharp

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The lens is quite good for portraits, with sharp in focus area, and nice blur background

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Very smooth background blur, with no harshness or nervousness

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Another example of nice bokeh rendering

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Bokeh balls are fully round at F2.5

Bokeh balls change in shape

A bit of distortion, nothing too serious

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Flare resistance is good

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No flare or ghosting. Notice the starburst effect

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Again, very good flare resistance

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Nice starburst effect

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Closest I can get to the burger. I wish I can go nearer

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Some traces of purple fringing in high contrast areas

Left: F2.5, right: F4 purple fringing diminishes. 

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