Viltrox 16mm F1.8 For Nikon Z

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Viltrox sent me their 16mm F1.8 for Nikon Z mount, and I had the opportunity to test this lens on my own Nikon Z5 at various locations in Kuala Lumpur, at different times of the day. This was not a new lens, they have made it available for Sony FE mount a year ago, and now finally the lens is made compatible for Nikon Z system. Having used the lens extensively, I have to say I am genuinely impressed by what Viltrox has done with this lens, there is so much to like, and almost nothing to dislike about the lens. I have also done a full video review, you can check it out here (click). 

Viltrox 16mm F1.8 for Nikon Z, quite a large lens

The lens being on the bulkier and heavier side, does balance quite well on my Nikon Z5

DISCLAIMER
Viltrox did send me the lens for review purposes, and I get to keep the lens after this review. I am not being paid, and this is not a sponsored content. I made it very clear to Viltrox that I get to say whatever I want freely, and this will be an independent, honest review. I am only reviewing the lens from a photographer's use, so no video related tests are done. My review is subjective, and I draw my conclusions from my user experience, having shot with the lens on my Nikon Z5 extensively throughout one week's duration. 

LENS BUILD & DESIGN
The lens looks sleek and is in all black, which matches my Nikon Z5 design very well. The build quality is excellent, the lens is made of full metal and feels very solid in hand. Viltrox claims that this lens is filly weather-sealed against splash and dust. The lens is on the bulkier side of things, weighing 550g, but this is a full frame lens, and it has bright aperture F1.8 for an ultra-wide 16mm coverage, so all things considered, the size and weight are justified. The lens handles well with my Nikon Z5, and does not feel imbalanced, or front heavy. It was comfortable shooting with this combination for hours and hours without feeling any strain or pain on any body parts. 

I appreciate that the front element of the lens is not bulbous, and you can attach a filter on it. The filter thread size is 77mm, quite a common size, and this benefits both videographers who use ND filters to get that smooth cinematic motion or landscape photographers who employ a series of different filters to achieve different photographic effects. 

The Viltrox 16mm F1.8 is loaded with a plethora of features. The common features found in most lenses are also present, such as AF/MF switch and manual focusing ring. The less common features include an LCD display at the top of the lens that displays various information such as F-number and manual focusing distance, which can be useful especially if you do use manual focus a lot, or you want to prefocus your shots at certain designated distances. Then there is also an aperture ring on the lens, which you can choose to use, or not, like myself I prefer to control my F-number on my camera (one of the command dials). If you decide to use the aperture ring on the lens, you also have a choice of setting it to "click or clickless" via a switch. If you like tactile feedback as you turn the aperture ring, you set it to "click". If you want smooth ring operation, typically for video shooters who do not like hard stops when they change the aperture, then you can change the ring operation to "clickless". On top of that, you get not one, but two fully customizable function buttons on the lens, which I have checked, you can assign shortcut functions on them via the Nikon Z5's camera menu. I assigned one of them for DOF preview and another one to turn the grid display on my camera on or off. 

LENS OPTICAL QUALITY
The Viltrox 16mm F1.8 has 15 elements in 12 groups lens composition. Viltrox claims that they include 4 Extra low dispersion lenses and 3 aspherical lenses, which I find ambitious, and this will prove to be effective in combating lens flaw issues, which will be discussed soon. 

Overall, from my "user experience" tests, based on my thousands of sample photographs taken in a span of one week, I dare say I am impressed by the image output from this lens. Images come out consistently sharp even at bright open F1.8. Sharpness improves a little when stopped down to F2.8 or F4, but I won't hesitate to shoot at wide open F1.8 for most situations, unless depth of field comes into play. Corner softness is well managed, but you do see that sharpness drops a little at the edges of the frame, and especially at the extreme corners. This is a common trait for any lens, especially an ultra-wide, but I do not see any serious issue here. If edge to edge, corner to corner sharpness is important to you, just stop down the aperture to F5.6, and you can achieve that. 

Bokeh looks pleasing, smooth and creamy. I did not detect any hint of harshness or nervousness, and if you can get close enough you can achieve a bit of blur in the background. Generally, the contrast rendering from this lens is very good, and add to the high sharpness and fine detail resolving power, with the smooth, beautiful blur in the background, you can achieve 3D pop which makes the images look realistic and natural. Do bear in mind that the bokeh balls does suffer some onion rings but that is not an issue for me. 

The lens handles technical flaws very well. There is a hint of barrel distortion, but nothing to scream about, it was minimal and can be corrected in post easily. The flare can be present when shooting the lens against strong sources of light, but it is well controlled, and can only happen if you really want to look for the flares. The starburst or sunstar effect looks beautiful, if you like to create that effect in your photographs. The one thing I am truly impressed by what Viltrox has done, was the chromatic aberration control. No matter how I shoot in high contrast scenario, I see no traces of purple fringing in places where I would expect to see them. This is thanks to their use of 4 extra low dispersion lenses to compensate for any color aberrations. 

AUTOFOCUS
I find the AF performance to be adequately fast and reliable on my Nikon Z. I shot mostly in AF-C mode, with tracking enabled from time to time. I also tested AF-S operations in some situations, it all worked well with no hiccups, even when I was shooting in less than favorable lighting conditions, especially when I was out at night. 

WHAT I DISLIKE?
Honestly, there is nothing much to complain about the Viltrox 16mm F1.8, at least when it comes to stills photography shooting. The only small nitpick that I have is the lens being quite bulky. I'd really love for the lens to be maybe 30% smaller in size, and lighter in weight. Nevertheless, I also would not want Viltrox to compromise on the optical quality, it is excellent as it is now, so I can understand for the lens being made into the current size and weight. 


CONCLUSION
Well done Viltrox on making such a great wide angle, bright prime lens at an affordable price tag of USD549. I believe this is a strong addition to the arsenal of Nikon Z shooters, a prime lens can be advantageous in many situations, whether you want to create a bit of background blur, or you intend to do a lot of low light work, especially indoors in caves or museums where you may not be able to bring your own light. The optical quality is commendable, and you get excellent results from this lens. I only hope Viltrox continues with this momentum and make more similar lenses - exceedingly high quality and performance to cost ratio. 

The bokeh is smooth and pleasing
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Flare is quite well managed, but in some rare situations, you will get flare and ghosting. 
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Center Crop from previous image
From left to right - F1.8, F2.8, F4

Edge Crop from previous image
From left to right - F1.8, F2.8, F4, F5.6

Corner Crop from previous image
From left to right - F1.8, F2.8, F4, F5.6

Some barrel distortion, not too bad

Another example of barrel distortion

Sunstar effect at F22

Sunstar effect at F22

This is a high contrast situation where I normally would find severe purple fringing issue. I notice none. 
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Top LCD Display on the lens to show various information, especially useful is the focus distance

Typical AF-MF switch, and two function buttons which are customizable via the camera's menu. 

Aperture ring on camera can be click or clickless in operation. 

Highly recommended ultra-wide, bright prime for Nikon Z

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2 comments:

  1. That first photo of the cool cat and the friendly guy on their Brompton bicycle is gold!
    Btw I'm pretty jealous about your Z5, would make a good digital back for my old and manual Olympus Zuiko 50mm and 135mm lenses... better than my Micro Four Thirds cameras with their 2x crop factor.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, that was quite an unexpected shot of the cat, dressed for the festivities "Hari Raya".
      That is true what you said, a full frame is more suited for adapting old, manual lenses without any crop. Z5 is quite cheap now in the used market! You get a lot for what you pay for.

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