The Viltrox 16mm f/1.8 is an ultrawide, and ultra fast lens for Sony cameras. This lens is full frame, giving you a 105 degree field of view on a full-frame sensor, or is a 24mm f/2.7 lens on an APS-C camera. Still a very approachable lens if you need to punch into 24mm on full frame cameras with APS-C mode, like the Sony A7 IV.
First off, lets start with the specs. Here is a quick table of the most important specs, and I’ll dive deeper into these further down the article.
The build quality of the Viltrox 16mm f/1.8 is made of mostly metal, and while it feels durable - it’s not quite as high quality as the native Sony lenses. It doesn't feel terrible, but the price reflects the build quality of this lens.
It is advertised as dust resistant, but not moisture resistant. And I didn’t want to try my luck testing it, so I’ll take their word for it!
The 77mm front filter thread is nice, since that is a pretty common thread size. You may already have filters that are compatible with this lens.
This filter size is made possible by the flat front element that does not bulging out past the filter threads. Typically wide angle lenses have bubbled out front elements that prevent filters from being used - but that's not the case with the Viltrox. Very glad to see this is able to be used with traditional 77mm filters.
The screen tells you focus distance aperture and has a custom function button. The lower button can also pull focus between two points. Hold the button for point a, adjust the distance, hold for point b, and pressing the button jumps between them. The first button acts as a normal custom button, that you can assign in your camera.
When it comes to autofocusing with the Viltrox 16mm f/1.8, this lens is using the stepping motors - so it does seem to find focus quickly, but you’ll be able to see focus hunting if you have your autofocus sensitivity set very low. For best results on Sony cameras, set this 1-2 steps higher than you typically use and this lens will perform well.
For higher end filmmaking, this will probably be an issue though. It’s fast, but if you want a lens that will perfectly lock onto focus without hunting - you’ll have to look for the more expensive Sony lenses.
For focus noise, this lens focuses silently, even given that it is using those stepping motors.
The Viltrox 16mm f/1.8 does have some ghosting flares with hard light sources, but for an ultrawide angle lens, does a good job at controlling them. The compression of uploading this photo did not do it any justice above. There is an optical flare in the center of the frame and a larger ring optical flare towards the right edge of the frame. If you look closely, you can see it - but the compression really didn't translate well online.
The 9-bladed aperture of the Viltrox 16mm f/1.8 produces some nice bokeh in the center, with mostly round bokeh balls and minimal texture. Moving towards the outside edges, you’ll notice more distortion and texture to the bokeh. However, this lens being so wide, getting the background blurry enough to see this bokeh will have to be pretty close to the camera to see the bokeh. This is true for most budget wide angle lenses in this category.
Sharpness and image quality on the Viltrox 16mm f/1.8 is excellent, especially considering its price point. At f/1.8, the center of the frame is very sharp while the edges are just slightly less sharp. I was very surprised at the corner sharpness of this lens, especially given it’s price point. Maybe the vignetting wide open is contributing to these slightly softer edges?
At f/2.8 and f/4 the edges are as sharp as the center, to my eyes. There is still some vignetting at f/2.8 so that may be tricking my eye into thinking the image is “softer” than it actually is.. but the edges of the frame are still very sharp and usable.
There is some vignetting when this lens is wide open at 1.8, and if you're shooting against a lighter background, you can notice the vignette. Around F/2 the vignette is slightly better, but at f/2.8 to f/4, the vignette is almost totally gone. For distortion, we’ll see some barrel distortion but as long as you’re keeping the lens somewhat level to your subject, the barrel distortion is pretty well maintained. You can of course dutch angle this and move at a 45 degree angle and get some very dramatic shots still, but you’ll have to purposely get those angles to get those results.
You can use the lens wide open at f/1.8 and focus on a subject 10.6 inches away from the sensor to get some nice background blur, this is typically more difficult to do with wider angle lenses, just be aware that the closer your subjects are to the lens, the more distortion there will be. This might be alright for landscapes, but for shooting portraits, you may not want to get so close.
One good thing about this lens being so wide, is that the focus breathing is very well controlled. In my tests, I wasn't able to see any noticeable focus breathing when manually focusing this lens for minimum focusing distance to infinity.
The Viltrox 16mm f/1.8 has no stabilization built into the lens, however, you can use the Active or Standard Stabilization on your Sony cameras to help with any minor shakes. This will depend on your camera, but most modern Sony cameras have pretty good in body stabilization these days.
The Viltrox 16mm f/1.8 has a few tricks up it’s sleeve with the internal screen and function buttons, but where it really shines is it’s corner-to-corner image quality and sharpness.. even wide open! For such a wide lens, there is minimal distortion and the vignetting is well controlled. If you’re not shooting against a white background, you may not even notice it unless you’re looking for it.
I do think the screen and custom A and B point function button is a bit of a gimmick, I can’t help but wonder if these features were not in the lens, would it be even cheaper than it is right now? I can live without using these features, as I’m mostly looking at the screen on my camera or using my touch to focus to rack between subjects on my newer Sony cameras, but if you need these features they are nice to have.
The sharpness, autofocus performance, and lack of distortion are what I like about this lens, especially at this price point.
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