Viltrox 24mm vs Sony 20mm

Introduction

Hey there, I’m Keith. In this video, we're talking about budget, fast, wide-angle prime lenses for Full Frame Sony cameras. We’ll be comparing the very affordable Viltrox 24mm 1.8 coming in at $429 to the Sony 20mm 1.8 which is priced at $898. The lenses aren't exactly the same focal length, so this might sound like a strange comparison, but if you’re looking for affordable, wide-angle full-frame lenses with manual aperture adjustment, these lenses share a lot of similar features.

The price points aren’t exactly the same either, but when you start looking at the G Master line of lenses, you’ll realize that there is a steep price curve for that badge and at a certain point there are diminishing returns for features and quality. It’s the reason I went with the Sony 20mm instead of the 24mm g master.

Viltrox 24mm General Specs

Quickly jumping into the Viltrox 24mm 1.8 specs, the lens costs $429. It has a 9-blade design, can adjust from f/1.8 to f/16. Has a USB Type-C port behind the rear cap of the lens for firmware updates. The minimum focusing distance is a little far away at 11.8 inches, this isn’t a huge deal if you shoot landscapes or portraits, but can be a problem if you’re trying to take close photos to get the most background blur possible.

The lens is very light for a full-frame lens, coming in at 12 ounces and it’s really small at 2.8 by 3.3 inches. The filter thread size is pretty small, coming in at 55mm. The lens does not have any weather sealing.

It’s a 3rd party lens, but it’s an autofocus lens, and it will pass the EXIF data through to lightroom if you’re shooting photos. You can also apply lens correction in Lightroom to fix any distortion within photos.

Sony 20mm Specs

The 20mm Sony costs $898, which is $469 more than the Viltrox. The Sony also has a 9-bladed aperture, that can adjust from f/1.8 to f/22. The minimum focusing distance is very close at 7.09 inches from the sensor. Focusing so closely creates some distortion, so I wouldn’t recommend shooting portraits like this but can be really handy for shooting close product shots.

The 20mm is also 2.8 wide by 3.33 inches tall and is very light, weighing 13 ounces, one ounce more than the Viltrox. The filter thread size is a more common 67mm. This 20mm is also not weather sealed.

The Sony also has an aperture ring, but also can be “Clicked” or “Declicked”, the Viltrox is always declicked. The Sony has a manual and autofocus toggle and a custom button that you can configure in camera. I personally never use these buttons on the lens, but some people use them to switch focus modes or change settings quickly.

Build Quality

One of the biggest differences between these lenses right off the bat is the build quality and materials. The Sony lens feels like a typical hard plastic lens and aperture ring, with a rubber focus ring. Its overall build quality feels good and is what you’d expect from a Sony lens, minus the lack of weather sealing.

The Viltrox definitely feels cheaper. It’s made of a metal housing, the rings are also metal, but it feels very solid overall. The lens is housing is metal, but the lens hood is plastic.

Both of these lenses weigh about the same though and are very lightweight and small. Great for a gimbal or walking around.

Viltrox 24mm Aperture Ring Thoughts

Digging deeper into the aperture rings, on the outside of the Viltrox, you’ll find the de-clicked aperture ring, where you can smoothly change your aperture instead of adjusting in full stops like you’d get with your cameras aperture adjustments.

This is great for video, being able to change your exposure smoothly while transitioning from a light scene to a dark scene is a nice feature. The ring has some resistance, but it’s not as smooth as the Sony 20mm’s ring and there is some faint noise while adjusting the ring. It can be adjusted smoothly, but it takes some finesse.

The Viltrox grip stops where the aperture indicators are, while Sony’s grip goes all the way around the ring with the indicators below. Both lenses have very hard stops preventing the aperture rings from being bumped from “A” to a manual setting though.

The Sony’s aperture adjustment is very smooth and the grip all the way around the lens. It’s much easier to adjust than the Viltrox’s ring, but the viltrox is still usable.

If you’re going to be adjusting the aperture on a gimbal using a motor, the Sony would probably work better since the ring has grip all the way around. This is something I will never do but thought it would be helpful to mention.

Autofocus

Viltrox 24mm Autofocus

When it comes to autofocus, the Viltrox 24mm has very accurate autofocus in good lighting conditions, even wide open during the day. However, when it’s wide open at 1.8 in low light situations, the STM motor starts to track a little slowly. It can still pull focus without racking back and forth, but if the object is moving quickly closer and farther away from your camera it will struggle to keep focus in low light situations.

The focus motor is quiet, but not silent. You can hear the motor focusing in a silent room when you’re focusing on

I was using the tracking focus and center focus with the A7SIII af transition speed to 4, then 7 and the subject shift sensitivity at 3, then 5 and noticed it still consistently being a little slower than the 20mm. These lenses have two different focusing motors, that I’ll go over in a second, but this is a difficult task for any lens at 1.8 in low light. The Viltrox was still was able to focus but there was some slight lag. When you stop the lens down, the problem becomes less and less. At f/2.8 the autofocus is much faster, and at f/4 the autofocus is really quick.

The manual focus ring is smooth with a good amount of resistance. I used manual focus just for the sake of testing it and it works, the throw is a little longer than I’m used to with my 20mm. The focus ring on the 20mm has almost too little resistance, but the more resistance on the Viltrox means you have to keep your camera steadier while adjusting the focus. One isn’t right or wrong, this comes down to personal preference.

Sony 20mm Autofocus

The autofocus on the 20mm is suburb. It’s one of the reasons I bought this lens when it first came out. I’ve been able to rely on autofocus to nail shots consistently. The Sony uses a Dual XD linear motor system that is really quiet, fast and locks onto subject well. If you have picked up a Sony 20mm lens, this is the thing you hear moving back and forth if you move the lens while it’s powered off. Once it’s powered on the camera charges the focus motor and this sound goes away. All that to say, the autofocus on the 20mm is great, even in low light.

For autofocus, the 20mm is better, but it is double the price and uses a more sophisticated system so this is expected. The 24mm didn’t perform poorly, and was very impressed for it’s autofocus on such a budget lens. When I was filming a motorcycle on my gimbal, I tried this lens out for a while and it was able to give consistent focus without hunting.

For the sake of winner and loser, the Sony’s autofocus is better. But just because the Sony is better doesn't mean the Viltrox’s is bad. I’ve been able to rely on it for shots, but for absolute best results try to use it at f/2.8 or f/4 for faster moving subjects.

Image stabilization

Onto image stabilization, both the Viltrox 24mm and Sony 20mm lack any kind of lens stabilization. That was an easy section.

Focus Breathing 

I was really surprised when it came to focus breathing. You know, when you adjust the focus on a lens and the frame looks like it’s zooming in or out, the Viltrox didn’t have any focus breathing. Everything stayed in place on the frame while I had the lens wide open focusing from the minimum focusing distance to about 10 feet away. I’m very happy about this and didn’t expect this out of such a budget lens.

I love my 24-105 for not having any focus breathing, but the Sony 20mm has terrible focus breathing when doing the same test.

This is a prime lens, and notice how the lens focuses close and zooms in, but focusing farther away the lens zooms out. This is a 20mm prime lens, so it’s not actually zooming - that's focus breathing and it’s pretty bad with the 20mm.

I knew that before I bought it and just know that I can’t rely on this lens to keep a consistent frame if the subject is moving and the camera is stationary, I can do that with the 24mm however. I typically use the 20mm on a gimbal or locked off where the subject isn’t changing distances rapidly, this hides the focus breathing.

No lens breathing is also great for photographers as well, as you’ll be able to focus stack multiple images without the frame changing. The 24mm definitely wins this category.

Image Quality

As far as image quality between these lenses is concerned, both the Viltrox and the Sony had softer edges and vignetting when shooting wide open at f/1.8. Both got better around 2.8, and at f4 or 5 it was almost gone. The Sony had much less vignetting overall, and as a result, the edges of the frame looked sharper, since there wasn't as harsh of a vignette, and I suspect the glass is of higher quality. The center sharpness of both lenses is great, even wide open.

The Viltrox has a slightly warmer color cast than the Sony, this is easily fixable in post but something to be aware of. The Sony 20mm and 24-105 don’t have a big shift in colors if mixing them together, unlike the Viltrox lens.

Conclusion

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each lens and how they fit into your workflows is going to help you choose which lens is best for you. Both lenses are well-built, have great image quality, even if the viltrox has a heavier vignette wide open, but the lens costs half the price of the sony. The Sony isn’t perfect either though, with it’s focus breathing problem, but knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your gear will help choose which one to buy and how to use it.

Conclusion, Aperture Ring

For the aperture ring on both of these lenses, admittedly, I have only used the aperture ring a few times in my life. Most of the time I keep them locked and adjust my aperture in the camera, and want to keep it locked off. I use variable ND’s so that's how I typically adjust my exposure if need be.

It’s a nice feature to have, and Sony’s experience with the aperture ring is better, it’s smoother, the grip is all the way around the lens and it’s silent, but you’ll never notice the difference if you keep it constantly in “A” mode as I do.

Thread size

The thread size is also something to be aware of. The Viltrox’s front threads are 55mm, whereas the 20mm Sony’s threads are a more common 67mm. I have multiple lenses that are 67mm, so I have purchased 67mm ND filters, with the Viltrox I had to adapt my filters using rings down to 55mm. This isn’t a huge deal for most people but personally, I hate using rings with ND filters, particularly VND’s but that's a different topic for a different video.

Price

Finally, and possibly the most important metric is price. The Viltrox lens is $429 while the Sony is $898. The Sony is slightly wider, built using higher quality materials, has more features, less vignette wide open, and no big color cast, but has focus breathing issues.. is that worth $469 over the Viltrox?

Leave a comment on YouTube and let me know what you think!

About Keith Knittel

I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.

View my full About Me

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