Viltrox RF 85mm F1.8 STM Image Gallery
December 3rd, 2021
In mid 2020, I reviewed the Samyang RF 85mm F1.4 autofocus lens, a lens that I really liked and gave a very positive review of because it was a good performing third party lens that came at a reasonable price ($699 USD). Canon’s own RF 85mm F1.2L is an amazing, amazing lens (you can read my review here), but at a price point of $2799 USD, it simply isn’t in reach for many photographers. Canon also has an RF 85mm F2 Macro IS lens, but that lens left me with mixed feelings when I reviewed it mostly because the autofocus was really, really underwhelming. At that point I recommended that people go with the Samyang if they didn’t the macro capabilities, as the lenses were priced similarly and I felt the Samyang had more to offer. I was excited because it seemed like third party lenses were finally starting to come for Canon’s RF mirrorless mount…but then they stopped. Samyang’s RF 14mm F2.8 and RF 85mm F1.4 are still available at North American retailers (under both the Samyang and Rokinon brands), but Samyang no longer lists them on their website. The word on the street is that Canon actually stopped them from developing for their platform, and it is certainly true that I’ve not seen any new Samyang RF products in the past year and a half (the new AF 50mm F1.4 II for Sony FE would be a perfect new RF option). It has caused a little despair, as I really like my Canon EOS R5 camera, but, like many photographers, find that the native Canon RF lenses tend to be very, very expensive. Third party options are needed for photographers not made of money…so I was delighted when Viltrox contacted me about reviewing their new Viltrox RF 85mm F1.8 STM II lens. The Viltrox RF85 (as we’ll call it for brevity in the review) provides an extremely competent and truly inexpensive ($399 USD) option for Canon RF photographers…and they may have just the future proofing tool on board to help them.
I originally tested the Samyang RF 85mm F1.4 on the Canon EOS R camera, but a few months later Canon released the EOS R5 (my current Canon camera of choice) and the EOS R6. In the process, though, some focus algorithms changed and the IBIS (In-Body-Image-Stabilization) didn’t work right (along with some quirks in focus). Samyang had to scramble to put out a dock (Lens Station) that allowed one to update the firmware of their RF lenses to fix these problems, but it was after that point that it seems like Canon made trouble for them. Viltrox has long employed a more direct solution – a USB port (USB-C, in this case) embedded right into the lens mount, which allows you to download and apply firmware updates directly through your computer to the lens. This should allow any potential owners of the Viltrox RF 85mm to be able to update their lens easily and eliminate the concern that some firmware update to their camera (or the purchase of a new camera) renders their lens inoperable. Viltrox is fairly proactive with their firmware updates, too, making minor tweaks and improvements. There has already been a firmware update to the Viltrox RF 85mm, and I was able to do the update in a couple of minutes from start to finish.
My experience with this basic design goes back several years, as I first reviewed a manual focus version of the original optical formula, then an autofocus version, and then the MK II autofocus version. All of these were on Sony FE, however, but now Viltrox has developed this new version that is built around the MK II optical formula for Canon RF. In many ways, this feels like the most mature execution of this lens. The design language fits the larger diameter Canon RF nicely, and the inclusion of an AF/MF switch adds both convenience and some signs of growing maturity of design. The build feels good, autofocus is also quite good, and this has always been a lens that punches above its weight class optically. Add up all of these things and then give it a great price like this, and I suspect this will be a lens that will be attractive to many Canon mirrorless photographers who have been looking for a reasonably priced portrait lens for their camera and don’t want to have to resort to manual focus.
So, on paper, we’ve got a winning formula, but does the lens hold up under more scrutiny? You can find my more detailed thoughts by watching my video review or reading the text review…or just enjoy the photos!
Thanks to Viltrox for sending me this lens for review. As always, this is a completely independent review. *The tests and the photos shown in this review have been taken on my 45 MP Canon EOS R5.
Photos of the Viltrox RF 85mm F1.8 STM
Photos taken with the Viltrox RF 85mm F1.8 (Canon EOS R5)
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