Pho­to: newsshooter.com

Nikon already has two mir­ror­less APS‑C cam­eras, but so far there is no fix devel­oped for this sys­tem. What to do? Use alter­na­tive bud­get lens­es for Nikon from Vil­trox, which look very inter­est­ing in terms of price and qual­i­ty.

Native and not so

Of course, some­one will argue that the com­pa­ny has an excel­lent line of full-frame glass­es that are quite com­pat­i­ble with the man­u­fac­tur­er’s crop cam­eras. This, of course, is true, but there are sev­er­al prob­lems with them. They are either more or less inex­pen­sive, but not very fast, like the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE. Or fast, very expen­sive and heavy, like the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S.

You can, of course, wait until the “gold­en mean” appears on sale, like the Nikon Z 40mm f / 2 announced in the fall (it will cost about 40 thou­sand rubles). But if you want a fast fix right now and at the same time inex­pen­sive­ly, third-par­ty man­u­fac­tur­ers are ready to help.

Today we will con­sid­er a bud­get alter­na­tive: a series of inex­pen­sive aut­o­fo­cus lens­es from Vil­trox for APS‑C Nikon Z mir­ror­less cam­eras (Nikon Z fc and Z50). These lens­es can also be used with full-frame Z cam­eras, but you will get pow­er­ful vignetting. Vil­trox has a series of lens­es for full frame as well, but we will talk about them next time.

Viltrox AF 23mm f/1.4Z

Vil­trox AF 23mm f/1.4 Z is equiv­a­lent to 35mm full frame. Pho­to: nikonrumors.com

Vil­trox AF 23mm f/1.4 Z is a small fast aut­o­fo­cus prime with full sup­port for elec­tron­ics (cam­era con­trol). This is one of the most bud­getary aut­o­fo­cus lens­es for the Nikon Z mount — it costs 20 thou­sand rubles (10 thou­sand cheap­er than its full frame coun­ter­part Vil­trox AF 24 / 1.8 Z, which we will talk about in the next arti­cle).

With an equiv­a­lent focal length of 35mm, this is a clas­sic all-around lens suit­able for a vari­ety of uses — street pho­tog­ra­phy, envi­ron­men­tal por­traits, and sim­ple every­day pho­tog­ra­phy.


This is an all-met­al lens with a met­al mount. At the same time, it weighs 340 grams — not bad for such a design, but if you are used to super-light plas­tic glass­es, the weight is still felt here.

There is no pro­tec­tion against adverse weath­er con­di­tions (as in all glass­es of the series), but, frankly, we did not expect such an option from a bud­get Chi­nese lens. At the same time, the front ele­ment is pro­tect­ed from dirt and drops by a spe­cial coat­ing. In gen­er­al, it is quite com­pact, so that Nikon feels quite bal­anced on small crop mir­ror­less cam­eras.

There is a 52mm fil­ter thread on the front, and the lens comes with a dou­ble-sided met­al hood, which is strong and of good qual­i­ty.

The lens itself has a USB‑C port for firmware updates (Vil­trox releas­es updates for their prod­ucts quite often, includ­ing lens­es), ensur­ing that the lens is always on the same wave­length as the cam­era.

The 23mm f/1.4 Z has a large man­u­al focus ring that, as with native Nikon lens­es, can be adjust­ed for oth­er tasks. Clos­er to the base is an aper­ture adjust­ment ring with­out clicks (as on oth­er aut­o­fo­cus lens­es from the man­u­fac­tur­er). The click-free ring is con­ve­nient for video­g­ra­phers (it allows you to smooth­ly change the look of the pic­ture by chang­ing the size of the aper­ture), but many pho­tog­ra­phers pre­fer click-stop rings, which make it eas­i­er to get the desired aper­ture val­ue. So it would be real­ly cool if the com­pa­ny added a ded­i­cat­ed click/no click switch, but this option usu­al­ly only appears on more expen­sive glass­es.

You can also move the ring to posi­tion “A”, then the aper­ture will be con­trolled from the cam­era.

In gen­er­al, in terms of design and build qual­i­ty, there are no ques­tions about glass: this is not a cheap plas­tic “Chi­nese” from aliex­press, but a high-qual­i­ty met­al fight­er.


The lens is equipped with a step­ping motor that pro­vides decent aut­o­fo­cus speed. Face aut­o­fo­cus works at about the same lev­el as native Nikon lens­es.

In terms of the vol­ume of the motor, every­thing is not bad — it is qui­et and suit­able for video shoot­ing. In gen­er­al, for video, aut­o­fo­cus is also no prob­lem — object track­ing is fast and respon­sive, and tran­si­tions are smooth.


The min­i­mum lens dis­tance is 30 cm, not too much and not too short, but for sim­ple pho­tos of small objects, this is enough. And yes, this is not a macro lens — the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion fac­tor here is 0.1x (for a real macro it will be 1x or more).

Cen­ter sharp­ness wide open is very good. You can notice slight chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions in the form of pur­ple fring­ing along the edges of the con­trast zones, but noth­ing crit­i­cal, and they are eas­i­ly cor­rect­ed dur­ing post-pro­cess­ing. At the edges of the frame, the lens soaps a lit­tle.

Like most of the “class­mates”, at an open aper­ture, the sharp­ness at the edges leaves much to be desired. Pho­to: Youtube chan­nel Richard Wong

If you close the aper­ture to f/2.8, the sharp­ness does not change much, but the chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion dis­ap­pears. Edge sharp­ness improves notice­ably at f/4.

This is a fast lens and, of course, it allows you to blur the back­ground a lot. The bokeh looks good, but not per­fect: the bokehs (bright cir­cles in the blur zone) are round, but you can see the fring­ing around the edges.

At a slight­ly cov­ered aper­ture of f / 2.8, the cup­cakes are still round, although “cat’s eyes” are notice­able clos­er to the edge of the frame (the effect when round cup­cakes become more flat­tened). In gen­er­al, if you do not con­sid­er pic­tures at 100% mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, there is noth­ing to com­plain about.

With such aper­ture, you can get a pow­er­ful­ly blurred back­ground is not a prob­lem. Pho­to: Youtube chan­nel Richard Wong

Vignetting is quite notice­able wide open, but already at f/1.8 it notice­ably decreas­es, and at f/2.8 it almost dis­ap­pears.

In terms of glare and flare, there are no ques­tions to the lens, it copes well with them even when shoot­ing against the sun. As for the “sun stars” (a favorite effect of many land­scape painters and street pho­tog­ra­phers, when sharp rays radi­ate from the sun and oth­er bright light sources), they can be obtained start­ing at f / 5.6. But even the “sun stars” made at f / 16 aper­ture can­not be called espe­cial­ly beau­ti­ful and sym­met­ri­cal.

Viltrox AF 33 f/1.4 Z

Vil­trox AF 33 f / 1.4 Z is equiv­a­lent to “fifty dol­lars” in full frame. Pho­to: nikonrumors.com

The Vil­trox AF 33 f / 1.4 Z aut­o­fo­cus prime is also designed specif­i­cal­ly for Nikon Z crop mir­ror­less cam­eras. Its equiv­a­lent focal length is 50mm, which is approx­i­mate­ly the same as the angle of view of the human eye — great for street pho­tog­ra­phy and por­traits. This is the most bud­get option of today’s trin­i­ty. Its price is 18 thou­sand rubles at the time of writ­ing the review.


Once again, this is a well-built all-met­al lens with a met­al mount. Again, not too heavy, but not super light either, although it is small­er and lighter than its wider-angle coun­ter­part, which we talked about before — 270 grams. With a light­weight Nikon Z fc cam­era, the bal­ance is almost per­fect. Once again, a cool met­al lens hood is includ­ed, which can be installed both with the petals inward (not need­ed yet) or out­ward to reduce glare and flare when shoot­ing in the sun.

With con­trols, it shares the same his­to­ry as the 23mm — a large cus­tomiz­able man­u­al focus ring and a neat aper­ture ring that’s smooth and clicky with the option to switch to Auto.

Front thread for 52 mm fil­ter, and rear USB port for firmware updates.


The mod­el uses the same step­per motor as in the pre­vi­ous fix: it pro­vides fast and respon­sive focus­ing, and face and eye track­ing works with­out any prob­lems.

The motor oper­a­tion in the video can only be heard when shoot­ing in very qui­et con­di­tions and record­ing on your cam­er­a’s built-in micro­phones. There are also no ques­tions about object track­ing in video — for the mon­ey, the lens shows excel­lent aut­o­fo­cus qual­i­ty.


The min­i­mum focus­ing dis­tance is 40 cm, so this is not a very suit­able glass for close-ups.

At an open aper­ture, chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions are quite pro­nounced in the form of pur­ple and green fring­ing along the edges of con­trast zones, slight­ly more than with the pre­vi­ous lens. At the same time, it has good cen­tral sharp­ness, but sharp­ness drops a lit­tle at the edges of the frame, but not so much that this is a seri­ous prob­lem.

The lens cap­tures detail in the cen­ter of the frame quite well, with an opti­mal sharpness/blur bal­ance at f/3.2. Pho­to: Youtube chan­nel Pho­to Genius.

To improve both indi­ca­tors, you need to cov­er the aper­ture — sharp­ness straight­ens out, aber­ra­tions are sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced, and com­plete­ly dis­ap­pear at f / 5.6. If you want max­i­mum sharp­ness but still main­tain a shal­low depth of field for blur­ry back­grounds, f/3.2 is the best option for this lens.

The lens blurs the back­ground beau­ti­ful­ly and smooth­ly at an open aper­ture. Of course, some­times the blur zone turns out to be a lit­tle “loaded”, but for a bud­get class, its bokeh is not bad.

Despite the good blur­ring, the back­ground some­times looks a bit “loaded”. Pho­to: Youtube chan­nel Pho­to Genius.

The glass is not bad, but it does not per­fect­ly cope with flare — when shoot­ing against the sun, the frame is even­ly flood­ed with light, there are no too dis­tract­ing glare, and the con­trast is main­tained at a good lev­el. “Sun stars”, as in the case of the pre­vi­ous mod­el, are not very inter­est­ing, but for such a lens this is clear­ly not a “must have” char­ac­ter­is­tic.

The lens suf­fers from notice­able vignetting at f/1.4, although this can be cor­rect­ed in post-pro­duc­tion. The prob­lem (like most oth­er short­com­ings in terms of optics) is again solved by clos­ing the diaphragm.

Viltrox AF 56 f/1.4 Z

The Vil­trox AF 56 f/1.4 Z is equiv­a­lent to an 85mm full frame por­trait lens. Pho­to: nikonrumors.com

The Vil­trox AF 56 f/1.4 Z is anoth­er aut­o­fo­cus lens for APS‑C Z‑mount mir­ror­less cam­eras. It pro­vides an equiv­a­lent focal length of around 85mm, so it’s a clas­sic por­trait prime. Like oth­er glass­es in the series, this is a bud­get mod­el, the price of which is 23 thou­sand rubles at the time of writ­ing.


For a fast-aper­ture por­trait lens, the Vil­trox AF 56mm f/1.4 Z has a very com­pact design that goes well with small Nikon mir­ror­less cam­eras. Despite the all-met­al con­struc­tion, it weighs only 290 grams, which is very good for this class. Along with the lens in the box is a cylin­dri­cal hood (pre­vi­ous mod­els includ­ed a petal hood). The cylin­dri­cal design of the lens hood does not cre­ate vignetting effects on tele­pho­to lens­es.

Like the pre­vi­ous two lens­es, the 56mm f/1.4 Z has a wide man­u­al focus ring in the front (can be used for oth­er func­tions by chang­ing the set­tings in the cam­era menu), an aper­ture ring with no clicks and a switch to auto mode (for exam­ple, for shut­ter-pri­or­i­ty shoot­ing).

The thread diam­e­ter for the fil­ter is 52 mm, so you won’t have any prob­lems find­ing fil­ters. As with oth­er lens­es in the series, the lens firmware can be updat­ed via the USB port on the back of the body.


The por­trait lens was no excep­tion and received a step­per motor — this is good news, because for shoot­ing por­traits you need fast and tena­cious aut­o­fo­cus on the eyes, and the step­per motor in Vil­trox glass­es works well in con­junc­tion with the Nikon sys­tem.

For shoot­ing video, it is no worse — it smooth­ly refo­cus­es, track­ing the object, and does not cre­ate unnec­es­sary noise.

Sure, it’s not the fastest or qui­etest aut­o­fo­cus on the mar­ket, but it’s good enough for most tasks.


The min­i­mum focus­ing dis­tance is a respectable 60 cen­time­ters, so it’s not the best device to get too close to the sub­ject.

At an open aper­ture, the optics show very good sharp­ness in the cen­ter of the frame, which does not change much if you cov­er the lens down to f / 2.8. As you might expect, the sharp­ness is not so high in the cor­ners at an open aper­ture — in order to get good sharp­ness, you will have to close the aper­ture to f / 4.

The Vil­trox AF 56 f/1.4 Z has arguably the best cen­ter sharp­ness wide open. Pho­to: Youtube chan­nel Newsshoot­er.

The bokehs are real­ly round with smooth tran­si­tions and almost no nar­row “cat’s eyes” at the cor­ners of the frame.

Unlike the pre­vi­ous two mod­els, the 56mm vignetting is under com­plete con­trol — even at f/1.4 it is almost imper­cep­ti­ble and com­plete­ly dis­ap­pears at f/2.

At f/1.4, vignetting is almost imper­cep­ti­ble. Pho­to: newsshooter.com

But in terms of chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions, the indi­ca­tors are aver­age — pur­ple edg­ing is notice­able, so some­times you have to work extra in the pho­to edi­tor.

When shoot­ing with the sun in the frame, the back­light is quite notice­able, although the con­trast is main­tained at the prop­er lev­el. Flare is also pro­nounced, so, in gen­er­al, this is not the strongest side of the lens.

As for the “sun stars”, they look very decent for a por­trait — at f / 16 the “stars” turn out to be sharp with fair­ly sym­met­ri­cal rays.


Left to right: 23, 33, 56mm. Please note that the shape of the lens hood is dif­fer­ent in 56mm. Pho­to: nikonrumors.com

When buy­ing bud­get lens­es from third-par­ty man­u­fac­tur­ers, you always make some com­pro­mis­es. Some mod­els do not have aut­o­fo­cus, some are made of cheap plas­tic, some lose a lot in terms of optics.

But Vil­trox man­aged to make real­ly good fast primes at a very nice price. All three mod­els received high-qual­i­ty met­al cas­es and small dimen­sions. Add to this a good aut­o­fo­cus that works with­out prob­lems with the Nikon sys­tem. Of course, their optics can­not be called ide­al — there are prob­lems with sharp­ness at the edges of the frame and chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion, you can find fault with bokeh, but the price-qual­i­ty ratio is very decent.

The series cov­ers three pop­u­lar focal lengths — 35mm, 50mm and 85mm (equiv­a­lent). So if you’re will­ing to make some small com­pro­mis­es, the Vil­trox AF 23mm, 33mm and 56mm f/1.4 Z can be a wor­thy alter­na­tive to stock Nikon lens­es.