All posts by Phillip Reeve

I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

2018 – The Year in Review

Just as last year I want to take the opportunity to have a look back and another one forward.

The Team

In 2018 my focus was on my new job, so I am grateful that I could rely on my team to keep the blog running.

Bastian was by far the most active one of us in 2018. Some of his reviews which stood out to me were the Sony GM 1.4/85 (first Sony lens he liked), the Carl Zeiss Jena 1.9/183 (very affordable cinema lens with interesting characteristics), Pocketpano Vario XL Panorama, because this is a product which is obviously designed by a person passionate about solving photographer’s issues, just like the handy Loxia lens-grips. He also wrote several guides of which I would like to mention How to Create environmental portraits and Best Astro lenses for the Sony a7 series.

David and I collaborated on the comprehensive E-mount macro guide and he reviewed interesting niche lenses like the Zeiss ZM 1.5/50 and Pentax 2.8/35 Macro. He also reviewed the excellent Zeiss ZM 4/85 and Canon EF 2.8/200 L.

Jannik started his year with the quest for a replacement for his Sony a7II which couldn’t keep up with his son anymore. After trying the Fuji X-T2 and Nikon D750 he ended up with the Sony a7III and sold most of his manual lenses to replace them with AF lenses like the GM 1.4/24, ZA 1.4/50 and Tamron 2.8/28-75 which was our most popular review in 2018.

Tamron 2.8/28-75 | Sony A7iii | 28mm | f/2.8 

Also mentioned should be the guest reviews from Nehemiah, who reviewed the Pentax limited 1.8/31, from Stephen who reviewed the Sony STF 2.8/100 and Leica APO Elmarit 2.8/180. And Sebboh who reviewed the Contax G 2.8/28.

A big thank you to all of you! I am a little proud that this blog remains a passion driven resource in a very profit driven environment and this wouldn’t be possible without you contributing your own experience and time.

Continue reading 2018 – The Year in Review

Mr. Li Interview: Design process of the 10-18mm and the future of Laowa

As reviewers we analyze lenses and try to learn about every major and minor aspect of their performance. With experience you start to notice how lens designers trade certain qualities for others. Some manufacturers for example prioritize image quality with little regard for size and weight while others trade a little bit of optical perfection for much better portability. The Voigtlander 1.2/40 is a great example for this, and because of this it is my most used lens at the moment. Laowa’s 2/15 is another good example. We usually only see the end result but know little to nothing about the process of how a lens was developed. So we jumped at the chance of learning to know Mr. Li in person at Photokina and ask him a few questions. Read our first interview with Mr. Li to learn more about his background and the development of the 2/15.

Mr. Li (on the right)

Continue reading Mr. Li Interview: Design process of the 10-18mm and the future of Laowa

Photokina Recap Part 1: Viltrox E-mount lenses

Until a couple of days ago I knew Viltrox only as a manufacturer of more affordable electronic adapters. But then I came across this post on SAR announcing that they will release three new lenses, two of them in E-mount. So before I met Bastian I had to check them out.

Viltrox 85mm F1.8

  • The manual focus 1.8/85 has electrical contacts and you control the aperture with the camera.
  • The focus ring felt really nice: no play and just the right amount of resistance. Built quality in general left a positive impression.
  • I was told it would be released in about a month for $299 which is $100 more than SAR reports.
  • I took a few images which showed no obvious weaknesses but they are cropped to APS-C. I guess the lens reported as an APS-C lens so the camera cropped automatically.

So my first impression was quite positive. I think it could become an attractive budget alternative to the lighter Sony FE 1.8/85 if they manage to release it without issues and move the price down a little.

Compared to CV 1.2/40

Viltrox 20mm F1.8 ASPH

  • Again my pricing info differed from the one on SAR: I was told it would be $489.
  • Sceduled release: 1 month from now
  • No electrical contacts on this one.

You don’t see any pictures of this lens because their prototype was stolen. At that price it isn’t very far away from the (almost as fast)Tokina 2/20 which has exifs and a known manufacturer, so I think it won’t be an easy entry to the market.

Viltrox 85mm F1.8 STM

  • This AF version will only come in Fuji X-mount.
  • I tested it with their own Fuji X-H1 and relied on their setup but AF felt pretty slow to me.
  • I was told it would be released in about 3 months for $379.


A new player in the field is certainly good news, and I am really pleased that they have some electronics expertise so they can provide EXIF. A few minutes at their booth is not enough info to judge their products, but my first impression was positive enough that I would consider reviewing some of their lenses once they are released.