Review: AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt

Introduction

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt on Sony A7rII

I am always interested in lenses from new manufacturers and this 50mm 1.4 Tilt from AstrHori is definitely a rather unique offering. But can this low priced fast 50mm tilt lens be taken seriously or is it more of a “fun” lens like the Lensbabies? Let’s find out in this review.

Sample Images

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.8 | tilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | tilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/5.6 | untilted

Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

Specifications

This AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt is available for several mirrorless camera systems. I am reviewing the E-mount version here which has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 65 mm
    • Field of view: 47° (diagonally)
    • Length: 67 mm
    • Weight: 320g (without caps)
    • Filter Diameter: 46 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 12 (rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 7/6
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.5 m (measured)
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:7.5 (measured)
    • Mount: Sony E

You can order this lens from amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de starting at $199 (affiliate links)

Disclosure

The AstrHori 50mm 1.4 was kindly provided free of charge by AstrHori for reviewing purpose for a duration of 4 weeks.

Handling / Build Quality

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt

Regarding Tilt and what it can be used for best have a look at my article Working with Tilt/Shift lenses.

The build quality of the AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt feels rather basic and leaves some to be desired. The focus ring has a low resistance and also feels mushy, this made setting precise focus a bit difficult, especially at longer focus distances as it only rotates ~90° from the minimum focus distance of 0.5 m to infinity.

The aperture ring is clickless and turns ~90° from f/1.4 to f/16. Its resistance is a bit higher than that of the focus ring.

Close to the bayonet is a locking ring for the tilt mechanism and I have a few issues with this lens’ tilt mechanism:
When you unlock the ring the whole lens moves freely with very little resistance. Setting precise tilt movements is therefore extremely difficult.
Furthermore centering the lens is a complete gamble, as that ring also has severe locking drift. On top of that when trying to lock that ring the whole lens will rotate as well and more often than not I ended up with all the markings at the bottom.

 

In the field when trying to use the tilt function the problem is, that when tilting you probably want to (or rather have to) adjust the focus afterwards, so it would be nice if the whole lens wouldn’t wobble around, but when you try to lock the tilt mechanism you will definitely end up changing the tilt setting again.

Another issue is that when you tilt the lens and you have a hard infinity focus stop you may not be able to focus at some parts of the frame anymore. While the hard infinity focus stop is a tad behind infinity, I would have greatly prefered to have a bit more leeway here, as it happened to me several times that I couldn’t focus on something that I wanted to focus on.

Long story short: it wasn’t exactly fun using this lens and it definitely behaves more like a Lensbaby than a sophisticated tilt lens.

The AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt shipped without a hood, but as I will show you later the flare resistance is surprisingly good, so this is not a big loss.

Vignetting

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting

f/1.42.4 EV
f/2.01.9 EV
f/2.81.5 EV
f/4.01.0 EV
f/5.60.6 EV
f/8.00.4 EV
f/110.4 EV
f/160.4 EV

Lenses that allow for Tilt movements should have a bigger image circle than normal 35mm format lenses which usually leads to less severe vignetting and while I have seen 50mm lenses with higher vignetting it shows almost the same values at shared apertures as the Syoptic 50mm 1.1.

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt

It is recommended to have a look at this article first to get an idea how this brightness graph works.

Unfortunately when fully tilted it also becomes obvious that the image circle of this lens is not big enough to accomodate these tilt movements, as a significant part of the frame will be completely black. Admittedly, fully tilting the lens leads to pretty extreme results, so not always when using the tilt function this will be an issue.


Sony A7rII | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilf | f/8.0 | focused at infinity

Sharpness

infinity (42mp Sony A7rII)

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting

The AstrHori 50mm 1.4 is not a lens I would want to use for demanding landscape/architecture shooting even stopped down. It definitely needs stopping down to f/11 for the midframe to look decent but the corners still leave something to be desired at this setting.

Admittedly, infinity shooting is probably not what this lens was designed for, so let’s see how it performs at typical portrait distances in the next chapter.

I did my best at centering the tilt mechanism before taking the infinity pictures, but I am pretty sure the lens will always be slightly tilted (read: decentered) no matter how hard you try.

portrait distance 1.4 m (42mp Sony A7rII)

For portraiture it isn’t so important how flat the field is (and we have seen it isn’t flat at all at infinity), it is more interesting to see what the sharpness is like when focused at different parts of the frame to take field curvature out of the equation.

positions of crops in the frame

We will be looking at 100% crops from the 42mp Sony A7rII again.

 

The lens is a bit soft at f/1.4, but astigmatism is low and therefore at focus point the sharpness is definitely good enough for portrait applications, even farther away from the center in the outer midframe area.

Flare resistance

Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/8.0 | untilted
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted

After having reviewed so many lenses only rarely I get surprised, but here I did as the flare resistance is actually pretty good. At f/1.4 some very big (bot not neccessarily bothersome) artefacts might appear, but stopped down there are hardly any issues and I only managed to create a few small ghosts.

As is the case with most lenses with the sun close to the corner of the frame a big flare can be created, but as is also usually the case this can easily be avoided by a tiny reframing.

Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.8 | untilted

Same also happens with a strong point light source in the top center:

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/8.0 | untilted

Distortion


Sony A7rII | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/5.6 | untilted

Untilted the AstrHori shows mild barrel distortion which luckily is mostly uniform. Dialing in +5 in Lightroom/Photoshop is doing a very good job at correcting this.

Bokeh

Untilted

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.0 | untilted

In untilted state the AstrHori 50mm 1.4 behaves like a normal 50mm lens when it comes to bokeh, with one possible advantage: a bigger image circle can lead to less optical vignetting and a more even bokeh across frame and I think generally this is the case here.

The bokeh is not particularly smooth though, it is a bit busier with some double edged structures and higher contrast – even at mid distances.

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted

Naturally, this is easily noticeable with foliage in the background.


Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4

Tilted

Many people think by tilting a lens the depth of field can be increased, but technically this isn’t true, the plane which is in focus is simply tilted. Still, in a given scene this tilt can be used to either give the impression of an increased depth of field, as in this example:


Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4

Or reduced, as in these two examples:


Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4


Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4

In some scenes both can make sense, depending on what you want:


Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4


Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4

There is one more thing to watch out for. Depending on the direction of the tilt you will either have a lot of background or foreground bokeh in your picture, and how they look varies a lot:


Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4

Making good use of tilt for e.g. portraiture is not an easy thing to do, it takes a lot of patience and practice. Nevertheless, tilt lenses open up new possibilites, like subject separation for huge things like buildings, which would be otherwise impossible:

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.0 | tilted

Sunstars

After the good flare resistance another surprise: despite using 12 rounded aperture blades we get very nice sunstars, especially at f/11, this means the alignment of the blades must be pretty good.
If you want to know more about sunstar rendering of different lenses have a look at this article.

 

Also in the field I encountered very nice sunstars:

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/8.0 | untilted

Chromatic aberration

lateral


100% crops from border, A7rII, f/11.0

This lateral CA are very low so a correction (which is easily done in e.g. Lightroom) is hardly neccessary.

longitudinal

The AstrHori 50mm 1.4 shows noticeable longitudinal CA (magenta in front of and green behind the focal plane) and it takes some stopping down to completely get rid of them.


Sony A7rII | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted

There are also some issues with purple fringing, even stopped down to f/2.8 it is still visible:


Sony A7rII | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | untilted

Tilting a lens can lead to all kinds of interesting effects, here also longitudinal CA get significantly worse, but this is true for every tilt lens I have used so far:

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | tilted

Alternatives

I guess the closest competitor is the Lensbaby Composer, but I have no experience with that lens so cannot tell you much about it.

Admittedly, I didn’t get the impression that the image circle of this AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt is much bigger than that of ordinary 35mm format lenses, so you may be able to get an at least similar effect when combining a cheap legacy lens (e.g. Minolta MD 55mm 1.7) with a Tilt/Shift adapter (affiliate link). You might be giving up on flare resistance when going for an old SLR lens though and that fancy adapter costs almost as much as this AstrHori lens itself.

The dedicated Tilt/Shift lenses are bulkier, more expensive and slower, so not neccessarily direct competitors. They also generally offer superior image quality as well as more refined and accurate controls, the cheapest of these lenses is the:

Canon TS-E 45mm 2.8:
This Canon lens is more than 30 years old now and the cheapest entry in the world of “professional” Tilt/Shift lenses. It also has some drawbacks, so best have a look at my review for a detailed description.
buy used from ebay.com/ebay.de starting at $500 (affiliate links)

If you are not overly interested in the tilt mechanism you can also have a look at our 50mm guide, where you will find many different 50mm options being discussed.

Conclusion

good

  • sharpness at portrait distances
  • flare resistance
  • lateral CA
  • sunstars
  • price
average

  • bokeh
  • distortion
  • vignetting (untilted)
  • build quality
  • size/weight
not good

  • handling
  • image circle not big enough for tilt movements
  • longitudinal CA
  • infinity sharpness

It is always difficult to give an opinion on a lens which is rather unique and doesn’t have a lot of competitors. But here I have the feeling that AstrHori simply had a 50mm 1.4 design for SLRs available, but they rather wanted to release a lens for the modern mirrorless systems and then thought instead of adding a built-in adapter (which people for sure wouldn’t like) it would be better to use the space for a tilt function.

Why do I think that? The image circle of the lens simply isn’t big enough – or there is a problem with the mechanical design – as there are completely black areas when fully tilting. The mechanical execution of the whole tilt mechanism also leaves a lot to be desired, have a look at the handling section if you didn’t do that yet.

What about using the AstrHori without the tilt mechanism? What it has going for it is the good flare resistance, this is very rare among the cheaper modern lenses. But sharpness at infinity is lacking, longitudinal CA and purple fringing are rather high and the bokeh in the untilted state isn’t overly appealing to me either. So if you don’t care about the the tilt mechanism, I strongly advise you to have a look at the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 E, which is similarly priced.

Still, if you want to try out a lens that can be tilted without investing in one of Canon’s more sophisticated and expensive tilt/shift lenses there is hardly any competition I could point you to. So in the end this might still be the lens you are looking for – especially if you like the look from pictures that can be created with it.

You can order this lens from amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de starting at $199 (affiliate links)

Sample Image

Untilted

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.0 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.0 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.0 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.8 | untilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | untilted

Tilted

astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | tilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | tilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/1.4 | tilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.0 | tilted
astrhori rockstar rockster 50mm 1.4 review sharpness tilt conclusion bokeh sony a7riv a7riii a7riv 42mp 61mp bokeh ca vignetting
Sony A7III | AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt | f/2.0 | tilted

Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and I am your expert here when it comes to ultra wide angle lenses, super fast portrait lenses (ranging from a 50mm f/0.95 to a 200mm f/1.8) and I also have reviewed way too many 35mm lenses. Don't ask me anything about macro or wildlife shooting though.

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15 thoughts on “Review: AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt”

  1. I fully agree with the points made in this article, as I also own this lens. One thing that has helped me with the poor locking mechanism, is to carefully set the “tightness” of it, and then tape the locking ring (with electrical tape). Set it and forget it… and now you can freely adjust the tilt of your lens and not have to fiddle with the locking ring. It is still tricky to use though (hard to set precise angle, and have to wrestle with it a bit with my tape solution), and as the article says, often the numbers end up at the bottom so you must twist the whole lens around occasionally to see them. There is one thing I would like to point out with this lens is that “LESS IS MORE”… the lens provides better results if you stop it down a bit, and tilt it a bit less. Wide open, the lens does not give amazing results in my opinion when tilted, but if you stop it down to f/2 or f/2.8 and tilt it less, it can give very nice results. Still, I find this lens does not often find its way into my camera bag and instead I am brining other lenses such as the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2 ASPH.

    1. … one comment I forgot to make: one of the main reasons this lens does not end up in my camera bag, is because of the amount of time it takes to use this lens, and because I am usually photographing while I am with other (less patient) people. To take a good photo with this lens, takes a lot of time and fiddling around. In the situations I find myself in, this amount of time can not only be annoying to the other person, but may look strange to onlookers, which makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps not everyone will experience this though.

  2. Nice review. Well, I use a quite nice cheapo (30€ ) Chinese adapter. It has a nice tilt mechanism 😉 Just turn a ring 80 degrees to reach a 8 degrees tilt, well they plotted the 1-8 degrees in reverse order but apart from that it works fine. It accepts m42 lenses. Combined with a Pallas 50mm f1.8 (5€) / Asahi Takumar 55mm f1.8 (30€) it works quite good.

  3. Interesting lens, but for me and maybe a lot of other people, a classic manual focus lens on a tilt adapter is more suitable. I use a cheap Chinese tilt adapter, there are others that give shift as well, which I happen not to need. My main lens is a 50mm Nikkor 1.4 AIS though a 75mm Voigtlander gets used as well. And I have manual focus lenses that cover most of the normal range. I happen to need the sharpness of the of the more mainstream lenses I use.

    But thanks for the review, it’s interesting to see what is out there, even if I don’t come up with a need for it. And you did convince me that upgrading my Voigtlander 12mm V1 to the V3 was worth the expense, and you were right on the money.

  4. In reading your comments this lens doesn’t have a large image circle.

    any thoughts about the various adapters which take a medium format lens and provide tilt shift? they are about the same cost of the lens mentioned.

    1. The combination of size, price and available focal length/max. aperture makes these medium format lenses rather unappealing to me, so I haven’t put too much effort into researching those options.

  5. This lens should be marketed as an APS-C lens. This is clearly not a tilt lens made for Full Frame because that image circle is rather small to acomodate the Full Frame sensor. An interesting lens nonetheless, but they really need to put an asterisk on that F”or Full Frame.”

  6. The LoCA and mudgled corner.. It’s a diaster. I will do a vintage MINOLTA or OM if I want a cheap tilt lens to play with on full frame.

  7. I bought this lens on the strength of this review, and it is fantastic! Thanks, Bastian!

    Sure, it’s cumbersome, and yes, it’s almost impossible to get a flat plane of focus. And it’s not GM quality, no doubt.

    But for 299€ you’re getting a lens that that gives you gorgeous results, and once you get familiar with it, you’ll start using it for way more than just the “miniature” effect.

    Bastian’s last set of tilted shots gives you a good idea of the type of results you can get with this lens, and once you take it out at night you’ll love the way you can play with the bokeh in your shots.

    However, the lens is not suited for every shooting style. Because you have to tinker with the lens before almost every shot, this is a lens that will appeal most to people with a slow, deliberate style of shooting. If you like to shoot fast, or like action in your shots, forget this lens.

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