Discovery and purchase
I had been talking about fast lenses for Nikon with my friend on Twitter, and he more or less had me convinced to take the plunge for an AIs 50mm F1.2 (more on that at a later date). Anyway, after our conversation had ended I started Googling about fast 50mm lenses, and a new name in lenses came up in my browser, Pergear, a chinese manufactured range of lenses. I was of course aware of other brands like 7Artisans and TTArtisans but Pergear was new to me, so I followed the trail and ended up at http://www.pergear.com .
What I saw was quite a mature website with a range of photo gear from lighting, gimbals, audio and through to lenses. On inspecting the lenses I was surprised to see that they sold a whole range of Chinese made lenses as well as their own brand. Drilling down into the Pergear lenses I could see they had a range of very reasonably priced manual focus lenses, aimed at the usual manufacturers of APS-C mirrorless mounts, as well as Nikon Z and Canon EOS-M mount. I still owned a Fuji X-T10, which I kept both as a handy carry round snap shooter, and a way of getting instant impressions from lenses I intended to shoot with film.
So looking at the Pergear offer, there was 7.5, 25, 35 & 50mm options. At this time I only owned one prime for my Fuji, an 18mm f2, so something a bit more normal was attractive for me, and the 35mm f1.2 stood out, equivalent in 135 film terms to about 54mm, and especially at £79 with free delivery on offer, it was too hard to resist and the checkout now button was hit !
Just a thought about that f1.2 aperture, of course with the smaller sensor, not only does the focal length have an equivalent in ‘full frame’ terms, but so does the aperture, such that the 35mm f1.2, would give results on par with a 54mm f1.8 lens, or near as damn it a 50/f1.8, only on a full frame / 35mm film camera. The 50/f1.8 is often considered the sweet spot for many a 35mm camera, and these lenses can be had quite cheaply, but to get that performance on an APS-C camera would be quite a nice thing to have.
About a week or so later a package arrived, I was surprised to see that it had been shipped from the UK, so there were no import duties etc to be taken care of. On opening the parcel I found the box plus a 43mm vented hood and a Pergear mini air blower, very nice extras to be included. Inside the box (which kind of seemed familiar to me) was a padded carry bag containing the lens in further protective wrapping. Holding the lens it immediately felt familiar to me, if I had my eyes closed and somebody asked me who manufactured this lens, I would have said Voigtlander Cosina in a heartbeat. Then looking back at the box, if it had been green, I might have said the same thing.
Now, I am absolutely not saying these lenses are made at the same facility, as far as I know Voigtlander Cosina are all made in Japan, not China. I do wonder though if Pergear took the Voigtlander Cosina lens range as some sort of inspiration for their own range. Quite a statement for a £79 lens.
Lens in use
Mounting the lens on the camera it had a nice heft, but I did notice there was slightly more movement in the lock position than with a standard Fuji lens, I doubt in practice this will cause any issue, but perhaps just the first indication of lower levels or precision in manufacture.
To use the lens I first switched to manual focus and set the camera to ‘Shoot Without Lens’. and immediately wondered into the garden in my dressing gown and slippers to try a couple of shots at f1.2, I mean, why wouldn’t you ? And first impressions were very nice, using it in aperture priority, both the focus ring and the aperture ring had a nice feel to them, like Goldilocks, not too heavy and not too light, just right. The aperture ring is unclicked, great for video, but also using it on a mirrorless where you can see the response in the viewfinder or on the screen, it doesn’t seem to be too important to have those clicks in my opinion.
Looking at those first results I was pretty impressed on first look, so I charged up my battery and took it out later that day to fire off a few more shots.
⬆ First tentative shots in dressing gown and slippers, ISO 400, f1.2. The difficulty of focussing manually at f1.2 can be seen in the fuschia shot.
⬆ ISO 400, Consecutively adjusted aperture from f1.2 through to f22.
⬆ As above, only closer focus, focus was not adjusted for each shot, DoF seemed to extend to the rear as the aperture was narrowed. Maybe user error, maybe focus was moving, would need to some more work to investigate that one.
⬆ Wide open vs stopped down a few stops, note it was a very windy day so some movement may be involved.
⬆ Some flowers demonstrating swirl when wide open.
⬆ Shooting into or towards the light, 3rd one wide open.
So what do I think ?
Putting this review together, I’ve been pretty impressed with what I’ve seen so far, lovely build quality, and results I’d be more than happy with. A tad soft at f1.2, but what fast lens isn’t, the out of focus areas look just great, I need to test it more with pinpoint lights to see how the bokeh balls look, but those in the fuschia shot look quite acceptable. The possible focus drift as you change aperture, it’s unlikely to cause me any issues in the real world even if it does happen. A touch of swirl too should you like that sort of thing, don’t think you can ask for any more for the price, very glad I took the plunge.
© Copyright owner Steve ‘Stig’ Starr, first publication 23rd October 2020.