A good Chinese lens? Yes, a good Chinese lens

More than halfway into 2016, so let's start it with a good post. By accident, I read a post about the Zonlai 25mm f/1.8 lens being available in the Fuji X-mount. It's a Chinese designed and made lens. In photos it looked small, sample images were pretty good, and the price was reasonable. Off to eBay, where I made an offer that was immediately accepted by the seller. You know the price you named was too high when that happens.

The lens arrived in a week or so. First impression is that it really is tiny, just what I want for my X-E1. The aperture ring is in the front, leading to many fumbles as muscle memory made me reach for it when attempting to focus. It's a clickless ring, which I hate as it prevents setting aperture without looking at the ring. The focus ring is to the back, and it's on the tight side. Cosmetics look good, and the lens mounted without any problems.

Image quality matched what I'd seen on the web: sharp in the center wide open, with the edges being on the iffy side until about f/5.6. OOF can be a bit nervous when your subject is several feet away. Light fall off in the corners is an issue, but can be corrected easily in post. You can also leave it in to give your images that old lens look. I am amazed at how close the lens can focus. It's definitely a plus given the wide aperture of the lens. OOF is smooth when your subject is up close.

Flare is an issue. This lens produces even weirder flare than the Zeiss Ultron. A lens hood will solve this problem, but will make the lens bigger; there's no such thing as a free lunch when you're dealing with cheap lenses. I will probably go in that direction though as this lens likes to be used wide open, and the X-E1 will overexpose in daylight at f/1.8 (anyone selling an X-E2 or X-T1 cheap?).

I splurged for a Taab focus tab ring to help with that tight focus ring. Sadly, the Taab covers the focus scale. I need to grab a label machine and make a distance scale.

So far I've been happy with the lens. I'm still struggling with manual focus and have missed quite a few shots. But when everything lines up right, the Zonlai 25mm can give some pretty impressive shots. Some have a touch of that 3D look.

On to the samples.

More images can be found here and here.


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