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Has anyone tried or even considered the Chinese under-£100 85mm f/1.8 primes for hobbyist/non-pro photography? Of course, they are only manual focus and build quality will not be as good as their branded counterparts, but I was wondering that at ~20% of the cost, how good is their optical quality in comparison - 70%, 80%, 90%? I could not find ratings or reviews anywhere.

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 eBay £96.99

Sony 85mm f/1.8 eBay £89.98

Update: To clarify, I am looking for a Sony FE mount lens for casual portrait photography. I posted Nikon example too as I am assuming both will be comparable in quality and someone's experience with it may help my decision.

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The same 85/1.8 lens is sold under different names, including Neewer, Opteka, Bower, Vivitar, Lightdow, and others. You don't state what camera, mount, or purpose you want these lenses for, so they may or may not meet your needs.

I have used the Neewer 85/1.8 variant.

  • It is reasonably sharp, but doesn't feel sharp (acutance) when used wide open. Like most lenses, it improves stopped down.
  • It has a definite glow, or halo, which improves when the lens is stopped down to F2.5. (The lens is marked with unusual apertures, like F3 and F6.)
  • It's not strong against veiling glare, but the lens hood it comes with is helpful.

There appear to be plenty of people who do like the lens. On a popular shopping site, over 90% of reviews are 4-5/5 stars 😵, and the reviews on YT glow more than the lens does. The lens isn't quite as bad as I remember. It seems to do well outdoors in good lighting. Here's a photo taken at F1.8. Notice the glow and chromatic aberration:

Neewer 85/1.8

If you search for "85mm 1.8 lens" on your favorite auction site, there are several other options that would likely provide better image quality.

  • For a lower price, there are listings for some old Nippon Kogaku manual focus lenses that could be interesting. This was Nikon before they were Nikon. My experience with the brand is they're in line with other lenses from the time. Some people also like "owning a part of history".

  • For a little more, there are some Canon and Nikon branded lenses that should perform well. If you're using mount adapters, go with Nikon or Canon FD because it's a pain to control the aperture on Canon EF lenses.

  • There's also an 85/1.8 Yongnuo lens, which I have not used. I have used their 50/1.8. It notably had very nice bokeh, but was weak against veiling glare. I wasn't able to assess sharpness, but it seemed sharp enough (acceptable).
  • If you can go down to 50mm, there are a lot of old name-brand 50/1.8 and 50/2 lenses with very good image quality. There are many good old third-party lenses as well ("Made in Japan").
  • Similarly, there are a lot of good 135/2.8 lenses.
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    Over 50% of this post doesn't answer the question and contains shopping advice. Go ahead and down vote. – xiota Aug 30 at 11:35
  • Mine's similar - try it once, don't do it again. Have a look at these instead ;) – Tetsujin Aug 30 at 11:57
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    Thing is, not one of the reviews will be from an industry professional or even a rich &/or well-established amateur. If you're just starting out & all you got is £100 to spend, you're less likely to be scathing about it. – Tetsujin Aug 30 at 12:08
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    The reviews for these lenses are like the reviews for cheap "photography lights". Lots of praise...none from anyone who you'd trust to take a picture for you. – Hueco Aug 30 at 22:29
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    The characteristics described make it sound like you are getting the exact drawbacks (very high resolution but strong halo wide open, meh flare resistance) of using a vintage lens, so it sounds reasonable to get a vintage lens in the first place :) – rackandboneman Sep 2 at 8:32
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Pictures on the Nikon ad show it's a Jintu, or at least a Jintu box.

Jintu say that's an 8-blade aperture. Picture shows 6. You could get one actually purporting to be a Jintu for the same price… or you could save your money.

A very very similar Neewer on eBay is £80 & may even be the same thing in a different box. These things often are.

I'd say you do this once, get disappointed & promise yourself you won't do it again.

If you want 'fun' lenses, there's possibly more fun to be had with a new Meike [which has auto-focus], a Lensbaby, a refurbed Helios, or an old Nikon [check compatibility with newer cameras] - I just saw an old Nikon 85mm for £130 … that sounds like more fun ;)

Pricing on things like lenses tends to be rather logarithmic - so for £10 you get "basic". For "twice as good" it's £100 & "twice as good again" is £1000 .. & on it goes. [This is not an accurate calculation by any means.]

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    I've got a lo-fi Helios, which is fun, before that I had cheap 'lens adaptors' of varying designs strapped on my kit lens… which were not. I also got a nifty f/1.4 which is magnificent [which also makes it 'fun';) – Tetsujin Aug 30 at 14:45
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Be aware that there is current controversy about identically-looking inexpensive lenses sold under different brands, rumoured to be from the same OEM.

For example, there are some brands offering lenses that look like Laowa products; however Laowa claims that they are NOT Laowa OEM products but blatant counterfeits (Laowa announcement https://twitter.com/laowa_lens/status/839319718704001024 )

Also, a single-OEM, multiple-brand product could conceivably have different quality control criteria for the various brands (selling the tested-best goods under the more expensive brands and the marginal ones under the cheaper brands).

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More worried by the specs:

Mount: for CANON DSLR Mount 
Compatible Brand: For Nikon

Otherwise you find a "Neewer 85mm f/1,8" on Amazon at about the same price that looks a lot like it and could come from the same plant.

  • You can check the comments of Amazon purchasers, they likely apply to the eBay cousin
  • Buying on Amazon could be safer (return policy, etc...)
  • In the UK there's no worry with returns policy. There's a very distinct law that covers returns within 7 days. basically until a week has passed you have the item 'for inspection & evaluation'. All they can do is make you pay the return postage, they even have to refund your original shipping cost as well as the purchase price. – Tetsujin Aug 30 at 10:57
  • @Tetsujin Well, price of shipping may exceed the value of the purchase in this case. – mattdm Aug 31 at 12:31
  • @mattdm - only if you sent it by armoured truck ;) Shipping something that size would be about £5, 2-day delivery, signed for. – Tetsujin Aug 31 at 12:33
  • To China, though? – mattdm Aug 31 at 12:35
  • @mattdm - Ugh, no, never thought of that - I'd never buy anything from outside the EU, or even just UK. A lot of the Chinese importers for eBay UK actually technically "ship" from inside the EU, so that's where it would go back to. They might have to do it that way for some legal reason, but it works for me as a buyer. The business address will be Hong Kong etc, but the goods will come from Portsmouth - or somewhere near a dock. Presumably that allows them to keep goods technically outside the UK in a bonded warehouse, then ship over the border at the last minute. – Tetsujin Aug 31 at 12:42

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