Kamlan 28mm f/1.4

by Streets Of Israel March. 29, 2020 585 views

I want to try to share impressions of the various lenses I get my hands on, for others to get an idea of what to expect. This won't technically be a review as such, but more an impression piece. This first one will be of the Kamlan 28mm f/1.4, which really has impressed me, considering the price of this Chinese produced lens.

I'll try not to make it to boring, but just want to give some details first, so you all can appreciate what I have to say about the lens. First, the lens is produced by SainSonic, a Chinese-Taiwanese-German corporation, I think, founded in 2011, but the 28mm lens was presented on a Kickstarter from 2018, published by Machang Optics, a Chinese company founded in 2015, so even though SainSonic is selling the lens, I'm not sure what is up and down here. Probably not that important in this regards anyway.

I got the Fujifilm version, which means that the focal length is equal to 42mm on a full frame camera. If you never used a full frame, then this is irrelevant. If you want to compare to your camera version, then this is equal to a 52mm lens on a MFT (Micro Four-Thirds), and roughly 45mm on a Canon crop camera (all Rebel and xxD cameras, as well as the 7D I and II).

It focuses to infinity and as close as 25 cm or 9 inches. That's close, and I really love this, making it possible to have some interesting closeup shots.

SainSonic is selling the lens for 189 USD on their website, but it can be had for as low as 130 USD on Ebay. This is pretty cheap for a lens. And the price combined with origin, does not make you think highly about a lens, which even has manual focus.

But this is a lens, which gives much more than what it promises. Sure, it's no Leica lens, but less should work for most.

When I got the lens I was impressed from the first moment. It is well built, and it feels like it can take a beating. The focus ring is smooth, while the aperture ring is a bit stiff. I've seen other reviewers complain about the latter, but I like it, so I don't change aperture by mistake.

So, I had only tried to do manual focus with the Fujinon FX 18-55mm f/2.-4 "kit" lens, and while I did like the concept of manual focus, being more in control, I really didn't like the focus ring on the lens, being to stuff and responding in a weird way. In short, the Fuji-lens is focus by wire, which means that the lens sends a signal to the camera, which then adjusts the focus on the lens. When you move the focus ring slowly, the focus is adjusted slowly, when you do it fast, the focus is adjusted fast. It also depends on where the focus is, how far it moves. For some this is great, for me it's annoying, since I don't feel that I have real control over the focus.

Shots done with the lens full open at f/1.4 creates a heavy vignetting. It doesn't bother me particularly, and it can easily be removed in post editing.

Shots done with the lens full open at f/1.4 creates a heavy vignetting. It doesn't bother me particularly, and it can easily be removed in post editing.

On the 28mm on the other hand, there are no electronics, so you have to do everything yourself. And I really loved this fact. I felt much more in control, the focus moved as I expected it to do, and the results are better, even when opened up to f/1.4, where the focus area is very narrow.

When you zoom into the welcome sign, you see that there is some softness, having the lens opened wide at f/1.4.

When you zoom into the welcome sign, you see that there is some softness, having the lens opened wide at f/1.4.

The image quality is surprisingly great. Again, not Leica standards, but definitely acceptable for most people and use. It isn't 100% sharp wide open - and I'll share an example of this, but stop it down to f/2 and there is no issues. At f/4 it is sharp in the center, and the corners follows from f/5.6.

Stop the lens down a little, and the vignetting disappears. Here at f/4.

Stop the lens down a little, and the vignetting disappears. Here at f/4.

Sharpness is not all there is to an image though. The colors are very pleasing, and the bokeh (for whoever is totally obsessed by this) is also very nice. But that's subjective, as is most things. Wide open there is some serious vignetting, but if you don't like vignetting, this can obviously be corrected in post editing. There is some distortion, but it really isn't bad, you have to look for it, to notice it.

Stopping the lens down will also improve the sharpness, as seen here zoomed in on the welcome sign.

Stopping the lens down will also improve the sharpness, as seen here zoomed in on the welcome sign.

See some more photo examples showing vignetting and sharpness in photo comments.

Graffiti in Tel Aviv. The colors are rendered pretty well.

Graffiti in Tel Aviv. The colors are rendered pretty well.

Another piece of art, this time at the port in Jaffa.

Another piece of art, this time at the port in Jaffa.

A man framed by a door.

A man framed by a door.

My son, shot at f/1.4. Notice the very shallow depth of focus, and how sharp it is where it's in focus.

My son, shot at f/1.4. Notice the very shallow depth of focus, and how sharp it is where it's in focus.

A cat relaxing in the sun, with the beach of Tel Aviv in the background.

A cat relaxing in the sun, with the beach of Tel Aviv in the background.

The Ayalon Highway and the Azrieli Towers.

The Ayalon Highway and the Azrieli Towers.

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