There are plenty of 50mm lenses around for less than £100, and many of those are exceptionally good and included AF. But, unlike buying an AF lens, because it’s the one fixed focal length lens you should own, there’s more of a decisive choice in buying a fixed manual 50mm.
The handling and experience of using a camera with a manual lens is a world apart from using an AF lens. It puts you 100% in control of the creativity of your images. You have to think about where the focal point falls, and there’s no eye AF to do it for you.
Using a manual focus lens takes skill and practice, and can be far more rewarding than using an AF. You’re likely to fail a lot more, but you’re also going to learn so much.
The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 is a great lens, it’s cheap and no-frills in many ways. The optics are excellent, and while it may not the aperture ring clicks, the focal lengths adjust slightly as you focus and there’s no data communication between the lens and body, you will get some great shots.
Owning a AF 50mm lens is a good way to engage with your photography; owning a manual 50mm is an amazing way to lose your self in photography.
Simple full manual
Decent build quality
No click for the aperture ring
Not as smooth a focus as some
What is Pergear 50mm f/1.8?
The mid-1980s might have seen AF lenses become mainstream, but manual focus options have never dropped from demand. Manual lenses are still popular, and increasingly so, maybe due to the retro feel and closer control over the image, or it could be due to the increase in people shooting video, who knows, but what’s is known is that they’re great fun to use.
Whatever the reason there’s more choice now than there has been for years. At the budget end of the market, you have the likes of the all-metal Pergear 50mm f/1.8 a compact lens designed for the Sony E, MFT or Fujifilm X mount that I’m looking at in this review.
The lens is completely stripped back, there are no electronics, no lens feedback to the body, nothing, but 100% manual control.
Focal length: 50mm
Designed for: APS-C / MFT
Max Aperture: f/1.8
Min Aperture: f/16
Filter thread: 43mm
Coatings: Multi-MC Layers
Build and Handling
Small and heavy, which is unusual these days, but the compact Pergear 50mm lens has a reassuring weight. Much like a Leica lens; but weight is where the comparison ends, as the Leica cost some 25 x more. But, if you were to compare the Pergear 50mm f/1.8 against a Leica lens, I’d go for the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron.
Let’s leave the comparison between the two there, I have the Pergear but I don’t have the Leica 50mm f/2.
The compact and weighty Pergear 50mm f/1.8 features all-metal construction, manual focus and aperture rings.
Everything about the lens feels well made, with both the focus and aperture rings feeling smooth to rotate.
The focus ring directly adjusts the focusing, and while the front lens section moves forwards and backwards, there’s no rotation of the element which means a filter system can be attached.
The lens features a 43mm diameter for screw-in filters or a filter system such as the LEE Filters Seven5 system can be used.
Aperture adjustment is made through the ring that sits at the back of the lens, giving you the ability to shift between aperture settings smoothly. The aperture ring is of a smooth rotation type, and there’s no option for a click between aperture values commonly found on stills lenses.
It’s nice to see a good selection of distance and aperture markings on the lens used as a rough guide when shooting.
This lens lacks any electrical or data communication between the lens and the camera body. Some other manual lenses do add minimal electronics that let the camera body know what aperture and focal length is being used. As there is nothing on the Pergear 50mm it’s best to adjust the camera settings to give you a helping hand with the focus and exposure.
The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 I’ve tested is designed for Sony APS-C E-Mount cameras. I’ve used a Sony Alpha 7 MKIII and switched the crop to APS-C/Super 35mm to simulate the correct sensor size.
Without doing this, you’ll get a strong vignette around the edges of the frame.
Crop settings adjusted in the camera, I also adjusted a few other setting to help when shooting manual.
Firstly I switched on focus peaking and zebras to help gauge focus and exposure. I also switch the LCD monitor effect off, so the camera shows the exposure I’m going to get rather than an adjusted view.
You can also switch on magnification, but I find that this can be distracting so stick to the focus peaking lines. It’s also worth assigning the focus peaking and zebras to a custom button as they to can get distracting.
Getting started and the lens’s small size fits well on the camera, with the weight staying balanced nicely for handheld shooting. The lens’s weight while seemingly heavy on its own blends in with the camera’s balance and weight well.
Shooting with a manual lens is a very different shooting experience than when shooting with an autofocus lens, and you become more attuned with the subject.
As such, you can concentrate on the sweet spot of focus and adjust the aperture ring to bring more or less of the subject into focus as you see fit.
That manual focal control gives the camera a very different feel, and while I like to have a click between aperture settings, here, the loss of a click works well for the manual approach.
The same goes for the aperture adjustment to effect exposure – it’s a far more tactile and creative procedure than when using an AF lens.
Both aperture and focal rings are smooth, maybe not as smooth as some others, but smooth enough to make for easy and accurate adjustment.
Despite the small size of the lens, there’s plenty of scope for the focus rotation. One thing to look out for is a slight focal length shift as you focus. This is caused by the forward and backward movement of that front element.
When it comes to the images captured, the colour and contrast rendition is excellent, well beyond what I would have expected for a lens in this price range.
Taking a close look at the image’s quality, and as you’d expect from a 50mm, there is little to no distortion.
Edge-to-edge and the image’s detail also looks good with only a slight sharpness fall-off towards the edges.
One surprise, especially for a lens in this price bracket, is that there seems to be little if any noticeable Chromatic Aberration signs. I did check that the camera’s Chromatic Aberration removal and distortion correction was switched off.
Pointing the lens into the light to create flare and again the lens and the MC coatings work well to minimise and unwanted visual effects. The flare created with the sun hood in place are all well controlled and rendered.
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