When it comes to owning a standard lens, it’s usually a 50mm that is the first port of call. However, a 35mm at a cost-effective price is also a good staple. A 35mm gives you a slightly wider look to the world and you also don’t have to pay a fortune to get good quality. One option in this realm is the Opteka 35mm f/1.7, which may not be the most obvious brand, but provides good quality at a reasonable price point.
Small, compact and cheap, may not necessarily go along with great quality. But, here we will check out the lens and see how it works in the real world.
Initially, at this price point, you wouldn’t be expecting much, but just like the Canon 50mm f/1.8, you get a lot of lens for your money. The lens has an all-metal construction, with six elements arranged in five groups, with one being an SD super-low dispersion element to cut down on chromatic aberration. The front element also has a high definition anti-reflective coating for cutting down lens flare, ghosting and increasing contrast.
There are also nine aperture blades within, which should provide a nice bokeh. The lens isn’t weatherproofed, but it’s not really to be expected at this price point. The lens also comes with a small hood, which helps to cut down on lens flare.
The Opteka 35mm f/1.7 is all manual, with the obligatory depth of field and distance scales marked on the lens barrel. The focus ring turns very smoothly, but the aperture ring not having any click points may split opinion. The other anomaly is that the aperture marks up to f/8, but then jumps to f/22.
Being a fully manual lens means that it feels decidedly old school in look and feel. It’s also pretty lightweight at 204g, so you’ll hardly notice it being strapped to the front of your camera. Heavy lenses give you a feel of high-end quality, but there’s nothing like a lightweight setup when you’re shooting all day.
Opteka 35mm f/1.7 in Use
As an aside, when you’re spending less than $100 on a lens, you initially don’t have very high expectations. However, once you nail the focus on the Opteka 35mm f/1.7, images are surprisingly sharp and full of detail.
Center sharpness is very good when fully wide-open at f/1.7, but the corners do suffer from softness. Stopping down to f/4 and above cleans things up, with the zenith being f/8. Unless you are pixel peeping all the time, the image quality is generally overall very pleasing.
The color rendering is very good on the lens with a high degree of contrast. Lens flare is well controlled unless you’re pointing directly into sunlight and the lens does a very good job of cutting out stray light beams when you need it. Vignetting is apparent when the lens is wide open at f/1.7, but stopping down to f/2.8 and above gives the best look.
As for background blur or bokeh, the nine-blade diaphragm helps a lot with producing nice transitions of color. It’s obviously not going to have the complete smoothness of a top end lens, but there’s nothing here that is overly distracting and the results are very pleasing.
Having an aperture of f/1.7 also means that this lens is fast and lets in plenty of light. This means that it helps to keep your ISO levels down which is especially useful indoors. In other words, as a general walkabout lens, the Opteka 35mm f/1.7 is a good little performer and considering the price, it gives you very good images for the money.
How Does It Compare?
As a stand-alone lens, the Opteka would be the number one choice if nothing else existed at this focal length for the price. However, there are a number of lens makers who have had the same idea. A fast and cost-effective standard lens that can produce good quality. One example is the Meike 35mm f/1.7.
Like the Opteka, it’s not the most obvious lens maker out there, but you can’t fault the image quality and effectiveness for the price. It too has an all metal construction, fully manual and can produce good quality images. It comes in a little cheaper than the Opteka and at this price point, you really can’t go wrong with either lens.
|Opteka 35mm f/1.7||Meike 35mm f/1.7|
|Elements||6 elements, 5 groups||6 elements, 5 groups|
Overall, the Opteka 35mm f/1.7 is a great little performer for the money. The metal construction gives a feel of quality and the lens is light enough to be carried around all day without additional bicep strain. The maximum aperture of f/1.7 means that the lens is fast and also can get you a nice shallow depth of field with decent bokeh and good lowlight performance.
The lens isn’t without its caveats. Edge softness is apparent when it’s fully wide open and when you’re really pixel peeping, it doesn’t have the level of quality that you would expect from a top end lens. But, for the majority, images are rendered with higher quality than you would expect at this price point. The lens also acts as a very good entry for those on a limited budget and still want high-quality images.
In other words, this lens may not have that extra sliver of detail as you would expect from the highest priced wide-angle lenses out there. But what you do get for the money, definitely feels like you have snagged a bargain.