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Gear Talk Technical & Testing Video

Canon 22mm f/2 vs. Viltrox 23mm f/1.4

Continuing my series of comparing native Canon EF-M (EOS M) lenses, this time it’s the Canon 22mm f/2 versus the Viltrox 23mm f/1.4 lens. There is a slight difference in focal length and a large difference in maximum aperture. I compare image quality, video autofocus, and various potential use cases between the two lenses on the Canon EOS M50.

Or watch the video through this link.

Check out these lenses through my affiliate links…

Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 Lens:
B&H: https://bhpho.to/2GgeNBQ
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2URc080
Used from KEH (Graphite): https://shrsl.com/25lqz
Used from KEH (Silver): https://shrsl.com/25lr2
UsedPhotoPro: http://bit.ly/33czA4i
ebay: http://ebay.us/qpyHc8
Walmart: https://bit.ly/2y8xKX4
Best Buy: https://bestbuy.7tiv.net/eLYn1

Viltrox 23mm f/1.4 AF Lens for Canon EF-M:
B&H: https://bhpho.to/34tulOU
Amazon: https://amzn.to/31lk6Lw
ebay: http://ebay.us/eylshV

Below are my notes I wrote up to produce the video. Slightly modified to make more sense as standalone text.

The Canon 22mm has an inner barrel that extends from the lens while focusing.

Physical properties of the lens: 

  • Both lenses have a metallic exterior and mount. They have smooth machined focus rings.
  • The Viltrox lens is significantly taller than the Canon lens. 60.9mm vs. 65mm in diameter.
  • Weight is 270g for the Viltrox and 105g for the Canon. 
  • Filter size for the Canon is 43mm and the Viltrox is 52mm.
  • The Canon lens has an inner barrel that extends from the lens when focusing. Its autofocus motor is louder than the Viltrox lens. The Viltrox lens is completely internal focus.
  • The Viltrox lens has an aperture ring. The only point in the ring that clicks is at f/16. The Canon lens doesn’t have one. With native EF-M lenses I don’t think an aperture ring is necessary, but that’s my personal preference.
  • The Viltrox lens includes a built-in micro USB port for firmware updates. There have been multiple updates since the release of the lens. Canon lenses are updated through the camera. 
Size difference between the 22mm and 23mm with included hood…

Important specifications: 

  • Canon
    • Aperture range of f/2 to f/22. 
    • No physical aperture ring.
    • Minimum focusing distance: 0.49 ft / 0.15m.
    • Updatable through EF-M cameras.
    • 43mm filter thread.
    • No hood included.
  • Viltrox
    • Aperture range of f/1.4 to f/16.
    • Has a physical aperture ring that’s electronic without clicks between settings.
    • Minimum focusing distance: 0.98 ft / 0.3m.
    • 52mm filter thread.
    • Updatable through a micro USB port.

Focus breathing test:

  • As far as I can tell the Viltrox lens has less focus breathing in the close up test I did. That should make it a bit more pleasing in video. But keep in mind the Viltrox lens isn’t good in automatic exposure video mode.
Minimum focus I could achieve in practice with the two lenses. Definitely an advantage to the Canon 22mm lens here.

Important differences between the lenses:

  • F/1.4 vs. f/2 
    • Exposure differences means you can get more light to the sensor and can use lower ISOs when needed.
    • Depth of field differences. You can get a more isolated subject with the larger maximum aperture.
  • Physical size
    • Clearly the Canon lens is a lot smaller and lower weight. There are sometimes benefits to having a compact prime lens like the 22mm. The lens can stay attached to the camera in more styles of camera bag.
  • Lens hood
    • Viltrox comes with a (mostly) metal hood.
    • The Canon can take a hood but it connects to the filter thread. Be careful not to bump the hood while using it because that inner barrel is part of the focusing system.

The major challenge comparing the lenses is the focal length differences along with any focusing variability. Having the lenses take photos at the same position should be sufficient to see the most important differences. I took at least two photos per aperture in case of any focusing quirks.

Visible CA on the Viltrox at f/2.

Image quality & related:

  • Detail: 
    • Even though there is a focal length difference making it difficult to analyze the results, the Canon lens produces more detail in the photos throughout the aperture range. Impressive given that there would be fewer pixels per area in the Canon images. Both the corners and center tend to have more detail for a given aperture until f/8. Though keep in mind it only matters when looking very closely. I think both lenses are “good enough” for most purposes.
    • I should mention that the Viltrox at f/1.4 is noticeably lower sharpness compared to f/2.
  • Background point source light quality:
    • This is a difficult one to analyze due to the focal length difference. 
    • Viltrox point source lights have a colored edge to them due to chromatic aberrations, but the centers are smooth. 
    • Canon through the aperture range tends to be rougher and more defined point source lights.
    • If you want a more blurry unobtrusive background then the combination of focal length and maximum aperture gives the Viltrox lens the edge there. 
  • Optical Aberrations:
    • With black characters on white the Viltrox produces red edges. I had a very similar result on the Viltrox 56mm though I think the 23mm might be slightly better.
    • The 22mm lens seemed good in this regard though it’s not the best performer in EF-M. There can be situations where you get fringing or other aberrations.
  • Portrait example:
    • Both lenses produced pleasing results overall. Neither lens appeared to have an issue with face and eye detect autofocus on the Canon EOS M50. Due to the natural chromatic aberrations of the Viltrox lens you will see more color variation in areas such as hair due to the fine details.
    • While this isn’t a focal length I’d use for this purpose often, I’d probably go with the Viltrox lens here unless physical size is an issue. Eyes will tend to be placed toward the center and I don’t see much of a difference between the two lenses there. The Viltrox lens offers more flexibility with the larger maximum aperture and slightly narrower focal length.
  • Outdoor sample photos:
    • At wider apertures I think that the Canon lens has more detail in the corners, but also has quite a bit of vignetting. Chromatic aberrations can be mixed with either lens showing issues like fringing depending on the scene. 
    • At f/5.6 the Canon holds more detail in the corners but has more vignetting.
    • Both lenses look very good at f/8, but I think the Viltrox is still slightly lacking compared to the Canon.
    • I’d probably go with the Canon for this use case unless you don’t want to deal with the vignetting.
The aperture difference in video mode when the Viltrox is set to f/1.4 and shutter speed is adjusted to compensate.

Video Results:

  • 1080p, 60 fps
    • f/5.6, 1/125th, ISO 100
    • f/2, 1/1000th, ISO 100
    • f/1.4, 1/1000th, ISO 100 (and f/2 on the Canon)
    • f/1.4, 1/2000th, ISO 100 (and f/2 on the Canon)
    • No issues with either lens!
  • 4k
    • f/2, 1/1250th, ISO 100
    • The Canon EOS M50 isn’t good with 4k autofocus. Both lenses appeared similar.
  • 1080p, 30 fps
    • f/8, 1/60th, ISO 100
    • No issues with either lens!
  • Automatic video mode
    • The Viltrox lens has improved in this mode, but still has issues keeping a consistent exposure. This is the same for the Sigma 56mm lens I tested out previously. The Canon lens seems fine.
I like this focal length for sit-down talking to the camera style video work.

Which lens for video?

  • I use this focal length a lot for my sit down talking to the camera footage. 
  • The main reason I tend to use the Canon over the Viltrox is minimum focusing distance and lower weight due to the “magic arm” I use for that specific recording setup. Sometimes I might hold something up to the camera and getting it a bit closer to the camera can be nice. 
  • On the other hand the larger maximum aperture and slightly more narrow focal length could help out with the look of these videos, especially if you have a decent amount of working distance. The lens is quieter when focusing. It appears to have less focus breathing as well. 
  • Of course if you go with the Viltrox here you need to use it in manual video mode, not automatic exposure. For this video I did not test setting only the ISO to automatic. I can’t see the benefit to doing that anyways considering this focal length isn’t a great one for vlogging or other situations where any type of automatic exposure is best.

Conclusion:

  • Current prices are $249 for the Canon and $279 for the Viltrox.
  • I don’t think this is a great focal length for portraits, but that will depend on what your style is. It’s difficult for me to see a difference between the two in this case. Though at f/1.4 the Viltrox is softest which could be good or bad. I’d probably go with the Viltrox for that purpose unless the color variation in hair bothers you.
  • For outdoor work I’d go with the Canon unless vignetting bothers you. Not until f/8 would I take the Viltrox over the canon here.
  • Clearly one of the major considerations for these lenses is size. Do you want something as small as possible for the EF-M system? The Canon lens is it. Do you want something that’s easier to handle? The Viltrox lens is it. 

Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 Lens:
B&H: https://bhpho.to/2GgeNBQ
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2URc080
Used from KEH (Graphite): https://shrsl.com/25lqz
Used from KEH (Silver): https://shrsl.com/25lr2
UsedPhotoPro: http://bit.ly/33czA4i
ebay: http://ebay.us/qpyHc8
Walmart: https://bit.ly/2y8xKX4
Best Buy: https://bestbuy.7tiv.net/eLYn1

Viltrox 23mm f/1.4 AF Lens for Canon EF-M:
B&H: https://bhpho.to/34tulOU
Amazon: https://amzn.to/31lk6Lw
ebay: http://ebay.us/eylshV