Let’s talk about a 50mm f/1.4 lens that is under $100. Crazy, right? I thought so, so that’s why I had to check it out. This is my review of the Brightin Star 50mm f/1.4 Sony E-mount Lens.
One would thinl that at $100, you really can’t expect much from a lens this cheap. I’d never heard of the brand Brightin Star before either. They don’t have a whole lot of products, but the lens really surprised me. I’m using it in interesting ways that I typically would use other lenses for, and it’s just a fun way to go and capture something different.
Now, a lens like this is not going to be a great option if you want fast autofocus. This lens is fully manual. The camera doesn’t even know that there is a lens on it. The lens is fully manual, which means no autofocus, so you manual focus it, and you also set your aperture manually as well. You really have to do a bit more thinking when you shoot with a lens like this.
Sometimes, I actually like that. There are times when I want to rely on all the technologies possible, like when I’m taking pictures of my kids, or I’m shooting a wedding or some professional event. But when I’m out shooting interesting objects or landscapes, or something like that, and I just want something different, I don’t mind spending a little bit more time dialing in my camera and utilizing manual options where there are perfectly good, fully automatic options, like with better lenses. With this lens, I was interested because of the price. Once I started spending time with it, it started reminding me of how I utilized other lenses in the past.
When I switched over to Sony many years ago, one of the things that I found really fun is adapting to other lenses. I had to do that because at the time there weren’t a whole lot of lens options available for the Sony mirrorless platform, and so I found myself adapting a lot of lenses. Now, in buying adapters, I started adapting old vintage lenses and stuff as well, which was really fun. It gave some images an interesting unique look and feel, and so I just went down that road of having fun with my photos in a different way. Whereas usually I’d be looking for something that was the clearest, provided the best rendering of the image, and was sharp all the way across, and had the least amount of vignetting and stuff like that.
Then when I throw on the vintage lenses, I was having more fun, with just creating a certain kind of look. If you look at what the cool style or the in style is right now for photography, it definitely doesn’t revolve around sharp edges and stuff like that. There’s a lot of processing going on in imaging these days. With lenses like this, you can almost get some of that in-camera, which I find really interesting because technically it’s a limitation of the quality of the product, but it’s producing the look that seems to be cool and interesting right now.
I put this lens on my A6400 when I first got it. I’ve predominantly used it on that camera, even though it will work on any Sony E-mount camera, whether it’s a full-frame or a crop sensor camera like this. Immediately, I went and shot wide open at that f/1.4 because you have to. Yes, the image is not that sharp across the entire edge from middle to the edges. It is soft and that’s to be expected. A lens like this is not perfect. It is for just utilizing in different situations and having fun with.
I went out and tried to take some portraits with it, which is challenging because it’s manual focus. When you’re shooting at f/1.4, that depth of field is so shallow that you really have a hard time with it. Because the camera doesn’t even really recognize that it has a lens on it because this lens has nothing that communicates with the camera, you have a situation where you can’t use focus assist or manual focus assist.
With a normal lens that does have communication, when you go into manual focus mode, the camera knows that you’re trying to manual focus and manual focus assist doesn’t work. You can’t make any of those changes in camera really because it doesn’t know that there’s a lens on there, but what you can do, on this camera specifically with the Sony’s, is use a 2x punch in that you can do manually. That’s what I would typically be using to make sure that I’m getting my image sharp because it’s really hard to see at 50mm. 50mm is not super close, so you’re not super close to whatever it is you’re taking photos of, so you can’t really tell whether or not you’re in focus unless that thing is directly in front of you.
With that said, I’ll use that 2x punch in just to make sure, and I’ve actually remapped that to my trash can button on the a6400. It just makes it really easy for me to punch in really quick, make sure that I have whatever it is that I’m taking a picture of in focus with the manual focus ring on the front, and then I can go and take my shot. It’s not as great of an experience as having an autofocus lens that does communicate with the camera, that can tell the camera that it’s in a manual focus mode, but it gets the job done. Remember, under $100.
With that said, I tried to take a portrait with it. The portrait was okay. It definitely reminded me of using vintage lenses, adapting it to these cameras, which was fun because this lens is new, which means it’s clean, it doesn’t have all the weird aberrations and stuff like that, that you would get with a vintage lens. A lot of times, these vintage lenses are dirty, they’re scratched, there’s mold or fungus, or whatever on them, and there’s things affecting the lens that is going to overall affect your image. Those are things that you can’t really fix unless you go into Photoshop and try and fix them.
Whereas a lens like this, yes, it has some of those vintage aspects because it’s just not a very high-end lens, but it doesn’t have those artifacts and weird stuff like that going on. So less Photoshop time is basically what I’m getting at. You still get that vintage look, which is an in-thing right now. That’s the style of the photos are we go out and we spend thousands of dollars on our lenses, and then we run filters over the top of our images that add artifacts and adds softness and things that typically we try to spend good money on lenses do not have. With a lens like this, you spend $100 on a lens, less than a $100 on a lens and you get some of that look right in camera. Then you could just throw another filter on top of it and great, post it to Instagram, you’re done.
One of the other things that I like about this lens is not only is it manual focus, but it’s manual aperture, which means I can dial that in and feather it in however I like it. That is fun because you never really know what you’re going to get. You can look and see, and say like, “Okay, I think that’s f/4,” you really have no idea because the camera doesn’t have any idea what it’s at. When you go and look at your photo, there’s nothing written to the photo that says that it’s in f/4, you just have to believe. But when shooting video, it’s nice because if you’re going from like an indoor to an outdoor shot, you can just really easily feather that in and it’s just a smooth look. I like that because most other lenses have that weird stepping when you adjust the aperture.
Like I said a few times now, the photos aren’t going to be perfect that you’re going to get with this lens, but that’s okay. It’s under $100 and you’re getting a lens like this to just be able to shoot wide open at f/1.4, but have a 50mm lens that doesn’t cost much. There’s imperfections there, of course, and I’ve shown you some photos. There’s a link below that’ll take you to the Ditch Auto website where you can actually see the photos, and get a little bit more up close and personal with them, because it is hard to see the quality of an image that’s been rendered out in a YouTube video, so definitely check out that link down below.
But shooting video is also fun with this lens because you have that manual aperture, which means when you’re doing those types of shots where you need to go from indoor to outdoor, or something like that, you can just feather that aperture in, whereas most other lenses are going to have a weird stepping when you’re adjusting the aperture. You’re going to have to figure out a different way to adjust your exposure, maybe using a variable ND or something like that. It’s just a little bit challenging to do those types of shots.
But when you have, I guess a de-clicked aperture ring, because this one definitely doesn’t have the option to be clicked or de-clicked, it just is nice and smooth, and you can get those kinds of shots. It gives you nice clear images for the most part, unless you’re shooting really wide open. I found that I got pretty good images at f/4. f/4 seemed to be a nice sweet spot for the lens to where it’s still letting in a good amount of light so that I can get … Maybe not low light situations, but I could still get that shallow depth of field to an extent. But the image is a little bit more sharper all the way across, so that’s nice.
When I’m shooting a landscape or something that I want to be a little bit more sharp all the way across, I’m definitely not going to be shooting wide open at f/1.4. I’m probably going to be closer to an f/4 or an f/6. Or if it’s on a bright day, I could go all the way up to f/16, so this lens gives you a lot of options there. That’s a pretty wide range from f/1.4 to f/16.
A lens like this provides a lot of value because it’s cheap, it’s small, so it’s not going to take up a lot of room in your bag. It’s not going to be a lens that you’re going to use all the time, but it will be a lens that you’ll use for those opportunities where you want to just do something different, where you want to take a picture that maybe feels a little bit more dreamy, where you’re not worried about it being completely perfect and aesthetically perfect. You’re looking more for something to just give you a feeling that is different.
This lens provides a lot of value for its price. Yeah, it’s not the go-to lens. You’re not going to be using this lens all the time, but there are so many opportunities to use a lens like this when you have a little bit of extra time, when you have a little bit more control over your situation and you want something that’s going to give you a different look. A lens like this is going to give that to you. Yes, there are going to be some things that are wrong with the image. It’s not perfect, but it’s going to give you that dreamy feel. It’s going to give you a little bit more of a softer look. Depending on what you’re going for, that might be exactly what you need. It’s something that you’d have to do a lot of post-processing and Photoshop to get to.
I highly recommend, whether you try out this lens or another lens, there are other lenses out there that are $100, a couple hundred dollars that are fully manual, that aren’t perfect lenses, but they provide, I think, a lot of value and they’re interesting to use. There’s a 35mm lens that I have that I find pretty interesting and then also an 85mm fully manual. These are lenses that were super cheap that I find a lot of fun to use. If you’re thinking about changing things up, but you don’t want to go and spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get yet another lens, spend under $100 and try out a lens like this. You don’t have to worry about going and getting vintage lenses, or old lenses and adapting them. This lens fits perfectly on your camera and it’s going to operate great. I think you’re going to have a lot of fun with it.
Check out the links provided in this post to check out this lens from Brightin Star. It has a 52mm lens ring, if you’re interested. You can also throw an ND on here, which I haven’t done. I don’t have a 52mm ND that would work on this lens, but you could be shooting wide open at f/1.4 with some ND on it and getting that really shallow depth of field, that dreamy look that I was talking about, even outdoors on a bright day. I think it’s worth checking out. I’ve had a lot of fun with it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here making a video about it.
Let me know what you think down in the Comment section below, what is something different and unique that you’ve adapted to your camera that you tried on your camera aside from the stuff that everybody else talks about, like the standard lenses that we all typically buy. Those lenses are great, and there’s a lot of value in those, and those are the lenses I spend most of my time with, but a lens like this is just fun and different. Let me know what you think down in the Comment section below, and share what you’ve been using just to be different and creative on your cameras. I’d love to hear about that.