I get asked frequently, “How can I make my digital pictures look more like film?”
My film simulation recipes—made possible by Fujifilm’s commitment to the camera-made JPEG and their long history with film—are a great start for achieving a film-like look. Another step that can go a long way towards achieving an analog aesthetic is the lens that’s attached to the camera. You see, most modern lenses are precision engineered, designed to eliminate flaws as much as possible. They score well on test charts, but often at the expense of character. Modern lenses render photographs differently than vintage lenses; old lenses have flaws, as they weren’t designed with today’s technology or for today’s standards, and these flaws are why they render images uniquely. For (typically) not very much money you can buy antique lenses intended for film cameras, and mount them to your Fujifilm X camera with an adapter—something that I love to do! Cheap third-party lenses often accomplish the same thing, but you’re buying something that’s new (instead of old) and you don’t need an adapter. The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 lens is an inexpensive option for your Fujifilm X camera, and it indeed has character similar to a vintage lens!
I get gift cards sometimes, usually for my birthday or Christmas, and it can be hard to know what to buy myself. In the past I have purchased a Meike 35mm f/1.7 lens and a 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 lens—both are under $100, which is the right price range for those gift cards that I don’t know what to do with. The Pergear 50mm f/1.8, with an MSRP of $79, is in that same category. The Pergear lens has other things in common with the Meike and 7artisans models: click-less aperture rings, seemingly good build quality, similar flaws, and lots of character. You’d almost think that they were made by the same company, but apparently they’re not.
The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 is a 75mm-equivalent manual-focus, manual-aperture prime lens from China. It has 10 rounded aperture blades, 6 elements in 4 groups, a maximum aperture of f/1.8, a minimum aperture of f/16, a minimum focus distance of about 15 inches, and accepts 43mm threaded filters. The aperture and focus rings are both smooth. I do wish that the aperture ring had f-stop clicks, but it doesn’t—not a big deal, though.
Center sharpness is pretty fantastic on the Pergear 50mm f/1.8 lens at all apertures. Corner sharpness is decent-enough when wide open and noticeably improves when stopped down to f/4. There’s some minor vignetting when wide open; it improves when stopped down, yet it never fully goes away, although it’s hardly noticeable at apertures smaller than f/2.8. There’s some noticeable chromatic aberrations in extreme high-contrast light, but is otherwise well controlled. There’s almost no distortion. Bokeh is pretty good thanks to those rounded blades.
The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 has a weird flaw, which can be stunningly beautiful or terribly awful, depending on your tastes and the exact situation: the center of the frame can get a warm haze. It seems to become more pronounced when the aperture is (roughly) f/5.6 and smaller, and when there’s a bright light source somewhere in front of the camera (it can be outside the frame). Sometimes I really love this haze, and it’s almost like having a diffusion filter built into the lens, and sometimes it’s just too pronounced and essentially ruins the picture. Opening up the aperture seems to reduce the effect in those situations where it might be too pronounced. This strange haze is both the reason to buy this lens and the reason not to, depending on your opinion of it. I personally really like it, although I’m happy to have it limited to one lens, which I can choose to use when I want this character in my pictures. To be clear, this haze won’t show up in every picture—there are many situations where it won’t, either because the aperture is too large or because the light isn’t right, and even when it does appear, it’s often very subtle, which is great.
The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 is a good, sharp lens, producing lovely images in most situations. It has character that you just won’t find in most modern lenses. It has quirks, which can be good or bad, depending on the situation and your tastes. It’s all manual, which I like, but can take some practice to get good at if you’ve only ever used auto lenses. The Pergear 50mm f/1.8 lens, when used in conjunction with the Fujifilm JPEG settings, can help you achieve a much-sought-after film-like look from your digital camera. It’s not for everyone, but, for the price, it’s worth a try, especially if you are unsure what to buy with that gift card in your wallet.
This review contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated a small amount if you make a purchase using my links.
Below are camera-made JPEGs that I captured using the Pergear 50mm f/1.8 lens attached to my Fujifilm X-T30. For the color pictures I used my new Kodak Portra 400 v2 recipe (available on the Fuji X Weekly App for iOS), except for the the top picture, which was captured with Velvia, and the two night pictures below that, which were captured with Porto 200 (also available on the app). For the black-and-white pictures I used my Kodak Tri-X 400 recipe. The photographs of the lens (above) were captured with a Fujifilm X100V using my Superia Premium 400 recipe.
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