This review is by Hamish Gill from 35mmc.com.
A little while ago Pergear offered to loan me some lenses to review. I declined at the time, but having recently been shooting with an old Sony NEX-5R I bought a as cheapo digital to play with, I figured I might as well try a low-budget lens for it. I took a look at their website and found the Pergear 25mm f/1.8 for $68 USD – that’s less than £50 in today’s money. How bad, or indeed good, could it possibly be?
The short answer is that for ~£50, it’s quite remarkable. How it’s possible to make a fully functional lens for this sort of cash blows my mind. Within the project I’m working on to bring lenses to market that are made in the U.K. (Omnar Lenses), that sort of cash would only cover a fraction of the machining costs, never mind optics, assembly, painting, a box, and a profit margin. The Pergear 25mm f/1.8 even comes with a little neoprene carry case…!
Build and Mechanical Feel
So for this little money, you would think it must be a pile of junk, right? Well, actually no. It’s obviously not the finest quality lens I’ve ever used, but surprisingly it’s far from the worst either. A lot of these very inexpensive lenses have a very cheap almost rubbery feeling focus feel. The Pergear 25mm 1.8 doesn’t have that feeling – the focusing is actually quite smooth and even feeling throughout the range. How it would stand up to use over time is another matter, but fresh out of the box and after the month or so I’ve had it, it’s been fine.
How it feels aside, it’s definitely worth noting that the focus travel is only about 90 degrees, and that’s all the way from 0.2m to infinity. I’m not sure I have used a lens with such a broad focusing range and such a short focusing throw…? The aperture is un-clicked too. Almost all cheap Chinese lenses are, so no surprises there. The control is smooth enough though.
The Pergear 25mm In Use
As I’ve said, I’ve recently been carrying an old Sony NEX-5R around with me. I bought it to experiment with the Funleader 18mm f/8 and enjoyed the combo quite a lot. I enjoyed it so much, that I wondered what I might get out of shooting the NEX-5R with a cheapo lens that actually focuses and has an adjustable aperture. That was when I got back in touch with Pergear and found this lens to play with.
The NEX-5R is a very limited camera, but in many respects, that’s actually what I like about it. It’s old, so it doesn’t have a lot of the superfluous-to-me features more modern mirrorless cameras do. Of course, there was one thing I didn’t consider and that was the lack of focus peaking. I realised this as soon as I mounted the lens to the camera – it felt like an issue to begin with, but I soon found it wasn’t going to be as much as an issue as I’d originally feared.
For a start, despite the Pergear 25mm being a f/1.8 lens, it’s still a 25mm so the depth of field even wide open is quite forgiving. Additionally, what’s in focus looks in focus on the screen on the back of the camera. I’m not sure if by design or not, but when establishing focus with the NEX-5R, the area that’s in focus sort of shimmers, perhaps through some sort of aliasing. The lens in use needs to be sharp-enough for this to work, but fortunately – even wide open – the Pergear is indeed sharp enough.
As such, whilst focusing for portraits etc wide open isn’t exactly a doddle on this camera, I’ve found my hit rate to be surprisingly high. And of course, using the depth of field scale for stopped-down shots is very easy too. Pergear 25mm focus throw – the whole range is visible here
All that said, I must admit, coming from my experiences with the Meyer lenses I have recently been reviewing, the short focus throw took a bit of getting used to. Where some people might find the Meyer lens’ throw to be a bit extreme in length, the Pergear 25mm f/1.8 is the opposite. Fortunately, this is just something that I needed to get used to rather than specifically being a dal breaker. In fact, once I was used to it, I found myself being able to focus quite quickly and effectively.
Pergear 25mm past infinity
Focus scale accuracy
One of the things I was quite quick to check was how accurate the focus scale is. Quite often these cheap lenses come out of the factory with a slightly mis-calibrated focus control. On the Pergear 25mm 1.8, the focus does indeed go past infinity – though in its defence, if you line the infinity mark with the focus indication mark, it does indeed seem to be accurate. It’s just worth noting that the lens will focus past infinity if the control is rotated far enough, which it can be as the end stop isn’t at the infinity mark.
Aside from the awe at the fact that this £50 Pergear 25mm f/1.8 lens wasn’t total trash mechanically, I was also a little surprised when I started shooting with it. Ok, to be fair, I wasn’t that surprised as I had already read a couple of reviews. I just didn’t expect to get as much joy out of it as I did – it’s far from perfect, optically speaking, but it definitely has some positive character traits that I could make use out of. That said, I should strongly caveat that comment by saying there have been a few situations where I have found some of its strong character traits a little obstructive.
For maximum sharpness, you do need to keep the subject quite close to the centre mind – I found that if I framed my subject out of the centre of the frame, every time I would find myself with a softer photo, regardless of how hard I tried to focus. I think there might be some field curvature at play as well as some sort of other aberration that causes sharpness falloff.
Finally, bokeh. This is where the pleasant surprise came in – it’s really nice. With the subject in the mid-distance, it’s perhaps just ok, but when taking shots that take advantage of the 20cm close focusing, or even portrait distance, the bokeh is really very pleasant. There’s little about it that distracts – even given foliage or other potential problem causing backgrounds.
A Couple of Photos
Final Thoughts on the Pergear 25mm
When I first posted an image of this lens on my social media, someone commented that I would probably be better off buying a vintage lens. To a degree, I think there is something to be said for that statement – but that’s mostly because I enjoy shooting classic lenses.
The reality is though, for the money, this pergear 25mm f/1.8 does offer a few advantages over shooting a classic lens. It’s Sony e-mount for a start, so is small on the camera body and doesn’t need an adapter. It’s also a 25mm, giving it a ~37-40mm equivalent on APS-C cameras – hard to find in the classic lens world, especially combined with the f/1.8 maximum aperture.
Taking the optical traits out of the equation for a minute, for the £50 it goes for, it does make for a quite compelling option for someone looking for a cheap, semi-wide fast manual focus prime for their mirrorless camera.