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Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm f/1.7 Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm f/1.7 Lens for Sony E mount and Fujifilm X mount cameras.


|  Zhongyi 24mm f/1.7 in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm F1 7 Sony E (3)

You may be forgiven for asking who on earth Zhongyi are, and where they have come from. Zhongyi are a Chinese lens manufacturer who have been making lenses for around 30 years now. They have recently bought the Mitakon brand, and have begun to expand their lens portfolio to include lenses for Fuji X-series and Sony E-mount cameras with APS-C sensors, as well as Micro Four Thirds cameras. This manual focus wide angle lens for the Sony E-mount system provides an angle of view equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm camera and sports a fast f/1.7 maximum aperture. The lens costs $349 (£230) direct from Zhongyi, which seems reasonable. In this review, we'll take a look at how it performs.

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm f/1.7 Handling and Features

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm F1 7 Sony E (6)

This lens sports an all-metal lens barrel and mount, finished in satin black. The build and finish is reminiscent of lenses from a more simple time, when M42 screw fit lenses were king. The lens feels quite weighty for its size, thanks to the heavy-duty construction, but it still only weighs under 250g. As a result it feels like a good companion to the Sony Alpha 5000 camera used for testing.

The focus and aperture rings are well damped and very smooth to operate. There is just the right amount of resistance there to prevent accidental movement and fine adjustments are a pleasure to apply. Those who record video often, will be glad to hear that there are no click stops on the aperture, which allows seemless exposure adjustments to be performed whilst recording. A useful hyperfocal scale is etched onto the lens barrel and closest focus is 15cm, which is quite close for a lens of this type.

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm F1 7 Sony E (5)

The scale on the aperture ring isn't linear, so the ring needs to be turned further at fast apertures than at slower ones to apply the same amount of adjustment. This can take some getting used to, as close attention need to be paid to what aperture values are actually written on the ring, especially as aperture values at the slower end of the scale are so closely bunched together that some values are missing.

The lens accepts 49mm filters, and the filter ring does not rotate during focusing, which will aid the use of graduated and polarising filters.

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm F1 7 Sony E (1)

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm f/1.7 Performance

Even though this lens is sold as an alternative lens, more for the effect it can deliver, rather than for out and out sharpness, performance is as you may expect for a wide angle lens with a fast aperture. Sharpness is good in the centre of the frame at f/1.7, increasing to excellent levels as the aperture is stopped down to around f/4. Towards the edges of the frame, clarity isn't quite as good at fast apertures and the lens really needs stopping down to f/8 or beyond to achieve very good sharpness edge to edge.


 

 
MTF
MTF

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha 5000 using Imatest.

 

Chromatic aberrations are a little high towards the edges of the frame, exceeding one pixel width between f/1.7 and f/4. Care may need to be taken when shooting scenes with high contrast areas near the edges of the frame as a result.


 

 
CA
CA

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha 5000 using Imatest.

 

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is quite well controlled for a lens with a fast maximum aperture. At maximum aperture, the corners are 1.87 stops darker than the image centre and illumination is visually uniform by f/4.

Imatest detected 1.65% barrel distortion, which is fairly typical for a wide angle lens with a fast maximum aperture. The distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, so applying corrections in image editing software should be relatively straightforward.

Contrast is lacking with this lens, especially when shooting into the light. In a way, this helps to enhance the effect produced by this lens, although it's worth taking note of if you were expecting performance similar to what you'd get with a more mainstream optic.

Zhongyi Optics 24mm f/1.7 Other sample images

Value For Money

With a price of around £230 direct from ZYOptics, the price of this lens is comparable to other similar optics. For example, the SLR Magic 23mm f/1.7 lens (which looks similar) costs around £250.

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm f/1.7 Verdict

Here we have a fairly interesting lens, that produces a pleasing, low contrast effect, with good sharpness in the centre of the frame at fast apertures. This lens sports good build quality and it handles well too. The stepless aperture will be a bonus for those who wish to shoot video with the lens, but may take some getting used to for those shooting stills, who may be used to more defined aperture settings. The price of the lens is comparable to other, similar offerings too.

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm f/1.7 Pros

Very usable at maximum aperture
Very good sharpness across the frame when stopped down
Metal build
Stepless aperture is excellent for video

Zhongyi Freewalker 24mm f/1.7 Cons

Low sharpness towards the edges of the frame at fast apertures
High CA towards edges of the frame

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

 

Zhongyi Optics 24mm f/1.7 Specifications

ManufacturerZhongyi Optics
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
  • Sony E Mount
  • Fujifilm X Mount
Lens
Focal Length24mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/1.7
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size49mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalent36mm
Internal focusingNo
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus15cm
Construction
Blades12
Elements9
Groups8
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight250g
Height61.5mm

View Full Product Details


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