The $399 Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 has been garnering attention for being a tack-sharp yet affordable portrait lens for Sony E and Fujifilm X cameras. It has now come to light that you can even turn it into a faster f/1.6 lens with a firmware update.
It may sound too good to be true, but it seems some lenses can actually physically open their aperture blades wider than the maximum aperture the lenses ship with, and a firmware update can force the lens to open up wider.
Photographer Stefan Malloch made this 5-minute tutorial showing how to update the lens using the Micro-USB port found on the base of the lens.
He also made this 4.5-minute video with some side-by-side examples comparing photos shot at f/1.8 and f/1.6:
There are mixed reports regarding the origins of this firmware update. While Sony Addict reports that it’s a update released by Viltrox in China, Fuji Rumors says it contacted Viltrox earlier this year and was told it wasn’t released by the company.
“[W]e don’t have such firmware yet,” Viltrox told Fuji Rumors in May. “All our firmware is on our website now.”
So it seems that this new firmware update that’s circulating may be an unofficial firmware created by a third party. As such, it should only be installed at your own risk, as unintended consequences could occur, whether now (e.g. unforeseen performance issues) or in the future (e.g. the next official firmware update may not install correctly).
But it’s still interesting to know that some photographers seem to have successfully turned their $399 purchase into an ultra-sharp f/1.6 lens. If you’re feeling lucky and want to try this update out yourself (again, at your own risk), you can currently find the update file and instructions here.