One of the things we like best about micro 4/3 camera systems is that there’s an abundance of high quality, yet relatively inexpensive lenses from which to choose. Panasonic and Olympus have led the charge by producing some stellar quality glass like Panasonic’s new Pro Spec Zoom Lenses (12-35 2.8 and 35-100 2.8) and Olympus’ M.Zuiko Lenses (the 45mm 1.8 and 75mm 1.8 are “must have” primes), and now more and more 3rd party manufacturers are jumping into the M43 fray.
One such manufacturer is Chinese lens maker Jackar, who recently released a 34mm 1.8 Prime Lens for both MFT and Sony’s NEX series of cameras. But is this low cost lens the real deal or will it drown in a sea of high quality MFT lenses?
Pros and Cons…
- Relatively compact (almost the exact size of Olympus 45mm)
- Lovely packaging
- Comes with hood & case
- Decent image quality when you stop down to around F2.8
- Stepless aperture is good for those shooting video
- All metal build
- Aperture can be closed beyond it’s maximum settings i.e. the aperture can be completely closed
- Due to the shape of the aperture blades, bokeh balls have odd shape when not shooting at wider apertures
- The metal build means the lens is on the heavier side
- When the hood is attached, you don’t have much room left to adjust focus
- Lens is soft until you stop down
- Focus ring does not feel linear. If you pass your focus point by a hair, it seems like it takes more of a rotation to get the image back into focus.
- Quality control is a bit lacking. My copy was brand new and it already had dust and other artifacts in the lens. Also, it feels like some dirt/grime has already made its way into the focus ring…it grinds a bit when moved.
- Marking on this lens are not accurate at all
Focusing with the Jackar 34mm lens
Editor’s Note: One thing that you need to be aware of is that the Jackar 34mm 1.8 lens is purely a manual focus lens. So if you’re someone who relies heavily on autofocus and you don’t want to shoot any other way, then this is not the lens for you. Conversely, if you don’t mind manual focus, then Mike points out some issues in his review that you should be aware of…
Here a few of his complaints with this lens when it comes to focus:
- You can actually focus this lens past infinity. This is kind of a bummer for those of you that are used to simply twisting the focus ring until you hit a lock to find infinity. If you do that with the Jackar 34mm, you will actually go past infinity.
- …I feel that the focus ring is not balanced. [i.e.] when I try to focus on a subject and I go slightly past my focus point, I feel like it takes a different amount of effort to get back to that same focus point. For example, if I turned the focus dial just 3 degrees past focus and I turn it back 3 degrees in the other direction, the image will not be in focus. I may have to move turn the focus dial 6 or 8 degrees. This may be due to lens design or maybe even the junk that is caught in my lens’ focus ring, but it does make focusing slightly more challenging.
- As I stated before, the distance scale is worthless so you have to rely on your eyes.
- My last beef with focusing the Jackar 34mm is something I already mentioned, the hood. When the hood is attached, there is very little room left for your fingers to focus the lens. The thick collar and the large screw that is used to tighten the collar of the hood take up valuable real estate that may make focusing much harder for shooters with larger hands. You could always ditch the hood, but I prefer shooting with a hood on my lenses.
“At this price, the Jackar Snapshooter 34mm 1.8 Lens is clearly not going to win any awards when it comes to resolution charts or pixel peeping. It is soft wide open. The corners are soft regardless of aperture setting and I question some of the components (i.e. focus/aperture ring accuracy), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a usable lens. For many (myself included), photography is more about the experience of shooting than micro contrast and optimal bokeh. This lens gives you the look and feel of a more expensive lens without the price tag. Yes, the more expensive lenses will probably give you much better results but for some, staying within a budget is more important than owning the “best” gear out there. I did have much more fun shooting with this lens that I thought I would and, for the price ($175), I find the image quality to be acceptable. This lens is by no means a replacement for your Olympus 45mm F1.8 if you have one. But if you don’t have the Olympus 45mm and your strapped for cash, this may be an option for you…” (Read full review and see sample images on thePhoblographer)
My 2 Cents
The Jackar 34mm 1.8 lens falls into a strange category of 3rd party manual focus glass with the likes of SLR Magic. For the life of me though, I’m trying to figure out what the major difference is (other than price and packaging) between these lenses and a 35mm 1.7 Closed Circuit TV Lens I picked up for $30 bucks on Amazon. There’s no question that the Jackar lens is the nicest looking lens of these three, and it comes all wrapped up in a pretty box with a case and a lens hood, but when it comes down to sheer performance is it really worth that much more than my $30 lens? (Here’s a comparison between the Jackar 34mm, SLR Magic 35mm and 35mm CCTV Lens).
Mike goes on to say in his conclusion that if price is the main determining factor of your purchase, then there are better options available, namely the Sigma 30mm 2.8 lens. I couldn’t agree more, as the Sigma lens is outstanding – especially for the price (currently $149 on Amazon) – and it’s a fully functioning lens with blazing fast autofocus that delivers image quality that’s superior to the more expensive Jackar Lens.
So is it worth it to pick up the Jackar Lens? If you want a relatively inexpensive lens with the look of one that’s much more expensive, then maybe. But where lenses are concerned, I always say that you should go for the best glass you can get. If you’re enamored of the idea of a manual focus lens for photo or video shooting, then I would frankly go for the $30 CCTV lens. After all, they are essentially lenses that were converted from 16mm movie cameras, and micro 4/3 sensors are very close in size to 16mm film. Though you’ll never get one mixed up with say, a Panasonic Leica 25mm Summilux, these lenses do work very well on M43 cameras, and you can pick one up plus a 30mm Sigma lens for about the same price as the Jackar.
Check Out the Lenses Below