Kaili Optronics Kelda 85mm f/1.8 Lens Review

This manual focus telephoto lens offers a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture for a price of around £136, which seems very good value for a lens of this type. So what’s the catch?

Kaili Kelda are a Chinese company who produce a variety of budget-orientated basic manual focus lenses. This lens is available to and SLRs. In this review, we’ll take a look at how it performs.

Given the price of this lens, you’d be forgiven for having low expectations of almost every aspect of this lens. A mix of high-quality plastics with a lightly textured finish and metal have been used for much of the lens barrel, with a red ring placed near the front end of the optic. This lens isn’t overly heavy for one sporting a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture either, tipping the scales at 385g. As a result it balances well with the Nikon D600 body used for testing.

The manual focus ring feels a little gritty in operation, although there is enough resistance in the mechanism to help with applying fine focus adjustments. Closest focus is 85cm, which is fairly typical for a lens of this focal length and aperture. 72mm filters can be attached to the deep circular hood supplied with this lens, or 55mm filters can be attached directly to the lens. The filter thread does not rotate, which makes it ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters.

This lens has no electronic or mechanical coupling with the camera, so stop down metering has to be used when shooting. The aperture ring has values marked at seemingly arbitrary values, with the distance between stops getting less as the lens is stopped down more. The values marked on the aperture ring don’t quite line up with the click stops either, which may cause confusion when using smaller apertures.

Surprisingly, this lens isn’t a bad performer. At maximum aperture, sharpness is very good in the centre of the frame and fairly good towards the edges. Stopping down improves performance with outstanding sharpness being achieved in the centre at f/4.5 and excellent sharpness towards the edges at f/6.

Chromatic aberrations are kept under control, hovering at around half a pixel width towards the edges of the frame for most aperture settings. These low levels of fringing should be difficult to spot, even in very large prints, or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is typical for a lens of this focal length and aperture. The corners are 1.3 stops darker than the image centre at f/1.8 and visually uniform illumination isn’t achieved until the aperture is stopped down to f/3.5 or beyond.

Imatest only detected 0.13% pincushion distortion, which is an extremely low amount and should very rarely need correction in image editing software afterwards.

The supplied circular hood does a good job of shielding the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare, however, shooting into the light does result in a noticeable loss of contrast.

With a price of only £136, this lens is very inexpensive indeed. The closest equivalent currently available Samyang’s manual focus 85mm f/1.4 lens, which is available for around £211 and sports a faster maximum aperture and overall better build and handling. Nikon’s 85mm f/1.8G costs around £350 and Canon’s EF 85mm USM can be picked up for £240.

With a price of only £136, you’d be forgiven for having poor expectations of this lens. As far as build quality and handling are concerned, you can see where corners have been cut with the gritty manual focus ring, bizarre range of apertures and an aperture ring that doesn’t line up properly with the printed markings.

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.

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.

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