Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kelda 85mm f1.8 Lens

EOS 5D, Kelda 85mm@f1.8

Have you ever heard of a lens named Kelda? I hadn't. When you "Google" that name, you'll find a lot more girls named Kelda than anything about the Lenses. It seems that this Chinese optics maker does more alomng the lines of ultra-cheap accessory lenses for older style compact cameras than for DSSLR lenses, but they do make this rather peculiar 85mm f1.8 model for Canon EOS mounts. I came across one in the local Classifieds, and, having sold my Jupiter-9, which was not a good idea, I thought that as it was priced at less than half of what you'd pay now for a Jupiter-9, and no adapter is needed, it would be worth a try. So far, all I've done with it is some snap-shots around our Garden.

By the way - this is a completely manual lens with absolutely no electronic communication between it and the camera. The only thing "Canon EF" abut it is the shape of its aluminium mount, which fastens to the camera perfectly.

First off, it appears that Kelda doesn't know much about their own product, as the box says it's made for APS-C Canon Cameras (in other words, a "digital mount" EF-S) Not so. An EF-S lens will only mount on an APS-C, and is not compatible with "EF" full-frame, but this lens will mount on both EF, where it assumes it's nominal 85mm focal length, and EF-S, where it becomes 136mm.
Other peculiarities - it has a manual Aperture ring with click-stops at 1.8, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4.5, 6, 10 and 22. I've never seen such an abnormal string of F-Stops on any lens - this one's very strange. It can be used between these click-stops however. I should mention that the Aperture Ring is extremely stiff to turn however, to the point that once you set it, you'll probably not want to change it. On the other hand, the manual focus ring is exceptionally smooth and easy to turn, with no wobble, and just the right amount of friction. Combined with the lens' very accurate focus, meaning that when looking through a DSLR optical viewfinder, this lens really gives a good sense of "snapping" into focus, it is a joy to use. In comparison with , say, the Jupiter-9 with an EF Adapter, focus is much more easily seen with this lens, and you can be confident that your focussing effort will be quick, painless and perfect. It's too bad the Aperture Ring isn't as cooperative.

EOS 5D, Kelda 85mm at f10

Speaking of Aperture, this lens has no provision for a stop-down preview of any kind, which means I you set the Aperture for f10, the viewfinder will be darkened accordingly, making it more difficult to see your depth of field, and the shooting information in the Optical Viewfinder display is also darkened to the point that it cannot be seen in bright sunlight at all. In such cases, you can only get your exposure info from the camera's top-deck display, assuming it has one. keep in mind, the Jupiter-9 has the advantage of a third ring- the stop-down ring, which allows you to focus and expose in full brightness, then stop down to your pre-set f-stop value.

Also, the Aperture Ring has no Depth of Field (DOF) scale. You can only guess, which in some cases, is not good enough. In the above shot, I got better focus on the grass in the foreground than I did on my intended subject -the clothes on the line. Not good.

What about using this lens wide open? Again, it's far from being the best. The first picture (above) has the subject at about a Metre away, and although I got a perfect focus on it, the Bokeh (out of focus area) is quite choppy and busy - again not good. However, if you're careful about it, this lens can be quite good wide open. I am very pleased with the following three shots, with subjects all at the lens' minimum focal distance of 0.8m and all at f1.8 -

 With this lens, Bokeh can be quite good if you choose your background carefully. I am also quite pleased with the colour - nice and deep, nice and rich, with quite a bit of fall-off "Vignetting" in the corners, which is not supposed to be good, but I like it... quite often I will add Vignetting in post-processing if the lens doesn't provide enough of it.

I'm also quite sure this lens will make a great night shooter on-the-streets. Also, although I have no good way of testing this, I would say that linear distortion ("barrel and pin-cushion") are very low with this lens - surprisingly so.

So, I'll sum it up with all the typical scores of a lens test:

Build Quality (except Aperture Ring)                                  9/10
Mount - perfectly snug                                                        10/10
Controls - Aperture Ring                                                     0/10 (yes, it's that bad)
Controls - Focus Ring                                                         10/10 (yes it's that good)
Optics - Colour                                                                     9/10
Optics - Vignetting                                                               7/10 (unless you like Vignetting)
Optics - Distortion                                                                9/10
Optics - Sharpness                                                                7/10 (again, depending on what you like)
Optics - Bokeh                                                                      6/10
Usability - hindered by no DOF Scale and no stop-down    5/10
Value for money - new                                                         4/10
Value for money - used                                                         9/10
Accessories included - front/rear caps, hood, pouch            10/10


I wouldn't buy one of these new - you would be better off with a used Jupiter-9 and mounting adapter. However, second hand, the Kelda 85mm f1.8 should be around US$75, and because of it's great optical performance, even wide open, which is what really counts in the end, and it's superb manual focussing, at second-hand pricing, you can't go wrong. To get the "real-deal" Canon EF 85mm f1.8 is over $500, which is of course an Auto Focus / Auto Exposure lens. Other manual focus lenses, like the Jupiter-9, or a genuine Zeiss, have the disadvantage of requiring an adapter to fit the EOS / EF Mount, which throws your manual focus off a little bit - sometimes enough to ruin your shot. Because the Kelda mates perfectly to both EF and EF-S mounts, and the focus ring is so damn great, it will provide great, hassle free manual focussing, even wide open in the dark - (errr... perhaps I should test this before I say it, but I think it would be a great night lens). If Chinese manufacture has any sense of design, it almost seems as if this lens was actually designed to be used in the dark, wide-open. I can't wait to try it out, and I promise - this will be the subject of my next post.


  1. I've seen several of lenses that are entirely manual and produced in China and was curious about the quality reading this post overall they don't seem to be too bad, I'm definitely curious to see how this lens performs at night.

  2. Thanks Kris - have a look -


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