Gear Photography

Meet Irix’s new low-light champion

The 21mm f/1.4 Dragonfly is a fast, low-distortion wide-angle prime for Canon, Nikon and Pentax DSLRs

Fast, wide-angle lenses are a staple of many photographic subjects – low-light urban and landscape shots, street photography and documentary pics to name but a few. New from Irix, the 21mm f/1.4 Dragonfly looks set to provide another great option for those subjects. 

Available for full-frame Canon EF, Nikon F and Pentax K mount DSLRs – and of course able to be used on mirrorless bodies via an adapter – the Irix 21mm f/1.4 Dragonfly is the latest lens that the company has adapted from its successful cine-lens line up, turning it into a model optimised for stills. 

With a construction of 15 elements in 11 groups, the Irix 21mm f/1.4 Dragonfly includes four ultra-low dispersion elements, four high-refractive elements and two aspherical elements. That’s a lot of fancy glass and Irix says it brings two main benefits: First, distortion is reduced to less than 2%, giving a very natural view for such a wide lens, and stopping subjects with straight lines like buildings or interiors looking bowed; Second, optical aberrations like coma are reduced, so pinpoints of light aren’t smeared, once again making it a great fit for low-light scenes or starry skies. 

As you’ll see in the example images, the Irix 21mm f/1.4s 11-bladed aperture creates smooth bokeh with nicely rounded defocused points of light, too, while the f/1.4 maximum can produce a shallow depth-of-field when the lens is focused close up. On that, its nearest setting is 30cm and the lens also has a 140º focus ring which makes precise adjustment easier. The focus ring also has a lock, so it can be kept at a particular position. Therefore having focused on a distant galaxy, you won’t have to reset – but it’s also useful for zone focusing in street photography. 

The ‘Dragonfly’ designation means this is an Irix lens that also has a number of durable features. It uses a lot of metal in its structure to make the barrel more rigid and harder wearing, while the front and rear elements are treated to an anti-scratch coating. There’s weather sealing against dust and water, and the markings like focus distance are all engraved and treated to glow-in-the-dark paint to make them easily visible in low light and prevent them rubbing off. The focus ring also has an anti-slip finish to make handling easier. 

Though it’s a manual focus lens, there is full PASM control, EXIF data, and focus confirmation in camera. The Irix 21mm f/1.4 Dragonfly has an 89.7º field of view, weighs 830g, measures 101x95mm and is available now, at around £699.