Gear Theory Lenses

7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 Review – a confusion of “want” over “need”

December 9, 2019

I thought it might be interesting to follow up my post about my “need” for Zeiss ZM lenses in my life with a post about a lens I don’t “need”, but do “want” – at least for the time being. The 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 is a lens that definitely fits into that category.

The 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 is a lens I don’t have a frequent enough requirement for to say that I “need” it in my life. But for what it cost me, I’m very happy to let one sit in the camera cabinet for a bit of fun once in a while. In fact, there are two occasions I’ve thought to shoot with it recently that perfectly illustrate my relationship with a lens like this. One occasion that I did shoot it, the next that I didn’t. Occasions that between them really gave me the opportunity to understand “want” vs. “need” when it comes to the lenses I keep.

I mentioned the first occasion on twitter recently. It had dawned on me that I needed a few extra shots of for the annual photo book that I design and have printed as a Christmas present from the girls for my wife. I take a lot of photos of Connie and Norah throughout the year, so every Christmas I compile a selection of them into a blurb book.

This year, what with being a grumpy bugger about photography recently, I’ve taken fewer photos of than I might have normally taken – including of the girls. As such, I needed a couple of shots to round off the book. We’ve moved house just recently too, so wanted that to be reflected in the book as well.

With that in mind, one evening I decided to take a few snaps in the last hour or so before bedtime. I went to the camera cabinet to grab my trusty digital Leica and then went to pick up my default choice for this sort of photography, the 50mm ZM Sonnar. As I grabbed it though, I noticed the absolute hulk of a lens that is the 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25. I’ve not really touched it since late summer, so I figured why not give it a go.

I took all the shots that evening happily shooting away with that lens, quite comfortably focusing it and reliably getting really nice photos – often wide open at f/1.25.

The Girls

At the time, I was also midway through my post about my ZM lenses. In that post, I claim that I don’t need a fast telephoto lens and that I’m more than happy with the f/4 Tele-Tessar for my needs. Yet here I was having a wail of a time with an ultra-fast short telephoto lens. So much enjoyment was had, that I actually began to question myself. Was I talking nonsense in my Zeiss post? Had I found a chink in my rationale for just committing to the Zeiss ZM lenses?

This actually all added to this current photography low ebb feeling that I’ve been having recently. Once again I was back to agonising over gear. Maybe I “need” this 75mm lens in my life too. How can I confidently claim to have settled on these Zeiss lenses when I can not only so easily find a usage case for a lens like the 75mm f/1.25, but also really enjoy the process of shooting it and the results I was getting?

This is exactly what I get so tired of when I start thinking too much about gear. It feels like a form of mild stress. It’s like two side of my approach to photography having a fight in my head. I don’t like the sense of having a “need” for too much gear. Rationalising the ZM lenses as the gear I need had given me comfort – but for a few treasures, all the rest of the content of my cabinet was just there for fun or sentiment. Yet here I was proving that I “need” a fast short telephoto lens.

The Girls

The relief came just a few days later. With it in mind that I’d really enjoyed the 75mm f/1.25 I decided I was going to take it to the Christmas Fayre in Worcester. I quite often go to the Fayre with a fast lens, as despite feeling like I’ve totally overshot it over the last few years, I still enjoy taking photos there.

This year, like last, I went with Connie. In the moments before leaving the house I went to pick up my digital Leica and 75mm f/1.25 and then realised in that split second that all of my worries about possibly “needing” this lens in my life were nonsense. In theory, I’d liked the idea, but in practice, there was no bloody way I could be bothered to carry the thing. For the sake of shooting something like the Fayre, I just couldn’t be doing with lugging around all that extra weight for what basically amounted to very little real gain over what I’d get if I’d just shot the 5omm ZM Sonnar.

Walking down to the Fayre I once again found I had a bit of a spring in my photographic step. I’d ended up pocketing a point & shoot just in case I wanted to get a couple of snaps, so quite literally I was able to walk without the weight of a heavy lens around my neck. More importantly, I felt like I wasn’t figuratively weighed down by this quandary anymore. How can I possibly make a strong case for owning a lens that I don’t want to take out of the house with me?!

I thought about the possible occasions I might choose to shoot the 75mm f/1.25 and rather than coming up with rational usage case examples, all I could think of were hypotheticals. What if I need a short telephoto lens to shoot people in very low light, for example…? Well, in reality, I know for that sort of photography I will always just default back to the light weight, easy to carry and wonderfully characterful in low light 50mm ZM Sonnar. It might be shorter than the 75mm, but in reality, the extra length of the 75mm isn’t ever a real “need”. And it’s certainly not a need that wouldn’t be swallowed by my desire not to carry massive heavy lenses. In short, my compromise for shooting people in lower-light will always favour a smaller, lighter and shorter lens than a bigger, heavier and longer one. Within my hobby, almost everything I want to shoot in low light can be shot with a 50mm ZM Sonnar. And if it can’t, because of my practical preferences, I probably wouldn’t bother shooting it.

So what about the shots of the girls then? That experience had me entirely enamoured with the 75mm to the point in fact that I nearly managed to convince myself that my “need” for just a set of ZM lenses was back on the table. Well, as I’ve said, my gut instinct was to shoot with the Sonnar. I would have no doubt been absolutely enamoured with the results of doing so too had I not been swayed by this 75mm f/1.25 that happened to enter my line of sight when I went to pick it up. In short, had the 75mm not been there, I wouldn’t have missed it.

The Girls

Yes, I enjoyed the 75mm, but ultimately the set of compromises it presents me with just don’t fit my long term needs. Fortunately for me, I’m currently bumbling through this photography low ebb so was able to muster just enough self-awareness in time to work that out before I drove myself nuts.

Does any of this mean the 75mm is a bad lens? No, it’s great! I’m so thrilled with the results I’ve recently had from it that I’ve no intention to move it on just yet. I’d even go as far to say that I’d absolutely and unreservedly recommend it to anyone who does like taking low light or shallow depth of field photos with a short-telephoto lens. It’s cheap (for an m-mount lens) very fast, seemingly well made and takes remarkably good photos even wide open. I just don’t think it’s for me, not long term at least. What it offers might suit me, but the way it offers it doesn’t work for me as someone who just doesn’t like carrying huge kit.

Isn’t it funny that it took me about a year to work that out about the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2, but took so much less time to work the same out about the 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25. This photography low ebb I keep going on about definitely has its upsides!

If you want to see more results from this lens, you can see them on my Flickr here. I also wrote about a few first impressions review back toward the end of the summer here. There’s also a much more in-depth review on Philip Reeve’s site here.

Finally, if I haven’t put you off, you can buy this lens from my shop here

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    December 9, 2019 at 11:08 am

    Hello Hamish,
    I have also acquired the 7Artisans 75 mm f 1.25 out of curiosity (previously seduced by the the 50mm f 1.1 but also sometimes frustrated by focusing issues on my Leica) and just to have a portrait lens with a not too sharp rendition of details and a very shallow depth of field. As at the time I was teaching a landscape photography workshop I decided to test this unlikely landscape lens. In order to circumvent the possible focusing issues on a rangefinder, I used it on my Nikon Z7 (with an adapter of course). The result were almost surprisingly satisfying. The built and handling of the lens too. In the end I must however say that when it comes to that sort of lenses on my Nikon using my 85mm f 1.8 felt safer, faster and more convenient and with the difference in cost. Now going back to using it on a Leica, I have no need (and budget) for a Leitz 75 mm at f 1.25 (if there were one)… because of its very cost and my little use of such focal length on a rangefinder (my favorite one being a 35 mm, a 28 mm coming second). In that respect the 7Artisans 75 mm becomes an interesting spare tool that can be used when needed with satisfactory results.

  • Reply
    Phil Lambert
    December 9, 2019 at 11:50 am

    The Leica 75mm f2.5 Summarit gives excellent results on my M240 and is compact, not heavy, gives sharp images. It is several years old and Leica fixed it last Xmas for nothing when the iris jammed at f5.6. It cost me £550 and the 7Artisans is £350 new. Take your pick…
    Phil

  • Reply
    Huss
    December 9, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    What happened to the love for the 7Artisans 50 1.1?
    I have the Zeiss Zm 50 1.5 and prefer the 7A. It has more character wide open, sharpens down nicely, doesn’t seem to have focus shift and isn’t THAT much bigger. Especially compared to the 7A 75mm behemoth!
    And crucially, the 7A 50 1.1 focuses down to .7M. I find the 1M min distance on the ZM 50 1.5 to be frustratingly long.
    IMO the 50 1.1 is the perfect answer to whether you should take the ZM 50 1.5 or the 7A 75 1.2…

    I’m wondering where someone could buy one?
    😉

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 10, 2019 at 9:56 pm

      It’s still all about the zm for me. I actually sold my 50mm 1.1 …

  • Reply
    Dmitry
    December 10, 2019 at 7:20 am

    Very much agree with this take. I’ve had the same 7Artisans lens since October and for what it cost me it’s a fun lens to shoot with sometimes, but I’d be totally fine without it and for most of my photography I use my 50mm Summicron. On a recent trip to Hawaii I shot with the 7A lens maybe twice (used the 50 ‘cron for the rest), but had I packed my 90mm Tele-Elmarit, I think I’d have used it more, just due to the lower weight.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 10, 2019 at 9:55 pm

      It’s funny how much weight and size can influence choices

  • Reply
    Brian
    December 10, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    Yes- I “wanted” one too… Got one just after you got yours.

    I’ve impressed. It took some careful tuning of the Cam to get right on my M9, bit is now spot-on across range.

    I use it with a 1.25x magnifier, was able to use it to take pictures of my daughter at the skating rink.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/72157711769184917

    This lens takes some work to master, but is well worth the effort.

    My “showcase” on this lens- mostly on the M9.

    https://cameraderie.org/threads/7artisans-75mm-f1-25.49525/page-2

  • Reply
    Zvonimir
    December 10, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Could not any of these photos be taken with a 1950s box Brownie?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 10, 2019 at 9:51 pm

      I don’t understand the question….?

      • Reply
        Huss
        December 11, 2019 at 6:41 am

        Actually the correct answer is any photo can be taken with a 1950’s box Brownie. Including all of Zvonimir’s.

    • Reply
      Brian
      December 11, 2019 at 9:05 pm

      I used a 1950s Brownie in 1963, when I was 6.

      I can state in absolute terms that shooting the Brownie under the same lighting as using my M9 at ISO2500, 1/60th second, F1.25 would have have produced severely underexposed results.

      So- no, these photos could not have been taken with a Brownie. I still have mine, but would not waste film trying. I do miss shooting Verichrome Pan.

  • Reply
    Zvonimir
    December 11, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    I was trying to point out that these enjoyable snapshots could have been taken with 10 pounds worth of ordinary plastic camera rather than the thousands of pounds of Leica.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 11, 2019 at 8:57 pm

      I certainly can, and do, take lots of photos of my kids with cheap cameras, yes. They look a little different to this, though often bring me just the same amount of joy as images too.
      I’m not sure I understand the relevance of your point here still though…?

    • Reply
      thatfotoguy
      January 24, 2020 at 4:36 am

      In theory , YES , in reality , NO. Find me that plastic camera that can shoot at F1.25 and 1/4000 of a second shutter.

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