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.
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 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.
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