The 7Artisans 35mm f/2 is a Leica M-Mount rangefinder coupled lens I am told we can expect to be released to market in February 2018. The version I’ve been shooting for the last few days is a pre-release prototype – and whilst this is quite obvious in use – it definitely gives a good idea of what the final production lens will be like.
Earlier on this year I stumbled across the 7Artisans brand through the buzz around the launch of their 50mm f/1.1 rangefinder coupled lens. I quickly discovered this lens was a Sonnar, and so mostly due to my Sonnar-habit (and the low price), I thought it only wise to put my hand in my pocket and buy one. I was so impressed with the lens, that I subsequently decided I would like sell them through my shop website. A couple of conversations with EM from EMULSIVE (who speaks Chinese) later and I was in touch with the 7Artisans guys and an order had been placed – you can buy them from my online shop here 🙂
The 7Artisans 35mm f/2
Since then, I’ve been regularly in touch with the main guys at 7Artisans. Quite early on they told me about their plans to release a 35mm f/2 lens – a subject I’ve been nagging them to give me more information about since. A week or so ago they seemingly caved into my nagging and decided it was time to send me this prototype. Primarily, they say they’ve sent it to me for me to share my feedback with them, though they’ve also said they’re also ok with me sharing some images and a few outline thoughts about it too… Hence this post…
Obviously, it’s quite difficult to write about a lens based on a prototype – especially as it’s quite obvious it is a prototype and definitely not a final mass production lens. There are just a couple of little flaws that give it away. I’ve asked 7Artisans about these and they were very quick to reassure me about them, and told me they will of course all be fixed in the final version. Having been consistently impressed with the 50mm, I’m inclined to believe them too. As such, I’m not going to highlight them here… but for saying that it wasn’t quite perfectly calibrated to my Leica. What’s nice about the 7Artisans 35mm f/2 though is that – as in the 50mm – it’s user adjustable; a feature I am told will remain in the final production version.
Looking at the 50mm f/1.1 it’s fair to say that we aren’t quite talking Leica or Zeiss quality, but considering the price difference, the build quality difference is quite impressive.
Compare the 35mm to the 50mm though, and it would seem 7Artisans have taken a leap forward in quality standard. I’d go as far to say that this new 7Artisans 35mm f/2 is quite a bit higher quality than the 50mm f/1.1. Both lenses feel solid and well built, but this 35mm feels a little like it’s been built to much tighter tolerances.
This is primarily borne out in what feels like a much smoother focus mechanism and a clicked and normally spaced aperture control. But more than this, somehow the material it’s made from feels more solid! Even in this prototype, the build quality gap between 7Artisans and the likes of Voigtlander and Zeiss ZM lenses has been closed, if not shut! It’s quite impressive!
Another Sonnar – the lens formula
Build quality aside, the most exciting thing for me has been to learn that the 7Artisans 35mm f/2 is based on a Sonnar formula. Thinking back, they actually told me and EM this ages ago, but I think something was lost a little in the translation. When they sent it to me, I didn’t initially ask about the formula – I didn’t want to be swayed either way about it’s qualities. After using it I quickly had my suspicions – it was quite obvious quite soon that I wasn’t dealing with a lens that would be known for its modern near-perfect rendering, but instead more for a combination of strong character traits. After discovering this – and after a few people asking me on the social medias – I decided I would ask them about the formula. The answer I got back was “Sonnar type, 5 groups, 7 elements”.
Is it the same as the Sony E mount lens?
Another question I was asked a lot on various social media posts is whether or not this new lens is based on the same optical formula as the 7Artisans 35mm Sony lens they make. I was quite intrigued by this too, especially as the Sony lens is quite inexpensive and has had both good and bad reviews.
The answer I received was that yes it is in fact the same optical formula, but they’re applying much tighter quality control on the optics, the AR coatings are of a much higher quality, the mechanical design of the lens is better, and the quality control around the assembly is much higher.
Actually, this corresponds to other information they have drip fed me over the last few months. When I started nagging them about when the 35mm would be released, they told me they weren’t satisfied with the current run of optics. This was back in September time, and with it taking about 3 months for the optics to prove, I guess this does add up to their February release date for the lens.
This higher quality of course means a higher price than the Sony mount lens. They have told me a rough expected price, but they’ve also told me that they don’t want me to share that information yet. I wonder if this reticence corresponds to further concerns around success rate of the optics? I haven’t asked them about this, it is pure speculation… Suffice to say though, whilst it will be more dear than the Sony, it’s also going to represent the most affordable new m-mount rangefinder coupled 35mm lens by a good margin.
Bored yet? Are you just waiting for me to get to the crux of all this and start talking about image quality? Well, I’m not going to share too many thoughts as it doesn’t seem entirely fair to come to too many conclusions based on a prototype.
Instead, I’m just going to share a few sample photos along side a few short notes. I’ve added a touch of contrast to these images, but only globally; I’ve not applied any sharpening, “clarity”, or attempted to counteract vignetting or any distortions. What you see is pretty much what to expect out of an M9 for the colour images, and an MM for the black & white.
One thing to bear in mind – as mentioned – 7Artisans 35mm f/2 is not going to give you modern objectively perfect results. It’s a 7/5 Sonnar design, even if the results are different in the final version, they’re still not going to compare in the conventionally ideal image quality states to a asph-cron (for eg). On one hand what we do have here is shaping up to be a really nice entry level 35mm fast(ish) lens for those on a budget. On the other hand a lens that’s going to have stacks of character to please the likes of me. If you fit into either of those categories, keep your eyes peeled for more… and if you would like to be notified when you’ll be able to place a pre-order for the 7Artisans 35mm f/2, here’s a box to fill in:
7Artisans Facebook group
I also run the 7Artisans Facebook group – find it here