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Exclusive Preview: 7Artisans 35mm f/2 News & Pre-Production Sample Photos

7Artisans 35mm f/2

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.

Background

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…

Prototype Flaws

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.

Build quality

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.

10 blades, for those who care about such things

6-bit coding currently unpainted

Focus tab

Price

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.

Image qualities

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.

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

Vignetting visible here

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

Really nice transition to out of focus here

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

I spy a bit of barrel distortion

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

No obvious ghosting with the sun in frame here

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

7Artisans 35mm f/2 Prototype test shots

Final thoughts

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

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Paul
    November 19, 2017 at 10:40 am

    I think we all want this lens to be a success. It has everything we’d ask for… Sonnar character, fast enough. nice clean design, competitive price, tabbed, adjustable. Nice out of focus rendition, just like the 50. But the 50 goes sharp when stopped down. My only concern is that they pulled a rabbit out the hat with the 50. Can they do it twice?Looking at the sharpness and I take on board it’s a prototype I don’t think they can, but I really want to be wrong and I hope they can. Hamish sign me up as interested.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 19, 2017 at 11:02 am

      Did you put your email in the box?

      Also, have a look on Flickr – the images are sharper there, they don’t pull across well these days. It’s pretty sharp to my eye.

  • Reply
    jeremy north
    November 19, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Even though I have a Biogon 35/2 I’m tempted. I like the compactness. The image quality is very good apart from the slight barrel distortion.
    I’ll be impressed if the build quality is better than the 50/1.1, mine is excellent.

  • Reply
    Paul
    November 19, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Hamish, for whatever reason your Flickr images look sharper than on 35mmc. So disregard my sharpness comment above. I am now full of hope that this lens will deliver excellent results.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 19, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      It’s the bandwidth flickr apply to hotlinking – the images are compressed more now than they ever have been :/

    • Reply
      Scott
      November 20, 2017 at 7:59 am

      Both here and on another blog that uses the same format, the images are distinctly unsharp, and I’m not talking 100%, pixel peeping unsharp, but sort of muzzy in the small renderings on the screen.
      Pretty sure it has to do with all the squishing and passing back and forth. (See how adept I am at that technical jargon?)
      Fine for getting a sense of the general character of the images, vignetting and barrel distortion and such, but not to be used for judging “sharpness.”
      (And not Hamish’s fault either.)

  • Reply
    Brian
    November 19, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I’d love to borrow one of these… I can’t think of another full-frame 35mm focal length Sonnar. The Fuji 35/2 is a Sonnar, but it is not full-frame.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 19, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      I’ll see if I can hook you up

  • Reply
    karellen
    November 19, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    I don’t know if you included the Voigtlander 35/1.4 and 2.5 when you said that it would probably be the cheapest 35 mm in m mount, but if it’s so as I see from the samples it would be pretty difficult to beat!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 19, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      I did, yes … 😉

  • Reply
    Scott
    November 20, 2017 at 8:22 am

    OK, first of all we know that they could have send a ham sandwich and if they called it a Sonnar ham sandwich, Hamish would have swooned. He has a bit of a Sonnar problem.
    All right I’m joking. Hamish doesn’t have a Sonnar issue at all. Well just a little.

    But seriously, the 35mm f2 is a terrific choice for 7Artisans second M-mount lens. It puts them up against some stiff competition, but if they can do a competent job at a killer price they’ll have a place in the market. Not everyone needs, or wants, a $5000 objectively perfect lens. Or even a $1500, 15-year old lens.

    I spent the first 20 years of my photographic life with lenses like the Nikkor 35mm f2. Perfectly fine but not remotely perfect, and no one noticed.

    For their NEXT project, I’m still voting for a 50mm f1.4 that’s compact and decent, and, dare I say, not a Sonnar. Say like a pre-asph Summilux clone, and reasonably priced. I already have a Sonnar in that focal length.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    November 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Hamish has a sonar problem? Is he a submariner? One ping…one ping only…
    I do know I love the look of the village/area where Hamish shoots/lives/works.
    Dan
    flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574

  • Reply
    Lich
    November 20, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Hiring a product designer should be high on their list.

    Simply copying Leica styling while retaining a miserable typography isn’t a way out in the long term…they need to do their products justice.

  • Reply
    Jonathan
    November 20, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Im also interested in the ‘compactness’ on this one, could be a real winner – already have the 35/2 biogon though – but if the price is right, performance is good and it is compact, it might even replace the biogon. +1 to a compact 50

  • Reply
    Brian
    November 20, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I’d like them to do an 85/2 Sonnar, or even one a bit faster. I was hoping the Jupiter-9+ would make it to production, but not so sure now. The Nikkor 8.5cm F2 is sharp, but is over-corrected for spherical aberration. The J-9 and original Carl Zeiss Jena 8.5cm F2, 7 elements in 3 groups is smooth. I’ll bet 7artisans could do a Sonnar based design with air-spaced groups for an 85/2, give it the Bokeh of the CZJ lens- bring it in under $400- done. It’s near impossible to bring the original J-9 into good agreement across the full focus range on a Leica. I did a custom indexed-cam on an adapter for my 1937 CZJ Sonnar.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/72157647944078012

    Hamish has a “Sonnar Appreciation”. I have a Sonnar collection… maybe 50 in Leica Mount…The only people with a Sonnar problem are those that do not own a Sonnar.

  • Reply
    KJ Vogelius
    November 28, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    This looks really interesting! The ergonomics seem right up my alley and the signature looks very pleasant too (the distortion looks a bit distracting at times though).

    Despite having gone through way too many 35/40mm lenses in the past few years I could certainly see myself having a go with this one. I’ll keep my eyes open for updates!

  • Reply
    ScottP
    December 6, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    I really don’t care how this lens compares to an asph-Cron. Modern Leica lenses are so far out of my price range that they might as well not exist.
    I am interested, though, in how it compares to lenses that I already own, or might own, for instance older Leica ones, ones from Voigtlander, or LTM Canons.

  • Reply
    jeremy north
    December 8, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Having seen it ‘in the flesh’ it is a very impressive lens. Very good build quality and feel. The aperture clicks too! Winner. I wish it had been out before I bought a Biogon 35/2. All I can hope for is that they bring out a 28 or wider.

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