Lenses

7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 – my new mini super-sonnar

When I first heard about the 7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 lens, I must admit I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn’t a full frame lens. The first images I saw of it looked a little odd too – they certainly didn’t do the design of the lens any favours. I’ve also not been massively overexcited about the CSC lenses 7Artisans produce, with my main interest really being in what they make for M-mount cameras. As such, I’ve found myself all the more surprised with how smitten I am with the 35mmc 1.2 – it’s a crazy little lens, but I can’t help but really like it.

It’s cheap

All things considered, I think the first point to note is that it’s quite cheap. The list price out of China is $145, this works out as £130(ish) once you’ve paid the duty and vat into the UK. For a 35mm f1.2 lens, that doesn’t feel like a lot of money.

Build quality

Of course this is a little reflected in the quality of construction. It’s fair to say that the 7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 doesn’t feel the most highly polished bit of kit. It’s fairly similar to the 55mm I recently wrote about – though there are some build quality advances. Like the 55mm, the aperture isn’t clicked, though it is quite nicely damped. The focus isn’t quite a grainy feeling as my copy of the 55mm, instead it somehow feels a bit rubbery, rather than silky, if that makes any sense at all? This all said, I think it’s worth acknowledging that like the also-later-released 12mm 2.8, it has the nicer quality lens mount that doesn’t rotate quite as much on the mount at the 55mm lens does.

 

Usability

In use, the 7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 is a odd lens, but to be fair to it I think some of this comes from the fact that it’s also a very small lens – especially for its specification. I think it’s actually slightly smaller than the 25mm 1.8 lens 7Artisans also make. As such, I’ve found it makes for a great compact carry everywhere lens.

The small size does come with some compromise in terms of usability. The aperture is damped slightly heavier than the focus, but with it being the control that sits next to the camera rather than it being in the conventional position at the front of the lens, it feels more natural to me to try and adjust focus by grabbing at the aperture control. This is despite the fact that the focus control has such a prominent shape. I suspect I’ll get used to this given time, but since I’ve made this error every time I’ve used the lens so far, it felt worth acknowledging.

Full frame equivalence

Probably the most eye catching thing about this lens is its on-paper specification as a f/1.2 35mm. Unfortunately, it’s only designed to be used on aps-c cameras, as such, that specification is a little less exciting than it would be if it was a full frame lens.

Comparing it to a full frame lens on a full frame camera, in terms of perspective and depth of field with the same framing, the 7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 is equivalent to a 50mm lens (ish) field of view with a maximum aperture of around 1.8. Of course, whilst that’s a little less exciting if you’re used to shooting full frame cameras, it is a fairly unique specification when combined with the size and price of this lens. The wider aperture with slightly broader DOF than a fast lens on a full frame camera also narrows the gap in terms of the low light performance comparison with a bigger camera too.

Sonnar formula

I feel like I’m starting to sound like some sort of Sonnar fetishist… Genuinely, I didn’t clock the formula on the back of the box until a good few days after I shot with the lens for the first time. One way or another, for those interested it is a Sonnar based formula lens…

7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 Image quality

Well, where to start? Optically, the 7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 is far from perfect. You’d be mad to expect it to be perfect at this price point/size/specification. In fact, in some ways it’s a little crazy.

Flare

To start with, check out this flare. I’ve spotted this a few times now, but this is the only shot I captured it in such glory. Funnily enough, despite it being of a very different optical design, the m-mount voigtlander 35mm 1.4 also exhibits rings of rainbow flare, though not to this extent.

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 test shots

It’s also prone to some quite heavy veiling flare with a light source behind the subject.

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 test shots

Distortion

I’ve also noticed some distortion – this seems to be most noticeable when closer focusing, though to be honest I perhaps havent shot it exhaustively enough to confirm that… One way or another, barrel distortion is definitely a thing here! You can see this in the image of Stanley above (look at the top of the radiator), and in the wall to the far right here:

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

Smoogy corners

The issue with I’ve noticed that will likely bother the most picky is a slight smearing into the far corners, even stopped down. Personally, I don’t find this an issue as I’m most likely to be using the lens wide open at closer quarters where this won’t be noticeable. If you’re a bit of a perfectionist and looking for the perfect carry-everywhere, this might bother you…

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 test shots

Contrast and Resolution

Short of the corners, it’s an acceptably sharp lens. Of course, it’s far from the likes of the Voigtlander 50mm f/3.5 which gave me a bit of a benchmark for just how capable these little Sony a5100 cameras can be when it comes to resolving what a lens is capable of. By comparison this lens’s resolution is quite low, especially wide open.

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

That being said, subjectivity speaking I’m more than happy with the results. Bear in mind this is a camera/lens combo I’m mostly likely to use for photography of my kids, perfect sharpness isn’t exactly something I’m going to be too worried about.

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 test shots

Wide open contrast can be a touch low too. I’ve upped the overall contrast of the images in this post which of course hides it a bit, but you can still see the impact of the lower wide open contrast.

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 test shots

The glow

I think it’s also worth noting the “glow” when shot wide open. The transition to out of focus is emphasised a little by what’s probably a bit of spherical aberrations. This gives that slightly glowy feel to what’s close to in focus. Combined with the slightly lower resolution, to my mind that amounts to a really nice gentle rendering. But I’m sure it won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

f/1.2 – close focus – good bit of “glow” and slightly whacky Bokeh

Bokeh

Wide open bokeh can be a little wild, but to be honest, it’s not as barmy as I expected it to be. Depth of field is far from as shallow as the 50mm 1.1 on the Leica, as such the out of focus rendering isn’t quite as overbearing or prominent feeling in equivalent photos. That being said, it’s certainly not the perfectly smooth and creamy bokeh some people seem to strive for.

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

Pardon the missed focus – shot at f/1.2

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

f/2.8

A few more photos

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 test shots

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

7Artisans 35mm 1.2 Test shots

Skip to the end

As you can probably see by the amount I have written about the 7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 compared to the 55mm 1.4, I’m a little more taken with it. Quite a bit more in fact. To be honest, a lot of that comes from a combination of its size when mounted on the camera, it’s effective focal length being 50mm (my preference) and it’s speed compared to my usual 2.8 carry-everywhere lens.

Like the 55mm, this lens feels to me a little like a “vintage” lens reimagined with modern coatings. It’s far from optically perfect, but has a charm in the way it renders that I really like. I could probably do without the rainbow flare, but I’m going to start experimenting with hoods to see if I can solve that. But even if I can’t, the rest of the way it renders is right up my street. Wide open, especially it has a gentle sharpness that falls off really nicely to out of focus. This is a trait I commonly find in fast Sonnar formula lenses – and as if I haven’t mentioned it enough times on this blog – this is a look I really like.

Outside of my joy for the Sonnar formula, to my mind the 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 lens does seem to offer pretty great value. It might not be built to the exacting standards of something out of the stables of the big boys, and it might offer a slightly unusual user experience but neither of these factors are deal breakers at the price point… Ultimately, if you’re looking for a 50mm equivalent fast lens for your aps-c camera, it’s hard to argue with the 7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 !

Another really interesting review here on Yukosteel.wordpress.com


You can buy this lens off my website here, though I don’t hold much stock. If I don’t have stock and you don’t mind waiting you can back-order here. Otherwise you can buy these lenses directly from China on Amazon here, or ebay here

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22 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Art Tafil
    January 20, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Hamish,

    I haven’t tried this brand lens yet. I do however have and use the Voightlander 35mm f/1.2 full frame in Leica M mount. I love it! I have the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 lens in Sony E mount. I also have the 7 Artisans 50mm f/1.1 lens in Leica M mount. This is another fine lens. My least used but fine lens in Sony E mount but in APSC coverage is the 35mm f/.095 lens. With this one you can literally see in the dark.

    By now you’ve probably surmised that I have a near terminal case of G.A.S. I’m just glad it’s only for my 2 primary used camera systems, Leica M and Sony E mount. What I lack in the Sony mount and have in Leica M, I just use an adapter to put on my Sony E bodies. All the Leica M mount lenses are also full frame so they give me the necessary coverage on any of my Sony E bodies. I’ve pretty much got all of the needed “light giants” I’ll ever need or use. I pretty much kept to the most well known and well reviewed Chinese lenses. I did a lot of research before purchasing and have never regretted any of the purchases. I just thought I’d pass along my own personal observations so some of your excellent blog readers may gain some knowledge before making a hefty purchase. You guys in the U.K. and the E.U. have something we here in the USA don’t have namely the nefarious V.A.T.!

    Oh well, hope this babble helps someone.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nate
    January 20, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Got excited for a flash moment and thought this was the 35mm f/2 M mount due from them. Looking forward to buying that one Hamish. Keep up the good work.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 21, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      … It’s coming!! 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kevin Parratt
    January 20, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for this review Hamish. Overall, I’d say it was money well spent.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 21, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      No problem! I think so too!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Blinx
    January 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    From what I’ve seen of 7artisans lenses, including my own 25mm 1.8, “vintage lens re-imagined” is a good description. Think of them as old Soviet lenses without the supply chain problems and with modern coatings, and they’re winners. Hope for a Voigtlander on the cheap, and you’ll be disappointed.

    They seem unusually prone to chromatic flare in specific situations, not unlike my old Jupiter 12. Better with an EVF so you can avoid it, than an OVF where it might show differently. Not being a habitual wide aperture shooter, I’d love 7artisans to bring out a 2.8 pancake (or 2, or 3 at different focal lengths), which would turn all those APS-C mirrorless cameras into pocket compacts.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 21, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      They all seem to be really simple formulas – there is nothing ott about them, no 28 elements in 14 groups etc. Far from perfect, but actually quite refreshing in a world largely driven by the pursuit of perfection in optics. I have suggested a pancake lens to them, they said it was a good idea, but not a priority for them… I suggested another useful lens in the convo too… Turns out they are working on it… I can’t mention it though.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    ScottP
    January 21, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    That rainbow seems to be coming from a source outside the picture area, light just glancing across the front surface. So, yes, the biggest, deepest lens hood you can fit will undoubtedly help. I just searched the auction site for “43mm lens hood,” and got 670 hits, including some cool vented Leica-style ones for the princely sum of $5.00. Not to tell you your business, but you want one for a 50mm lens, not one of the “wide-angle” ones.

    On another topic, what are they making in those factory pictures?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 21, 2018 at 11:40 pm

      Cheers, I’ve not got around to looking yet…

      They’re making plastic car bumpers – a client of mine – these were just snaps I took whilst filming a video for them

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Steven H
    January 23, 2018 at 3:00 am

    I’ve been very happy with their 25mm 1.8 on Micro Four Thirds, it’s great to have a cheaper manual option that performs well on that format outside of the ubiquitous adapted old 50mm lenses that are too long for everyday use – it really exceeded my expectations. I’m holding out hope that 7artisans or someone (Mitakon?) produces a 35mm equivalent f2-ish compact manual lens for the system at the price point and performance level of their 25, there’s a hole in the system there for affordable manual focus options around 17mm and the Pen-F is screaming for a lens like that.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Lucy Highnett
    February 8, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Hi!

    I’m very curious about this little lens but alas you don’t have any stock and there doesn’t seem any way to backorder this? (Fuji mount) Will this become available soon?

    Thanks!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Gabe
    February 11, 2018 at 10:40 am

    I’m very curious about the stopped down performance at infinity focus (landscape). Unfortunately none of the samples I’ve found demonstrate this, I’m fine with mushy corners as long as the rest of the image is good..

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Paul Reading
    February 21, 2018 at 7:34 am

    I love the design and size of this lens, but I think it is just too soft for me. 7Artisans are on the right track but most of the reviews report the same problems, glowing images when open, soft at the edges and barrel distortion. I would buy some of these lenses just for their form factor if the quality was better. I used to own the Minolta Rokkor-M 28mm F2.8 and 90mm F4 both these lenses were full frame 35mm lenses and are smaller than most CSC lenses of today. Manual focus does not phase me at all.

    I will keep following this brand as I think that I like where they are coming from but as this stage I think the quality is work in progress.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Stev
    April 26, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Hamish,

    It’s Steve Boykin from RFP. How did you get this lens so early? I noticed that you can get it off Ebay. Did you go that route? B&H here in the US says it will be released on May 10. I am thinking of buying this in Fuji mount to use on my XT1 which is sort sitting in the closet unloved.

    Thanks,

    Steve Boykin

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 27, 2018 at 8:44 pm

      Email sent 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Jay Verspeelt
    June 7, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    I suspect this is actually an f1.8 I compared this lens against my Fujinon 56mm f1.2 and at f1.2 at iso3200 the shutter speed was 2200/s where as on the Fujinon it was over 4000/s. I couldn’t reach close to parity until I stopped down between f1.6 and f2.

  • Reply
    Shifting 6th element – 7artisans 35mm F1.2 lens – yukosteel's blog
    June 9, 2018 at 2:55 am

    […] reading great review of 7artisans 35mm F1.2 on 35MMC I explored more details about Sonnar design C Sonnar T* optical formula. I was wondering what […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    ramsay
    September 18, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Hello –

    I found your blog recently because you had put up a great review of the 7artisans 35mm 1.2 Sony E Mount lens. I recently purchased it (thanks for the helpful information!) and have been using. I’m noticing a bit of vignetting and have tried to figure out a lens correction profile for Lightroom. I thought to ask you — in the spirit of the helpfulness of gear reviewers — if you have a correction profile for this lens that you would be willing to share?

    Thank you kindly in advance!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 18, 2018 at 9:46 pm

      I’d love to help, but I sold my apsc Sony, and indeed the lens :/

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Patrick van den Hurk
      January 23, 2019 at 11:42 am

      Try the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm 1.2 profile, found under Camera brand > Leica in the Photoshop Lens correction filter!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Marc Petzold
    October 24, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    That Lens does have character, of course…and it shows. 😉 I might get one into 2019 someday, to shoot with my trusty, old X-E1.

    Good Light!
    Marc

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