The spark for this post started with an email thread between Hamish and myself where I was detailing my obsession with my new to me Leica M Type 240. Hamish predicted that I would be headed for an M mount slippery slope. The man is not wrong. This is a valid risk. I shared with him that my plan was to gravel and sand the slope with the less expensive lenses I have from 7Artisans and TTArtisans. Similar names. Different companies. Same factory I understand. Different lenses. This post outlines how things are going so far.
M mount slippery slope update. I had feared that once I acclimated to having an older M Mount digital body one or both of two things would happen. M GAS would hit me full on like a bus and, I would then become obsessed with upgrading to a newer M body. And I would then become obsessed with upgrading from my relatively humble Artisan glass to more lauded Leica, Zeiss, or Voigtlander glass. Well, none of that happened and I do not believe it will.
Addressed one at a time. I love a deal. And this was a heck of an M body deal I landed. It would be hard to let it go.
Above that, after using it for a couple of weeks I feel no need to replace or add to it because I am genuinely pleased with the M240. I have not once thought I needed more. Many point to the larger size, but it does not bother me at all. Swifter processing speed is not needed. Newer cameras tout better high ISO performance but I am good with the M240 once again. That leaves the high MP count on the M11, but I am fine with 24MP.
Surely once the fun and games of adapting to mirrorless and using them with less expensive (Addressing the questioning of my initial use of the term “lesser”. Qualified later, but fair enough. Easy fix. I come in peace. ) M film cameras (no offense meant – it’s just that the Leica M3, Leica CL, and Voigtlander Bessa R2 were not the most expensive M film bodies) I would eventually pivot away from knock-off lenses (again, no offense… You know what? Nevermind. Blanket disclaimer: Everything here is opinion. Your mileage may vary.) and “upgrade” to more respectable glass once a Leica M body made in the last couple of decades was secured, right? Wrong.
I can honestly say that I am good. All of the Artisan lenses are performing at more than acceptable levels for me. As good? Of course not. Good enough for my purposes? Yes. Plus there is something cool about getting perfectly good results with a Bad News Bears bag of lenses that when combined cost much less than one Leica lens. All were bought used for even more savings except the 50mm, which I bought marked down from other websites from KEH brand new. I currently stand at five and I am perfectly happy with each one of them.
In an even longer post on my own blog I cataloged all of the Artisans lenses that I have ever owned and included an FE lens that I have. Here I will restrain myself by listing the 5 7Artisans and TTArtisans M mount lenses that I currently have.
TTArtisans 21mm f/1.5
This lens is fun. Period. Bought it as a more affordable and “practical” wide-angle alternative to the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 I had in the past. What I got is a lens that made the most of the trade between a narrower field of view and a much brighter aperture. It is like the perfect combination of that 15mm Voigtlander lens and the 28mm f/1.4 7Artisans lens I once had. The result is a lens far more usable and faster than the 15mm, wider than the 28mm, and for me more fun than both. It is the last lens I obtained and has already become a favorite. Add in good looks, great accessories, and close focus capabilities and AF when adapting courtesy TECHART and this lens is a real winner.
Read more on my own website here
Reviewed on 35mmc here
TTArtisans 28mm f/5.6
It’s purdy, compact, built like a small blunt force throwing weapon, and captures great images. That about sums it up. Reasonably priced also. Whatever misgivings one might have about the slow aperture are easily offset by the image quality and aesthetics for me. Also great for a wide angle point and shoot using zone focusing. A better 28mm solution for me than the 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4 mentioned above. On paper, the wider aperture seems better, but I tended not to use it as that aperture brings a greater size and weight. 7Artisans makes a lens at this spec also. I am sure it is good also, but I like the look of the more compact TTArisans model better and I have read that the 7Artisans lens does not bring up the correct rangefinder frame lines while the TTArtisans model does. Again. Personal taste.
More on my website here.
Reviewed on 35mmc here
7Artisans 35mm f/1.4
This lens replaces the wider 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4 as the most sober Artisans M mount lens I have used. Other lenses listed here lean into their value, unique IQ, or looks. But, much like the 28mm, this 35mm f/1.4 lens is just plain good. No caveats. It produces solid images. So much so that I would not consider going to another brand. TTArtisans makes a lens at this spec and I am sure that is a great lens also. I found a deal on a used 7Artisans lens first and I must also admit that I prefer the design and built in lens hood of the 7Artisans version. Great IQ and build quality. An all around solid lens with few compromises. And they throw in a rather snazzy case.
7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
This lens is an old favorite of mine that has a bit of a split personality about it. And that split personality is exactly why I like it. It already helps that 50mm is just about my favorite prime focal length. Then add a brighter than average aperture that makes easy work of low light scenes even with film. The split personality part is its IQ. One moment it produces flare-tastic images with a wonky personality that I like. The next moment it is taking a solid portrait without an IQ foot put wrong. Add in bokeh that is an acquired taste, that I fortunately like, great colors, and a bargain price and you have yourself a winner. Have left analog M-dome from time to time but each time I return this is the first lens I pick up.
Reviewed on 35mmc here
7Artisans 75mm f/1.25
Come for the novelty. Stay for the IQ. This lens is not the first I would think of for a rangefinder camera. In all honesty, I had adapting in mind when I picked it up. Had thought focusing could be an issue with the film rangefinder I had at the time, the short effective base length Leica CL, and I was right. Doable, but not pleasant. But as expected it was fantastic when adapting. With its longer focal length and fast aperture, it was capable of some impressive images using close focus adapters. But when coupled with a proper M rangefinder I have found that focusing is not an issue at all. A pleasure to use actually that has already created some portraits that I really like. Great IQ and bokeh. A great looking lens as well. And far less money than the, clearly superior overall but it better be, 32x more expensive Leica variant. To say that lens is far out of my price range would be the mother of understatements so access to the rather pleasing 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 is quite the appreciated consolation prize.
Reviewed on 35mmc here
Again, I did not think it would turn out like this once I had a digital M. Thought I would be all over the used websites daily trying to score more traditional glass, but nope. Really glad I finally got ahold of a digital M. As much as I thought I would like it, this has turned out far better than I expected.
I appreciate having this opportunity to share my experiences with these lenses.
Eric L. Woods
I shoot a variety of new and old digital and film cameras. Industrial Engineer by education, IT is my vocation, and I really enjoy using, testing, and writing about cameras. All three of the latter are very therapeutic exercises for me. If you are so inclined my blog address is ewoodsphoto.com and I can be found on twitter and Instagram. All the best to you.
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