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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12 thoughts on “An Overview of my 5 Artisans Lenses – 7 and TT”
I agree with you about the M240, I’ve just got a minter recently. Part exed a tidy M6, M6’s now have serious bargaining power, so the outcome of the deal wasn’t too frightening to my bank balance.
Have you tried the 7Artisan 35mm f2, a brilliant lens for a very silly price. I bought the lens to take the photos for this article on 35mmc – Behind the Scenes at the East Lancashire Railway.
The Zeiss and Voiglander lenses are also great performers with the M240, cheap if bought used. I have to admit I have a Leica 35mm f2.4 summarit-M, which are like rocking horse poo to find, bought for a bargain price. The Summarit-M’s are much maligned lens by Leica snobs, but are actually compact high performance lenses.
Thank you for your comment.
Glad you are enjoying your M240. Mine showed up at a price I could not refuse with a small ding in the top plate and I jumped on it. Had to send it back to KEH to get calibrated (free under warranty), and it has been great since.
I have tried and really liked the 7Artisans 35mm f/2 and I agree that is a great lens at a great price. Would definitely have one if I did not have the f/1.4. The f/2 was an especially perfect fit when I had a film Leica CL. Have had three Voigtlander M mount lenses (15mm/40mm/50mm) and they were all great also. I have and really like Zeiss lenses for other cameras (Contax 137 MA Quartz/Contax G1/Hasselblad 501c) and I am a huge fan.
I agree that Leica lenses are fantastic and I have picked up some at a great price before. Have had several 90mm variations and they were all great performers.
Honestly thought I would have moved to other brands eventually but so far I am happy as is. And of course, if I ever locate my money tree I will buy everything I can get my hands on.
Have a great day.
Thanks for a great article. You bring to life these lenses with your straight-talking but fun way of writing. I’ve been following TTArtisan and 7Artisan for years because here in SEAsia they’ve been ‘cheap’ alternatives for many a photographer on a budget, long before both brands established themselves in the west. And for years I just assumed they were crappy copies not worth talking about. Articles like yours prove different. Yes, they have their own look that not everyone may like (I’m not so keen on the 75mm although the shot of the leaf on the pond is very pretty) but if purchasing a couple of these lenses now rather than saving for a long time to buy a Leica equivalent means you can just get out there and use your camera, then more power to them… and to you.
Thank you for the kind words Jamie.
Your last comments were exactly my thinking. Get the lenses, have fun, and upgrade later. But for now, I am good. Did not expect that honestly.
All the best to you.
Nice article! I like the use of a lot of sample pics and the lack of analytical probing as if a lens has a rectum. These lenses received a lot of copycat criticism when they were released and constantly given a rating in percent of a Leica per dollar. But their images have their own merits and flaws in various situations like any other lens. I think they are fine and stand on their own. They aren’t necessarily just for people who can’t afford Leica, Zeiss or Voigtlander. I’m glad to see an article an article that encourages people to try them and see what they think. M digital, film and adapted is a one great reason to like these lenses.
Thank you very much. Agreed on all points. Thank you for the encouraging words. Not for everyone, but they fit my needs perfectly.
Hi Eric, an interesting read indeed, well detailed. I am though having trouble understanding how you would determine the M3 to be a lesser film camera. It was their flagship for years, indeed their first, and by far the most costly in production they have made. It’s materials and build and finish were all done by the finest techs in Wetzlar, quite pricey for Leica, and it still has a rangefinder viewfinder system that has not been matched in its magnification (and was quite a complex build too). Yes, it’s solid brass and heavy and has no lightmeter, but I both use a leicameter with my 50mm and 90mm and a Reveni meter with the 28mm and a viewfinder. That is still a fast and amazing way to go. I switch between my M6 and M3’s as my daily carry and want for nothing as each one is a different beast. Just trying to see your reasoning here.
All fair points. Was stating such purely with regard to the current asking price, not capabilities, heritage, build, or features. As mentioned in the post no offense was meant with the qualifier that they “were not the most expensive M film bodies” on the market. The Leica M3 is a fantastic camera and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. An excellent choice.
Thanks, I get it now. Was just taken aback for a moment, but you are indeed correct. In support of your statement, I find it crazy that point and shoots like the Contax T3 can equal two fully healthy M3’s… I know what I would choose even if they dont serve the same purpose: ease and automation versus control and reliability. But thank you for your thorough testing of these chinese lenses. I myself am keen on trying the offerings from Light Lens Lab. Especially their Cooke 50 speed panchro reissue
You are very welcome. You make excellent points. Those Light Lens Lab lenses are very appealing. All the best to you.
Great piece. I have personally found that TTartisans lenses are one notch over 7artisans (definitely the case for the 35mm and 50mm f 1.4. Yes 7 artisans lenses are very good deals but they seem to have more character (the new term for optical issues) than the TT artisans ones. As for the M240 its qualities between 100 and 400 iso are excellent but going beyond soon becomes a problem. Slight banding at 1600 and noticeable noise, really getting worse above. For this, its bulkiness that always bugged me (I had used film Ms for two decades), it’s slowness at writing files (and sometimes failing to do so), I finally opted for a used M10-P and I do not regret it.
Thank you. All valid points regarding 7Artisans and the M240. The M 10P is an awesome choice. I thought I might want to upgrade the camera but I am good with the M240. Slots in nicely with my menagerie of film and digital gear. I happen to have beef mitts so the larger size was not an issue and I actually added the Leica grip, but I definitely get it. Many great options. To each their own. All the best to you.