Lenses

7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 & 28mm f/1.4 – Alternatives or Imposters? – By Jeremy Rata

I am a published documentary photographer. (www.jeremyrata.com) and have a lifestyle and product photographic business (www.hospitalityphotographic.com). For my business I use Nikon, for my documentary work I have been using Leica for over 12 years starting off with an MP transcending to all their digital offerings up to my current camera the M10. I love them. The lenses I currently use are Leica’s 18mm Super Elmar, 28mm Summicron, and the 35mm & 50mm Summiluxes.

In 2010 I did a book on Afghanistan using an M8.2 with the Leica 28mm F2 ASPH and 50mm F1.4 ASPH lenses. It’s safe to say I love all things Leica and nothing I write here changes that.

7Artisans – Why not before?

Being a Leica user can be controversial, mainly down to the cost of their products and what you can get from them versus similar but less expensive equipment. I hear the words ‘rich mans toy’ are uttered more than any others. I am not a millionaire but choose to work hard and save for the best I can afford. Fuji comes closest to Leica for me and I’m always tempted by them, even though their 35mm cameras are ASP-C sensors. The latest Fuji GX-R for instance is a very interesting camera but it is Medium Format and appears to be quite slow.

Simply put my reason for using Leica has been down to three things; I like the simple form, the functionality and the quality, particularly that of their lenses.

I have always felt that if you buy a brand, then buy their lenses and accessories too. They are made by people with a vested interest so it makes sense to stick with them. I’ve tried out Zeiss and Voigtlander on my Leicas but not bought them as the value for money imperative has never been strong enough in relation to the results.

7Artisans have made me think about that.

The Discovery

I’d been lusting after Leica’s 50mm f0.95 and 28mm F1.4 for a while now but the performance over my current versions just didn’t quite tip me into taking out a loan to get them. I read about the 7artisans 50mm f1.1 by chance on the Leica Rumours website one day and I thought that it is just cheap enough to have some fun. The 7Artisans lenses seemed like a welcome diversion. Who doesn’t love a bit of retro softness? I didn’t need it and certainly didn’t think I’d use it much. Initially I looked on eBay and then just before I bought I read an article by 35mmc about their latest lens the 28mm f/1.4.

So I contacted Hamish and bought them. The service and price I got from Hamish was better than any eBay deal, even more so when you take into account that I’m VAT registered.

The lenses themselves are quite extraordinary. My expectations were relatively low when I ordered them, I expected them to be a bit cheap in construction and possibly not stellar performers, I figured they might be useful as an everyday user that I didn’t have to worry about if I knocked them about, so why not?

I could not have been more wrong.

7Artisans 50mm F1.1 (in silver)

Leica M10 with the 7artisans 50mm at f/1.1

Leica M10 with the 7artisans 50mm at f/1.1

Leica M10 with the 7artisans 50mm at f/1.1

Immediate impression was Wow! It is very solidly built, quite heavy and looks so much like a Leica lens that you have to really look to notice the difference. You could easily pass it off as a Leica lens if you are that way inclined.

The aperture ring has no click stops, which I actually like, but if you’ve never encountered this then it takes some getting used to. Out of the box I had to calibrate it for focus as it is somewhat off, but this is a simple and fun operation, the tools for which are included in the very neat box. Some say it’s not very sharp wide open, which depending on what you determine as sharp may be true. I found it to be absolutely fine. Tack/pin sharp? Possibly not at its widest aperture on the peripherals but as you will see from my images it is very very good (well I think so at least). Once up to f2 it’s sharp, more than sharp enough than for anyone but the sternest critic.

The bokeh is not as creamy smooth as a Noctilux or a Summilux but it’s not offensive either. I have a Canon L39 screw mount F1.2 (which I use for my Leica 111f) which is pretty offensive on the bokeh front, so it is way nicer than that lens (which by the way costs nearly double on eBay). It is susceptible to flare, which I happen to really love. So, if you don’t like flare then don’t shoot into the light. Colour rendition is superb, Chromatic aberrations are no worse than any other competitor lens, but definitely more pronounced than a Noctilux or Summilux. All curable to a certain extent in Photoshop. There is noticeable vignetting at the 1.1 &1.4 apertures but this gets less noticeable as you stop down.

Leica M10 with the 7artisans 50mm at f/1.1

Pros

  • Fast
  • Sharp
  • Beautifully built
  • Nearly indistinguishable from a genuine Leica lens at first glance
  • Ridiculously cheap

Cons

  • Bokeh is not so smooth as to be incredible
  • No lens hood (for when you don’t want flare)
  • Holes in the body that will attract dirt
  • Will probably need recalibration on a regular basis. (Not certain of that though, I’ve had mine since December 2018 and it’s still on point)

Some photos

All of these photos were taken with the Leica M10 and the 7artisans 50mm at f/1.1, processed in Capture one with no further edits in Photoshop

Brief thoughts on the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 (original version)

This lens is nearly twice the price of the 50. Same impression as the 50 when you take it out of the box. Wow! It is incredibly well built. This lens aperture ring has click stops though. Like the 50 it required calibrating. It’s a heavy and long beast compared to my 28mm Summicron, so it is not a discreet lens and it intrudes into the viewfinder. At 1.4 this lens displays a weird flare ring when shot into the light which I happen to like but you could be forgiven for not liking it as it is a halo. If that concerns you then you can relax, the latest iteration has been changed to eliminate this characteristic. There is some vignetting at the widest apertures but it disappears as you stop down.

In the field it is very very good. It is not soft and it is very contrasty. Wide open it performs brilliantly, even at the peripherals it is acceptably sharp, as you stop down it gets even sharper. As a low light 28 it offers incredible value, particularly when you realise that its Leica equivalent is over £4K more. Like the 50 colour rendition is superb and chromatic aberrations are relatively well controlled. This is a seriously good lens and offers remarkable value for money.

Pros

  • Fast
  • Contrasty
  • Sharp
  • Unusual Flare characteristic when shot into the light source wide open
  • Beautifully built
  • Cheap

Cons

  • No lens hood
  • Unusual Flare characteristic when shot into the light source wide open
  • Not quite as similar to its Leica equivalent
  • Heavy and long.

7Artisans versus their Leica equivalents – Direct Test for Sharpness

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to take the same shot with a Leica lens and then again with a 7Artisans lens to see what they look like. Below are the results. All Images are straight out of the camera and have no adjustments in Photoshop.  These are highly unscientific (in line with this entire review) but do demonstrate what an everyday user would encounter.

I neither have the time or interest to do all those detailed tests some people do as they just do not have any relevance to the way I shoot.  I’m not really interested in scale charts and barrel distortion graphs. I just want to know how does it compare in reality when I’m out and about bothering people with my camera. There are no 100 percent full res Tiffs for you to look at on Flickr, just these but they do give you an idea.

The 7 Artisans are both faster lenses by 1 F-stop, so at full wide open are definitely softer than the Leicas, but at the equivalent F-stop the difference is far less pronounced. In everyday shooting I wonder how much difference a good photographer would notice.

And that in essence is my point really. If you are a photographer for whom viewing images at over 100% on a screen and prints at A2 plus is what floats your boat then the 7Artisans lenses may not be for you.

Test Images 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 v Leica Summicron 28mm F2 ASPH

Leica Summicron 28mm ASPH @ F2

7 Artisans 28mm @ F2

7 Artisans 28mm @ f1.4

Test Images 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 v Leica Summilux 50mm F1.4 ASPH

Leica Summilux 50mm ASPH @ f1.4

7Artisans 50mm @ f1.4

7Artisans 50mm @ f1.1

In Summation

Sharpness is a much talked about trait and I am not convinced that everyone knows what it means when you put it in context. I think people are way too obsessed with it. These lenses are sharp, not overly so, but definitely sharp enough for the vast majority of users. All the images I have posted are from the 50mm at f/1.1. Judge for yourself. If you are ‘lens wide open sharpness obsessed’ then you might not want to buy these lenses, but you’ll need to be ‘full screen, 100%’ obsessed – in which case good luck with that. When you add to that many people blame the lens for their poor rangefinder focussing skills at wide open apertures you have to be careful when listening to them. The DOF on these lenses is wafer thin at their widest aperture.

Perhaps ask yourself how are people going to view your images? When you are posting on Instagram you will not be able to detect any softness at all. So my advice is think of these lenses as pre-latest versions of their Leica equivalent and you won’t go far wrong. Also remember that extreme sharpness right now is not as cool as it was.

So, let’s be clear, these are not the equal of the very latest Leica lenses but they are excellent alternatives. 7Artisans will not have Leica quaking in their boots and nor should they. Leica’s quality and attention to detail are their hallmarks. But for the price these lenses are incredible value, highly usable and exceptional performers for all but the most demanding situations. I’m just delighted with them and so far. They offer a different old world style and a great addition to my kit.

The fact that I’ve just read the 7Artisans are producing a 75mm F/1.25 leaves me in joyful anticipative state. I’m just hoping I haven’t made a case for Artisans7 increasing their prices…

Jeremy Rata
www.jeremyrata.com
www.hospitalityphotographic.com
Follow me on Instagram: @jeremyrata | @benandjeremy

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39 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    srdjan eftimovski
    May 28, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    interesting… so you tried Voigtlander and Zeiss and you call them value for money so you never wished to really buy them? man, zeiss is light years ahead of leica in distortion control of anything wider than 50… its not about money, their lens design is always so impressive. and now you try real value for money lens and you are impressed by sharpness and build and everything? it smells like someone got money from 7artisans here… but i am used to this-leica fans just defend that leica mystery and talk bad about zeiss and voigtlander any time they get chance to-just because they realize leica is taking double money from them and more just so they can show off and they dont care about the fact that they get inferior lens (whise bad sides leica hide by making profiles for their lens and correct in camera all mistakes, and for other manufacturers you get raw image – test leica and zeiss and voigtlander side by side on film and see by yourself why you are being ripped off by leica)

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 28, 2019 at 2:48 pm

      Hmmm….I have to admit that for a fleeting moment I did consider not approving your comment for publication (yes you can do that! Who knew?) on the basis that it is written in such a churlish and sneering manner, but thought that would say more about me than you and just add weight to your viewpoint albeit no one would ever have known. But I am not afraid of a challenge and a different viewpoint. Everyone is entitled to that, it is what makes the world go round.

      Having said that I pretty much disagree with the majority of what you say but it is the way that you say it that really makes me sad about the envy and contempt that using a Leica attracts from others. I simply don’t get it.

      Honestly, it is just another camera, although a very good one. The lenses they make are just brilliant in my experience. I think history and better photographers than me proves that too.

      Your comment about lens profiling to correct lens mistakes made me smile. Every digital camera maker bar none does this. Every single one. It is called optimisation. Even if I agreed with you that on film Leica lenses perform badly (which I do not) why would I even think about doing as you suggest if I had no intention to shoot film? It would simply be tilting at windmills.

      In the end it’s the end result/image that counts, nothing else matters. If you can do it better with Zeiss/Voigtlander go for it. I have no problem with you doing so either and certainly would not think of ridiculing your choice. I am happy with what I produce and the choices I make to produce it.

      If you take time to read my review properly you should be able to see that I am not and do not say that Zeiss and Voigtlander are poor lenses just that compared to 7Artisans’s latest offerings the do not offer the value for money that was significant enough to tempt me into buying them the way 7Artisans has. That is all. I bought Leica lenses initially (although I could hardly afford to) because I feel when buying a premium product it more often than not pays to stick with what they recommend to get the best out of it. These 7Artisans lenses have given me an affordable and high value alternative with which to have fun. And that is why I take pictures at the end of the day. For the sheer enjoyment it gives me. I am lucky enough to get paid to do that too. Happy Days.

      I am at pains to point out that these 7Artisans lenses are not perfect but pound for pound they add up in a way that other lenses do not for me. But that is just my view. Others may disagree I am sure.

      Whilst I am at it, Hamish will confirm I am a net contributor to, not beneficiary from 7Artisans. I have never been paid a penny nor received any kind of loan from them.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        James Evidon
        May 28, 2019 at 8:57 pm

        S.E.’s comment is yet another example of what so-called social media ( or should I say anti-social media) has done to civil discourse in our mentally disturbed internet community. You can always pick out the donkey in the herd of thoroughbreds by its incessant braying.

        I found your review interesting and useful, albeit in conflict with several other reviews I’ve read about the 50mm 7Artisan lenses. But you have piqued my interest enough to tempt me to try it on my M240 and CL w/adapter as long as I do it within the vendor’s return policy period.
        Absolute sharpness and perfect bokeh, whatever that is, isn’t everything. It’s the overall impact of the image that counts. Thank you for a most interesting review.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Jeremy Rata
          May 28, 2019 at 9:40 pm

          Hi James,

          Thank you, I appreciate that. I’m really happy that you found my review useful. There are conflicting reviews on the 50mm but I think sometimes they come from unrealistic expectations. If you bench tested it and did one of those technical analysis reviews that have little to do with a completed image it may fare a little worse against a Leica or Zeiss lens. But , and this is my point, from those few pictures of my family that I’ve posted you can see it works to a very high level when being used, not analysed. For all the technical and compositional deficiencies of the images they were shot raw, converted in capture one and have had no further processing or sharpening. It really is an astonishing lens for the price. And it’s the value and sheer fun the lens offers that my review is about.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Srdjan Eftimovski
        May 29, 2019 at 10:19 pm

        well if you dont see reason to buy zeiss lens for a half or third of money leica equivalent costs then you either are blind not to see advantages or you just want to believe in magic… i also believed it before and used leica m4 with leica glass but after some time i realized-why not try to sell and get canon p and ultron 35 f1.7 and my old jupiter 8…. and i never looked back… but if you can live with lines being bended like on all wide leica lens and 7artisans – its ok with me… i cant stand barrel distortion even in slightest amount..

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      May 28, 2019 at 4:54 pm

      Yep, true story.
      Also, I never block comments, but it struck my mind to on this occasion.
      Churlish is a great choice of words.
      If you wish to start that sort of conversation, try the DPR comments section

  • Avatar
    Reply
    BC
    May 28, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks Jeremy, a very interesting review of two lenses that may not get the credit they deserve. I am an old Nikon and Leica user too. Leica for the very same reasons you mentioned, without apology, just because I love a well-designed, well-finished, quality-reliable, highly-portable tool. As soon as I realized they were life-investments that very rarely would let you down, I bit into that apple.
    I have also been tempted by the Artisans7 50 mm f 1.1 . The reviews I read were rather positive and let us face it an f 1.1 at this price, why not try it? And since I recently acquired a digital CL on ebay, this becomes an interesting portrait lens, far more approachable than the Leica 75 mm. I was impressed by the the built of the lens (metal and glass), the fact it looked (exteriorly, I am not an expert at glass design) better designed than the Voigtlanders, and by the focus-adjustment tools which I found, as you did, necessary as the lens was not properly adjusted for my Leica. I was also surprised by the design and quality of the packaging. Not as spectacular as the Leica black gift box which once open takes a lot of room, but satisfying by its practical design and sobriety. As a customer you feel you are being treated with respect and that the brand does not believe in producing cheap products delivered cheaply.
    My results confirm yours though I would point out that my Artisnas7 50 mm is not really as sharp as my Summilux 50 mm (it is rather soft at f 1.1, softer than the Summilux at f 2, but once at f 4 the difference is far from critical); the corners are definitely soft at wide apertures (but to be fair, expected) and vignetting is also more present as these apertures—as you may have understood I am not one likely to systematically over-darkened the corners of my photographs in Lightroom or Photoshop, a procedure that is less required with digital photography than it was in BW and color darkroom work when we add to compensate for the potential uneven lighting of the enlarger (light source and lens). I tend to be rather meticulous about the whole content of my images and usually what is in the corners is there for a reason and I do not want to obliterate it with darkness (as seems to be the recent fashion, along with over-processed, HDR style, images). So as a result vignetting is something I do not want to have systematically added to my images.
    But in the end I find myself using that lens with pleasure. It is in my camera bag and not on my desk as a trendy paper-weight. Thanking you for sharing the time of your experience with it.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 28, 2019 at 2:11 pm

      Hi Bruno,

      Thank you for a very reasoned response to my review. I agree with everything you have said and applaud the considered and detailed way you have written it. Leica as a camera is perhaps the most controversial choice for any photographer, based mainly around the price. As a brand it creates more polarised views than any other camera I have owned. But the fact is that in my experience there is no other camera that can produce what it can in the hands of a skilled user. And attempting to master that is the main reason why I continue to try (with mixed results)!

      The 7Artisans lenses have really made me smile and are very much in use. They offer a different more old world result which I confess to really enjoying and at the price point there is nothing out there that tempts me to use any thing else (apart from my Leics lenses) on my Leica. They are simply put – great fun.

      Really glad you enjoyed the review. I’m no professional at reviewing but am grateful to Hamish for letting me have a go at it!

      Jeremy

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Huss
      May 28, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      This is a strange comment as the 7A 50 1.1 does not fit on the digital Leica CL. I know because I tried it. There is something in the interior baffle of the CL due to its use of an APS-C sensor that physically blocks the extension of the back of the 7A 50 1.1 lens, preventing it to focus over its full range. In fact, the furthest it can focus on the Leica CL is about 6ft out.
      The rear element of the 7A 50 1.1 protrudes far further back than any other Leica lens that I have (resulting in the inability to use it on the CL). It is also why 7A says not to use it on the Leica M5 as it could damage the metering stalk. FYI this lens extension is also why this lens cannot be used (adapted) on an M4/3 digital camera.
      Bottom line, the 7A 50 1.1 only works with ‘full frame’ cameras and larger.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish Gill
        May 28, 2019 at 7:26 pm

        7Artisans supply a modified version with a trimmed edge to the rear element casing that works on the TLs,CL & SLs

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Huss
          May 28, 2019 at 8:49 pm

          That’s really interesting Hamish, when did that happen? Can you post pics to show what that looks like? Looking at mine did they make the casing shorter (it no longer protects the rear lens elements?)? Or did they make it thinner? Or both?!

          Thanks
          Huss

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Terry B
    May 28, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    A thoughtful and sane review, if I may say so. A lot for some photographers to take away and inwardly digest when it comes to sharpness. Some obsess over it to an extent that they miss the wider picture, literally!
    I found myself in total empathy. This may or may not have had something to do with your also mentioning Fuji. 👌
    A short while ago I had a similar inkling to try a super fast lens, simply out of curiosity, as I have absolutely no need for one! What made this possible was the price of the super-inexpensive Kamlan f1.1/50 which I purchased new at just £110, and whilst this is available in Sony E mount and I could therefore assess its overall performance on my FF Sony A7, I opted for Fuji X as I prefer Fuji’s imaging.
    As with your Artisans, I was very surprised at the build quality. Focusing is firm but smooth and the aperture control is not click-stopped but which I would have preferred. And, unsurprisingly, its optical quality is not going to worry Leica, Voigtlander or Artisans. But what it offers for the price is quite remarkable. It has a character all its own. Am I going to use it a lot? No, but neither have I an expensive piece of glass lying around on the off-chance I may need it.
    I found your first two images wonderfully expressive. I’d imagined the facial expressions of your partner and daughter were captured just after they found out how little you’d paid for the lens. The second image of your daughter drinking what I am going to assume is tea in view of the cocked little finger. What every proper young lady should do in polite society.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 28, 2019 at 3:11 pm

      Hi Terry,

      Thank you for the lovely comments. It really made me smile. I am glad you enjoyed reading it. I should say I really do like everything Fuji do. They seem to me to be the unsung heroes of the current batch of camera makers. Their lenses are brilliant too. If and when I change systems it will likely be to Fuji.

      I completely agree with you about the joy of using an unusual/much cheaper lens on a modern camera. For me it’s akin to finding a priceless antique in a jumble sale! Anything that makes photography fun gets my vote. I can’t keep up financially with the continual conveyer belt of expensive updated kit so am finding more and more inventive ways of getting results, and if I am honest it is giving me a whole lot of pleasure!

      Thank you for you kindness about my images. You made me laugh out loud about the first image, you could well be right!! And yes you are right the cocked finger is obligatory in our family when drinking tea! However I have to confess that is my daughter and granddaughter, but we had them young……

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Huss
    May 28, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    Love this brand and have 2 of the 50 1.1 (black and silver) as I stumbled across both of them in used but perfect condition. I also highly recommend the 35mm f2. I did direct comparisons to my Summicron Asph 35 f2, posted the results, and people saw that there was no difference in sharpness.
    FYI I have a few Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander lenses too, so it is not a case of wishing for something else. But the enjoyment of using a different lens that brings its own values to the table.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 28, 2019 at 5:39 pm

      Hi Huss,

      Thank you for your comment. I have just bought the 35mm F2 from Hamish. I haven’t had a chance to try it out properly yet but will do this weekend I hope. So now I have 3 very usable lenses and still haven’t committed a qtr of the much longed for 28mm Summilux! It is amazing that they perform so well when you consider the price differential.

      All that said I wholeheartedly endorse your comment on the value that different lenses bring.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Laurence Kesterson
    May 28, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    I could not agree more with your review of both lenses. I am a professional photographer as well and I’ve found the 7Artisans lenses to be real gems for the little investment required. I recently shot a big assignment with the Summilux 50 and 35 lenses along side the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4. That 28 kept up with the Leica lenses in every way. No doubt the Leica 28 f1.4 is going to be a better lens, but not for the money that I have in the 7Artisams I’m thrilled with what that lens can do and have no desire to purchase the Leica 28 now (I have the Leica 28 f2.8 v4 and seldom use it anymore).

    The 50mm f1.1 is another outstanding lens for the money. The 7Artisans lens delivers in spades for the money, however that one ended up costing me a fair bit of cash. I had the 50mm Summicron from my film days but wanted the look of the f1.1, so I bought it as soon as it was available and shot a five page magazine story with it. I use it a lot, but find the results can be unpredictable. It convinced me that what I really wanted was the consistency that a Leica lens can deliver, so I ended up buying a 50mm f1.4 Summilux asph. I still use the 50 f1.1 and don’t regret the purchase at all. For me it is a specialty tool though, and one I coudln’t otherwise afford.

    I spent most of my career as a photojournalist and before we all transitioned to digital I relied heavily on Leica M cameras. Unfortunately, once the digital revolution came on in full swing I had to leave the Leicas behind. I’ve only recently returned to the Leica fold and it’s been a wonderful experience and rekindled the spark that was beginning to wane. To be fair, my latest Canon DSLR cameras are technically better. Autofocus for an old man is a godsend. That and the Canons handle mixed light sources much better than my M-P 240’s. However, the Leicas are like and old pair of shoes that fit me just right.

    As for the Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses, I agree with you there too. No doubt they are very good optics and they are affordable. That said they are still not cheap and I generally prefer the Leica lenses even if they are more expensive. However, the 7Artisans lenses are dirt cheap and allow entry into a very exclusive club of fast lenses with very little risk if they don’t suit you. The 50 f1.1 is cheap, cheap, cheap and is worth every penny and worth owning for the price (I wouldn’t buy it priced any higher though). The 28mm f1.4 is incredibly cheap compared to the Leica 1.4 and is easily worth owning for twice the price. It’s a terrific lens.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 28, 2019 at 7:30 pm

      Hi Laurence,

      What a terrific response. I concur with everything you say. The joy of using Leicas and these lenses shines through. I do get your point about the reliability of the 50mm f1.1. I used it at a wine lunch recently that I was documenting and it was superb but the light was even and unchallenging, I’m not sure how it will perform in more contrasting conditions. Regardless it’s a whole lot of fun.

      The latest DSLR’s are as you say very much more consistent and a lot faster but I find them uninspiring but extremely efficient. There’s something about Leica that when I’m shooting with it I just feel more creative, it’s a nonsense I know. These lenses just add to the fun I’m having.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Matt Byrne
      May 29, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      I don’t have a Leica, but as a Fuji X user, I have recently acquired the 25mm f1.8 for just £47. It’s a fantastic time we live in, where for less than half of what I paid for the plastic fantastic EF 50mm I have a metal, classically styled lens. My copy is sharp in the centre and smearing/vignetting exists only at the very edge of the frame. Using B&W JPEGs with this lens, I am happily finding scenes of contrast, light and composition I simply wouldn’t look for with an EOS. Given my pleasant experience with this 7A lens, I am inclined to purchase others rather than buy Fuji’s own.

      Now I have a couple of Fuji, I no longer desire a Leica. Not because I am anti-red dot or tight. I’ve simply found my ‘fit’ within photography, which is a feeling I’ve always assumed Leica shooters get and why they stick with them for generations.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Jeremy Rata
        May 30, 2019 at 7:15 am

        A very reasonable post and one I wholeheartedly agree with. Fuji make great cameras and lenses. Your 7Artisans lens will add to that in my opinion. If you have found a system you are happy with and when you pick it up to go shooting you get a feeling of joyful anticipation then that is all that matters in my book.
        I sometimes wonder if the people that drill into every single defect on a lens can actually take a picture. The search for perfection is sometimes incorrectly focussed.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Adam Bonn
    May 28, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I think the Leica = loadsa money thing is a bit moot these days to be honest…

    Five years ago

    “Hey I just spent 5K on a camera”

    OMG you wasted (sic) your money on a Leica?

    Now

    “Hey I just spent 5K on a camera”

    Cool, what did you get? The Sony A9, one of the Fuji MFs, or the Leica or a secondhand X1D?

    EVERY OEM wants a lot of coin for their cameras these days…

    On to the lenses.

    I have the 7artisans 50. It’s a great lens for the money. The flare can be troublesome (like on my 50 cron) and the quality of the OOF areas can be less than smooth… but personally I find looking where the light source is and what’s in the background before I hit the shutter can work wonders to avoid this 😉

    7artisans focus calibration on the lens itself is nothing short of genius, and in my humble opinion way better than sending your camera and lens off to the mothership.

    That said, as Jeremy says, sharpness is more about the overall look to the shot rather than pixel peeping one part of it.

    A nice review Jeremy. Thanks for sharing.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 28, 2019 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Adam,

      Love your opening lines. Very true! But still some like to have a pop at Leica owners. But as you say it’s very easy to spend many thousands on other systems nowadays.

      Totally agree with everything you say about the 7Artisans lenses. They have their faults but they are full of charm and great value.

      Looking for the light source,….😂😂👍

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Huss
    May 28, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Not sure if this was mentioned, but a huge advantage the 7A 50 1.1 has over my Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50 1.5 and Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.1 is that it focuses much closer – .7m vs 1m of the other two (and I think the mighty Leica Noctilux 50 .95 also has a 1m min focus distance).
    This makes all the difference in tight head shots – with the other lenses I need to crop to get the same frame fill.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 28, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Huss,

      You are absolutely spot on about that. I omitted to mention it, apologies. It’s a real plus.

      Jeremy

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Mark Kronquist
    May 28, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    Owning Leica, CV, Zeiss, 7 Artisans, Kobalux, Canon L39, Nikon L39 and many others, I give huge kudos for 7Artisans for making a superb product that is also a superb value. I shoot with SM, M (film and digital) and R bodies regularly and more often than not the lens that is mounted on the way out the door is the 7Artisans 35mm f2. M Summa-non, which is said to be and seems just that, a copy of the pre ASPH 35mm Summicron. Buy it as well as the lenses reviewed here! Thanks Mark

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Brian
    May 28, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    The portraits are beautiful- this is where a Sonnar formula lens really shines. I have a lot of Sonnar formula lenses. The Zeiss C-Sonnar 50/1.5 is the sharpest Sonnar, best edge-to-edge performance, that can be bought. Compared with the price of a Summilux, it’s a bargain. It is 3x the price of the 7Artisans, and 1-stop slower.

    https://cameraderie.org/threads/7artisans-50-1-1-and-zeiss-50-1-5-c-sonnar-visit-gunston-hall.39473/

    The price of the 50/1.1 Nokton has dropped to about $700. It is sharper and has better edge-to-edge performance compared with the 7artisans. But again- 2x the price, and much heavier. That goes with being a Double-Gauss lens. Bigger and heavier. 7% the price of the 50/0.95 Noctilux. I bought mine 9 years ago. Great lens, as is the 35/1.2 Nokton.

    https://cameraderie.org/threads/7artisans-50-1-1-nokton-50-1-1-and-jupiter-3-50-1-5-visit-gunston-hall.39476/

    For anyone using the M Monochrom or M246: the 7artisans 50/1.1 is considerably sharper with a Y2 or deeper filter on it. Most Sonnars have a fair bit of CA, using the filter knocks it out. I have one optimized for the M Monochrom, one for the M9. I wish all lenses were so easy to calibrate.

    I’ve had my 7Artisans for 2 years now- I needed to tighten the set screws for the focus ring once. I’ve had to do the same for my 50/1.5 Nokton, 50/1.1 Nokton and other lenses, did not bother me. You use a device, it needs routine maintenance. I passed on the 35/2 7Artisans as I picked up a 35/1.7 Ultron for $300, mint/used. Hard to beat. I’ll probably pick up the 75/1.2 7Artisans.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 29, 2019 at 7:17 am

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you for a very interesting post and for your kind words. I really appreciate your obvious knowledge and your attachments make for interesting reading. I’m particularly grateful for your suggestion regarding filters improving sharpness. I’ll try that out.

      Thanks once again.

      Jeremy

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Huss
      June 4, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      I use the cv 50 1.1 and 35 1.2 on my Leica M5 as their size are balanced very well on the bigger body. The cv 50 1.1 has a much harsher bokeh than the smoothness of the 7A lens so that really makes a difference in portraiture as well as the fact the 7A focuses much closer for tighter images.
      So why dont I use the 7A 50 on my M5? Because it is physically incompatible and can damage the metering stalk.

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    May 29, 2019 at 4:33 am

    Nice article…I appreciate the fact you wanted to present your findings in a neutral tone.
    My minor quibble – “Honestly, it is just another camera, although a very good one…” No, Leica is not just another camera. We use them for their reputation and their quality. Their lenses have a unique signature, both with using digital & film.
    I read all the lens reviews I can, partly as ‘junk reading’ but, like many photographers, to help be decide on a potential purchase. I’ve found the people who are published on this site are really trying to share their knowledge to fellow photographers. Being retired, I find this information valuable on a limited ‘mad photography money’ budget.
    As for the Leica bashers (or the Canon/Nikon bashers) I think they would secretly desire a Leica, but for whatever reason, don’t have one, and to cover their inadequacies, attack the brand & it’s users. I’ve endured it for years. Once I was in a clothing store w/my M2 over my shoulder. A sales clerk looked at my camera and sniffed “I’ve got an Olympus OM-10 that’s just as good as your camera.” Why even make a stupid statement like that? Why set-up a lose/lose situation with a complete stranger looking to buy a polo shirt? I truly can’t process this type of thinking.
    BTW, I did know you can moderate the comments.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jeremy Rata
      May 29, 2019 at 7:43 am

      Hi Dan,

      Thank you. I really appreciate that. I find this site to be absolutely invaluable for knowledge which is why I determined to buy my 7Artisans lenses from Hamish. The reviews as you say are all written in a generous spirit, I merely wanted to echo that.

      I know what you mean with regards to my assertion that a Leica is just another camera, all I was trying to do was quell the anti Leica tone. You’re right of course it is a very special instrument. I like you find the readiness of some people with agendas to slam Leica baffling.

      To use an analogy I happen to love old Bentley cars, I could never afford one, but am happy for those that can, I stop and stare when I see one in the street or on the road, and I recognise that it is easily outperformed by a Ferrari but when it comes to driving in a certain manner and style I prefer the Bentley. Both get me to my final destination but in very different ways. Leica is my Bentley.

      I think we would all love Leica to halve their prices but not at the expense of quality. As my Mother always says to me ‘it is good economy to pay more for quality’ a mantra I have found to be very true.

      Thank you for taking time to read my review.

      Jeremy

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Victor
    May 29, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Nice review! I don’t have 28, but I do mostly share your impressions 50, which I do like a lot as I tried to detail in my 5 frames review of the lens
    https://www.35mmc.com/23/12/2018/5-frames-from-the-first-roll-with-leica-m4-p-7artisans-50-1-1-and-delta-100/
    Despite that, however, I disagree that it is a match, or even comes close to leica, zeiss, or VC equivalents.

    The reason is that while 7A is fairly sharp centrally, it gets way worse as you move further to the edges. When I got the lens, I was also impressed by central sharpness and contrast compared to my Jupiter 3 (old one), which really does make the central subject pop. And I do think its no coincidence that in all of your samples the subject is located centrally 🙂 Once the initial impressions fade away, however, you start to notice this limitation, and in particular the fact that mid-frame and corners never actually get tack sharp and only get acceptable for landscape-like scenarios at f11 or so. I don’t want to say that this fact makes the lens bad option, since you buy this fast lens to shoot it wide open or close to it, and in this case only the subject will be sharp anyway, but you need to keep it in mind all the time.
    Most of the leica/zeiss/vc efforts in making lenses are devoted to make them consistent performers, however, and that’s what largely defines their cost. The 7A just does not do that, despite the nice build and ok performance as super-fast lens.

    If that’s what you want though, you’ll get a lot of glass for a small amount of money, which is always nice 🙂
    Just don’t shoot it below 1.4 unless absolutely required by light conditions, or you’re deliberately looking for this funky bokeh seen in your 3rd and 8th samples. From 1.4 up the mid frame gets sharp enough and bokeh gets more sane (particularly the transition zone). Keep in mind though that for 1.4 lens the 7A is fairly big, and at these apertures you might be better off getting an old jupiter 3, or even jupiter 8 which are close in sharpness, but 2-10x cheaper and significantly smaller. Their lower contrast can be fixed if you shoot digital, and on film it can actually be advantageous depending on film and shooting conditions. I kept both, but if I’d need to keep one, I’d keep my Jupiter 3 rather than 7A (mostly because of size, performance is comparable).

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Jeremy Rata
    May 30, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Hi Victor, great post. Thank you. Very reasoned and full of good sense.
    Whilst I don’t fully agree I think it possibly comes down to what you want from your lens. My point is based around cost v performance- value really, I don’t think I’m claiming that the lens is better than its Leica equivalent but that for the money the end result is very good. It’s a horse for a course and a very affordable one if you have reasonable expectations.
    If I had posted those pictures but shot some of them on a Leica lens I don’t think the overall end difference would have been as stark as the cost to buy. (bokeh on the wide daylight excepting ones possibly).
    Interestingly I did post the last image focussed on the subject io the right side and it’s very acceptable. Also all the tests are deliberately focussed to the left hand side of the frame for exactly the reason you say as composition rule of thirds often dictates that. I still do not think the 7Artisans provides unacceptable performance.
    In essence I think that whilst a full bench test of this lens would probably support your observations in reality I just shoot pictures but when it comes to Landscape I agree I would not think to use this lens, for on the go reportage/documentary stuff i find that it’s the subject at the centre of the image that everyone looks at not the peripherals and it is in this arena that I find the 7Artisans 50mm to be a really fun and impressive lens.
    I’ve never used the Jupiter 3 or 8 but they are 1 and 2 stops slower would be my only observation and given every shot I posted is shot wide open at F1.1 I appreciated the extra light capability.
    Thanks for posting, I found it very relevant.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Victor
      May 30, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      Jeremy,
      I never said it has unacceptable performance! I just said that it only does one thing well, that is, environmental portraiture in low light. That’s what you mostly want from such a lens, anyway, so bang for the buck is hard to beat 🙂 But the fact is that my Nokton 1.5 is sharper in the edges at 1.5 than 7a at f8. Normally, that’s no problem at all, but sometimes it is, and then you need to pay more. Nokton (not to mention Summilux) is simply a better lens technically, it’s silly to argue with that. The question is only whether this matters to your shooting style and whether you’re ready to pay for that. I’m not ready to pay for Summilux, btw 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    eric
    May 30, 2019 at 10:37 am

    A Chinese tradition : the copies.
    You can also find some nice Leica copies for 3 times cheaper, really nice, just one difference : made in China !

    For me these lenses are not more than that !

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      May 30, 2019 at 10:38 am

      Have you used them?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Brian
    May 30, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    Copy? Not the 50/1.1 7Artisans lens. It is a unique formula- nothing close to it since the Zunow 5cm F1.1 of the 1950s. This is the best “Faster than F1.4” Sonnar that you can get.

    The 7Artisans 50/1.1, like most Sonnar formula lenses, has a high degree of field curvature. There is not a plane of focus, it’s more like a jello mold. The sharpest focus at the edges closer to the camera. Some of the pictures in this thread show this:

    https://cameraderie.org/threads/7artisans-50mm-f1-1-m-mount-lens.47849/

    Just for comparison, a Nikkor 55/1.2 Ai.

    All shots wide-open. The Nikkor also shows some field curvature, but not as much as the 7Artisans. The Nikkor also has a reputation for soft corners in lens tests- also attributable to field curvature. As with any lens, shoot for its strengths, not weaknesses. Don’t use these for brick walls.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Jon H
    June 1, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Thx for review, especially the comparisons. I have the 7a 28 1.4 (on my M9) and have to say I am so impressed with it. It takes really nice photos and knocked spots off the Leica 28 2.8 V4 I had before (it is big though). I won’t be getting rid of my L 50 1.4 asph any time soon however! I look fwd to the 75mm, bring it on 7a 🙂

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