Late last year TTArtisan released the sub £200 TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 lens for APS-C systems including E/X/EOS-M/Z/RF/L Mounts. This focal length and aperture combination has been a popular choice for multiple third-party lens manufacturers, as comparative native lens options are typically quite expensive.
We reported on the original release but were also able to obtain a review copy for the Fujifilm X Mount. In this article, I’ll be reviewing the lens and sharing my thoughts and experiences on construction, design, and performance in the field. While the lens was sent to us for review, TTArtisans is completely independent of what content the review contains.
All of the images in this review were taken on either my Fujifilm X-E4 or the X-H1 and any post-processing will be noted in the individual captions. Most of the images I didn’t process in post other than to straighten them.
Construction & Design
Glass, glass, and more glass. The TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 construction feels high-end in the hand but the most impressive part of this lens is the lake of glass resting in the fully metal body. Upon first opening the box, I spent a good few minutes turning and rotating the lens around in the window light just appreciating the large amount of glass inside.
While this is lovely to look at, it makes me nervous to think about the scratch potential. That is a lot of surface area to be careful with! If you are similar in this sense to me, then I would recommend putting a UV filter (lens thread is 52mm in size) on the lens as soon as you open it for protection. No lens hood for the camera is available from TTArtisan so this is the only way to protect it unless you want to keep the lens cap on.
Mixed Emotions on the Threaded Lens Cap
Initially, one of my favorite features of the TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 was the threaded lens cap. It firmly screws onto the top of the lens, making it near impossible to come off if bumped. With other lens caps that squeeze at the sides to place them onto the front, I find they come off often when taking the camera in and out of bags. Because of this, I rejoiced in this clever lens cap design!
However, in practice, this became quite an annoyance when shooting without a protective filter. I was using the lens cap for protection at first and screwing it on and off takes a hot second. This meant I was either missing moments on the street or having to wait 5 seconds before I could take my photo, and then spend 5 seconds placing it back on. Doesn’t seem like much once, twice, or even thrice, but try doing this for a solid 2-3 hour shooting session and it grinds on you. The best setup while shooting this lens is to use a protective filter so you aren’t worried about scratching all that glass, but don’t have to deal with the hassle of the lens cap. Then, when you are done shooting, remove the filter and place the cap back on for safe storage.
Small but Hefty
The lens is not large by any means, but it is weighty! TTArtisans says this lens is compact and lightweight, but I find only one of those things accurate in practice. The lens is compact indeed. It’s the perfect size for smaller mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm X system. However, it is not lightweight when compared to similar-sized native lenses. While it might fit in your pocket, it’s going to have to be a strong pocket!
When not in use on a camera, this could be an excellent paperweight. I have used it as one often. It’s pretty to look at and does the job perfectly.
On the Fujifilm X-E4, the TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 makes the camera front heavy, which slightly bothers me. On my Fujifilm X-H1, the weight ratio is better but still leaves the setup heavy on the front. This isn’t a deal-breaker but something to consider for folks that might easily get frustrated with the imbalance. To be fair, many lenses would be front-heavy on the X-E4, but I tend to opt for the smallest possible lens, which is usually the pancake 27mm F2.8 option.
As for aesthetics, TTArtisan decided to feature strong silver lines across the lens. I love these. They seem very stylish to me and fit the overall design of the lens well, with the lines featuring on both the focus ring and aperture control.
I’m also happy to report that the aperture control ring has a satisfying clickiness. It ranges from F0.95 to F16. Ten blades make up the aperture diaphragm which is beautiful to look at and creates a characterful and pleasing bokeh when the lens is shot open.
A word on bokeh…everyone has different thoughts on what makes a nice bokeh, but I’ll say that I do enjoy the nature of it through the TTArtisan 35mm 0.95. It is very smooth for close-up subjects and has an interesting character (less smooth) when you step further away like in the image below. It’s different from other lenses I have shot with and I’m a fan. Of course, this is a personal preference.
The TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 lens is manual only but the focus controls are as smooth as butter. It’s neither too loose nor too stiff. It feels just right. You can start to see a Goldilocks trend here. There is a certain level of tension to make sure photographers don’t spin the focus ring too fast but also it glides along to not cause any frustration that it’s too slow. Being a manual focus lens, this is important as it will be the most used part of the piece of gear.
With a helpful distance scale painted onto the lens, it enables you to work with zone focusing. I’ll go into the field experience a little later but want to make a note here regarding the design. If you want to use this lens for zone focusing, there is a good amount of space from the F4 to the F16 aperture setting. Below that is a tight squeeze and it’s hard to be accurate about where you have placed the infinity symbol but as most zone focusing for street photography is done at higher apertures, this wouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
In the Field
Ok, so we’ve covered the features and design of the TTArtisan 35mm 0.95. Now it’s time to see how it performs in the field. I shot this lens a few different ways to test it out for certain scenarios. Of course, it is intended for serious bokeh at F0.95 but I also put it through the paces during a few high-aperture zone-focus street photography sessions.
Let’s get this out of the way first. The TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 has excellent bokeh. If you are a bokeh fiend, you will love this lens. Either for those dreamy blurred-out backgrounds or for excellent low-light capabilities.
For sharpness, it scores well. Though the tricky bit is hitting the focus plane where you want it at lower apertures. It’s very narrow so even if you think you’ve got it, it’s worth it to double-check. Along with the focus peaking in the Fujifilm X-E4, the camera also has a focus check function. This allows the photographer to zoom into a part of the image to check if this focus is hitting where they want. Without these focus aides, it would be quite hard to eyeball the focus at F0.95.
The vignette is strong at the lowest aperture. However, it’s virtually non-existent at F16 and the higher apertures have an excellent level of detail around the whole image. The vignette at lower apertures isn’t as bad when there are darker corners around the subject. However, if the scene has brighter corners, it’s more prominent. This can be easily adjusted in post-processing, but something to note.
It’s worth noting as well that placing this lens on a full-frame camera will create a massive vignette as it is designed for APS-C sensors. You can see the image result of this in a review written by Dustin Abbott here.
The TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 is not the lens for those swanky pin-point star flares at high apertures. I would also say this is not the lens to point directly at the sun, but rather best with the light on the subject unless you are indeed aiming for a hazy effect. See below for a comparison shot directly into the sun at the beach at sunset. In these images, I have only decreased the highlights slightly so that you can see the flaring better. While the flare adds character to the images and might be a vibe for some, for landscape photographers who like sharp points, this is not the lens for you, even at F16.
The flare at lower apertures can be distracting from the main scene or subject and isn’t all that pretty. I might be happy with the flare at higher apertures and quite like the dreamy effects it produces. There is still a large circle of haze though covering the main image so you really have to like this effect to shoot the lens in this way.
Zone Focusing for Street Photography
As a frequent street photographer, I couldn’t resist taking the TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 lens for a few spins around town. While this lens is renowned for its bokeh prowess, I was curious to test its capabilities with zone focusing.
To my delight, this lens surpassed all expectations! Its sharpness is impressive. Most of the images below were taken between F8 – F16.
Pros & Cons
To summarize my thoughts and experience with the TTArtisan 35mm 0.95, here is my pros and cons list:
- Build quality
- Manual focusing experience
- Aperture ring
- Smooth focusing
- Threaded lens cap
- Makes smaller cameras front heavy
- The surface area of glass makes it easy to potentially damage without a filter or hood
- Not weather-sealed
- Threaded lens cap
One of my cons is weather sealing. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but the TTArtisan 35mm F0.95 lens is not weather sealed. To my knowledge, not many of the third-party manual focus metal lenses are and I imagine it would make it more expensive, defeating the aim of having an affordable alternative. If you are someone who shoots in the rain a lot, this might be a deal-breaker, but when it’s raining heavily, I prefer to be inside with a warm cup of coffee so this con is on the softer side for me and certainly wouldn’t prevent me from recommending this lens.
Third-party lenses have proven they are capable of remarkable performance as of late, and the TTArtisan 35mm 0.95 lens is no exception. The budget-friendly price of $200 makes it an attractive alternative to Fujifilm’s equivalents, known for its higher price tags.
The build quality of the TTartisans lens is outstanding. It’s solid, instilling confidence in its durability and longevity. When it comes to image quality, this lens delivers. From stunning sharpness to vibrant colors, the images it produces are on par with lenses costing significantly more.
There are no major flaws or deal-breakers that would deter me from recommending this lens. If you’re in the market for a lens with an incredibly bright aperture but on a budget, the TTartisans 35mm F0.95 lens is a great choice.
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