I tried hard to fight this one, but I had no defense. To wit:
- It is a portrait lens.
- It is an M mount lens.
- It is a 7Artisans lens.
- It is faster than f/1.8.
- It easily passes my in a pinch zombie apocalypse melee weapon test.
- It has a gaping maw of a front element.
If that was not enough look at this (click here or image for B&H comparison):
Match this with the Woods’ battle cry “Never pay retail!” and I am defenseless.
Do I expect it to be as good as the Leica? Heck no.
But sweet Mother McRee will you look at the price tag on that Leica beauty? I am not built to pay good used car prices on a lens no matter how good they may be. Is it more than 31x better? I doubt it. But let’s see. A deal is not a deal if it is not usable.
Do I expect it to be as good as the Voigtlander? Maybe.
And they are all great. I like 7Artisans lenses for entirely different reasons.
The 50mm f/1.1 7Artisans is a hoot,
and I love it. It will also behave itself if you do stop it down to Nokton numbers,
I will readily admit that it is not a match optically with the Nokton’s I had. But it is much more fun in my experience.
But then walked in the no excuses 35mm f/2 7Artisans.
Just eyeballing it I am perfectly pleased with this lens’ sharpness. With this, I started taking 7Artisans seriously. This led me to pick up the 28mm f/1.4 7Artisans and to my surprise, it was even better than the 35mm.
Then I stopped short of picking up the last 7Artisans M mount lens, the 75mm f/1.25. Why?
- Was covered portrait wise for my main digital system.
- Using the 50mm f/1.1 on my little Leica CL is a stretch focus wise. Many say such a focal length and aperture was beyond the CL’s relatively short base length. I lucked up and it works fine. Figured the 75mm was even more of a stretch.
- WIll not be using this lens with my TECHART AF adapter. It slips barely underneath the TECHART’s lens weight limit, but I am not going to risk it so for me it will be MF only.
What changed my mind? The world went nuts so here we are.
I find it surprisingly easy to manual focus with this lens. The focus is smooth and easy to adjust. Combined with focus peaking and focus magnification this is one of the easiest manual focus lenses I have ever used. I may one day build up the nerve to try it with the TECHART. But so far I see no need.
This thing looks nice and is well built. More in line with the 28mm, which is exceptional, than the slightly less stout 50mm.
Sharpness Wide Open
My main concern has already been addressed. Had read and seen sample shots to confirm that like the 50mm f/1.1 it is not the sharpest lens wide open. Was spoiled by the 28mm and 35mm, both of which are pin sharp wide open. This was addressed in two ways.
- While not pin sharp it is slightly out of focus in a pleasing way wide open. Not jarring or messy and is not noticeable until you pixel peep which I do not do. More of a pleasing vintage glow.
- There is a magic slider in Lightroom that saves you most of $13,000. Grab the “Clarity” slider and take it far-right and whammo. Acceptable sharpness.
Sharp as? Certainly not. But come on. Who on Earth is cross shopping a $14,000 Noctilux with a $449 7Artisans? No one. Regardless of their on paper spec similarities and even 7Artisans decision to also put 75mm in yellow on the side these are lenses for two entirely different audiences. Plus as one would expect one is a modern design (with 9 elements rather than 7) while the other is a reimagining of an older Sonnar formula if I got my notes right. So… 2 more elements for 31x as much. Seems fair. But unlike trying to compare two very different rear wheel drive full size V8s at very different price points like the Dodge Charger and Mercedes S class I do not believe there is a big a gap in what is being delivered.
Look mighty fine as far I can tell.
Bokeh and Fall Off
Ah, yes. The party piece. Other than low light this is the whole point of this type of lens, no? So far wonderful. As good as the 28mm and 35mm and even better in quality, if not as bonkers, as the 50mm.
Does just fine. Plenty to easy to use with the Sony in low light and I really like the results.
I really like the images coming out of this lens. And above everything else that is what matters to me most. I can’t really call it saving money since I would never realistically consider dropping $14,000 on a lens, but the money spent would not be worth it if I did not like the images. If I wanted perfect or blistering fast I would reach for another lens like the excellent Rokinon/Samyang 85mm f/1.4 or Sigma Contemporary 56mm f/1.4. Both are excellent and well behaved lenses. But when I want that charming, glowy imperfection that keeps me going back to film gear this lens delivers. (Familial shelter in place sample below.)
And as an added bonus I can actually use it with film if I wanted to. Another big win in my book.