7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 M mount lens review

 

7Artisans official website:
www.7artisans.com

7Artisans Official Amazon webstore:
http://www.amazon.com/shops/shenzhensevenartisans

Recently I have reviewed the 7Artisans fisheye lens for micro four thirds cameras. While that lens has a few flaws that may turn off some potential buyers, it’s decent picture quality and very affordable price made me happy to keep it as part of my micro four thirds camera kit.

As I’m also a Leica M shooter myself, I am also quite interested in their 50mm f/1.1 M-mount lens so I’ve contacted 7Artisans and asked them to sent me a review sample. But just like a lot of my review where my review sample was supplied by the manufacturer, I am not under any pressure or obligation to write a glowing review. As you’ll notice, I talk about both the pros and cons of this lens and each product I review as I want to keep all my reviews fair and informative.

The 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 lens is made of metal. The lens weights around 400g and it does feel very dense and solid when you hold it in your hands. Having said that, it still feel quite well balanced when it is mounted on a Leica M camera.

The focusing ring feel very smooth and is rangefinder coupled. The travel is around 90 degree. The aperture ring is de-clicked and have marking at every F stop (apart from the missing f/11). The aperture ring feels smooth overall but at one particular position it does feel slightly rough. Not really noticeable at first but I did feel it after using this lens for a while.

do wonder why they put a de-clicked aperture ring on a M mount lens so I have email 7Artisans and asked them about it. The answer I got back is that it is better for video. I guess it implies they expect a large number of users would use to this lens for video? Personally I don’t like shooting photos with de-clicked aperture ring as you always need to look at the ring when adjusting the aperture, and quite often the aperture ring would drift a bit and you may not notice that until much later.

I’ve suggested 7Artisans to consider either making the aperture ring switchable between de-clicked and normal mode with clicks, or they could make two versions of the lens, one with de-clicked aperture ring and one with normal aperture ring so people can choose what version they want to buy.  7Artisans told me they would consider the later option for their future product.

The two person standing behind my son was probably only 2 meter or so away, but shooting at super fast f/1.1 allows me to melt them and make them less of a distraction in this photo.

My review sample is the silver version (and it also has a black version) which looks pretty with my silver M6. The silver coating look very nice but the bottom most part of the lens has a slightly different coating/texture compare to the rest of the lens. The difference is quite subtle but once you noticed it it does make the lens feel slightly prototype-ish.

The packaging of the 7Artisans 50 f/1.1 is quite similar to their fisheye lens, a simple black cardboard box with some graphics printed on it, nothing too fancy. The lens doesn’t come with any lens hood but it does comes with a metal lens cap which fits nice and tight onto the lens. It also comes with a focusing thumb tab with double sided tape on it so you could stick onto the lens if you prefer.

Quite often fast M mount lens might be slightly front or back focus. Normally you have to send your camera and lens back to factory (or some good service shops) to adjust them which is time and money consuming.With the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 lens, it comes with a small screw driver, a focus accuracy chart and instructions for you to fine tune the focusing yourself.

Focus adjustment is not too difficult and should only take 10 minutes or so at most. Basically you just take a photo of the supplied test chart following the instructions, check the photo. If the focus is not perfect, then you just need to loosen two of the screws at the back of the lens and rotate the rear mount slightly, tighten it and repeat this a few times until it’s perfect.  If you are a Leica film shooter and don’t have access to any digital M then it would be harder as you can’t check your photo immediately.

The ability for you to fine tune the focus yourself is definitely great! This is also good for user who regularly shoot at smaller aperture so you could fine-tune the focusing to compensate focus shift (which it has a little bit once you stop down to f/2.8 or so) at your preferred aperture setting.

The rear element extrudes quite a bit

My review copy’s focus is almost spot on straight out of the box. However before my Australia holiday trip earlier this month, I decided to try fine tune the focus myself as I do want the focus to be 100% perfect for my holiday photos. I spent about 10 minutes to adjust the focus and I believe I got it 100% right.  I took my Leica M6 with this lens with me to Australia and I shot a roll of film with this lens only and most of the photo were shot at f/1.1. When I got the photos developed, I noticed something was not quite right. Pretty much all the photos were not focused correctly. Turns out my fine-tune actually made the lens front focused quite a bit so almost all my photos were out of focus 🙁

Now I do want to make it clear it is purely an user error, i.e. my fault. I should have took a few more test photos after the adjustment to make sure the focus is indeed accurate. I only took one or two photo after my final adjustment and thought I got it right. Unfortunately that was not the case and I paid the price for that. So if you want to adjust your focus, go and do it!  Just remember to test your result properly after your adjustment.

As it is a very fast f/1.1 lens, the lens has a large diameter and large 55mm front filter thread (large in M mount standard). While the lens is not as wide as the Leica Noctilux, the body of the Noctilux does reduce in diameter near the lens mount which allows you to unmount the lens easily. The 7Artisans body is a straight cylinder shape almost all the way to the lens mount. This makes it slightly tricky to press the unmount button when you want to remove the lens. Not a biggie as you will get used to it quickly but it does show you some of the design details Leica put into when designing their lens.

Notice the lens body is almost covering the lens release button

Overall despite the few flaws I mentioned above, I am still pretty happy with the build quality of the lens. It may not be as well made as a Leica Noctilux but you are also paying nowhere near the Leica price tag. If the aperture ring has clicks then I would be super happy with it.

Next, the image quality.

In terms of sharpness, it’s really not a very sharp lens at f/1.1. As you can see from the photo below. At f/1.1 it’s quite soft, with a lot of glow and also the contrast is noticeably lower than normal. This is for both the centre and corners of the frame. Stop down to f/1.4 and the centre sharpness improves quite a bit already. The glow is not really visible and contrast is back to normal level. For the corners, you’ll have to stop down to around f/2.8 to get decent sharpness. However, the corners are never really sharp no matter what aperture value you choose. So this is not really the best lens for landscape photos.

But if i’m shooting portrait, I don’t really mind shooting at maximum aperture even it’s quite soft and low contrast. I actually quite like the soft dreamy look when I shooting at maximum aperture. As long as I manage to nail the focus (which is not easy as the DOF is so shallow at f/1.1) then the photo looks very nice to me.

Shot at f/1.1. It’s soft, with quite a bit of glow. But I actually really like how the photo looks

Bokeh from the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 is quite nice. It is round and reasonably smooth even when I am shooting at smaller aperture. But it’s not 100% creamy as I can see hard edge and a bit of halo in some of the photos. I quite like it personally but have a look at the sample photos and see whether you like it or not.

The 7Artisans exhibit strong vignetting, especially when you are shooting at wide aperture.
When shooting at f/1.1, you can easily see the strong vignetting even when you have a busy background.
Stop down to f/2.8 and the vignetting becomes a lot better. If you are shooting portrait, the 7Artisans 50mm’s vignetting probably won’t bother you much. But again, if you are shooting landscape photos, you should stop down to at least f/2.8 to minimise vignetting.

I couldn’t find any information about whether the lens has any special coating to minimise lens flare/ghosting. Because of that, I assumed it doesn’t have any special coating and was expecting to see bad lens flare when shooting under challenging light conditions. Fortunately, the lens flare resistance is not too bad. I can see quite a bit of flare in some of my photos, but it’s definitely better than my expectation. Most of the time I see lens flare when shooting under low light with strong light source behind the subject. While the contrast can drop quite a bit, it never become really terrible. If you love a bit of lens flare you will love shooting with this lens.

The 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 has some technical flaws, quite a few actually. While the build quality is pretty good and solid, the lens feels a bit unpolished and I would really like to have clicks on the aperture ring.
But then, even the Leica 50mm Noctilux is far from perfect, especially at it’s maximum aperture and thats a Leica lens that would cost you about 30 times more than the 7Artisans.

While there are definitely a few things I would like 7Artisans to improve on, I can’t deny they have created a really impressive lens as one of their first product and at a very affordable price. With that soft look, crazily shallow depth of view at maximum aperture and nice bokeh, the 7Artisans is a great choice if you want to create some dreamy/artistic portraits on your Leica M camera. Even if you have already sold all your kidneys, kids at the last camera purchase, you probably can still afford to buy this one last lens. And the truth is, it is probably the best bang for the buck M mount lens you can buy brand new today.

If 7Artisans could keep on refining and improving their products, I’ll definitely be looking forward to see more lens from 7Artisans in the future!

 

7Artisans official website:
www.7artisans.com

7Artisans Official Amazon webstore:
http://www.amazon.com/shops/shenzhensevenartisans

All film photos scanned by Metro Gallery:
https://www.metrogallery.co.nz

 

 

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(Focus is off a bit)

(Focus is off a bit)