Last week I bought the 7artisans 25mm f1.8 manual focus lens
I saw this lens on Amazon and it immediately caught my attention. I tried to research the lens on the internet, but alas I couldn’t find anything meaningful on its performance. It took me a couple of months to buy this lens. Without knowing what I was getting into, I was a bit weary of this Chinese lens. Even if the lens was only US$70.00.
I found some sample images on YouTube and I took my chance and just bought it.
The week I spent with the lens has been fun. Let’s get something clear, this lens has some shortcomings that some people might not be happy with.
This lens is available in Fujifilm X mount and the Micro Four Thirds system. I shoot the Fujifilm System.
The Pros and Cons as I see it.
- The price, US$70.
- Decent build quality. Compact, yet a heavier than it looks.
- Good sharpness especially in the center. More on this later.
- Very smooth focus and aperture ring.
- Non-click aperture ring. Some don’t like this.
- Very fast t-stop.
- Nice round aperture blades when stopped down
- Bokeh is nice.
- Close focus is about six inches!
- My copy was a loose fit when mounted. More on this later.
- The focus-throw is too short for my liking.
- Sharpness in the corners is dramatically horrible.
- The lens only stops down to f16.
- The lens ring is too smooth, despite the small ridges. It would be nice to have a focus-tab “ala-Leica”
- Manual focus. This doesn’t bother me one bit.
I want to clarify a couple of points from the cons list.
The lens was really loose and that bothered me, so I cut a doughnut shape from a Tyvek® US Postal Service envelope to tighten the connection. Probably not ideal, but I chose that because the material is thinner than notebook paper. Notebook paper is about .1 mm thick, I couldn’t find how thick the Tyvek® envelopes were, but the fibers are less than 10μm. It fits snug, not too tight at all.
The focus ring throw is annoyingly short. Which makes fine focusing a bit of a struggle. If you’re stopped down to f5.6 or higher, it’s not so bad. When the aperture is wide open, it’s a pain.
That corner sharpness could be an issue for a lot of people. There are ways around every shortcoming though. Cheap is good, but you can find a used Canon FD 24mm f2 for about US$300.00 and a Canon FD 24mm f2.8 for about US$75.00. Image quality will undoubtedly be “better”. Those lenses are a tad heavy too.
If you are a pixel-peeper, you were never looking at this lens in the first place.
Some more on the pros.
There’s still a lot to like about this lens. The fact it’s so affordable really helps overlook a lot of the cons with this piece of glass. I love the character of this lens, I like the color and center sharpness. It has good contrast, but the distortion isn’t overly noticeable.
The lens is a very good low light performer. I have kept this lens mounted to my Fujifilm X-E1 for the past week. This is my carry around the street camera. I usually keep a Vivitar 28mm lens mounted to it, and have been pretty happy. When I started using the 25mm 7artisans I immediately noticed that my shutter speed was much higher than I’m used too. This isn’t a bad thing at all. So I figured the t-stop must be at least a stop faster than my 28mm Vivitar.
I decided to test the theory that this lens has a faster t-stop than my 28mm and 50mm lenses. This is about as non-scientific as one can get.
The set up.
- Fujifilm X-E1 on a tripod. Shot in .jpg with no editing in software.
- Silver umbrella on a boom arm.
- Canon EX 430 II with fresh batteries.
- Minolta Auto Meter IVf to get the baseline measurement. I metered at iso 800, 1/60, and f8.
As you can see from the three panel image above, the 7artisans is much brighter, than the other two lenses. I haven’t shot any concerts this week but I am confident this lens will perform fairly well.
We are told by a lot YouTube photo-gear reviewers, that if you want to take great pictures then you need to have the best money can buy. I have zero problem in telling you, if you believe that, then you should get over that. Gear is only part of the equation, and it’s less than a third of it. This is a pretty good lens with some drawbacks. It also has a lot of character. That’s what I look for in a lens.
This 7artisans lens fits right in to my shooting style. It’s compact, light (compared to adapted glass I normally use.) and easy to use. I like that it reminds me of some nice vintage rangefinder lenses. It’s like having a Chinese copy of a Russian copy of a Japanese copy of a beautiful vintage German lens. I don’t regret purchasing at all. I wish I would have bought it when I saw it three months ago. It’s not for everybody, but there are few lenses that are.
Update: also see, Six Months with the 7artisans 25mm