I tend to start these articles by writing about how long it has been since I last did a post. I never mean for it to take so long between my writing sessions, but the fact of the matter is life always gets in the way. It’s no secret that coronavirus keeps the world in an iron grip, and as a doctor obviously my main focus is on my clinic during these busy times. Anyway, it’s time for a review of a new piece of gear that is not from Fujifilm. It’s a new lens just released by a company called 7artisans. I did a review on their very cheap, yet very cool 35mm f1.2 back in the beginning of the year. You can go read that here.
Since then I have bought their 75mm f1.25 lens for my Leica M system and I enjoy that lens very much. They are putting out a massive amount of lenses at the moment that all seem to have a common denominator which is excellence in both build- and image quality. It’s no secret that I enjoy shooting very fast lenses, but I mean… who doesn’t? So when I saw that they announced the new 35mm f0.95 for different APSC systems, including Fujifilm X-mount, I knew I had to try it.
I already own the Mitakon 35mm f0.95 mk2, which I absolutely adore. (You can go read my review from a couple of years ago here.) So I was curious to see whether or not the 7artisans would hold up against one of my all-time favourite 35mm lenses for the Fujifilm X-series system
I tried searching for the lens diagram of both the Mitakon 35mm f0.95 mk2 and the 7artisans 35mm f0.95 and although it’s rather hard to find I managed to find at least enough evidence to know that the buildup of these lenses are exactly similar. They seem to be based on an already tried optical formula with an added focal reducer at the rear. From what I can tell even the coating seem to be the same between the two lenses. When I started shooting them side-by-side I did find that there were some slight differences but that was all about field of view and not about image quality. In day-to-day use you will find no difference at all between these two lenses. I will go into deeper detail regarding this comparison further on in this article.
Build and feel
When I first received the lens my initial impression was very very very good. It came in a very nice leather storage box, with a hidden compartment in the lid for an SD card! Indeed a very nice first impression upon unboxing this lens.
The lens it self is quite heavy. It has an all metal construction, and you can definitely feel that there is a lot of glass in this lens. The focus ring is very smooth, and it has dampened stops at each end of the focus spectrum. This is something that the Mitakon doesn’t. The dampened stops makes it feel like a very premium product. It’s one of those things where you definitely notice it right away. On the barrel you have a distance scale and the markings are etched and subsequently white or red painted. It fits right into the Fujifilm colour scheme of red and white markings on their cameras.
One thing worth noticing with this lens is that the aperture ring is indeed clickless. This is the same as many of these cheaper manufactured manual focus lenses. Why they make them clickless is beyond me, but I do know that my 7artisans 75mm F1.25 Lens for my M-series cameras have the most beautiful clicked aperture ring that I’ve ever seen outside of original Leica lenses. So they do know how to make clicked aperture rings. Why they chose to omit them here I will never know but let’s hope for a mark 2 with a clicked aperture ring.
That being said, I rarely even touch the aperture ring on this lens. I mean, why buy an f/0.95 lens and shoot it at f/16? If you want to do that there are many much better lenses suited for that. So I did what I usually do with all my clickless aperture lenses: I put a little bit of black tape at the bottom of the lens making sure that the aperture never leaves the wide open setting! I will admit, however, that for the sake of this review I did shoot the lens at different apertures to make sure that it was nice and sharp throughout. It didn’t disappoint!
The aperture construction is made from no less than 12 blades. They’re rounded and ensure a completely circular lens opening right from f/0.95 all the way down to f/16. It’s not all that common to find 12 blade aperture lenses these days. A very cool choice.
The front offers a standard 52 mm filter thread, and there is no lens hood included in the package so you will have to buy an aftermarket hood if you need it. However, I need to note that the flaring with this lens is quite beautiful so I wouldn’t spend too much time on finding a hood if I were you.
One final thing to note regarding the build quality is that the this lens will mount onto your X-Pro3 without ruining your lens mount release button like some of the early Viltrox lenses did. The mounting-ring itself is made from a gorgeous shiny graphite colour that again just oozes quality!
All the specifications and charts below are taken directly from 7artisans website
One of the things that struck me most with the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 mk2 was how easy it was to use the focus peaking on the X series cameras. I found that because it was very very sharp even wide open and had great contrast that it was no problem for the focus peaking to be very clear on where the focus was at. This obviously result in far less misfocused shots since everything is nice and precise even at f0.95.
And I’m happy to say that the exact same thing happens when you use the 7artisans 35mm f/0.95. The focus peaking is super precise and focusing works like a breeze. Obviously at night time it has its limitations when separating the subject you want in focus from the background can be much harder because of the lack of light and added noise from amplifying the light on the digital sensor.
The focus throw on the lens is short, which makes it very ideal for day-to-day use. If you want to finetune your focus during, say, a portrait session, the very fluid motion of the focus ring makes it really easy to do precise focusing even though the throw is shorter than a regular portrait lens where you often get close to 180° of rotation for really fine focus tuning.
The focusing ring has the perfect amount of resistance. Not too much, not too little. I would say the closest thing to this focusing ring is actually my Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5. And having to reference a Leica lens in regards to build quality makes it abundantly clear just how well built this 7artisans 35mm f0.95 lens really is.
This is probably one of the most incredible features of this lens. The size is not much, if at all, wider than Fujifilms own 35mm f/1.4. It’s a little longer in the barrel but no more than a centimeter or so. This compact build makes it even more perfect for the retro looking X-pro3 body. It doesn’t come across as a big lens that will make your system front heavy. It’s a small and very handy lens. This can also be seen in the fact that it uses a standard 52 mm filter thread just like Fujifilms own 35mm f/1.4.
This is also an area where this lens has an advantage over the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 mk2. The latter uses a 55 mm filter thread and is slightly bigger in overall size. This is actually quite impressive since I was already very impressed with the size of the Mitakon.
Enough with all the talk about build quality. It is of course quite important since it factors into the complete experience of buying a new lens, but we all know that the packaging can be made of pure gold but if the image quality is subpar it will just end up looking pretty on a shelf.
Luckily this lens has amazing image quality. Just like its Mitakon counterpart!
Now, the f/0.95 on the APS-C will give you a depth of field close to that of an f/1.4 lens on a 35mm full frame camera. So handling this lens will not be any harder in terms of nailing focus than using said 1.4 lens. But it does have a huge advantage over the f/1.4 lenses…
It will collect light as a 0.95 lens. So it will really suck in the available light. – This means that you can use higher shutter speeds (one stop), or reduce ISO (one stop) to achieve the same exposure as you would with the f/1.4 mounted on a full frame camera when shooting both wide open. You will end up with the same exposure as the full frame when you take its added ISO benefits into consideration. So for all intended purposes you’re getting the exact theoretical parameters as a 50mm f/1.4 on a full frame.
To me this trait isn’t necessarily the most important trait of a lens like the 7artisans 35mm f/0.95. I use these lenses for creative output, and I tend to use whatever shortcomings they might have to my advantage. But a lot of the flaws that you usually see in this type of lens is simply not present in the 7artisans 35mm f/0.95! This especially applies to sharpness.
A lot of my cheaper manuel focus aftermarket lenses are quite soft when shot wide open, but not this one.
It’s not the sharpest lens I’ve ever shot, far from it, but it is by far the sharpest fast aperture lens that I’ve ever shot in this segment. And this actually applies when shooting it wide open too!! Yes, it is so satisfyingly sharp at f0.95 that I never even consider stopping it down during day to day use.
Of course sharpness is best nearest centre of the frame but there is also a very decent sharpness all the way to the edges, and yes, this also applies when shooting the lens is wide open. The sharpness is also best at close ranges, and you can definitely see declining resolution at the furthest distances. But let’s be honest here, you don’t buy an f/0.95 lens to shoot objects near the horizon! You buy an F0.95 lens to shoot wide open, focused on close subjects, rendering luscious background blur. But don’t get me wrong. It’s still sharp enough at far distances, it’s just sharper at close ranges.
While people don’t tend to buy an f0.95 lens for landscape- and high resolution photography, they really do seem to buy it for the blurring of the background. So obviously for a 35mm f0.95 lens this is a very important trait that we need to discuss.
But let me just set everything straight right away: the 7artisans 35mm f0.95 has absolutely amazing background blur quality. All edges on the specular highlights are beautifully smooth, and there are no harsh edges or onion rings. It does have a little bit of a swirl, coming from the fact that it has a little bit of optical vignetting so you get a bit of cat eye shaped bokeh near the edges.
The lens exhibits a little bit of barrel distortion, possibly accenting this swirl a little bit further. But as you can see from the examples these flaws are very minute and you have to really push it to make them appear.
This lens has possibly some of the best bokeh that you can get for the X series system. And this is even true when including the 50mm f/1 and the 56mm f/1.2 APD
Even though the coating on this lens is quite great, you can definitely make it flare in many situations. There was no lens hood included with my lens, but it uses a standard 52 mm front thread so any aftermarket hood that you can buy on eBay will probably work just fine. At the beginning I tried shooting it into the sun to really provoke flaring, but as I got to know the lens a bit more I actually started incorporating its way of flaring into my shots in less flare prone situations, such as shooting it into night lamps and various light sources.
The flare on this lens is very very nice. And I’m a firm believer in using stuff like that and incorporating them in a creative way. If I want perfect flare control I would just use one of my Fujinon lenses. But rather than doing that and presenting probably quite boring imagery I’d much rather embrace these imperfections and try to make the most of it. But I have to say again that the flaring that this lens produces is absolutely stunning and can be used to great effect.
The obvious comparison – 7artisans vs Mitakon
Ever since I started publishing some images that I took with this new 7artisans 35mm f0.95 lens, the predominant question from a lot of people has been: “How does it compare to the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 mk2?”
Since I own both lenses I definitely wanted to do a comparison, also because on paper these lenses look exactly the same. They have the same apparent lens diagram. The lens coating looks similar when put under light, and they seem to be roughly the same size.
When I first started shooting I noticed zero difference but after going into more detail there are a few differences between the two which leads me to believe that either this is sample variation or these lenses have little minute differences between each other.
When talking about light-gathering it is not enough to discuss aperture value as f-stops, you need to address the T-stop for the lens which is more precise in terms of describing how much light it gathers. This is probably more important for cinematographers, but as I wrote further on up one of the benefits of the f/0.95 on an APSC sensor is that you can use either higher shutter speeds or lower ISO at the same equivalent shutter speed as when shooting an f/1.4 lens on a full frame system to get the same exposure. This also means that the f/0.95 lens has to collect twice as much light wide open as a proper f/1.4 lens will do wide open.
Mitakon states on their package that their 35mm f/0.95 mk2 is indeed a T0.95 lens, and I chose to trust them on that. I have no accurate measuring tool, but the exposure at set ISO values is EXACTLY the same when shooting the Mitakon at f/0.95 at 1/1000s as when shooting the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 at f/1.4 and 1/500s. The latter I’ve been told by Fujifilm engineers is a true T1.4 lens. And those guys I surely trust!
So for all I know the Mitakon is indeed a true T0.95 lens.
When shooting the 7artisans and Mitakon side-by-side the 7artisans exposure seem just a tad darker. It’s so minute that it could also just mean that there is added contrast in the lens. For me to match the exposures one-to-one I had to add 3% extra exposure in post-processing. So it is indeed very minute. Maybe the 7artisans is a T1.0 lens.
Lens specification comparison
|Lens||7artisans 35mm f0.95||Mitakon 35mm f0.95 mk2|
|Size (width x length)||Approx. 57 x 56 mm||Approx. 63 x 60 mm|
|Aperture blades||12 rounded||9 rounded|
|Aperture range||f/0.95 – f/16 clickless||f/0.95 – f//16 clickless|
|Elements/Groups||11 elements/8 groups||11 elements/8 groups|
|Minimum focus distance||37cm||35cm|
|Angle of view||43 degrees||43.5 degrees|
|Suggested Retail price||$249 USD||$599 USD|
As can be seen from the chart above there are some key differences. Of most importance to most people is probably the difference in price. Obviously you can find these lenses on various offers in various stores, but the prices I have used are the ones from the respective manufacturers original sites/stores.
Another thing worth noting is that the 7artisans is indeed overall smaller, this in both size and weight. The optical buildup seems to be the same, but there seems to be an apparent difference in angle of view and minimum focus distance. The angle of view difference is actually quite noticeable as I will show you in the comparison shot below. The difference in minimum focus distance is so minute that you will not notice it in day-to-day use.
In the comparative sample shot below I tried choosing a scene that would show off bokeh quality as well as focused sharpness. I even moved the flower off centre to show what the mid-frame sharpness is with these two lenses. In this shot you can clearly see the difference in angle of view. The 7artisans has a tighter crop. These were shot on tripod, so there is no difference in distance to subject between the two.
You can also note the slight exposure difference between the two that I outlined further up the article. The bokeh quality between the two I definitely rate as similar. Mid frame the 7artisans seems to have a little bit of a dark rings near the edges of the blurry specular highlights, but when you change the exposure up to match that of the Mitakon they are again similar.
You can download to two images as full size uncropped images HERE
In conclusion, these lenses are so close in both build quality and image quality that in day-to-day use you will notice no difference between the two. Both offer excellent image quality, in a very nicely build package. The obvious difference is the price. If you don’t already own the Mitakon, and you’re on the lookout for one of these lenses it’s a no brainer. I would definitely recommend you to go with the cheaper yet better build 7artisans. If you already own the Mitakon, you will gain absolutely nothing by switching.
Conclusion and Sample gallery
Just like with the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 mk2, the 7artisans 35mm f/0.95 had me by total surprise from the moment I unboxed it. The packaging that it comes in is absolutely fantastic, the build quality of this lens is nothing less than extraordinary given the price. The smoothness and soft end-stops of the focusing ring is something that I have yet to find outside Leica lenses. The image quality is superb. It’s supersharp even at f/0.95, and the quality of the out of focus areas is very very good. It exhibits a slight bit of barrel distortion as well as a little bit of optical vignetting near the corners, but this has no effect on the way I use this lens on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t mind manual focusing and want a very fast 50mm equivalent for your Fujifilm X-series system this is the one lens that I would recommend above all others. It’s simply mind-boggling how much bang for your buck this lens entails.
The 7artisans 35mm f/0.95 retails for $249USD
All samples have been shot on my Fujifilm X-pro3 cameras. I have shopped this lens at night as well as in daylight, I have tried to shoot both portraiture and more street oriented images. All images have been post processed using Adobe Lightroom software.
The wordpress gallery algorithm/compression makes the images look really soft and weird unless you go to the lower right hand corner and press full size. So make sure to click that to view the individual images at their full 2048px wide size.