2020 finally seem to be coming to an end! And let’s be honest here – This hasn’t exactly been the coolest year in recent history. But right before we close shop and welcome, a hopefully improved, 2021, a Chinese lens manufacturer apparently decided that we needed something cool to play with for our APSC cameras!
On December 18th, TTartisan announced the immediate availability of their new offering, the 50mm f/1.2. I was fortunate enough to try out the lens for about 3 weeks prior to release, and I thought I wanted to share my experiences with you here. But do we really need yet another fifty? Well, this lens does bring a couple of nice things to the table, including a ridiculously low price point at just 98$USD, so let’s have a closer look at it.
DISCLAIMER: All shots of- and with the product in this review have been shot by me. All rights reserved. You may use the images only after explicit permission.
I have no affiliation with TTartisan. They sent me the lens to review. I’m not getting paid by TTartisan in any form.
Just a couple of months ago Fujifilm announced their own XF50mm f/1 R WR lens (You can read my thorough run-through of that lens here). A lens which is just about as fantastic as a lens can get within the X-series system. Some people proclaimed that that lens was “the worst lens of 2020”. I laughed a bit when I read that. An opinion seemingly based on sharpness alone, I couldn’t really take that moniker seriously. I wonder if anyone else will.
The XF50mm f/1 R WR has autofocus, and obviously the IQ from that lens will run circles around the TTartisan 50mm f/1.2. But in reality these two lenses can’t really be compared based on anything other than their shared focal length.
One has autofocus, is big and expensive.
The other is manual focus only, while being small and cheap. VERY cheap
There are many nice 50mm lenses out there, with which one could compare this lens to, but they would mostly be full frame lenses for other systems that would have to be adapted, for example Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux, Voigtländer Nokton 50/1.5, 50/1.2 or 50/1.1. TTartisan even has their own 50mm f/0.95, and 50mm f/1.4 for M mount, and 7artisans made the 50mm f/1.1 as well as the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 – So there are PLENTY of options for fast fifty lenses in a lot of different price ranges.
Whether or not these lenses are better than the TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 is hard to answer. Some are, some aren’t. But one thing is a given. This TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 is one of the better ones out there. It’s very compact, and it is VERY cheap!
So let me write a little bit about the TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 on it own terms, listing its strengths and weaknesses. Then I’ll leave the comparisons out of the equation for now.
Build and feel
Lately there have been two rising stars on the Chinese lens manufacturing scene. One is 7artisans and the other is TTartisan. While their name is VERY similar, they”re NOT the same company as far as I’ve been told. They both get their optics done by DJ OPTICAL, but they each do their own lens designs.
The optical-, as well as the build quality of the lenses from both companies are amazing. It’s getting better and better. 7artisans makes incredibly well built lenses, of which I currently own the M-mount 75mm f/1.25 as well as the new X-mount 35mm f/0.95 (review here).
The TTartisan M-mount line might be even better built than the 7artisans lenses. The TTartisan M-mount lenses feel so much like their Leica lens counterparts that it’s almost scary.
A very cool thing is that this amazing build quality from the M-mount lens line has been carried across to this 50mm f/1.2 lens. It really is built to a very high standard.
One thing that put a BIG SMILE on my face when I unpacked the lens is the fact hat it has…. and this is a big one….
A CLICKED APERTURE RING!!!
I simply cannot stress enough how much I love this feature. For he longest time all the lenses to come out of the various Chinese manufacturers have been with de-clicked aperture controls. Something that is probably quite nice for videographers, but for me as a photographer it is so annoying that I have a hard time putting it into words! – So this fact alone is enough for me to recommend his lens today, tomorrow and forever!
And the aperture is not just clicked, it has the same amazing feeling to the clicks as its M-mount counterparts. It has just the right amount of resistance and click. It’s perfect!! Each aperture stop steps are half-stops, with marking on full stops from f/1.4 to f/16.
Speaking of the aperture, this lens has 10 aperture blades. They’re double curved, looking a little like the Summilux 50mm f/1.4 aperture blades. It makes for nice looking bokeh even stopped down, but around f/2.8-5.6 the out of focus areas will sometimes have a bit of uneven edges on the specular highlights.
The focusing ring is also very smooth and has about 120 degree focus throw from 0.5m to infinity. Very fast to focus, yet precise as the closest distances. The grip on the focus ring is not rubber, it’s ribbed etched metal. It feels perfectly smooth with nice dampened stops at each end of the spectrum.
The markings on the lens are painted, but not etched in. Time will tell if they wear off or not.
The lens and mount is made from metal, and it feels really sturdy. Build quality is excellent with his lens!
The image below shows all the technical specs of the TTartisan 50mm f/1.2. As you can see it’s a 7 element / 5 group build. I immediately noticed the build looked a lot like a Sonnar design. I asked TTartisan about this, and indeed it is a Sonnar build. They have improved upon it though, so the bokeh is not “busy” as with typical Sonnars, and the classic “glowy” rendering has also been corrected bit.
I’m not going to go into more detail about the technical stuff, since the picture below really states it all.
Now, let’s get into the important part, shall we? How does this thing render?
The TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 is not a jack-of-all-trades kind of lens. As with any 50mm APSC lens (75mm full frame equivalent) it’s mostly geared toward portraiture where the photographer would want a little bit less compression than if using an 85mm equivalent lens.
I also enjoy using this focal length on the street, when I want to single out details or just go closer during these CoVid times where people are very aware of keeping interpersonal distance.
Some landscape photographers might want to use this focal length for a bit of compression, but they usually go longer.
All in all, a lens like this is of course optimised for portraiture, and hence should excel in bokeh rendering as well as sharpness wide open at close distances. The corner sharpness, vignetting and resolution at f/8 at infinity are less important traits for this type of lens.
This is not to make excuses about poor image quality traits, it’s just to remind you that you need to think about these things before making a purchase.
The TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 definitely has decent sharpness. Even wide open. It’s by no means the sharpest lens I’ve ever shot, nor is it the softest either. It has a bit of that Sonnar feel when shot wide open, but it lacks that gloom seen an highlight areas typical of the Sonnar design. Wide open it really looks good at closeup distances when shooing skin, since it lessens the appearance of blemishes and skin irregularities.
Even at medium distances of about 5-10 meters it actually performs quite well at f/1.2. I wasn’t expecting this.
Stopping down to f/2 the sharpens up quite a lot and becomes a lot more contrasty. As is to be expected. Optimal sharpness is achieved at f/5.6-f/8, but who on earth buys a 98USD 50mm f/1.2 lens to shoot it at f/8?….. yeah…didn’t hink so either!
Corner sharpness is decent. Even wide open. Again, I wasn’t really expecting that.
The out of focus rendering of this lens is really really smooth! Wide open the specular highlights (or bokeh balls….merry Christmas 😀 ) look absolutely amazing. Round, clean, no harsh edges and no onion rings. Just amazingly clean looking bokeh!
Shot wide open this lens has some of the best looking bokeh I’ve seen in a long time. Taking the price into consideration this shouldn’t even be possible. It’s really that good.
It exhibits a little bit of optical vignetting, so you can get a bit of swirl at the right distances, and the shape of the Christmas…sorry…bokeh balls will look a bit more cat-eyed towards the edges of the frames.
When stopped down the specular highlights will have a more irregular shape because of the way the aperture blades are created. It starts at f/2 and goes away by f/8. In that aperture range you will get star shaped specular highlights, just like when using the old Japanese Summilux, The Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM.
Vignette, Flaring and distortion
There is a little bit of vignetting wide open, but not too much. I would say about 1/3 exposure stop. It goes away at f/2. It is to be expected, so no surprises there.
The lens coating handles flaring really really well! Whereas the 7artisans 35mm f/0.95 flared quite a lot (although looking really nice if you’re into that sort of thing), this TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 doesn’t really seems to flare. We havn’t had much sun these past weeks, but when we did get some sun I tried all the tricks in the book to get flaring. – I simply couldn’t make it flare! So if backlit portraiture is your thing, this lens should fit right into your arsenal of tools!
The TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 exhibits some barrel distortion a close distances. Nothing heavy, but it is there. I didn’t feel the need to correct it in post, but it can easily be done since it’s very minute, so the need to crop while correcting is a non issue.
Conclusion and Sample Gallery
This new 50mm f/1.2 lens from TTartisan is the latest in a huge pool of manual focus fast fifty lenses from various manufacturers for mirrorless systems. It has a couple of key points that really makes it stand out from the competition.
First of all the price. At $98USD it’s so ridiculously cheap, that it really could be a piece of shit, and it would still be worth it. But it isn’t! On the contrary!!
It is incredibly compact. It has amazing build quality, some of the best bokeh I’ve seen in a long time, very good sharpness wide open, and last but not least a clicked aperture ring!
The TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 is an instant recommendation for anyone who likes to use the 50mm focal length on an APSC camera.
The TTartisan 50mm f/1.2 is available at $98 USD starting December 18th 2020.
All samples have been shot on my Fujifilm X-pro3 cameras. I have shot 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.