Who doesn't like a good value? We photographers spend (waste?) a lot of money on gear and there's always some other thing we can't live without. For me, a few weeks ago, it was a wider lens than my 35mm and 60mm on my Fuji cameras. I had the gear bug but I also have the thin wallet curse. In my attempt to avoid spending more money on a wider lens, I decided to try an inexpensive, manual focus option and bought the 7Artisans 25mm f1.8 manual focus lens for my Fuji X-E2S.
Here are my thoughts about this lens after using it for 2 weeks.
Price, Availability and Specs
At the low, low price of $79.00 on Amazon, I figured it was worth trying this lens even though I'm not crazy about manual focus. With Amazon's return policy, I didn't have anything to loose. While I bought the Fuji X mount version, this lens is also available for Sony APS-C and MFT mounts as well. On an APS-C sensor, it has a focal length of about 37mm. Not quite as wide as a proper 35mm, but pretty close.
Here's a quick rundown of the specs:
- Copper bayonet
- Aluminum body
- 7 elements in 6 groups
- Large f1.8 aperture
- 12 bladed aperture diaphragm
- Comes in a nice box with caps and no hood
Build Quality and Handling
At $79, my expectations where low. But, I was quite surprised with the feel of this tiny lens. Yeah, it's small but feels substantial in my hand. I has heft. The metal construction is solid and it feels like it will last.
The aperture and focus rings turn smoothly with good dampening and hard stops. Some of the reviews I read reported loose rings and some strange problems with focusing as well as loose screws, but my copy doesn't exhibit any of those issues. It does have a piece of dust inside the front element. A gift from the factory? But if you know a thing or two about lenses, a spec of dust means nothing to image quality. Maybe it's part of the design.
The lens does have a de-clicked aperture ring, which many reviewers complain about. I don't mind it. With the aperture ring located toward the lens mount, I find it to be out of the way and not susceptible to accidental changes. The focus ring is a bit small and has a short throw, making precise focus tricky at times. It's something you can get used to.
My only real complaint is that the lens causes my camera (Fuji X-E2S) to slump forward when I set it down. The lens design tapers toward the end so there's no support and it makes the camera a bit front-heavy. My camera looked slumpy and sad. I fixed this with a cheap, vented lens hood that I picked up for about $8. Now my camera looks happy again and doesn't slump.
Quirks and Unique Features
There's nothing particularly quirky about the 7Aritsans 25mm lens. It's got a decent looking design, feels good in the hand and does its job. These cheaper lenses tend to suffer from quality control issues so quirkiness might depend on your luck of the draw.
One unique feature is the 12 bladed aperture. It makes for some nice out of focus backgrounds and adds some character to the images. We'll get to image quality next. What really makes this lens, and others in this category unique is the price. $79 is a very low price for a native mount lens with this level of build quality. It's impressive.
[Image samples at the end] So, the build is nice and it's cheap but does it suck? The short answer is no. It doesn't suck at all. This of course depends on what you consider good image quality. If a lens only meets your definition of good when you can see the hemorrhoid on a gnat's ass at 50% magnification in Lightroom at the upper right corner of the frame, this lens will disappoint you.
It's sharp in the center, even wide open. It's not bightingly sharp, but it's not soft either. Honestly though, sharpness is overrated and it's only 1 of several qualities that make a lens good; another topic entirely.
The corners are NOT sharp. The corners are a mess, even stopped down. If you're shooting subjects in the extreme upper or lower quadrants of the frame, your subject will be soft and blurry, but who does that anyway? Sure, corners are important for landscapes, but this is not a lens for shooting sweeping vistas. For the type of shooting I do, I could care less about corner sharpness.
What this lens has that others don't is character. There's something unique about the rendering from this thing and I like it. For lack of a better term, I would say the images have an organic feel to them, which is great for documentary photography. The out of focus area is nice and smooth too, due to all those blades. I'm very happy with the images I get from this lens, provided I get them in focus.
Oh, there's some barrel distortion and vignetting too. Fix it in post if it bothers you.
Who is This Lens For?
It's for me. I have no real intention of doing client work with this lens, although I wouldn't rule it out. My use of this little piece of cheap glass will be casual shooting. For documentary and street photography. In those circumstances, this is a great lens.
I fully expected to return this it, but it has some charm and it will stay in my bag and get used from time to time, when I don't mind the cognitive load of dealing with manual focus. Even with this lens, I'm still lusting after a Fuji autofocus wide angle. My gear craving hasn't been sated yet.
If you shoot landscapes, architecture or test charts, save the $79 and put it toward the first of 12 payments on a proper wide angle prime. Definitely not for the photographer who demands clinical perfection (boring). If character, a unique rendering and smooth out of focus area is your thing, you're gonna like it.
I bought the 7Artisans 25mm f1.8 fully expecting to exercise my 30 day Amazon return policy, but it's a keeper, a great lens for the money. It's got character, good center sharpness and great build quality. If only I could get used to manual focus (and no, peaking doesn't help at f1.8) I would like it even more. Pick one up on Amazon.