7artisans 35mm f1.2 Review: Sonnar on a budget

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7artisans 35mm f1.2 Review: Sonnar on a budget





Overview


7artisans has made quite the name for itself as a manufacturer of third party manual focus glass. While its releases have generally been hit or   miss, we have seen some very interesting lenses from them, like the 35mm F2 for M-Mount, the upcoming 28mm f1.4 (also M-Mount), and this lens.


Let’s get something straight right off the bat: this lens won’t win any awards for sharpness. Or CA. Or contrast, or almost any other   technical measure of a lens’s optics for that matter.

What this lens is, is a character lens. Featuring an optical design that is based off that of a Sonnar, it delivers rendering and bokeh with   characteristics not unlike those of a Jupiter-3 or Zeiss ZM Sonnar (although I wouldn’t say it performs up to the standards of the latter).


Build Quality


While this lens is cheap for its specifications, it feels solid and dense in the hand. A full-metal build and a smooth focus helicoid and aperture ring make using this lens an enjoyable experience. It balances

well on the Fujifilm X-E3 I’m using, which was the body used for all the sample photos in this review.


                                      


The lens comes with a lens cap that slides off if it feels like it. I don’t know why manufacturers still make slip on lens

caps in this day and age (I’m looking at you, X100 series). I’ve replaced it with a cheap 43mm lens cap from eBay.



I’ve also added the screw on 43mm lens hood from the Fujifilm 35mm f2, and it seems to be a match made in heaven.

The hood is just the right size and complements the compactness of the lens perfectly. (I’m using a square hood on the 35mm f2, so I had this hood lying around.)


                        


Image Quality


It’s soft wide open, but one would be foolish to expect more from a prime this small and this fast. Even so, it’s sharp

enough to be useful in the centre, and I wouldn’t mind using it wide open if the lighting conditions force me to do so.


Surprisingly though, I found it to not be as glowy wide open as some other ultra-fast lenses, like the MS-Optical Sonnetar 50mm f1.1, and it retains contrast quite well at f1.2. Admittedly, that little marvel covers the full 35mm image circle while this is exclusively an APS-C lens.


Here are some… sharpness tests. No charts here so you’ll have to make do with pictures of a camera box.



It’s worth noting that when focusing at f1.2, there is a small but noticeable difference in the correct focusing distance

when focusing for either contrast or resolution. In the test above, I focused for resolution, but when focusing in real

scenarios it’s more intuitive and easier to focus for contrast.


There’s a noticeable bump in sharpness going from f1.2 to f1.4 (look at the legibility of the text), and another big step

from f2.8 to f4.0 (the texture of the box becomes more apparent).


Contrast also improves significantly as you step down, which is to be expected.


Bokeh


What would a review of an ultra-fast lens be without some bokeh testing? Generally, I find the out of focus renditions of this lens to be rather pleasing

and in line with other lenses of similiar Sonnar formulae.



That’s not very exciting though, so here’s a bit of a torture test.



From f1.2 to f2.0, you can see that there’s a very distinctive look to the character of the blur in the top left corner, where the light is shining through the leaves. The bokeh balls are outlined, but mainly towards the centre of the image, such

that they almost seem like fish scales.


I think many might find such rendering distracting. Along the lines of using terms like ‘nervous’ to characterise bokeh,

I’d describe the bokeh here as… undergoing a panic attack.


It’s worth noting that this is very much a worst-case scenario that exaggerates the character of this lens’s bokeh, and its renders the rest of the frame (namely the bush and other foilage) very smoothly, even though the distinctive one-sided outlining of the bokeh is present.


It only becomes an issue when there are many smallish sources of light in close proximity together. When light sources are more sparsely distributed, the ‘fish scale’ effect is hardly as distracting. Furthermore, its simple to resolve by

stopping down to f2.8 (which you can probably afford to do if you’re shooting a backlit foilage scene).


This semi-circular bokeh tones down as you stop the lens down, and full specular highlights are formed from f2.8 onwards.


Verdict


While this lens definitely can’t match the Fuji 35 f2 or f1.4 for technical image quality, it’s smaller, cheaper and faster

than either of them. And it produces beautiful images with a unique look and (mostly) creamy out of focus renditions.


For the price, it’s worth buying even if you already have one of the above Fuji lenses, and it complements my 35mm f2 well despite having the same focal length.


I hope this review was of help to you! For more of my work, follow me on Instagram at @warmskies_ or visit my

website!


Samples


This lens is very well-suited to portraiture. I don’t have a lot of people to take portraits of, and I have a bit of a thing for cats so… have a ton ofcat pictures. (Again, none of them signed release forms. I really hope they don’t read this review.)