7Artisans released the 55mm 1.4 as a manual focus 85mm equivalent portrait lens for APS-C sensor mirrorless cameras. This lens is small, well built and incredibly inexpensive. We are looking forward to putting the lens through its paces.
Its features consist of;
- EF-M-Mount Lens/APS-C Format
- 88mm (35mm Equivalent)
- Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/16
- Multi-Layer Coating
- Manual Focus Design
- Depth of Field and Distance Scales
- Rounded 14-Blade Diaphragm
||Canon EF-M, Fujifilm X, m43, Sony E
||Black or Silver
There is nothing to miss from the build quality. Aperture and focus rings are smooth. Interestingly, the aperture ring is de-clicked, making it somewhat more difficult to quickly move to a specific f-stop. Aperture, I assume by design, is tighter than the focus ring making it somewhat difficult to accidentally change the aperture.
One feature of the lens, that will take a bit of time for your muscle memory to learn, is that the aperture and focus rings are reversed than what is traditional on a lens. The aperture ring near the front of the lens, and the focus ring near the base. This can take a while to get used to. When I first start using this lens, I kept on changing the aperture wondering why I couldn't focus the lens.
Over time, this is actually kind of nice, as your left hand doesn't have to move from it's resting position under the camera to manually adjust the focus.
This lens is not chipped, meaning your EXIF data will show 0 for aperture and 0 for focal length. You can purchase third party chips that you can glue onto the rear lens, and set it up to at least record focal length. For us, we had to wander around taking photographs, and dictating each image number and the f-stop it was shot at.
Focus on this lens is manual with smooth well-damped control as you would expect from any manual focus lens. With manual focus configured on your M so that focus peaking displays it's quite fast to move the focus appropriately. For those that don't know, focus peaking will show you a color outline when elements are in focus. You can configure the outline color on the M.
The elements are a fairly basic 6 elements in 5 groups. No mention of any special elements in its design. Worth noting is a 15 blade aperture for round bokeh even as you stop down the lens. Minimum focus distance is 35cm, giving you a reasonable magnification of .24 times.
Summary - MTF
7 Artisan MTF curves are a little more difficult to read than Canon MTF diagrams. Number 1 labeled lines are 10lp/mm and 3 labeled lines are 30lp/mm. From the MTF graph we can basically suggest that performance is pretty level across the entire image, and resolution and contrast increases as you stop down the lens. Bokeh should be good, and corners should be as good as the center throughout the range.
From our samples, we can pretty much see that it matches well to the MTF diagrams, with poorer resolution wide open and sharpening up as we stop down the lens. There's no mush in the corners more than what we're seeing across the image. While this lens is not a good landscape lens wide open, it delivers acceptable results stopped down, and the lack of resolution wide open may work in your favor for portraits.
Sharpening for the images is set at USM Strength 2 Fineness 2 and Threshold 1.
We tested this lens on a full spectrum modified Canon M5. The conversion was done by Kolari Vision, who in our opinion, one of the leading vendors of infrared modified cameras and filters.
Converting your camera allows it to be more sensitive to infrared wavelengths, that are normally reduced by your sensor’s IR/UV cut filter. IR conversion removes that cut filter, and replaces it with an infrared filter, or in the case of full spectrum, clear glass. This allows the camera to be far more sensitive to various wavelengths that normally a camera is not. Because normally cameras are not sensitive to these wavelengths, lenses are also not designed around these wavelengths. Various problems may occur with complex lens designs, including hotspots (a center area of the lens brighter than the peripheral, more noticeable as you stop down the lens) and wavelength smearing which atypically shows up as a loss of resolution in the periphery of the lens. Lenses are also more prone to flare.
Each test is performed using Kolari Vision slim PRO anti-reflective infrared filters, which we find to show the best characteristics and contrast of any filters we have tried. They also have Teflon coated filter threads which we find to be extremely useful when we are swapping filters frequently during testing. While any filters will show an adequate final image, since each photo you are taking with a converted camera has a filter, we recommend using the highest of quality filters that you can afford.
This lens performs admirably under infrared with all spectrums tested with no visible hotspots, smearing or lack of resolution more than the color response. Stopped down this lens is quite sharp for IR photography.
Sharpening is set to an aggressive USM Strength 6 fineness 6 threshold 2.
Vignetting is pretty moderate, appearing to be under 2EV wide open and for all purposes gone by F2.8.
In actual use, this lens was alot of fun to use. With the M5's focus peaking even on a windy day it was quite capable of easily taking some interesting photos. Focus was smooth, and just "popped" into place. IR response was excellent with no hotspots and this lens is sharp as you stop down. It's a great little lens for a bargain price. While wide open resolution won't leave you breathless, the lack of sharpness is even across the field, given way to most likely good looking dreamy portraits versus technically excellent blistering sharp ones.
The only real issue with this lens is a minor quibble, the lens can take a bit of time with your muscle memory to get used of the aperture ring being out near the front, and the focus near the back of the lens.
For the low cost of this lens ($119 US) it's really hard to nitpick lack of wide open sharpness or the other small issues. This lens was certainly a lot of fun to use.