Camera Geekery: 7Artisans 35mm f/2 on film review
There’s been a lot of chatter recently on the light and dark web about the so-called “China-cron”, aka the brand new sub-$300 7Artisans 35mm f/2 lens for Leica M mount. This is 7Artisans’ newest offering and their second in a line of lenses targeted towards the frugal Leica crowd. Will the 7Artisans 35mm f/2 lens be accepted among the discriminating Leica legion? Reviews out there have been reasonably favorable thus far on digital but how does it perform on film?
Let’s take a closer look at this little wonder. This is a fully rangefinder coupled 35mm f/2 lens based off of the Sonnar optical formula, complete with an M-mount, hyperfocal distance scale, and focusing tab.
- Lens design: 7 elements in 5 groups
- Angle of view: 63°
- Number of aperture blades: 10
- Minimum focusing distance: 0.7m
- Filter size: 43mm
- Maximum aperture: f/2
- Minumum aperture: f/16
- Weight: 205 g
- Price: $289
Here it is juxtaposed to a Leica Summicron 35 ASPH. They’re similar in size but the 7Artisans 35mm is 40g lighter, equating to an almost 20% reduction in weight.
Build quality is surprisingly decent. It’s been noted that you can’t reasonably expect fit and finish to rival zee Germans at 1/10th the price but it doesn’t feel any inferior to say a Cosina-made Voigtlander lens. Aperture rings click precisely (though full stops only) and the focusing tab is tight and smooth.
In the looks department, it doesn’t look out of place on an Leica M in my eyes. I do wish it came with a hood though. And a 43mm thread has forced me to buy another step up ring for ND filters and what not.
The 7Artisan 35mm is aimed to be an affordable bang-for-your-buck option so to pin it optically against the $3,295 Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH is rather unfair. Or is it? Well let’s take the Pepsi Challenge; which of these shots is from the 7Artisans and which is from Leica? All shots were taken on the above Leica M6 and with JCH Streetpan 400, developed in Fuji Minidol.
Some people can’t differentiate the tastes of Pepsi and Coke but to me this is more Pepsi vs. RC Cola. Tastes good, hits the spot alright but when compared side by side it lacks the “umph”. Lens A is the Summicron-M ASPH and Lens B is the 7Artisans 35mm. Let’s take a closer look at some side-by-sides through all apertures.
7Artisans 35mm vs. Leica Summicron-M 35 ASPH head to head
The 7Artisans is surprisingly sharp indeed but renders slightly thicker lines than with the Summicron, giving it a less luxurious look. Bokeh is decent, contrast is good and it looks close to the Summicron from f5.6 onwards. It is also noted that the 7Artisans appears to be a smidgeon longer in focal length and is actually probably closer to a 38mm lens.
The one thing that the Summicron handily spanks the 7Artisans is with distortion, something already confirmed in prior reviews. Yes it’s a just $300 lens made in China, yada yada yada.
Another issue brought up in other reviews that is confirmed here is with flaring. Rather silly that something so prone to flares not come with a lens hood. Some care is required to prevent unsightly glare.
The 7Artisans 35mm is a very decent lens and at that price point, there’s no real reasonable complaint another than needing to fork out extra for a lens hood. Is it the coveted “pretty much a Leica lens at a fraction of the price” that we all hope actually exists? To that I reply, “close but no cigar”.
That being said, you only really notice when comparing head to head with legendary glass worth 10x the price. Contrast and sharpness are quite nice; just the line renditions are a smidgeon thick to my eyes. But for the frugal minded M-mount user looking for an entry 35mm lens, it’s a solid performer and worth consideration.
7Artisans 35mm f/2 on JCH Streetpan 400
7Artisans 35mm f/2 on Agfa Vista 400
“Frugal Leica crowd”?
A lot of well known compact RFs such as Canonet QL17 GIII, Olympus SP, Konica Auto S3 – not to mention all those point & shoots – are going up in price these days, to the point where a cosmetically beat up M4 body that saw a CLA in the recent past is less than double of what you’d pay.
The leica name scares people away before they even look at prices, the new to film hipster crowd is driving Canonets up. So yes, budget Leica is actually a thing – and a thing that makes a lot of sense from a bang for your buck perspective, too. The more cheap M mount glass the better imo.
Think of it this way coming from a guy shooting Leica for 46 years. I sold my $11,000 Noctilux for the $730 7Artisans 50:0.95. When I took some shots with my Monochrom and then some Film, the result was after comparing the shots is that with the Noctilux, you’re not getting $10,300 better. The build quality is superb in all the Chinese Lenses I own. I’m slowly making a killing on my stock Leica Glass for 7Artisans Lenses and it’s been fantastic. It’s a brave new world in photography. In 2020 and beyond, Leica cannot compete at those prices with these new up and coming Lens companies. Look at Sigma. I remember back in the late 70’s and 80’s, Sigma was considered the SPAM of Lenses, yet I got some of my best shots with them. Today, they’re considered a heavy player in Still and Cine Lenses.
The real question is is the Leica lens really worth 10 times the price in terms of physical quality as well as image quality. If the Leica lens is truly 10x better fine. But if not, then the 7Artisans bears a strong look.
It really depends how you look at it. We won’t know how well these 7 Artisan lenses hold up over time as compared to Leica lenses. Leica are proven and they demand a high price, because they’re some of the most optically perfect lenses available and they’re made extremely well. It’s like anything else very expensive….the devil is in the details.
Yes. But for the price you pay and the quality they put out, if you get 2-3 years out of it, you beyond got your money’s worth out of it. The same can’t be said about Leica, and I own quite a few of them. If you go out with an M10 Monochrom and a 50mm f/0.95 lens slung over your shoulder, you’re walking around with almost $20,000. Whether you realize it or not, your priority is going to be to make sure your “Totally Not Worth It” Camera isn’t getting scuffed. I’ve seen more Leica Polishers and White Glove wearers than I cared to see.
Samson with DA hubs. Nice :D
Funny, I just bought a Zeiss (zm) 35mm Biogon f/2.0. I like the lens, I’m happy with my results and I like the look of the silver barrel (looks like it was made for my M2 & M4-P). It reminds me of the lenses I used on the Hasselblad I was issued during the 1970’s.
A buddy who is a long time Leica user (longer than me) poo-poo’ed the lens. Not good, bad build, etc. I told him I’m long past jumping out of ‘copters and wading into hot spots. I’m shooting what I like when I see it. The point? Some of the die-hard Leica people will never accept anything less then a Leica badged product. Forget the obscene prices, forget the scarcity of products, they will not contaminate their equipment with “inferior” items.
If this lens delivers good results, if the owners are happy with it, then buy it and shoot your world silly. More power to the 7 Artisans and their products.
Any comment on the len’s supposed incompatibility with Canadian M bodies?
I’m getting this one simply because of the novelty of shooting a 35mm Sonnar derivative. That’s weird enough to justify about tree hundo.
The company’s first M-mount offering was the (similarly curious, as an idea) 50mm f/1.1, also a Sonnar derivative — which is what many wished someone would make in China for cheap, since Jupiter-3s are soft and Zeiss quite expensive. A step as bold as Sonnar contrast, followed by a second step of sticking with the idea. Maybe in the next decade we’ll see Planar derivative designs, or even a M-mount body, from China?
what lens hood can you use for this lens?
I totally agree about the Zeiss Biogon ZM 35mm f/2! At about a grand it’s certainly not cheap, but still much less than the new Leica lenses and I’m very happy with the results from it. I like the ergonomics of it much more than the pre-ASPH 35mm Summilux I’d been using before.
I’m encouraged by this and am looking forward to the 28mm f/1.4 coming out soon. Lets review that one ASAP! Maybe a roadtrip to the factory JCH?
Thanks for the in depth review, but i have a question about a sentence in the intro paragraph referring to talk on the “light and dark web” : is there actually a photography community on the dark web? This left mr perplexed!
I’ve shot about 20 rolls (HP5+ and Silvermax) with 7artisans 35mm/f2 on my M2 and i like it a lot, or at least i like what i can see on 24×30 cm darkroom prints. Nice tonal range, contrasts and sharpness. Price/performance is great.
Has anybody done a thorough comparison of this lenses versus Cosina Voigtlander 35mm?
So here is the question. VM ZM or this 7artisans?
Hi, did you have to adjust the focus? If so how did you do that on a film body?
Let me tell you something regarding these ridiculous tests. I’ve been shooting on leica for 44 years. I have the 7artisans 35/2 and the leica 35/2. When I pulled prints from the 7artisans , I sold the summicron. Forget about my shots. Looking at the shots you posted, there is literally little to no difference when the image is viewed under normal conditions and not with a Fing 10X Loupe. I’m in my 60’s. I’ve lived my extraordinary photographic life Today, everybody goes out, takes a couple of descent shots, post them on a site like this, and tell everybody how experienced they are when in reality they have no Fing clue or else they would be out there working on their craft instead of taking screen shots of their computer all day.
Leica is a Rip Off! Period! I’ve been working with them since 1999 when there were still real photographers out there and leica products were reachable. Until these Mid-Life Crisis Millionaire Wannabes caused prices of leica products into the stratosphere.
In 2002, I bought a Black Paint MP, a Black Paint Leicavit and a Black Paint 50/1.4 Summilux for under $4000…today, just the MP is over $5000.
Trust me…..Leica Gear is not worth the money they charge you. Especially today where all of their lenses optical computation is optimized for digital which means the glass doesn’t have to be as sharp because the Digital Sensor will compensate for that.
35mm photography has gone Digital. Which means Leica is pretty much irrelevant except for a name. I’m a loyal Leica Shooter because I’ve had my gear for decades. But they have Nothing on Sony, Fuji,Panasonic, etc. lens wise, Zeiss ZM, Voigtlander and 7artisans are major thorns in Leica’s side because they cannot justify their criminal pricing when the IQ of these other makers is so close to Leica, it’s very difficult to tell the difference. I’ve taken some of my best shots with a $50 Pentax K1000. One time a friend was freaking out over a shot I took with the K1000. When he asked what lens I used, I said the 50/2 Summicron. And he said, “You Get What You Pay For”….I was happy to hear that “He Knew What the F He Was Talking About”!!!
Wow, OK. Thanks for that.