I couldn’t resist ordering the 7 Artisans 28mm M Mount lens. Buying a new lens is always exciting. From the moment the order goes through on B&H, like most others, I keep checking the status, keep tracking it and on the day of arrival the heart beats faster. Although I vaguely know the time a FedEx or USPS delivers, I would still be full of anticipation and keep looking out of the balcony whenever I hear a vehicle.
The Impersonator: So the 7 Artisans Photoelectric 28mm F1.4 ASPH did arrive. My eager hands were all over the package and the moment I reached the black box and lifted it I could see the effort they had put in to make it look like a Leica. The box, the string on the outside, the soft interiors etc BUT make no mistake, this is NOT a Leica. This is a $499 lens and the packaging is CHEAP! It’s cardboard, paper and foam, not luxurious leather. To make it look like a Leica they even packed a small rubber C shaped notch/focusing lever which can be stuck on the focus tab to make manual focusing easy. This notch/lever is integrated in the Leica lens design and is all metal.
Solid Build: But wait! The moment I picked up the lens I felt much better. It felt solid. It felt all metal. The aperture ring clicks and focus ring were smooth. I loved the metal cap with a velvety interior so as to not scratch the lens. It weighs nearly 500 grams and by no means looks or feels cheap! Could they have included a hood? Maybe charged a few dollars more but taken away the pain of ordering one separately. Maybe I’m asking for too much..
After I sold my Leica Q in 2017 I always missed a 28mm in the kitty. I shot a lot with the Q and the 28mm focal length became a habit. I did look at the Leica 28mm Summilux but that’s a big lens and the price tag ensured that I never lusted for it. I looked at the Leica 28 Cron and the cheaper Voigtlander 28mm f2 but was never actually convinced. The 7 Artisans reviews spoke highly of the lens, it was affordable and it was the right size. It is almost identical to my Leica 75mm Summarit.
Testing it: So, the same evening I took it to an event where a few photographers and models were meeting up. I shot all the pictures wide open with the lens mounted on the Panasonic S1 with an adapter. This lens is sharp! I am not a stickler for sharpness. I use pretty much all lenses wide open and have used quite a few vintage lenses so am used to the odd not so sharp lens but this one is sharp, right at F1.4.
Here is a 100% crop. No sharpening in post.
Performance: The colors are amazing, contrast is very good and there is hardly any flare. There is no noticeable distortion either.
There is a wee bit of vignette wide open but I like that for portraits and it can be easily fixed for other kind of pictures where you don’t need it.
The pictures below are edited outputs. These were shot RAW and edited in Photoshop.
Wide open, I did notice some fringing but hey, even the $12,000 Leica Noctilux fringes wide open. The purple fringing was an easy fix in photoshop and occurs only in very high contrast situations. A good photographer can always avoid it.
The out of focus areas are soft and smooth and the fall off is beautiful. There is no way to discern that this is a sub $1000 lens.
Stopped down to about 4-5.6 the corners are clean and sharp. At wide open aperture corners don’t matter anyway.
Technicalities: The lens consists of 11 elements in 9 groups including one double-sided aspherical glass, two ED glass, and three High Refractive rare earth glass elements.
Close focusing distance is 0.7m and filter size is 52mm.
On a Leica Rangefinder: Here are some pictures with this lens mounted on the Leica Monochrom CCD.
The 7 Artisans 28mm F1.4 is a great lens for street and documentary shots. It is also useful for environmental portraits. I see myself using it a lot in weddings, for portraits and documentary shots. I will be using it on the Panasonic S1 and the Sigma FP.
Can this lens be compared to a Leica? The answer depends on what you are looking for from a lens. If you are particular about technicalities, tight tolerances, flawless and clinical performance and an engineering marvel, by all means go for the Leica, provided you can afford it.
If you are looking for great image quality and don’t care about the brand name, packaging and other frills then this lens is the best thing you can buy for a M mount 28mm.
Looking forward to this company launching more such lenses.
Read my thoughts on the Leica Q here.