Bokeh in a pocket | Review of the 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 lens for Fujifilm X-mount

When I was asked if I would like to have some time with the 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 lens, my curiosity was foremost piqued by the speed of the 7Artisans lens at f1.2, and secondly at how tiny this lens is and, yes, I agreed. 

For the sake of brevity, I will use ‘7Artisans 35/1.2’ to refer to this lens from this point onwards. 


The 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 lens, one small lens with lots of character.  

It’s crazy, but I kinda like this little lens from 7Artisans. 

The 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 here is an APS-C lens designed for Fujifilm X-mount cameras. This lens is tiny in comparison to other X-mount lenses, and many other reviewers have fondly referred to the classic 35mm Sonnar lens when describing the 7Artisans 35/1.2 lens. 

The 7Artisans 35/1.2 comes snugly packed in a tiny box and interestingly, a drawing of the optical formula is presented on the back along with the details of the manufacturer.

At the USD145 this lens is going for (let’s be realistic, the camera battery for the Leica Q2 costs more than this lens in comparison), I actually was not expecting much but the imaging performance of this lens did throw up some pleasant surprises and more on this later. 

Design. 

One of the first impressions that stood out in the 7Artisans 35/1.2 lens is its diminutive size. The lens itself is only 36mm in length and tips the scale at only 150 grams (0.33 lbs). In layman terms, its 2.5 back lens-caps long. 

The 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 comes with an all-metal housing and barrel. The aperture ring is de-clicked and both focus and aperture adjustments are smooth and hold well in place. The whole lens has zero flex and is very well built with a nice heft to it. Holding it you know this lens is gonna survive quite a beating.

Some useful specs to know: 

Focal Length: 35mm equivalent to 50mm on APS-C cameras
Aperture Blade: Rounded 9-Blades
Elements: 6 Elements in 5 Groups
Minimum Focus Distance: 35 cm
Focus: Manual
EXIF data: There aren’t any contacts.
Filter size: 43mm

Handling and real-life use. 

IMG_8365

Even for its small size, the 7Artisan 35/1.2 was excellent to handle, as with all third-party lenses without any electronic contacts, one needs to remember to enable the ‘Shoot without a lens’ setting on the camera. On the Fujifilm X-T3, one has 4 options for manual focus assist, namely:

  1. Standard, which shows up a magnified view for clarity in focusing.
  2. Digital Split Image
  3. Digital Microprism, (an extension from no.2) which shows an interleaved grid pattern, similar to the fresnel that classic manual focus SLR users have seen.
  4. Focus Peaking

I have tried all 4 and prefer the tried and tested Standard mode for manual focus assist. All I need to do is depress the back command dial, and the magnified view shows up, allowing me to confirm focus. 

The focus has an approx 165-degree throw which I wish would be shorter, but this is a very personal thing.


There are a few versions for different mounts, and this information is clearly stamped.  

One thing I love about the 7Artisans 35/1.2 is the scallop based design of the focusing ring, the protrusions ensure an excellent grip which allows me to find the focusing ring every single time and to me, this is one thing 7Artisans has absolutely got right. 

A point that one is bound to hear about is manual focus lenses aren’t suitable for action shots or even the ubiquitous street shots, I will simply beg to differ and in all honestly – say that this is purely a case of user ability and patience in learning how to use the system properly. 

Coming from using the Leica M system, and using a combination of zone focusing and pre-focusing at times, using manual focus was not an issue much for the shots I wanted to grab. 

Imaging Performance. 

In terms of character, this lens produces some very creamy bokeh and beautiful rendering all around. The 7Artisans 35/1.2 works very well for portraits.

In bright outdoor situations, the multi-multi coated elements do decently well, and in low light indoor conditions, the fast aperture helps keep that ISO and shutter values more easy to manage. On the newer Fujifilm bodies with electronic shutters going up to 1/32000 seconds makes a real difference in allowing one to shoot wide open in daylight and freezing motion. 

Being an f1.2 lens, it is obvious that I will be shooting it at wide apertures mainly and the bokeh and rendering of this lens can be pretty interesting due to the 9 aperture blades design. In fact, a lovely part of this lens is the rounded bokeh across all apertures.

Some reviewers have mentioned that sharpness at f1.2 is poor at close distances, that is true but the fact is once you step back further from the subject, be prepared to see all the details coming in and this lens can produce excellent details too. Step down to f4 and sharpness is all there. By f5.6 and f8, details across the frame is very nice.

Screenshot 2019-08-10 at 3.23.36 PM
going further in. 

One character of the 7Artisans 35/1.2 is how it can really flare when shooting directly at strong light, and this is very personal as some will see this as a shortcoming but I see it as providing more creative possibilities. 


See the flare there? No, it’s not a rainbow. 

Distortion isn’t a big worry on the 7Artisan 35mm f1.2 lens, it is present but easily corrected and not on a degree that will bother most users. Vignetting is present at the corners but generally minimal.

More samples. 

Conclusions.

Most of the samples in this review were shot wide open and never higher than f5.6 and in this sense, this lens actually pleased me immensely despite its shortcomings. 

At USD145 and my first time trying this brand, I was not expecting a competent lens from 7Artisans. I have heard that the 7Artisans 55mm f1.4 is 7Artisans’s most capable lens while the 35mm f1.2 is their most artistic and I guess this holds pretty true.

A Leica M lens of this size and this aperture (the 35mm Summilux) sells for around for a minimum of USD5400 and so obviously there were compromises made in the construction of the 7Artisans 35/1.2 and there are other options like the famed Fujinon 35mm f1.4 or the Mitakon 35mm f0.95II should one yearn for something more but in its own way, the 7Artisan 35/1.2 lens is an excellent bang for buck option to consider, as long as one is willing to work with it and enjoy it as it is, strengths and compromises in a package cheaper than a camera battery of some systems. 

Thank you for reading. 

*my standard disclaimers: 

  • The 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 lens used for the review is a production unit loaned to me.
  • The Fujifilm X-T3 used for the review is my personal set. 
  • All images unless stated otherwise (including those of the camera) shared here were photographed by me and edited in Lightroom to my preferences.
  • I was not paid in any form for the review. 
  • All image samples were shot with a Fujifilm X-T3 and the 7Artisans 35mm f1.2 lens. 

 

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keithwee

Keith Father, Teacher and Life Photographer. Lives a life of positivism & seeks to photograph Life & his 2 toddlers Kei & Lynn.

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