Lens Review: 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 (Leica M Mount and Used on Sony FE)

The 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 is a lens with character and beauty

I’ll fully admit that I’ve become incredibly smitten with Leica M mount lenses from various manufacturers and the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 is no exception here. Though I’m not always in love with crazy super shallow depth of field necessarily, I’ll admit that when it has both super creamy out of focus areas, lens flare, and it isn’t overly sharp, that I’m pretty head over heels. Call it perfection in the imperfections, hipster, or that analogue look (which isn’t really true); but the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 is highly capable. It looks just like most other Leica lenses in almost every way but the true differences only come out when you start to hold it. It’s not a truly massive lens, but it is surely well built in many regards and with a few exceptions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Very beautiful bokeh
  • Stop the lens down just a bit and it will be tack sharp
  • Nice feeling in the hand
  • Works beautifully on M mount cameras and when attached to a Sony a7r III
  • This gorgeous lens flare
  • Fun to use
  • You get a rubber focus tab that you can paste on for yourself
  • Very affordable at $369

Cons

  • There are these empty screw holes on the focusing ring. I’m afraid of stuff getting in there in the long run

Gear Used

We tested the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 with the Leica M4-P, Leica CL, and the Sony a7r III.

Tech Specs

7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 lens specifications:

  • Full frame: yes
  • Compatible camera mount: Leica M-mount
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.1-f/16
  • Angular field of view: 46°
  • Minimum focusing distance: 0.7m
  • Number of blades: 12
  • Lens design: 7 elements in 6 groups
  • Aluminum body and copper core, Sonnar design
  • Weight: 14.1 oz / 400 g
  • The box contains:
    • 7artisans 50mm f/1.1 lens
    • two lens caps
    • lens bag
    • Pergear cleaning kit
  • Sample photos: Xitek 1 | Xitek 2 | WXhaowen

Source: Leica Rumors

Ergonomics

The 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 upon first glance will look a whole lot like a Leica lens. In fact, if you didn’t know any better or unless you looked really closely, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So we start our ergonomics tour on the front here. That big, beautiful element is bound to get smeared and dirty. So just be careful.

Around the focusing ring, there are little holes for screws. These are just in case you have a focusing tab that you want to screw on to my knowledge. But 7Artisans not only gives you a cleaning kit with the lens but they also provide a rubber sticky focus tab that you can put on. It’s beautiful, feels nice and is very comfortable. Rubber has been used more and more in the past years and from what Zeiss tells me, it’s because sometimes the focusing ring itself is too cold to the touch for many users.

Look at this lens. In every way it looks like a Leica. The aperture is towards the front. There is a very effective depth of field scale. Even the fons are identical.

Build Quality

Here’s the good news and the bad news. The good news is that the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 has an all metal body. It feels nice and feels just as robust as any Leica, Voigtlander or Zeiss lens out there. It’s solid. But if you look at the focusing ring, you’ll find holes for screws. I’m not sure how deep those holes run and I hope that they don’t go into the body of the lens where the optics can be seen. But these holes allow you to mount a focusing tab. Again though, they give you a rubber one. I’m not quite sure why they have these holes otherwise. And to me that just seems like a compromise in build quality.

Ease of Use

Full disclosure, I bought this lens of my own accord and I’m working on developing a press relationship with the company. But the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 is a manual focus lens and one that needs to be very precisely and carefully focused. If you’re using a Sony a7r III, I’d use focus magnification cs focus peaking. If you’re using a Leica, make sure that you’ve got both a bright rangefinder and a well calibrated one. This lens will be tough to focus wide open on my Leica CL and it’s even a bit difficult on my Leica M4-P. But otherwise if you’re using it zone focus style then you’ll have no issues at all.

Focusing

As stated before, this is a manual focus lens. Shooting street? Then zone focus. Zone focusing also helps a lot when it comes to touching up focusing for portraits. But if you’re shooting wide open, then have a bright rangefinder and be very careful with the focusing. Again, if you’re not used to manual focusing and you don’t have the patience, then don’t get this lens. The rest of us will be enjoying it!

Image Quality

Oh man, am I in love with this lens. Want that soft look? You can get it. Want that super sharp look? It’s got that. Want lens flare? Oh man, does this lens control it just right! The 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 surely has character to it. In the same way that I’ve always felt that Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses have a specific character to them, so too does this one. I don’t think that it’s meant to be 100% perfect but it’s surely gorgeous in every single way.

Bokeh

Yup, there’s tons of bokeh here. The best bokeh from this lens obviously comes at f1.1 and when you’re focused closely to the subject. But given that this is a rangefinder lens, the closest focusing is around 3 feet. The bokeh is creamy, dreamy, gorgeous, there is so much to say about it that simply can’t be put into words. But in addition to that it’s also unlike any bokeh that I’ve seen before. Some say that this lens is a copy of a Voigtlander, but I’m not sure that I see that. Portrait photographers will surely be pleased here.

Chromatic Aberration

There is no fringing so to speak, but there is indeed lens flare. But to be honest here, I really like that lens flare. I don’t want it to go anywhere and I want more Japanese manufacturers to be doing this vs letting me put it into my images afterwards. Kudos to the creators of the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1. You’ve given me that looks that I really enjoy. If I had to liken it to anything else, I want to say that show Legends of Tomorrow on the CW. Take that, and tone the lens flare from the interiors on the ship down just a bit. It’s not like the new Star Trek, that’s for sure.

Color Rendition

Now here’s where things get really interesting. The 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 has a color rendition that is pretty darn saturated. It makes skin look warmer sort of the way that Canon lenses do. I’m not sure how they’re doing this but I can’t really complain about it. It’s unlike Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron, etc. The 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 does its color in a different way. Skin tones look like Canon, but the rest of the tonality otherwise appears to be like the newer Olympus Zuiko lenses. Even if you’re not a fan of Micro Four Thirds, we can all admit that Olympus’ lenses are pretty beautiful.

Sharpness

Wide open, the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 is fairly soft. But it also sort of has to be. When you stop it down to f1.4 it becomes sharp. It’s pretty crazy sharp at f2 and at f5.6 the sharpness is really there. That’s why I’m saying that this lens is the best of both worlds in many ways.

Extra Image Samples

Shot on Lomography Color 400 and Color 800 Film

Conclusions

Likes

  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Fun to work with
  • Lens flare
  • Affordable price
  • Solid build

Dislikes

  • I’m still not so sure about those holes on the focusing ring

There’s a whole lot to like about the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1. It’s a lens with beautiful image quality, enough control for you to really care about, the Leica M mount is very versatile, and it’s built well with the exception of the holes. But the lens gives you an absolutely stunning image. It’s hard to sit there and say that you hate the look of it. At f1.1 it’s going to have that classically soft look. But then stop it down just a bit and it’s going to be able to hold its own with so many other lenses out there. Add flash output and it’s even stronger and better. What’s to hate about that?

The 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 receives and deserves five out of five stars. It’s a beautiful lens and you can get yours on Amazon for $369.