Review: 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 (This Lens Belong on a Film Camera)

The 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 is a reminder that cheap lenses are just an impulse buy for photographers.

If you look around on Instagram and at reviews of the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 on the web, I’m very positive that the reviewers got a free copy of the lens and hyped it up. I’m even convinced that they’ve done excess editing to the images. But I bought mine with my own money. This has to be one of the most disappointing lenses that I’ve bought from 7Artisans. I purchased the company’s 50mm f1.1 and was given the 35mm f2 for free. Both of those lenses were pretty good. But the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 is disappointing when shooting with it wide open and adapted to Sony. It only starts to become really worth anything when stopped down past f2.8. However, I’ll state that it has a look–and that look is best achieved on a Leica. It’s nothing compared to a proper Leica lens, and I doubt that the optics are even designed in the same way. But this purchase was a reminder to me that cheap lenses are often an impulse buy. Was I expecting Leica quality? Heck no. I wasn’t even expecting Voigtlander quality. But I was expecting the lens to be better than others on the market when adapted to Sony. Yet somehow or another, this lens absolutely sung to the heavens on Leica bodies.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Built very well
  • Affordable
  • You can put the focusing tab anywhere you wish
  • Nice bokeh at least
  • It can focus closer than most Leica lenses
  • It’s got a look to it for sure
  • It’s overall best shot with black and white
  • It’s great on Leica bodies and not Sony.

Cons

  • Soft wide open when adapted. I’d expect that from their f1.1 lenses, but that’s not the case here.
  • Color fringing really makes me believe that the best images from this lens are shot in black and white
  • Chromatic Aberration overall is pretty bad.

Gear Used

We tested the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 on the Sony a7r III with an adapter, the Leica CL, and the Leica M6 TTL. Various film emulsions were used. We also used it a bit on the Leica M9.

Tech Specs

Specs are taken from the Adorama listing.

  • 28mm F1.4 lens formula consists of 11 elements in 9 groups
  • One double-sided aspherical glass, two ED glass, and three High Refractive rare earth glass elements
  • Fast F1.4 aperture allows capturing great pictures in dim light conditions
  • Lens Mount: Made For Leica M Mounts
  • Lens Type: Wide Angle Lens
  • Focal Length.: 28mm Lens
  • Maximum Aperture: f/1.4

Ergonomics

The 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 looks very much like a Leica lens. In fact, I’m sure that most folks won’t be able to tell the difference unless they looked really closely.

The knobs and the grooves all look and feel like a Leica. You can see this even in the fine details like the zone focusing scale.

Indeed, since this is a manual focus lens, most photographers will be working with the giant textured focusing ring. The aperture ring on the front offers only exposure in full stops.

Build Quality

What I was most impressed by with the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 is the weather resistance. Leica lenses are already designed with some of that in there. However, the company doesn’t talk about it much publicly. But the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 survived a rain shower and not only allowed any moisture to hit the inside of my Leica M6 but kept working flawlessly. No moisture got in that I know of. I’m not quite sure that I’d do this with a digital Leica, but I know for a fact that my film Leica kept functioning. For the price point, a photographer can’t really ask for more. A reliable lens that keeps on working is precious. The only thing that could make it even better is a lens hood. However, the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 doesn’t come with a lens hood. Instead, the lens cap goes around the front of the lens.

Ease of Use

I put the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 in the hands of a buddy who is just getting into photography. On a rangefinder camera, he had to learn about the idea of lining up the picture in picture process. But he also learned about the zone focusing system–which he preferred. The focusing scale on the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 makes things more comfortable to work with indeed. But on a Sony camera, you’ll be relying on magnifying the picture. Sony’s focus peaking is pretty awful and always has been at the full-frame level. With that said, I wouldn’t recommend this lens for a novice. Leica even said it themselves when so many folks went out to buy their M cameras and didn’t understand how to use them. This lens and the cameras that work with them aren’t for amateurs.

Focusing

The focus on the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 is done manually. You’re best off using the zone focusing technique or lining it up through a calibrated rangefinder. This will be a troublesome lens to use for someone that doesn’t work with manual focus lenses at all. Most folks don’t, but manual focusing, I genuinely believe makes you a better shooter. Of course, this means that if you’re a street photographer or a documentary shooter, then you’re in luck. If you’re focusing the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 using the rangefinder on your camera, you should know that it’s going to be a slow process. So make sure that you pre-focus it by looking at what you want to photograph, turn the lens to approximately that distance, then put the rangefinder to your eye, and touch up the focusing, then shoot. That’s the easiest way to do this.

Image Quality

Editor’s Note: unless these photos were converted to black and white, we didn’t do any editing to these images. In fact, even some of the black and whites are straight out of camera JPEGs. Additionally, we strongly believe in not editing film scans. 

The 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 has a very unique image quality to it. But admittedly, it isn’t unique enough for me to be able to pick it out from the rest of the crowd. Instead, I’d liken it to some cheap glass. And essentially that’s what it is. These flaws that it exhibits aren’t even necessarily picturesque flaws. I’d expect problems like this from Lomography and for that to then be called a feature of some sort. But that’s not the case here. But overall, the lens’ image quality is just okay. It isn’t spectacular. If anything, I’d say that the image quality is less than rudimentary in comparison to many other lenses on the market. To that end, every variant of a 28mm lens pretty much is better than this one. But it isn’t terrible. The workaround here is to shoot in black and white–sort of.

Bokeh

The bokeh from the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 is pretty creamy. Photographers working with this lens are going to be pleased with the slightly swirly bokeh look that is delivered around the edge. This can probably give you a more vintage-style look if you’re in the search for it. Just combine it with a more muted tonal range in your image, and you’ll be all set. But the weird thing with the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 is the bokeh balls. I’m never the type of person to complain about this, and perhaps that’s because no one ever had this problem until recently. But those bokeh balls are odd-looking. If you’re all for embracing that look, then fine. And to be honest, I’m nitpicking here. However, it stood out to me.

Chromatic Aberration

Ooof! This lens has some CA going on; let me tell you a story! Not only is there purple fringing with the lens, but there are also really odd rings created from reflections. It’s annoying when working with this lens in color, but in black and white, it’s all fixed. Of course, that’s not always the solution. You can probably try to get rid of the fringing and other problems in post-production, but I’d rather not. What this means is that if you have a backlit subject, get ready to suffer from some issues. You’ll be embracing that old-school vintage film look for sure–that natural look that isn’t tailored just enough and that your parents probably experienced.

To be clear, this issue is significantly more apparent on Sony cameras. It doesn’t happen really at all with Leica or film.

Color Rendition

Despite my qualms with the lens thus far, I have to admit that I like the colors. I’m aware that the image below is in black and white, but it goes to illustrate my points a bit more. The colors are excellent, and even if you want to go colorless, you can create gorgeous images. If you’re looking to create videos with the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4, you’ll get beautiful colors overall. If you’re working with film, just ensure that you nail that exposure right.

Sharpness

Wide-open, the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 delivers image quality that is pretty piss poor when it comes to sharpness. But stop it down past f2.8, and it will get better. That’s annoying for sure. But if you’re a street photographer that wants a lens like this, then you’ll be stopping the lens down anyway when zone focusing. So while it’s not great in person, I’m not sure that that matters for every photographer.

Extra Image Samples

Superia 800

Dubble Film Bubble Gum

CineStill 800T

Conclusions

Likes

Dislikes

  • Sort of a disappointment when adapted.

The photographer that will like the 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 is the photographer that doesn’t mind stopping the lens down. For what it’s worth, I think that this is an ancient mentality. For years now, photographers haven’t needed to stop their lenses down to get fantastic results. The 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 adheres to that old school mentality. The quality of the images that it can produce will lend themselves to the black and white shooter or the photographer that uses a more new-school type of films like that from Revolog or Cinestill. As long as it’s on a Leica camera or on film it’s going to be wonderful. But as soon as you adapt it, it will become a problem.

The 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 receives five out of five stars. I’m on the fence about this lens. Want one? Check out Amazon.