It’s not quite a pancake lens, but the TTArtisan 50mm f2 lens is almost compact enough to be called one. A little bigger than an artisanal macaron, the lens doesn’t feel cheap in any way to hold. With a full metal body and clicked aperture ring, you’d be surprised to know that the lens retails for less than $80. But can it perform as well as it looks and feels?
When I opened up the lens package and saw what was inside, my mind immediately thought – “hmm… is that lens fully made of plastic?” A thought that was quickly dismissed once I picked up the lens. It felt incredibly well made for something that, at first glance, looked like a toy. The body was all metal and in no way felt cheap. The TTArtisan 50mm f2 Z mount lens that was sent to me had an amazing cold metal touch. I would even go so far as to say it felt premium in some ways. It’s an f2 aperture manual-focus lens about half the size of my Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S lens. Some of the other lenses from this brand are a bit unconventional in design, but this one seems to take inspiration from Leica’s Summicron model.
The Big Picture
- Compact and lightweight
- Good build quality with a premium feel to the body
- Great price at just USD $79
- Comes in a range of lens mount options for mirrorless cameras
- Accurate color rendition
- Clicked aperture ring
- Not too sharp below f4
- Images don’t have much contrast when used in average to bright sunlight
- Manual focus and aperture rings have switched places compared to traditional Nikon F-mount manual focus lenses. Seasoned Nikon manual lens users will take some time to adjust to this
- No lens hood
- The lens cap is a screw-on model that makes it cumbersome to quickly cover or open your lens
- No electronic contact points for transferring EXIF data to your camera
It’s one of those lenses where you can’t complain much about a few optical flaws for its fantastically low price and compact size. Images can lack contrast even if stopped down when shooting directly into sunlight, or if there’s intense light from either side. As with all manual focus lenses, it takes a while to understand the sweet spot for sharpness. If you’re a zone focus enthusiast or expert, you will make the most of this lens. Stop down the aperture past f5.6, set your camera to Auto-ISO, and take it out to the streets for a good time. But otherwise, be prepared to deal with soft details outside the main focus areas.
Not so sharp but also not unusable at wider apertures, the lens can be fun to use if you don’t expect the world from it. I’m giving the TTArtisan 50mm f2 lens three out of five stars.
I used the TTArtisan 50mm f2 Nikon Z-mount lens with a Nikon Z6 II. We’re allowed to keep the lens and the Nikon Z6 II is a previous purchase of ours.
None to report. Unless you consider that poker-chip sized lens cap as innovative
The aperture ring has solid clicks when you turn it (half stops from f2 until f5.6, and from then on, full stops until f16). The focus ring isn’t stiff but doesn’t turn too fast when you want to go from infinity to the closest focus distance. You’ve got focal distance markings on there, but it’s not something I paid much attention to while using it. More often than not, I was almost focused at infinity to get the subject in better focus. I feel that photographers with bigger fingers than me might not enjoy focusing using this tiny lens.
The lens cap really shouldn’t have been a screw-on type. I often like to cover the front element of my lenses with the lens cap when I’m walking in crowds, especially when there’s no lens hood. With this lens, it was just too much of a hassle to unscrew the cap each time I wanted to take a photo. I decided to leave it off for the duration of my outdoor tests. It’s also made of the same metal quality as the rest of the lens exterior and has corrugated edges for easy gripping. It’s only beneficial when I want to stow away the lens in my bag. A lens hood might have been helpful for some kind of protection against bumps while using outdoors, but that would have increased the already obvious vignetting in the images (more on that later).
You wouldn’t expect this kind of quality from a sub-100 USD lens, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for this lens’s finishing quality. I was expecting it to feel light, almost hollow, but the density of this tiny lens was impressive.
The lens mount felt stiff when I tried to mount it to my Z6 II, but it does click into place quite audibly. Overall, for this price, the lens feels really worth it when it comes to the quality of materials used and the overall feel of the lens in your hands.
Ease Of Use
As a Nikon user, I found the swapped positions of the aperture and focus ring confusing to use. The aperture ring is closest to the body on all my Nikon manual focus lenses. During the first day of using the lens, I often turned the aperture ring when I intended to adjust the focal distance. This took a few hours to get used to, but it’s not something that I’d consider a deal breaker if I wanted to buy this lens.
Manual focusing with this lens is much easier when you use your camera’s focus peaking feature. But for whatever reason, I found it tough to nail focus at f2, even when the focus peaking indicated that the subject was in focus. At f2, anything even slightly outside the area of focus appeared soft upon close inspection. It’s a lens that needs a lot of patience to work with to understand how to get the best out of it.
Neither does TTArtisan’s product page state anything about weather sealing/resistance nor would I really expect that at this price range. There don’t appear to be obvious places where dust could seep in and reach your camera’s sensor. My sensor remained as clean after using this lens as it was before I first mounted it onto the camera.
It appeared to be in focus, and the focus peaking indicators on my Z6 II would say that it was, but I often saw that the focus was off in the final image. And this wasn’t just at f2; I saw this all the way until f4 even. With every other manual focus lens I’ve used on this camera, even at f1.4, the focus peaking was accurate. Even when the depth of field was shallow, it was always accurate. If it was off, it was either because the subject had moved out of the focal plane or I did. Now at f2, I was willing to blame myself for not being steady enough to nail the focus. But when there was sufficient focal range at apertures like f4, I was stumped over why the focus would be off.
It didn’t matter if the subject was close to me for portraits or far away in the distance. I observed the focus to be off in over a quarter of the images I took with the TTArtisan 50mm f2 lens. While I’m willing to take the blame for some of those images, I feel there are other contributing factors too. When you get the focus right, it’s acceptably sharp throughout the center and only slightly drops off at the corners. But getting it right often wasn’t something I managed during my tests. It was a lot easier getting the focus on the super shallow Laowa 45mm f0.95 lens. Maybe I just received a bad copy of the lens.
If you’re patient with manual focusing for shallow apertures or just stop down the aperture for more depth, you’d get some pretty decent images out of this lens. Just remember to stay away from rays of sunlight, otherwise your photos will lack contrast for the most part. Most autofocus mirrorless lenses these days produce images that are nice and contrasty. I saw none of that when using the TTArtisan 50mm f2 lens outdoors at midday. When there’s a bit of shade and no sunlight hitting the lens, the overall feel of the photos this lens produces is much more impressive. But I often had to keep reminding myself that it’s meant to be a budget lens, and I need to dial down my expectations from it. And when I did, I think I was more satisfied with what I got out of it.
The quality isn’t light years away from what I get in the images taken with my Nikon 50mm f1.8 S lens. I’ve seen worse image quality from more expensive lenses, and TTArtisan has managed to put some good optics into a low-priced lens that feels more expensive. The heavy vignetting wasn’t something I was expecting though. It’s pretty evident even when shooting at f2, and that’s odd considering I didn’t have a filter or a lens hood on the lens.
The quality of the bokeh that this lens produces is pleasant.
As long as you don’t overexpose and avoid direct sunlight, you’ll find the colors produced by this lens to be accurate. Do expect the occasionally washed-out image, such as the one below. These can easily be saved with the Dehaze feature on your post-processing software of choice. The shadows seem to retain better colors than the highlights for most of my images.
Lots of flare when stopped down and pointed at the sun.
The lack of purple fringing is exceptional for a lens at this price point. I was expecting to see a lot of this, but I hardly observed any. Whatever lens coatings they’ve used in here are controlling the fringing well.
Image contrast is definitely lower than what you’d see on competing 50mm lenses in the mirrorless category. It’s easily corrected during editing but be prepared to have to deal with this in a lot of the images you’d take using this lens.
Vignetting is noticeably heavy at the corners, even at f2. If you managed to get a screw-on hood for this lens, it’d probably be way worse.
When you manage to get your focus right, the sharpness is actually good. The sharpness falloff is also quite cool when you look up close. Sadly, getting the focus right on the lens I received wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be. I would often take a shot and check it, then find out it wasn’t focused correctly on the subject. When repeated takes would miss the focus this way, I would stop the aperture down for better results.
If pin-sharp images are something you chase, avoid this lens please. It’s not that you can’t get them using it, it’s just that you’d spend way too much time trying to get it with this lens.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy It?
If you’re considering getting a fast 50mm lens for their mirrorless camera and are willing to take on the challenges of manual focusing and a bit of image softness at a really affordable price, go for this. Like most manual focus lenses, the TTArtisan 50mm f2 has its own characteristics. These need to be wholeheartedly embraced as you get to know its flaws in detail. But getting this build quality at such a low price seems like a real bargain. And the images you get from this aren’t bad at all. When you really nail the focus properly, a lot of the photos are keepers. It’s an excellent walkabout, daily outdoor photography lens. Remember that you’ll be correcting contrast often and sharpness occasionally.
These were taken from the Pergear product listing page:
Focal Length: 50mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2
Minimum Aperture: f/16
Lens Mount: X-mount
Angle of View: 45°（Full Frame）; 32°(APS-C)
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.6′ / 50 cm
Optical Design: 6 Elements in 5 Groups
Diaphragm Blades: 10
Focus Type: Manual Focus
Image Stabilization: No
Filter Size: 43 mm
Dimensions (ø x L): 60mm x 35mm
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