7Artisian 50mm f/1.1 lens for Leica M-mount first impression by Sagi Kortler


This first impressions report of the 7Artisian 50mm f/1.1 lens ($369) on a Leica M9 camera is by Sagi Kortler:

I've received the lens this morning and I only got to play with it for a short time. I still need to do some more shooting.

The lens is boxed nicely, similar boxing to Zeiss lenses, and contains the lens with front and back caps, a soft pouch, a data sheet and a focus calibration sheet. A lens hood is not included.

The lens is being marketed under two brands: 7Artisian and DJ-Optical. Although the box and front cap are labeled 7Artisian, the lens itself has a DJ-Optical label (Is it a mix up? I don't know).

The lens is constructed well, it made out of metal and has a weight to it but it is fairly small; I expected it to be bigger. The size is just right as it just hits the corner of the 50mm frame lines of the Leica M9. I guess that a lens hood would get into the viewing area, but using a ventilated round lens hood will not be that much of an issue. The front cap is a slip-on and it fits nice and tight, not something that will fall off easily.

The focus ring moves smoothly; just right, not too loose, not too tight. The minimum focus distance is 0.7 meters. The aperture ring moves quite smooth as well, there are no "stop clicks", I guess video photographers will like it, but I don't - I prefer to have clicks and know my aperture by feel. At some point, the aperture ring movement is not as smooth, feels like it's not "greased" enough, maybe it'll get better with time. A weird thing is that the aperture values on the ring are not evenly spread; as the value goes up, they are closer to each other.

The rear element sticks out quite a lot when focusing to infinity, in fact, you can't move the focus to infinity while the back cap is on as it'll hit it.

All in all, it feels nice and not like a cheap Chinese lens.

For usage with rangefinder cameras, there is a need to test its focus calibration and to calibrate it if necessary. The included calibration chart also explains how to do it. Basically, there are two small screws on the back element that need to loosen up and rotate the back element focus ring either clockwise to fix front focus or counter clockwise to fix back focus. Not a big deal, took me a few minutes to calibrate mine that suffered a front focus.

The lens is coded as the Leica Noctilux f/1, the exif data does not show the correct aperture at all times; it could be a misreading, maybe the values are not accurate, or maybe because there are no "stop clicks" it's not exactly spot on.

I took it out for a short spin on my M9. It was still very bright outside, so it wasn't really possible to test it wide open. Wide open there is some haze around bright objects. I'm not sure if it's the lens or the M9 sensor that doesn't like to overexpose that much or a combination of both... Shooting at f/1.1 or f/1.4 today required overexposing and it didn't look that great. At f/2 it is much better and at f/2.8 it is really sharp at the center. I still need to investigate this issue, to see if it's the lens or the camera or both.

I usually use wider lenses and shoot them stopped down, as I mainly shoot street photography. I'm not used to shooting at such open apertures with such shallow depth of field (I usually use an auto focus system when I need accuracy at shallow depth of field), so I had quite a few focus misses as I guess my body tilted back and forward, so I need to work on my stability. It is also very easy to miss focus at such shallow depth of field when trying to focus and recompose as you move the focus distance when recomposing but when using a Leica M, we don't have much of a choice.

I mainly bought this lens for shooting it wide open as I already own a Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 which is much better than the 7Artisian 50mm f/1.1 from f/2 and up. So I still need to test and explore it, to see just how well it can perform wider than f/2, if it won't meet up a minimum expectation of mine, it'll hit the "for sale" section. I don't want to jump to any conclusions just yet but the preliminary feeling is that one should not expect too much from an under $400 f/1.1 lens.

Sample photos by Sagi Kortler:

The 7Artisian 50mm f/1.1 lens for Leica M-mount can be purchased at: Amazon US | Amazon DE | Amazon UK | eBay.

Additional information on the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 lens can be found here. I will post my review of the lens soon.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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