Archive for January, 2022

Come on Rod! Another F/0.95?

OK am I actually a wide aperture, shallow depth of field addict? Probably, but no intervention is required. It is perfectly safe and you can still live a normal and productive life while under the influence of the shallow depth of field caused by using ultra bright lenses with nano-DOF.

I wrote an article about the TT Artisans full frame 50mm F/0.95 in Leica M mount several months ago and discussed that lens and the lens it shares a cosmetic design with, the Leica Noctilux 50mm F/0.95. Today I want to chat about the 7Artisans 50mm F/0.95 designed to fit mirrorless APS-C sensors from Sony and Canon.

7Artisans is part of the same company that makes TT Artisan lenses. I was introduced to these 7Artisan lenses by the North American Brand Ambassador for the company at the PhotoFair show in Portland back in September 2021. They actually offered us four 7Artisan lenses to give away as door prizes including a 35mm F/0.95 to fit Canon EOS M cameras. Before I shipped the lens to the winner I shot a few images through it on my M6 Mk II. I was impressed with the quality of the images compared to the much more expensive Zhong Yi Optical Speedmaster 35mm F/0.95 I tested a few years ago and discussed in this post from 2018. I decided to buy the 50mm APS-C lens I’ll discuss in this post.

This smaller version of the 50/0.95 is optically a little better yet costs 1/3 the price! I would imagine that making a super fast lens for a smaller image circle is easier so perhaps the engineering required to make it is less difficult and thus less expensive. Now as I was told by Mark from 7Artisans that the TT Artisan line is the “premium” line and the 7Artisans are designed to be more budget friendly. I will say the M mount lens I own from TT Artisan is a more premium build than this 7Artisans lens. BUT, the 7Artisans lens is still nicely built with a nice looking polished ‘black chrome’ mount and all metal construction. The focus is a little less smooth than its big brother and even makes a bit of frictional noise when turning. It is not anywhere near enough to be distracting unless perhaps you have a highly sensitive microphone for video use close the camera.

The images from this lens are frankly as good or better than the $800 TTArtisan lens. It weighs much less coming in at 419 grams versus 691g for the M mount lens, and is dimensionally half the size. The images on the full frame lens suffer from serious spherical aberrations that are much more subdued in this ‘mini’ version. Although as I discussed in the other article, the spherical aberrations on the TT lens can be used to great effect as well. Wide open this lens is a bit sharper than the TTArtisan M mount variant but is still not tack sharp. The lens sharpens up quite nicely at F/1.4 and is razor sharp at F/2. The bokeh is creamy and nice even stopped down thanks to the 12 blade curved aperture diaphragm.

There is an advantage to the M mount lens in that it can be used on both the full frame and APS-C cameras with the appropriate adapter. It is a bit heavy for the M series and Sony a6000 series cameras but manageable. The M mount version would feel solid on a Nikon Z50 APS-C body as that camera is a little chubbier than the Canon and Sony crop bodies. There is a difference in the depth of field between this lens and the full frame version of the lens. At the same focus distance the smaller sensor lens has a more shallow depth of field. Why you ask? Well depth of field is determined by a mathematical equation shown above to the left. Yeah… math 😉 Check out the Wikipedia page for depth of field here. The bottom line is that lenses with a smaller image circle produce a circle of confusion that renders a deeper range of perceived sharpness when compared to the same focal length and aperture at the same focus distance on a lens producing a larger image circle. I’ll leave the hardcore math to the mathematicians 🙂 There is a cool website where you can calculate depth of field here. There are others but this one even has an app for your phone if you want. The caveat to the more shallow depth of field is that it is based on the same focus distance so a 50mm lens on an APS-C body will have a more narrow angle of view, therefore at the same focus distance as the same lens on a full frame camera the image magnification is higher on the smaller sensor. The 50mm lens on my Canon M6 Mk II has a similar angle of view as an 80mm lens on my Canon R5.

Technically if you shoot the full frame 50/0.95 and compare the results with an APS-C equivalent lens, say a hypothetical 31.25mm F/0.95 for a Canon APS-C body at the same focus distance, the angle of view would be the same but the depth of field will be more shallow on the full frame lens due to that math up there 😉 The shallow depth of field advantage will always go to the larger format lens when all else is equal. This is why cell phones have to use software voodoo to do “portrait mode” with their teeny tiny sensors.

I intend to keep both of these 50mm F/0.95 lenses but I think these less expensive 7Artisans lenses are quite good. If you are shooting an APS-C camera or even a 4/3 camera, they are great. Because the TT Artisans M mount lens is for a rangefinder, it suffers from a long minimum focusing distance of 0.7 meters or 27.5 inches. The 7Artisans 50/0.95 lens is designed for mirrorless cameras and has no rangefinder limitations, so it focuses down to a nice and tight 18 inches.

This lens can be had brand new for around $250 and at that price it is one of the all time great values. You get genuine exotic specs, with respectable image quality, and a solid build. A rare triple win in my opinion.

Here are some images made with this lens on my Canon EOS M6 Mk II (APS-C 1.6x crop 32.5 megapixels) in October 2021:

“Autumn Flora #2” EOS M6 Mk II 1/2000 second @ f/0.95 ISO 800
“Late Lilly” EOS M6 Mk II 1/4000 second @ f/0.95 ISO 800
“Autumn Flora #1” EOS M6 Mk II 1/4000 second @ f/0.95 ISO 800
“Maggie’s Bridge” EOS M6 Mk II 1/3200 second @ f/0.95 ISO 800
“Mindy” EOS M6 Mk II 1/40 second @ f/0.95 ISO 800
“The Flame” EOS M6 Mk II 1/320 second @ f/0.95 ISO 800
“The Bird Bath” EOS M6 Mk II 1/2000 second @ f/0.95 ISO 800

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