Review: 7artisans 55mm/f1.4 and 25mm/f1.8 lenses

May 9th 2019, 22:28 | Written by Konstantin Koll

I'm always looking out for some great lenses for my Sony NEX-F3 camera and newly aquired Sony A6300 (expect a review later this year).

7artisans

I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for prime lenses with wide open apertures; a great bokeh is just my thing. I'm very happy with the first prime lens I've ever bought, my Sony SEL50F18—definately a keeper! I've taken some really awesome portraits with it.

While browsing the web, I've stumbled upon the 7artisans brand. It's a Chinese manufacturer of inexpensive, fully manual prime lenses. I'm not afraid of losing autofocus (e.g. on my Samyang 12mm wide-angle lens) and I always like to save a buck—so I've ordered two 7artisans lenses: a 55mm f/1.4 and the 25mm f/1.8.

Overview

I bought one of the lenses off Amazon (shipped from Germany), and the other one off eBay (shipped directly from China). The latter one arrived about two weeks after ordering in a shrink wrap pouch with lots of Chinese stickers on it.

There are a few reports of damaged 7artisans lenses floating the internet. I am happy that I wasn't affected: both the 25mm and 55mm lenses arrived in a sturdy and quite classy black box along with a small leaflet. There were no dents, scratches nor any oil covering the aperture blades as reported by some other buyers. Both lenses are made solely of metal and glass—definately something different than your cheap kit lens! Both are silver and remind me of some vintage lenses from the 1930s.

Both lenses feature a focus ring and an aperture ring, though they are arranged differently: the 55m f/1.8 lens has the aperture ring on the far side, which is quite unusual. Both rings run butterly smooth, though, and the aperture is clickless (there are no fixed stops). This is something important for taking video footage, but then again both lenses are not really suited for that because they lack any autofocus.

When I received the second lens directly from China, I took advantage of the nice spring weather and went on a stroll around the lake with both 7artisans lenses.

55mm f/1.4

There's no way around it: I admit to being a bokeh sucker! I really love soft and creamy backgrounds when taking portraits. I was eager for a f/1.4 lens to supplement my Sony SEL50F18: an f/1.4 aperture achieves a full frame look on an APS-C camera like my Sony A6300. Here are some sample shots of a bridge with some love locks at different apertures:

At f/1.4, the lens produces are really nice and creamy bokeh. It's a bit swirly with a circular distortion, reminiscent of some vintage Russian lenses like the Helios 44-2 lens (maybe I'll get hold a copy one day). With its 14 aperture blades, the lens always delivers a very creamy bokeh, but the distortions are gone at f/2.0 and beyond.

Other than the bokeh, the image quality is sufficient in terms of sharpness and flare resistance. For about 100€, this lens is just perfect to get your feet wet in the realm of prime lenses, or to supplement your photo bag with a very high aperture lens for that full frame look at a very low price.

A word of caution, though: at 55mm focal length and an aperture of f/1.4 you just have to nail your manual focus game and need to have a very steady hand. I accidentally placed the focus on a green flower leaf instead of the blossoms in the first picture. I also messed up my sample shot of some tree leaves, but kept it in the roll to show you what may happen without image stabilization (my Sony A6300 has no in-body stabilization and fully relies on the lens):

25mm f/1.8

The 25mm comes with a little accessory kit: an adapter to use 62mm filters on the 46mm lens thread, and a rubber handle to attach to either the focus or the aperture ring. I won't use the latter (don't want to ruin the nice metal finish with some cheap rubber) and threw it away.

I've taken the exactly same shots around the lake with the 25mm lens, albeit at its maximum aperture of f/1.8. You see that a 25mm focal length gives you roughly double the field of view than the 55mm lens (I remained on the exact same spot between shots):

I am a bit divided on this lens. The bokeh is very busy, but also swirly like the Helios 44-2. The lens itself is very small, but delivers good image quality and sharpness for just 60€. I think it is best described as a lens with a lot of character: definately not the first prime lens you should buy, not even at this price, as it is not very versatile—but the 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 could be a very nice addition to your camera bag for some special occasions and maybe even fashion and portrait shootings. It came very handy when I was shooting inside hotel rooms for a leaflet, so it already paid for itself.

I'm eager to add more lenses, probably even vintage ones, to my camera bag in the future. Right now, an “Hengyijia 35mm f/1.8” lens is on its way from China—expect a review soon!

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