I’ve been keeping an eye on the 7Artisans lenses for a while now but only recently decided to take the plunge for one. Having researched the various options, I went for the 55mm f1.4, which on my Olympus equates to 110mm on a full frame camera. This moves me into a bit of a telephoto area (although pretty much the same focal length as some of my vintage lenses such as the Zuiko 50mm and Helios 44-2).
Anyone who might stumble across my ramblings on here will know that I like putting vintage lenses on my Oly. However, once the adapter is on the camera with an old, sturdy piece of glass…. it gets kind of heavy and cumbersome at times. So I wanted to get something in the 50mm area which would be a native lens - small, well built and light.
Both the 50mm f.1.8 and 55mm f1.4 looked good. But which one? Slightly different focal lengths and slightly different max apertures. Do I need f1.4? Hmmmmm…
My decision on the 55mm came down to this:
I don’t tend to need the f1.4 aperture but it’s there if I want it.
The 55mm was a little closer to my Helios which I’ve been enjoying working with recently.
The minimum focus distance is closer.
I think overall, it just seemed like a slightly more flexible lens.
7Artisans have now got a distributor in the UK, so no more need for buying over eBay. Service was excellent - good response to emails and quickly dispatched lens. The lens arrives in very nice packaging. This does not look like some a cheap lens and on first picking it up, it doesn’t feel it either. A nice solid, metal lump in my hand. A reassuring weight without being heavy.
One concern I’d had before buying was the aperture ring being clickless. A couple of my vintage lenses are clickless and they are too loose - I never know where my aperture is set. No worries here; the aperture ring is very nicely damped so you have to be quite decisive in adjusting it. And I’ve not knocked it whatsoever once set. The same with the focus ring - just the right amount of give to allow for quick, snappy focussing.
Just so you know, this review is not going to be overly technical. I’m not a pixel peeper. I’m more interested in making images than dicking about checking if the corners of a picture are perfectly sharp after zooming in 100x. That said, here are some shots before my thoughts on using the lens in the real world…
I’ll start by saying that I gelled straight away with this lens. It works really nicely for my style of photography.
There were some shots I missed my focus through not being used to the focus ring, but that’s just down to practice. Overall I was getting nice shots within an hour.
The colours look great. Nice and natural with good contrast. I usually shoot aperture priority and dial my exposure compensation down 1/3 - 2/3 of a stop and everything was coming out of the camera great. Once into Lightroom, I just added a little bit more contrast, sharpening and saturation to my taste and I found a lovely pop to the shots. If anything, it might saturate the greens a little bit; but nothing I couldn’t pull back a bit.
I’d not shot with an aperture as wide as f1.4 before but gave it a go to see what it could do. Depending on the subject, it is quite hard to nail focus perfectly when that wide. And even the shots which were shot that wide open and had a good focus point were a little soft. Not offensively so - still useable, I just wouldn’t be able to fool someone I had a £1000 piece of glass on the camera. It also has noticeable chromatic aberration at wider apertures. These were easily cleaned up in Lightroom, but were noticeable without even needing to zoom in. This is being picky, though. Because having an f1.4 lens at this price is not going to be perfect.
Stopping down to about f4 definitely solves all that, though. Like many MFT lenses, this is the sweet spot. And it looks gorgeous. Plenty sharp for me and with lots of character. This is where I really started enjoying it.
As a manual lens, it is definitely one of the easiest I have used for focussing. On a par with my Zuiko 50mm and Panagor 35mm. If I need to grab a shot quickly, is it as fast as autofocus? Probably not. But it’s a lens for taking a bit of extra time and effort to get the shot - something which is suiting how I’m shooting more nowadays. Compose, nail your focus and fire away.
I’m really loving this lens. It’s very much like a vintage lens in the way it feels to use and also in the picture quality. It’s not pin sharp like some modern lenses, but it allows me to capture natural images with character. It’s excellent. And a bargain at the price. Snap one up whilst you can.
Here are some more images….