Ah yes, the 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4 M Mount. Because if you’re going to spend several thousand dollars on a Leica M, then it’s natural that you only have enough money leftover for a $450 lens from China. Luckily, 7Artisans knocked it out of the park with this lens.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I mean, this is a “cheap” M-mount lens. There is no way it could perform as well as a Leica, right? What about a Voigtlander or Zeiss lens? Well, I don’t have a 28mm Summilux on hand to answer that first question. And neither Voigtlander nor Zeiss makes a 28mm f/1.4, so I can’t answer that second one. However, the Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron is close in price, and the Leica Q is a more “affordable” 28mm Summilux. With that in mind, I’ve included both lenses as a general comparison against the 7Artisans.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional reviewer nor do I find much value in the traditional way of testing lenses (charts, full aperture tests, photos of walls or mannequins). So, this will be a “lite” review, if anything. Also, I approached this lens as a street photographer, so much of my commentary and opinions are centered around that.
Build, Size and Weight
7Artisans seriously upped their game with this one. Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful lens. No odd shapes or chrome bayonets (looking at you Voigtlander). 7Artisans really went big and tried to borrow from the Leica look. It almost looks like a 75mm or 90mm Summarit. The etching is high quality (though I can’t comment on the longevity of the color quite yet). The aperture snaps firmly into place (full stops). The focus ring is buttery smooth. It even comes with a slip-on metal hood that fits snugly into place.
Having used a number of 7Artisans’ previous lenses (25mm f/1.8, 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.1), I was never blown away by the build quality of their lenses up until this point. Don’t get me wrong, their other lenses are adequately constructed. They just didn’t “wow” me. 7Artisans’ 28mm f/1.4 lens “wowed” me.
By Leica standards, the 7Artisans isn’t what I’d call “small.” It’s a bit larger than the Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron. It also protrudes A LOT into the 28mm frameline of an M240:
With size generally comes weight, which is no exception here. This lens comes in at 488 grams. To put things in perspective, Leica’s 28mm f/2.8 ASPH is 175 grams. For more perspective, Leica’s 28mm Summilux is 440 grams, so maybe it’s not that heavy after all. The point is this is a heavy lens and will undoubtedly be too large for some folks. Luckily I grew up shooting with SLR/DSLR cameras, so I’m unfazed. Big and heavy means durability, right?
With that said, this is an f/1.4 lens, so I didn’t expect it to be compact. Additionally, despite the size, I feel it balances well on my trusty M240. I don’t mind trading size for aperture since this lens performs great at f/1.4.
Bokeh is one of those things that’s very subjective, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I personally find the bokeh to be nice and smooth. For comparison purposes, here is the 7Artisans compared with a Voigtlander 28mm f/2 and Leica Q, wide-open to f/2.8:
7Artisans apparently wants its customers to know this is an ASPH lens since it’s blasted on the box. Is that the secret sauce of this lens? Is it an attempt at clever marketing, preying upon the psychology of Leica users? Maybe.
Anywho, like any f/1.4 lens, this lens is not perfect wide open. There are the expected vignetting and relative lack of clarity, which improves as the lens is stopped down. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see clear images at f/1.4. It’s not tack sharp wide open, but it’s definitely no slouch either. My single-sentence takeaway is this: The lens produces extremely usable, sharp and beautiful images at f/1.4.
Surprisingly, I found the clarity (i.e. sharpness) and vignetting of the 7Artisans to be on par with the Voigtlander. Put differently, the IQ of the 7Artisans is about the same at f/1.4 as the Voigtlander at f/2 (I wasn’t expecting this). The Leica Q crushes both lenses (I was expecting this).
For comparison purposes, I’ve included shots taken with the 7Artisans, Voigtlander and Leica Q from their widest apertures to f/2.8. Why f/2.8? Mostly because I loathe the process of testing lenses and find the whole practice generally a waste of time in the grand scheme of things. I also rarely shoot above f/2.8 and am not too concerned about performance beyond that. So, with that tangent out of the way:
7Artisans 28mm (M240, no coding)
Voigtlander 28mm (M240, no coding)
Flaring and CA (wide open):
The 28mm focal length is fantastic for street photography since it captures the subject’s environment. I personally find it to be the Goldilocks lens: 24mm is a little too wide, and 35mm is a little too narrow. Combined with an f/1.4 aperture, the (literal) focus of the subject becomes more apparent since the background nicely drops out of focus. This is why I like the 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4: 28mm is great for street photography, and I can confidently shoot this lens at f/1.4 (as long I’m able to nail focus). The size doesn’t bother me, nor does the vignetting or CA at f/1.4.
This is definitely the lens to buy if you plan on shooting at f/1.4 – f/2. If you aren’t turned on to shooting at f/1.4, and only plan on shooting at f/2.8 and above, then I’d recommend something a little smaller based upon your budget (Voigtlander, Zeiss, Leica).
If anything, my criticism of this lens can be summarized as follows:
- It’s big
- It blocks the viewfinder
- The snob in me wishes the name on the front said something other than “DJ Optical”
Otherwise, it’s a solid lens for my applications. I would highly recommend this lens to anyone who wants a wide aperture 28mm for their Leica M without spending 4-6K on the Leica name.
As a sidebar, the Leica Q is fantastic camera + lens in its own right and shouldn’t be overlooked if you have the extra cash.
“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” -Robert Capa
Sample Images – 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4