7Artisans 35mm f1.4 Smashes Voigtlander Nokton 35mm 1.4 (Leica M)
Comparing the Chinese 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 Leica M mount lens verses the trusty Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 VM lens. Written blog with full res images to accompany the YouTube video. Full details below.
7Artisans 35mm f1.4 Leica M mount lens
The guys at 7Artisans were kind enough to reach out to me and send their 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 Leica M mount lens to test. As mentioned in my reviews of the TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 and TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 lenses I am still new to Chinese lenses so expectation is always low. When I’m proved otherwise it’s then a nice surprise!
If I compare the 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 Leica lens to the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 the Nokton wins for build quality. Voigtlander is closer to Leica M mount lenses in terms of great build quality in my experience of using both brands. The aperture ring of the Chinese lens feels less precise and cheap. That said, the 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 lens has a built in lens hood. The Voigtlander doesn’t.
7Artisans Leica lens calibration
If you’ve enjoyed rangefinder lenses before they normally arrive pre-calibrated ready to use straight out the box. 7Artisans like TTArtisan cut costs by selling their lenses not calibrated meaning they can sell them at a lower price point. You receive a tool in the box and you’ll need to turn the 3 grub screws on the rear lens mount to calibrate the lens to your camera. Instructions are included.
Perfect for mirrorless
If you use digital mirrorless cameras like me you can ignore the calibration step. I used the 7Artisans 35mm 1.4 lens mostly on my mirrorless Leica SL camera for ease. (Via a Leica M-L adapter*). You don’t need a Leica camera of course. I also use the lens on my Panasonic Lumix S5 body. (See the L-M mount adapters fitted to both cameras in the video thumbnail below).
Not ideal for Leica M film camera users
The best case scenario is use the 35mm 1.4 7Artisans lens on mirrorless bodies. Following that, the next best option is to use a digital Leica M mount camera such as my Leica M240. (I cheated and used my digital M camera with EVF attached to bypass the need to calibrate the lens accurately. See video linked below as a visual).
With a digital rangefinder camera at least you can check to see if you have calibrated the lenses accurately before taking any important photos.
If you use a Leica M film camera like the Leica M4-P you will need to wait to develop your film roll of film before seeing if you nailed focus wide open at f1.4. This is why I don’t recommend the 7Artisans 35mm 1.4 lens to film shooters (except the diehard fans that will happily tinker with the calibration until it’s perfect).
Not the smallest 35mm lens
Unlike the beautifully compact Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 lens, the 7Artisans 35mm lens is larger. The Nokton balances really nicely on Leica M cameras whereas for me the Chinese lens sits better on a larger camera body such as the Leica SL. Below is a photo showing how smaller the Voigtlander lens is. Half the size (length) of the 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 lens pictured above.
The 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 lens is at the big end for an M mount lens (excluding the ultra fast 50mm f1 lenses and perhaps the Leica Summicron 90mm f2 pre-ASPH). It is close in size to the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens as a reference point.
See in full on YouTube as linked below but in brief:
The 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 shows heavy fall off and vignetting shot wide open and this reduces as you stop the lens down. Personally I don’t mind this but you can also correct it in post if you wish.
From my testing the 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 Leica lens can give nice sunstars once stopped down. If you like sunstars at wider apertures (f2.8 onwards) see the mentioned Voigtlander Ultron lenses below).
I shoot at the sun quite often and yes you can get lens flare but not easily. Overall I would say the lens coatings and lens hood combined work well against flare. Here is a photo showing me trying to flare the lens with a model.
One of my favourite features of this 7Artisans lens is the halation around points of light. It reminds me of shooting Cinestill 800 film at night!
Being a fast f1.4 maximum aperture lens you can get some nice bokeh. To get extra bokeh use the lens mounted on a 7Artisans close focus M-L adapter (if using a L mount camera such as my Leica CL, Leica SL or Lumix S5). Getting closer than the standard minimum focus distance of 0.7m will give you a greater shallow DOF and more bokeh magic.
Bokeh test: 7Artisans 35mm 1.4 vs Nokton 35mm 1.4
As part of the YouTube review I also tested bokeh. When comparing the 7Artisans 35mm 1.4 vs Nokton 35mm 1.4 you can see that the Chinese lens gives a smoother look. The Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 bokeh is more pronounced with the onion-ring style bokeh balls. Both lenses give misshaped non-circular bokeh balls which I prefer to the clinically circular bokeh of most modern lenses.
7Artisans 35mm f1.4 photos
As with any lens, the most important factor is the image quality. Here are a few full res 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 photos shot on the Leica M240. I really like how this lens renders a scene. The colours in these photos are as shot rather than a colour filter added after.
Sharpness test sample photos
In the YouTube video (linked below) I do some geeky side by side testing for my own interest. Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 vs 7Artisans 35mm f1.4. In these example photos both lenses are shot wide open.
7Artisans 35mm f1.4 portraits
My copy of the 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 lens gave good sharpness in the centre and then nice fall off at the edges (+vignetting). Great for photographing people! Here are a few 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 portraits shot with the Leica SL.
Photos were shot in RAW + MrLeica Leica SL B&W preset applied in Lightroom.
*I recorded BTS (Behind the scenes) videos with each of these 3 girls above if you want to see me and the models in action! Join Patreon to watch and you can enjoy another 60+ model “BTS” videos too.
*If you love the idea of photographing models but don’t know where to start you might like my workshops
7Artisans 35mm f1.4 vs Voigtlander 35mm f1.4
So which lens is right for you? 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 vs Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 VM lens? If you use a Leica M film camera I would get the Voigtlander lens for the size, build and it being pre-calibrated. For mirrorless camera users I would recommend the 7Artisans 35mm 1.4 lens for sharper images shot wide open.
Final verdict of the 7Artisans 35mm 1.4 lens?
So was I impressed? Considering I own and test many very nice lenses for Leica cameras, yes. A surprising yes actually. I was shocked that it beat the little Nokton 35mm f1.4 in my sharpness test for YouTube. Perhaps “smashed” was a little exaggerated but I was pleasantly surprised! The Chinese lens rendering is very pleasing and I would call it an artist lens verses a client lens.
A client lens for me is the best lens I can use which normally means sharp but pretty photos. For my Leica wedding photography I really enjoy the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 lens for example. See below for that and more 35mm lens options.
Artist lenses tend to be softer but have perhaps heavy vignetting or interesting fall off. I love the mentioned TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens for this look especially.
The smaller Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 lens would still be my recommendation for Leica M film users. The benefits of it’s small size should not be under-estimated.
7Artisans 35mm 1.4 vs Nokton 35mm f1.2
For completeness I should mention the 35mm 7Artisans vs Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 lens for portraits. For my Poland model photography trip where I made the above portraits I was also using the Nokton lens. If a model has perfect skin the the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 v3 lens is outstanding. It gives more sharpness and higher contrast. (I will write the full review for Nokton 35mm f1.2 lens so Follow me so not to miss that).
The 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 gives a smoother rendering to the Nokton, probably less micro contrast. This works well for models when the Nokton look is too harsh. Both lenses have their place but if you want the best then buy the latest 35mm f1.2 v3 Voigtlander lens. (See below).
Watch: 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 YouTube review
For more images and a better visual watch my 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 YouTube review.
Best small 35mm Leica M mount lens?
If you are shopping for a nice 35mm lens for your Leica camera but want something smaller I recommend two alternatives. (If you need a fast 1.4 lens your only option is the Nokton 35mm f1.4 mentioned above).
Small and sharp / Best all-rounder
Can you cope with f2 or f2.5 maximum aperture? If you want a small sharp lens my favourite is the little Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f2 lens. This is my daily user now on my Leica M2 for travel type photos.
The smallest option is the tiny Voigtlander Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens. If you enjoy older screw mount Leica iii cameras you can find this lens in screw mount too on eBay. The screw mount version lets you use the lens on the Voigtlander Bessa R camera too giving a very lightweight setup.
Sharpest 35mm lens for Leica M?
From my testing and experience to date the sharpest 35mm lens i’ve used for Leica M mount is the Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 35mm f2 lens. Not the smallest Leica M mount lens but is it seriously sharp. (The Leica 35mm f2 APO is probably at least as sharp and much smaller but i’ve not had a chance to test it yet).
Sharp and fast
If you want sharp and sunstars look no further than the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f1.7 M mount lens (Also available in LTM mount but different optical formula). It was my sharpest 35mm lens for Leica until the APO arrived.
Ultra-fast and sharp
As mentioned above, for 35mm portraits where you want a combination of sharp yet very shallow DOF the best lens is the amazing Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 v3. I own the v2 lens and this is also fantastic but it’s bigger and heavier. I’ve linked both lens reviews as the older v2 lens will be cheaper on eBay.
Buying a 35mm lens for your Leica
The mentioned lenses above tick almost every box for me when looking for a new lens. Small lenses, sharp lenses, portrait lenses, tiny walkabout lenses. All will make great photos and all are more than sharp enough stopped down. Check the current prices of each lens below using the links provided.
- Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 – https://geni.us/wBSVB
- Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 35mm f2 – https://geni.us/MANyA
- Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f2 ASPH – https://geni.us/34Oeu
- Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 – https://geni.us/mKB8X
- 7Artisans 35mm f1.4 – https://bit.ly/3qRVMgp / https://geni.us/F183
- Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH – https://geni.us/QN1Nc9d
Used prices on eBay
- (US) https://ebay.to/2F0HoxY
- (UK) https://ebay.to/3ijzle2
- (DE) https://ebay.to/3iqDNYs
- (FR) https://ebay.to/2ZJ3E75
- (HK) https://ebay.to/32A8xBu
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