Chinese Noctilux: TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 Review (Leica M)
The Chinese Leica Noctilux – Why I love this lens! (It replaced my Noctilux 50mm f1 for model photography portraits and weddings!) TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 review to accompany the existing YouTube review. Full res sample photos (mostly 50mm B&W female portraiture).
Pergear kindly sent me this lens to review so a massive thanks to them for making this possible. Much appreciated. (Get 5% off Amazon lens prices if sign up to their mailing list, links below).
It’s Heavy! This is one fat heavy solid chunk of metal and glass, well in Leica M terms anyway. It is still be shorter than Leica SL lenses and around the same width. Unlike SL lenses or Sigma Art (or Lumix) lenses there is no autofocus motors inside. Simple metal and glass, just how I like it. It’s not so different from the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 in that regard but we’ll come onto that.
The lens looks nicely put together with a smooth focus throw and a clicky aperture which I prefer. Feels more precise. I’m not a fan of the gold coloured rear lens mount but perhaps that style is cool in other countries and just not the UK.
Affordable Leica Noctilux alternative?
Here you see the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 vs Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 vs Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1, side by side size comparison. It’s big!
Better than expected
If you saw my review of the TTArtisan 28mm F5.6 lens the same applies here. I’ve only recently started to experiment with Chinese lenses and I must say I’m really impressed with the two lenses I’ve received from TTArtisan. So far my experience is TTArtisan lenses are better built than 7Artisan lenses. *This might be lens dependant.
Cheap Leica Noctilux clone
When testing lenses I try not to get into country politics. I know not everyone approves of the Chinese lens companies making cheap knock offs of well regarded Leica lenses. The optical formula is different to the Leica lens design but the outside of the lens barrel is very much based on Leica M lenses. Black lens with white and yellow font and even a red dot.
TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens for Leica M
So as the name suggests this is a ultra-fast 50mm prime lens for a Leica M mount cameras and it’s rangefinder coupled. I’ve used Leica M rangefinder cameras and fast 50s for years using the Leica M8, Leica M9, Leica M240 and the film bodies Leica M2, Leica M3, Leica M4-P, Leica M6. Now I tend to prefer the Leica SL for precision focusing when taking model portraits.
Not great for film cameras
As you may be aware the fast 50mm 0.95 TTArtisan lens needs calibrating when you receive it. This is less hassle if you use a digital Leica M camera, especially if you use the accessory electronic viewfinder (or LiveView) as you can bypass the rangefinder for perfect focus. If you only own a Leica M film camera to me this is less that ideal. Personally I cheated and used the lens on my Leica SL mirrorless camera.
TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens calibration
Mine copy of the TTArtisan 50/0.95 was perhaps accurate at f2.8 out the box but needed adjustment to be sharp wide open at f0.95. The lens is supplied with a tool and calibration chart so you have to set the lens yourself before using on any M mount rangefinder camera. In brief you unscrew the 3 grub screws on the back of the lens mount, adjust as needed then retighten.
Missing a trick
I understand why TTArtisan decided to make their lenses not fine tuned out the box. It saves time, money and expertise and in turn that means they can sell the lens much cheaper than the comparable Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 or the new Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.0.
The problem is not everyone wants to calibrate their own lens. I think TTArtisan would sell more units if they offered the lens calibrated as an option (at a higher price point). If I was TTArtisan I’d team up with a third party company to calibrate a batch of their lenses and then sell on with their added price mark-up. Seems obvious to me. (If you do it please send me a cheque in the post for the idea!).
Can find models to photograph?
Lets you shoot in the dark!
With a f0.95 maximum aperture and a moderately high ISO you can literally shoot in the dark with a TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens!
Focusing aids when using the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95
Leica EVF (Olympus VF-2) for Leica M
As mentioned, if you use a digital Leica M camera, with the exception of the earlier Leica M8 and Leica M9, I would highly recommend using the EVF hotshoe attachment. I use the Olympus branded VF-2 electronic viewfinder on my Leica M240. This especially true when using the lens at or close to its maximum aperture as the Leica rangefinder will be at it’s limit in terms of accurate focusing. If your Leica camera rangefinder is even slightly out of alignment you will mis-focus all your shots when using a fast 50mm lens.
Leica 1.4x viewfinder magnifier
If you are using the built in optical Leica M rangefinder to focus I would highly recommend using the Leica 1.4x viewfinder magnifier. I have one permanently attached to my Leica M cameras. With the 1.4x magnifier attached the 50mm frame lines almost fill the viewfinder so it is similar to using a Leica M3 but not quite as good.
Note the version I show here fits all Leica M cameras except the Leica M10 and Leica M11. These newer Leica cameras have a larger diameter viewfinder verses older Leica M cameras. You would need to get a M10 version.
50mm f0.95 TTArtisan vs 50mm f1.0 Leica Noctilux
As I have both the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 (v2) and the TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 I was interested to see how the two lenses compare. The Leica lens is my most expensive lens, even buying used and when prices were lower. Size wise, the Leica Noctilux is smaller and lighter verses the TTArtisan lens. I did some side by side testing as you may have seen in the YouTube video but here are some samples again below.
Testing the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 bokeh and sharpness @0.7m
TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 lens sharpness / bokeh test @1m
Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 vs TTArtisan 50 0.95 comparison
TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 Portraits
These are portraits shot with the TTArtisan 50mm f/0.95 on my Leica SL camera. All photos were shot in RAW then a MrLeica Leica SL B&W preset applied. (Some may have been edited further in Photoshop*) Click the photos to view full res and to see the camera information. (I will try to add more images when I get time).
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*If you like the idea of photographing models you might like my workshops
Amazing portrait lens
If you love 50mm lenses and enjoy taking portraits this lens is for sure a no brainer. It has a softer rendering wide open at f0.95 and for me a sweet spot around f1.1. Stopped down slightly the contrast and sharpness both increase giving photos a little more pop.
Great lens for all skin types
Personally I often use vintage lenses to photograph older sitters / models / clients. Some of my favourites are the Leica Summitar 5cm f2, Leica Summarit 5cm f1.5 and Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM. Vintage lenses are more forgiving and many clients prefer the images verses sharp modern lenses. APO lenses like the Voigtlander 50mm f2 APO Lanthar are fantastic but less so for some female portraits. (Especially on digital cameras).
TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 wedding
Fast lenses are really useful for wedding photography so ultra-fast primes are even more fun. Here are a few sample of TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 wedding photography shots with my Leica SL camera.
Master of all trades
The TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 like the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 is like a master of all trades. Shoot the lens wide open at f0.95 and you get soft dreamy photos more comparable to vintage lenses. Stop the lenses down to f2 and you get sharper more modern looking photos. Best of both!
TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 colours
If you follow my work on platforms like Instagram and Flickr you’ll know I tend to prefer black and white photography verses colour. I might not be the best source of info when it comes to colours but I do shoot colour for weddings and some model shoots. The TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 colours seem true to life and show less colour cast than I see with my Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2. No complaints from me and here are a few sample photos.
Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1 vs TTArtisan 50 0.95
After the release of the new super fast Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.0 lens I was keen to test it against the TTArtisan f0.95 50mm lens.
Alternative lens choice? Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.0
From using the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.0 on model shoots in Poland I would say that the Nokton is closer to the modern Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 than the TTArtisan lens. Both the Nokton and modern Noctilux lens are well corrected considering their fast maximum apertures. From my results the TTArtisan 0.95 is closer to the older Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2.
For me you would buy the Voigtländer 50 f1 or the modern Leica Noctilux 50 0.95 if you need the fast aperture and want modern rendering. They would suit people looking for a fast but useable maximum aperture without excess character. (I’m being over critical, both lenses are amazing but lens character than TTArtisan and older Noctilux).
Artistic and imperfect
I bought the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 originally for my Leica M9 as I needed the low light performance for my wedding photography. The limited high ISO of the Leica M9 in a dark church I meant that I was shooting at f1.0 and perhaps 1/30-1/60 ISo 800 for example. (We don’t realise how easy we have it today!)
I enjoy the 50mm Noctilux as a less perfect more characterful lens for portraits. I already have the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH if I need perfect and the rendering of the Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 is very similar to the Summilux . (See my Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 vs f0.95 post).
The TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 ticks the creative lens box for me and is closer to the older Noctilux f1 lens. These two lenses help to create artistic looking portraits which I enjoy and are often better than reality. (Models appreciate this!)
Fake Film Look
I accidently found by shooting the TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens close to wide open and using a Leica camera at high ISO settings – 3200, 6400 (camera dependant)(lower for the older Leica M8, Leica M9), you can almost get a filmic look. The soft rendering of the lens helps vs. most modern lenses, the heavier vignetting and combine that with added digital noise from using a high ISO, it almost looks like a punchy high contrast black and white film image. It reminds me of my early Leica M8 and Leica M9 portraits. I really like this look.
Leica CL + TTArtisan 50mm f0.95
I have tried the TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 on the APS-C Leica CL mirrorless camera via a Leica M-L adapter. With the crop factor it gives a 75mm equivalent focal length. I much prefer to use the lens on full frame cameras as a crop sensor camera cuts off all the nice imperfections and edge defects.
To illustrate my point here is an example using the Leica CL + Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.0 lens. As the camera only uses the centre portion of the lens image circle it gives a clean yet perhaps more sterile look. It’s still nice of course but I always think I am missing out when using an interesting lens on a APS-C body. (Shot during one of my Leica workshops).
TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 on Leica M camera
The 50mm 0.95 TTArtisan lens is big chunk of metal and glass so for me it is less suited to compact Leica M cameras. Yes it is possible to use this combination but the lens balances far better on the Leica SL cameras (Leica SL, Leica SL2, Leica SL2-S). The larger grip of the Leica SL also makes it a more comfortable setup to use. As the Leica SL is a mirrorless camera you also get perfect focus every time and you can skip the lens calibration process.
Leica M mount TTArtisan 50mm f0.95
The beauty of designing the lens as Leica M mount is you can adapt it to pretty much any digital camera. On the Leica SL I use a Leica M-L adapter and I use the same adapter with my Lumix S5 mirrorless camera. That said, if people ask me what adapter to buy today I normally recommend the Novaflex M-L adapter as it’s cheaper and still works well.
Get closer for dreamy detail shots
One advantage of using L mount cameras + TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens is you can use the 7Artisans close focus Leica M-L adapter. This lets you get in closer than the standard 0.7m minimum focus distance (perhaps to 0.3m). This adapter is also fantastic when used with vintage rangefinder lenses that are limited to 1m close focus distance.
- 7Artisans Leica L-M Close Focus Adapter – Check prices
Sigma Art 50mm f1.4 vs TTArtisan 50mm 0.95
Sigma UK sent me their 50mm Art lens to test so I compared it to the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95. The Sigma lens was sharper with more modern rendering. The TTArtisan has a more pleasing painterly look. From my copies of the lenses the TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 colours were slightly warmer vs Sigma colours. The Sigma Art 50mm f1.4 gave round modern bokeh balls vs more organic misshaped bokeh balls from the 50mm TTArtisan lens.
Here is a non-scientific comparison from a photoshoot with both photos shot within a few minutes of each other in the same lighting conditions.
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You might need ND filters
If you plan to use this lens on a Leica M film camera I would recommend using neutral density filters as a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 is not enough from a bright day and a fast lens. Even the Leica M240 maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 isn’t really fast enough. I love the Leica SL with 1/16000 and ISO 50. I used the lens without ND filters with this setup.
If you’re planning to buy the TTArtisan lens it has a 67mm filter size. I use a K&F 10 stop variable ND filter which is 77mm so I would use a 67mm-77mm step ring. (I bought 77mm size so one filter fits all my lenses). See my Kit List for all the little accessories I use day to day.
Can I recommend the TTArtisan 50mm f0.95?
If you had not already guessed, I like this lens. I would recommend the TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 to mirrorless camera users especially. It works fine on Leica M digital cameras, especially if using the EVF though it’s a little oversized for me. It’s perfect on the Leica SL I wouldn’t recommend the TTArtisan fast 50 for film shooters as it will be pretty difficult to nail focus with the lens shot close to wide open. If you are a die hard film shooter I’m sure you could enjoy the lens but for me I will use it on digital only.
TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 price
Compared to the mentioned Leica Noctilux and Voigtlander Nokton fast 50mm lenses I feel the TTArtisan lens offers great value for money.
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New TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 for Fuji-X +
In May 2022 TTArtisan announced it will be releasing it’s APS-C version of the 50mm f0.95 lens in Fujifilm X-mount and Sony E-mount. You can also get this lens for micro four thirds (M4/3 mount) and Nikon Z mount. Being APS-C 50mm gives a 75mm equivalent in full frame terms on a 1.5x crop camera. The crop sensor lens is a different lens to the one I review above but it gives you the same ultrafast f0.95 maximum aperture. It has a retro black and silver look similar to some lenses from past eras and weighs in at 411g.
L Mount TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens
After doing more reading I see there is also a Leica L mount TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens. Again this is APS-C but this is I think the fastest L mount lens you can buy for you Leica CL, TL , TL2 etc. This lens will fit my Leica SL and Lumix S5 L mount cameras but see below with regards to the limitations of APS-C lenses on full frame cameras.
7Artisans 50mm f0.95 lens for M4/3 +
To make things even more confusing there is also the 7Artisans 50mm f0.95 lens available in M4/3 mount, Nikon-Z mount, Fuji-X mount and Sony-E mount. This lens is also APS-C rather than full frame so equates to 75mm rather than 50mm. The 7Artisans lens has a more standard / modern design and weighs 420g.
TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 vs 7Artisan 50mm f0.95
You may wonder which lens is better, the 7Artisans or TTArtisan 50mm f0.95? With no experience of either of these two APS-C ultrafast prime lenses I would select the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 for photos and the 7Artisans 50mm 0.95 for video. The 7Artisans lens is de-clicked making it better for video but I prefer the look of the TTArtisan lens. Also to date, the TTArtisan lenses i’ve tried seem to be nicer made but that might not be true for every lens.
APS-C TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens or Full Frame?
A question you may have is if you use a crop sensor camera should you buy the APS-C lens or the TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 full frame version I review here. You can mount the full frame Leica M mount lens via an adapter as already mentioned and then you have the big benefit that it can be adapted to almost any camera system at a later date.
If you currently shoot with an APS-C camera but later upgrade to full frame you can still use this lens rather than having to buy twice. If however you try to use a crop sensor lens on a full frame camera you have to use the camera in crop mode meaning you can’t benefit from using the full camera resolution.
An example of this in Leica terms is if you mount the Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm f2.8 APS-C lens on a full frame Leica SL camera.
The benefit of the APS-C lenses is they tend to be smaller, lighter and cheaper verses the full frame option.
Warning! M4/3 camera + TTArtisan 50 0.95
As mentioned, the full frame TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 lens is M mount so in theory it fits most cameras via a Leica M adapter. I tried to use the lens on my micro four thirds Lumix GX80 and Lumix GX880 M4/3 cameras for fun and for video and it doesn’t work 100%. The large rear lens element (compared to the tiny cameras and small M43 mount) means the lens hits the camera sensor surround. The lens will only mount when you turn the focus ring of the lens to reduce the size of the lens protruding beyond the lens mount. Even then you cant use the full range of movement.
If you are a micro four thirds user you might be better with the cheaper APS-C version of the lens to enjoy the full range of movement. I’ve not tried the FF lens on bigger cameras like the Lumix GH5/ Lumix GH6. (*Note – it is still usable on my GX880 above but i’m not sure I can get infinity focus with it).
YouTube – TTArtisan 50mm f0.95 Review
Best 50mm lens for Leica? See my top 10 lenses here!
So in summary, I really like this Chinese lens and I think it opens the doors to ultra-fast lenses for many more people. I was pleasantly surprised and I’d be using it more day to day if I wasn’t always testing different lenses for YouTube!
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