7Artisans 35mm f/2 Lens Review and Comparison
Recently, I had the opportunity to compare the Chinese-made 7Artisans 35mm f/2 to the Leica Summarit-M 35mm f/2.5 lens.
Based on the Zeiss Sonnar design and affectionately dubbed the ‘Chinacron’ (after favorable comparisons to the Leica 35mm Summicron), the first thing about the 7Artisans that struck me was its solid build-quality and heft. Weighing in at approximately 230 grams, it is made primarily of brass and aluminum and comes in a nice matte black finish.
With its Leica M-mount designation and mechanical linkage, it meshes seamlessly with all Leica M rangefinder focusing systems. All reference marks are engraved and paint-filled. The detents on the aperture ring are firm and click lively into place. The focus ring is well-damped with good throw, and is permanently-mated to a metal thumb lever. Lastly, the lens front accepts threaded 43mm filters and offers 6-digit Leica encoding on the rear lens mount (more on this later).
An immediate observation I had with this lens is that it actually sees more 40mm than it’s stated 35mm focal length spec —which I actually prefer using on my M8, as it gives me a 50mm standard prime FOV via its 1.33x cropped sensor —Great for walk-around shooting or environmental portraiture.
Edge-sharpness wide-open at f/2 may suffer a tad, but I believe it is what gives this lens a vintage feel. At smaller apertures, edge-sharpness becomes insignificant. In fact, when stopped-down to f/4 and beyond, it performs nearly identically to Leica’s world-class 35mm Summicron —hence its ‘Chinacron’ moniker. I strongly feel that the 7Artisans exhibits more 3D pop and better bokeh than the Leica Summarit. Overall, this lens has character!
When files are imported into Capture One, the EXIF lens data displays ‘Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH’ —an ID/correction feature which can be menu-enabled or disabled via my M8 prior to shooting. I recently learned that 7Artisans has discontinued 6-bit encoded versions of this lens, explaining that the Summicron-applied correction is inaccurate. While this may be true, I actually believe it has more to do with the 7Artisans lens being falsely identified as a Leica product. Personally, I prefer the 6-bit copy over the newer non-coded version, if for nothing more than having the option of applying auto lens correction (accurate or not).
As for the Leica... I found the 35mm Summarit-M, well... clinically boring. Sure, it is a beautifully-made lens. It is more economically-priced than its Summicron sibling. It is sharper overall. It’s engraved markings are easier to read and slightly more useful than the 7Artisans. It is also slightly smaller (it takes 39mm filters) and lighter (220g) —but, image-wise, I feel it offers nothing remarkable over the 7Artisans for all practical purposes.
In fact, when choosing between these two great lenses, it really made no sense for me to pair this particular Leica lens with my M8. Any gains in edge-sharpness are negated by the 1.33x sensor crop, its maximum aperture is a third of a stop slower @f/2.5, and it costs 4x more (used) than the 7Artisans! So, for my purposes, I chose the 7Artisans as a fast, versatile, affordable prime (see comparison shots and sample photos below).
Leica Summarit-M 35mm f/2.5
7Artisans 35mm f/2 w/Leica 6-bit encoding
Keywords: 7artisans 35mm f/2, brent lestage blog, leica m8, leica summarit-m 35mm f/2.5, lens review and comparison
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