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7artisans 12mm/f2.8 mft user experience

My newest toy is this almost cute wide angle lens, the 7Artisans 12mm/f2.8, a Chinese brand. It is fairly bright (f2.8) with a 12mm (24mm equiv. full frame) angle of view. For €189 it offers an awful lot of quality; the flaws are relative and most of them can be corrected in software. Overall, this is a well made lens that gives you ‘quality fun’ when you let its limitations cooperate with your photography.

Summing up: again, cheap can buy quality. Shameful for the big brands, this lens needs no electronic distortion correction. Centre sharpness is good, the edges come up at f5.6. There are no chromas worth warning for, only moderate vignetting. The lens can handle some crazy light situations, but it can produce some funny ghosting and reflections. More expensive lenses might offer better iq overall right from the maximum aperture. Choose your subjects and lens settings with care, but that is applicable to all photography. For those who enjoy exploiting the stronger and weaker characteristics of a lens and do not mind labouring a bit with manual focus and tweaking in the compu-darkroom, this lens is a joy to use.

On issue that for me has become of paramount importance is proper optical correction of distortion. Most new crop-sensor lens designs rely on software correction of the distortion these lenses leave in the image — correction ‘after the fact’. I more and more get the feeling that this leads to slightly muddy images from lenses with otherwise record-breaking resolution. Checking out various reviews, I found that the 7Artisans was very well optically corrected; there is virtually no distortion. I just feel cheated when Olympus and Panasonic offer 12mm lens with huge distortion (and Leica even dares to give its blessing to the latter for its 12mm/f1.4) for 3 to 6 times more €€.

The lens focusses internally so does not change in length. The aperture ring is de-clicked, as a convenience to those who want to use the lens for video; however, the lens shows focus breathing.

Of course, you don’t buy a full house of straight A’s with the 7Artisans, but the lens has a lot of quality to offer. I can affirm what I read on another website (Sony Alpha Blog): the centre is sharp as of f2.8, and gets also better stopping down, the outer field reaches maximum crispness at f5.6, in the case of an MFT-sensor. At f8, diffraction starts taking its toll, softening the picture. At f16 the image is again softer, but one can improve the looks easily with some extra sharpening. In the field, I don’t see much problems when taking pictures wide open: at f2.8 the contrast is a tiny bit less, but in terms of foliage and grass definition, I do not see any problems at 100%. I would suggest f5.6 being the sweetest spot of this lens for MFT users.

100% crop @ f2.8

100% crop @ f5.6

100% crop @ f8

So depending on the subject, one can use any f-stop on this lens. For landscape pictures, I think anything smaller than f5.6 works best, though the borders are then still a bit softer, and f8 being ever so slightly softer, but with a more even border to border sharpness;  for portraits or isolated objects (minimum focus is 20cm) one can go moderately crazy-creative with f2.8 and f4.

Chromatic aberrations are not a problem in this lens. The big blobby front element makes it necessary to get an adapter for mounting filters or a more substantial sun cap than what’s provided on the barrel. It can also catch the sun from the side.

Cromas are not an issue, the sun might leave a trace (100% crop)

Field curvature does not seem to be a problem either – when focussing on the centre of my bookshelves, the corners did not need adjustment.

Straight out of the camera, the lens produces a bit over saturated colours and heavy blacks (as already noticed by Sony Alpha Blog). Tuning down the saturation of the pictures helps, as lifting up the blacks – in DxO I use blacks +25 in the ‘selective tone’ menu (on the DxO scale that means lighter); micro contrast I set to 35;  in the ‘hsl-menu’: saturation -15, the orange channel luminance -15, yellow channel luminance +15. In general, I only applied some minor adjustments, based on DxO-standard profile, in order to present the pictures here as pure as possible but with just enough ‘punch’.

I would advise to shoot raw in order to ‘develop’ the maximum quality this lens can offer.

Lastly, as with the Meike 35/1.4 the all-metal construction feels solid and works very smoothly with the right damping, making in very enjoyable to use this lens.

Martinikerkhof, I am just happy with a picture like this

Check the page with the image quality assessment and the gallery with pictures.

Elsewhere on the web

I found these reviews which helped me in deciding to buy this lens (both for the Sony-E / APS-C mount): at Opticallimits.com and Sony Alpha Blog.