7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

Started Aug 2, 2017 | User reviews
Smoothmoose Regular Member • Posts: 255
7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime
11

Long story short - it appear the 7artisans 25mm F1.8 lens is rebrand - slight update to the Zonlai/Discover 25f1.8. The biggest update is placing the focus ring upfront and the clickless aperture ring by mount. All shots are SOOC JPG.

Sharpness

Center sharpness is very good even wide open and hard to discern between the 7artisans vs. my Sony FE28mm F2.0. However corners are a complete different story. They are very soft wide open with vignetting and progressively get better to F8 - where it's pretty much gone.

Colors - Other attributes

Colors seem pretty good - nice contrast. You can compare to my FE28F2.8 and 18-105 in a follow-up post. Seems to do well with CA - probably better than the 18-105 zoom. There is some barrel distortion. Also it does flare if you shoot at an angle to the sun.

Build Quality

Excellent metal body and solid feel. E-mount fit is snug with a solid click in place - no wiggle or play at all. Glass is coated with purple tint.

Focusing

I got this lens to practice manual focusing to see if I will ever invest in more expensive MF lens like Rokinons or even Loxia. This is a small lens, not quite pancake, but only sticks out 32mm. So the focus ring is small, but turns smoothly with a right amount of resistance. Turning range is around 120 degrees or third of a turn. Personally I wish it made a half turn as the required micro adjustments wide open are miniscule.

Aperture Control

Aperture ring is clickless, which is a bit of annoyance - unless you're doing video. I also think the aperture markings are off, based on the shutter speeds and the size of opening (though magnification from front element may distort my eyes). F8 appears closer to F6ish. The smallest aperture marking is F16 - but again the shutter speed and size of the opening will seem its closer to F20.

Conclusions

I'm just started to play with this and MF. Definitely better than MF by wire using AF Sony lens. But even though 25mm is good for street photography - I can see it being a challenge for me to catch focus fast enough. Value for the money @$69 shipped- I think it's hard to beat for a 37.5mm equiv fast prime. I think this would ideal nifty 50mm equiv on M43 as the corner issues should crop out nicely - in fact I think this was designed for M43 with APS-C as an afterthought. On APS-C, it's a bit more limiting due to the bad corners. I'll see how things goes, but I think I will use this lens in 2 ways:

1) Wide-open bokeh contextual subject shots. Something like these:

@F1.8 bokeh

@F1.8 bokeh balls

@F1.8 bokeh

2) Walkaround general daytime landscapes @F8 or up. I actually didn't test many shots at F8 - I was walking around using F4 as I only pixel peeped back on the computer and you can see from the shots below, the problem with the corners.

F4 - bolts in center are sharp, but soft corners

F4 - framed to conceal corners

F8 - corners are sharpening up

I don't think there's much use for this lens between F2-F6. Either shoot wide open with creamy bokeh or stop it down for landscapes. Not really anything in between.

25mm F1.8 - strong vignette example

Forgot aperture - F4 or F8? Flare example

I'll reply with a follow-up post with more comparison shots between 7artisans, FE28mm F2, and 18-105 @ 25mm at different apertures. This one is getting long already.

 Smoothmoose's gear list:Smoothmoose's gear list
Sony a6000 Sony E 35mm F1.8 OSS Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS Sony FE 28mm F2 Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN (E/EF-M mounts) +2 more
Smoothmoose's score
3.5
Hin Man Senior Member • Posts: 2,552
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime
2

Thanks for the reports. I talked about the pros and cons of the similar original Zonlai 25mm f/1.8 in this page

https://www.talkemount.com/threads/zonlai-25mm-f-1-8-in-e-mount.15601/page-4

Pros:
+ very small size and lightweight
+ no need for any adapter, no extra bulk from any dslr adapter
+ very good focal length for street shooting
+ excellent close up
+ reasonable build
+ flare resistance very reasonable
+ bokeh smooth and pleasing
+ sharp in the middle
+ love the focus handling once I add a focusing tab
+ great lens for b&w work with emphasis in the middle

Cons:
- corners can be a problem but I do get acceptable pictures from time to time in casual landscape shots in outing
- quite severe vignette especially at wide apertures, sometime not possible to correct
- somewhat dull in color and contrast, I find most pictures requiring work in post processing
- difficult to get used to the manual focusing, I use a focusing tab with Sugru to help
- focusing ring and aperture ring too close together, easy to move aperture ring unintentionally while focusing, the problem is negated with a sugru focusing tab

To help with focusing, I use a DIY Sugru to mold a focusing tab on the focusing ring, it helps me quite a bit.

My zonlai copy has the focusing ring in the back.  The addition of the Sugru focusing tab help me with finer precision and avoid mistake in turning the wrong ring.

I encourage owners of Artisan to explore b&w and close focusing shots with the lens.

Cheers,
Hin

Samsunguser Regular Member • Posts: 385
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime
1

Great job 

It´s important keep in mind that the price is really cheap.

I think it´s worth the money

QuietOC
QuietOC Veteran Member • Posts: 4,607
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

Samsunguser wrote:

Great job

It´s important keep in mind that the price is really cheap.

I think it´s worth the money

There is one much cheaper option (I paid $18) and at least one somewhat cheaper option that might be better .

E 16-50 PZ, Green-ring APS-C 25mm F1.8 C-mount, Discover 25mm F1.8, Mini 25mm "F1.8" C-mount, Neewer 28mm F2.8

I would like to see more variety in focal lengths. I am sure 25mm is popular since it is a 50mm equivalent on Four-Thirds.

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ttan98 Senior Member • Posts: 2,411
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

Hi,

I own a Zonlai 25mm and 35mm, you are a hard marker/reviewer I would give the 25mm better score than you more like 4 stars for quality and price weighting. You judge this lens wide open in all circumstances for  a lens at this low price. You should conduct a similar review for much more expensive lenses from Leica or any branded lenses . considering their price would you give them 4 or more stars?

OP Smoothmoose Regular Member • Posts: 255
Comparison: 7artisan 25f1.8, FE28f2.0, 18-105f4

As promised here's a follow-up comparison shots between 7artisans 25mm f1.8, Sony FE28mm f2.0, Sony PZ 18-105 f4.0.

As mention in my previous post center sharpness for the 7artisans is very good and I can't tell any difference from the FE28mm (edit - closer look and the FE28 is sharper at all apertures) and also a tad better than the 18-105 zoom (edit - pretty close). But the corners you can obviously see the problem.

Comparison @F2

7artisans 25mm @f2 (yes, it's overexposed, but max shutter on A6000) - smudgy corners and vignette

FE28mm @f2 - much better corners

Comparison @f2.8

7artisans 25mm @f2.8 - smudgy corners and vignette

FE28mm @f2.8 - sharp

Comparison @f4

7artisans @f4 - less of the corner is smudgy and still some vignette

FE28mm @f4 - still good!

PZ18-105 @25mm @f4 - hey there's minor vignette here! and not as sharp as the FE28

Comparison @f8

7artisans @f8 - corners finally clearing up. But colors seem darker now - maybe it's an exposure issue?

FE28 @f8

PZ18-105 @25mm @f8

Comparison @F16

7artisans @f16 - colors seem darker - but corners are good

FE28mm @f16 - this is good lens eh?

PZ18-105 @25mm f16

 Smoothmoose's gear list:Smoothmoose's gear list
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OP Smoothmoose Regular Member • Posts: 255
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

ttan98 wrote:

Hi,

I own a Zonlai 25mm and 35mm, you are a hard marker/reviewer I would give the 25mm better score than you more like 4 stars for quality and price weighting. You judge this lens wide open in all circumstances for a lens at this low price. You should conduct a similar review for much more expensive lenses from Leica or any branded lenses . considering their price would you give them 4 or more stars?

Maybe I am a hard reviewer.  Just being honest.  I didn't just judge wide open.  I posted just as many shots stopped down.  And I just follow-up with with a stop down comparison all the way to F16.  One of the main issue I have is the corners don't get much better until F8, which makes F2-F7 not very useful.

For value yes it is 5 stars.  But I don't weigh it maybe as strongly as others.  For the price, it's hard to get something better.

I'm taking off 1 start of the bad corners.  And other 1/2 star for the aperture markings being inaccurate and the fact that this lens is really only best used wide open for bokeh effect of stopped down to F8 or above.

 Smoothmoose's gear list:Smoothmoose's gear list
Sony a6000 Sony E 35mm F1.8 OSS Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS Sony FE 28mm F2 Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN (E/EF-M mounts) +2 more
OP Smoothmoose Regular Member • Posts: 255
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

Thanks Hinman, your original review of the Zonlai and inspiring photos helped make my decision to get the 7artisans a try.

 Smoothmoose's gear list:Smoothmoose's gear list
Sony a6000 Sony E 35mm F1.8 OSS Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS Sony FE 28mm F2 Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN (E/EF-M mounts) +2 more
silverspoon
silverspoon Regular Member • Posts: 373
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

I just returned this lens. It's good for the speed and focal length but the vignetting is too much for my taste. It was almost a perfect inexpensive lens though.

OP Smoothmoose Regular Member • Posts: 255
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

silverspoon wrote:

I just returned this lens. It's good for the speed and focal length but the vignetting is too much for my taste. It was almost a perfect inexpensive lens though.

Yeah - it's close.  Im OK with the vignette, the smudgy corners bothers me more.  It'll definitely be perfect on on M43.  Not sure what to do myself  My FE28mm doesn't get that much use - even though it's the best IQ lens I have - better than the 35f1.8.  I was kinda gambling to see if the 7artisans is something I'll use as much as the FE28mm...mainly as a walkaround landscape lens...and to also lens MF.  Not convince that MF is for me either.

It doesn't make that much sense for me to have 25mm, 28mm, and 35mm all fast primes.  But I'm keeping the 35f1.8 as the OSS makes a big difference in low-light even thought is I don't like the FL as much.

 Smoothmoose's gear list:Smoothmoose's gear list
Sony a6000 Sony E 35mm F1.8 OSS Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS Sony FE 28mm F2 Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN (E/EF-M mounts) +2 more
SLN001
SLN001 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,740
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

Actually there already are a variety of focal lengths available in this lens format. The Meike brand (same folks from China who have been making camera accessories) Have a group of small, manual focus APS-C lenses in E mount-2.0/50, 1.7/35, 2.8/28, 2.8/12, 3.5/8-and some, if not all, are also available under the Neewer brand.

The 50, 35 and 28 are all under $80.00 while the 12 and 8 are more expensive.

-- hide signature --

Steve
Just an Armadillo on the shoulder of the information superhighway.

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Hin Man Senior Member • Posts: 2,552
Re: some samples from Zonlai 25mm f/1.8
5

I am aware of corner and vignette issues.  The compactness of the lens keep its usage high in my bag. I have been using my Zonlai over 1 year and I still like it. I am biased in my opinion as I always prefer smaller and lighter gear.

Some of my memorable pictures with the original Zonlai 25mm f/1.8 and Sony A6000

Interesting flare, edited to up the color

I always like its close up

only the middle bokeh rings are circular, shot in Vegas

Valley Of Fire -- Slot Canyon

Edited in Aurora HDR

brackets shots, edited in Aurora HDR

I bring along this lens for most of my hiking trips.  When one stop down enough, the problems on corners and vignette are improved and quite usable in my view

Cheers,

Hin

QuangFoto
QuangFoto Regular Member • Posts: 384
Re: some samples from Zonlai 25mm f/1.8
1

Nice shots.  My copy should be here in a few days.  Your photos make me happy.

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Hin Man Senior Member • Posts: 2,552
Re: some samples from Zonlai 25mm f/1.8

QuangFoto wrote:

Nice shots. My copy should be here in a few days. Your photos make me happy.

Thanks!  When time allows, please report back how the lens works out for you.  As mentioned earlier, I add a focusing tab using Sugru.  The addition of a focusing tab helps me on focusing and with better precision.

Cheers,

Hin

QuangFoto
QuangFoto Regular Member • Posts: 384
Re: some samples from Zonlai 25mm f/1.8
1

This 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 lens is compact.  Overall, it looks and feels nice on my black A6000.  I think its effective focal length on this APS-C camera is good as a walk-around lens.  It's sharp enough for me, and the very little vignetting effect when wide open is not as bad as I thought.

When I set my camera to ISO-Auto, the first option on the list, which takes 3 shots and combines them, and with f/1.8 I can really get some good night shots.

I'm going to use it to shoot the car show event coming up next month.

Here are some quick shots I took as soon as I got it unboxed.

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redeleon
redeleon New Member • Posts: 7
Re: some samples from Zonlai 25mm f/1.8

can anyone confirm if the Focus and DOF Scale on this one is accurate?
I have this lens but I'm not quite sure if I am setting my zone focus correctly (still learning about this) or the scale is a bit off?
tried out a measuring tape though seems like focus is a bit off.

thanks!

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JohnNEX Senior Member • Posts: 2,386
Re: some samples from Zonlai 25mm f/1.8

redeleon wrote:

can anyone confirm if the Focus and DOF Scale on this one is accurate?
I have this lens but I'm not quite sure if I am setting my zone focus correctly (still learning about this) or the scale is a bit off?
tried out a measuring tape though seems like focus is a bit off.

thanks!

On these cheaper MF lenses the markings are really just a guide. My Samyang lenses are a bit off. Not bad but not exact.

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Reiper Forum Member • Posts: 94
Re: some samples from Zonlai 25mm f/1.8

Is focusing loose in your lenses as well? I have Discover version and focusing is very sensitive. When I get what I want in focus it is easy to rotate the ring slightly by accident, like when removing hand from the lens or even sneezing.

I never had such a problem with legacy manual lenses or samyang 12.

DVPhotography New Member • Posts: 1
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

For more images with 7Artisans 25mm f1.8, please visit my Facebook page on the albums "On the street" in B&W & Color, "The light inside" in B&W & Color, "Thessaloniki: A Lover's City" in B&W & Color.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/DValmasPhotography/photos/?tab=albums

Approximately 90% of those images, on those albums, are made using 7Artisans 25mm f1.8 lens with Fuji XE-1camera.

-Enjoy them...

PC UK Forum Member • Posts: 75
Re: 7artisans 25mm F1.8: Good center, poor corners, great build quality MF prime

Thanks for a great review Smoothmoose!
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For a Micro 4/3 photographer - tHe real comparison here should be between:
[1] the 7-artisans 25mm f1.8
[2] a 14-42mm Lumix or Zuiko kit lens
[3] a legacy 28mm f2.8 lens on a lens adapter
+++++++
The kit lens from either Lumix or Zuiko is excellent at wide to mid range - it only falls off in resolution near the 40mm zone. The kit has AF, anti-shake mechanics, signals distortion and vignetting correction to the camera body (and to programmes such as DXO if you shoot in RAW). So why buy a manual lens then?

So to me - The only reason is to get an image that the kit zoom cannot get.
+++++++
The key image gain is DEPTH OF FIELD - as the faster lens isolates the subject better.
So what is the advantage of the £50 GBP / $60 USD 7-artisans over a 28mm f2.8 legacy lens from eBay?
+++++++
DOF - at 1 m focus distance:
At F1.8 = 13cm
At F2.8 = 21cm
At F4.5 (kit zoom at mid range)= 34cm

DOF at 2m focus distance
At F1.8 = 55cm
At F2.8 = 89cm
At F4.5 (kit zoom at mid range)= 153cm
+++++++
So the extra 8cm of DoF at a 1 m focus (a headshot) or 44cm at 2 metres focus (Head and body) comes at a cost:
[1] money - there are excellent "generic" 28mm F2.8 lenses from Komine, Tokina etc sold under a wide variety of brands that sell for £10/$15 on auction sites. Even a fantastic SMC Pentax or Canon FD won't be costing more than the 7-artisans. All come in at less than 25% of the cost of a new Lumix or Zuiko 20-25mm AF lens (and remember those have no in-lens stability control).
[2] Click-stops: the legacy lens will have clickstops, essential for photography through the viewfinder. For video - clicks add noise unless you have an external microphone (whih of course you should be using).
[3] optical quality - even the humblest Vivitar or Hoya 28mm will outperform the 7-artisans. Both need a good lens hood to perform at their best (and remember to buy a telephoto length one as this is for M4/3 crop factor use)
[4] mechanical quality - as above
[5] size - well this is where the 7-artisans wins - but, for manual control with a viewfinder the 7-artisans puts the control rings very close to the camera body. I find that a legacy lens with adaptor puts the aperture and focus rings exactly under my left hand fingers - so easier to use in practice.
[6] vignetting - This is bad on the 7-artisans until you stop down 2-3 stops (denying the only advantage to this purchase!). I find that the 35mm full frame capabilities of a legacy lens on Micro 4/3 cuts out the edge distortion better than with APS or c-mount lenses. Remember that an MFT camera will use only 25% of the image area of a full-frame lens. This explains why LENSHOODS are a must - and the longer the better as 75% of the glass is just there to cause internal reflections and ghosting which custs image quality and contrast. I cannot emphasise enoght this last point - which seems to correct most of the problems that reviews seem to complain about. I like the rubber extending lens hoods which you can set to the field of view of each lens.
[7] DoF - well if this really is your critical need - then just get a legacy 50mm F1.8 lens (becomes a 100mm equivalent on an MFT camera) and at 2 meters focus distance the DoF will be only 8cm while the kit zoom at 42mm will have a DoF of 37cm at F5.6 and 2 metres focus point.
+++++++
So for me - unless the 8cm gain in Dof with a headshot is a dealbreaker - my advice is get out your old film camera kit and have a go with the old technology before you pay up for a new lens ------- unless the vignetting, field edge distortion and "toy camera" look is what you want - but then, just add an online filter in post-processing and have a much more controlled version of the same.

Is it worth it to get a manual focus lens in the modern era? Well despite all the nagatives I seem to have lined up in comparison with your kit zoom lens - the simple fact of having immediate control of aperture and fine focus seems to give a spur to my creativity - a finding echoed in countless other postings on the DP Review site. Just more of the photo's turn out to be keepers.

Do you just need an old 50mm F1.7 or 1.8 then? No, the 50-56mm equivalent view of the 7-artisans or a legacy 28mm gives a more neutral geometry to pictures - one more advantage to your creative range.

My choice? Well since my initial rush of trying it out, the Chinese small format lens sits in the camera bag and is increasingy being left at home - while my Cosina 24mm F2.8 macro-focus lens (with a big "telephoto" length lens hood) sees lots of use. And your choice................?

Best wishes to you all - Paul C

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