7artisans 35mm f/1.4 Review
I’d never appreciated how much fun there was to be had with a manual focus lens until I received the 7artisans 35mm f/1.4.
This small, heavy, rather simple piece of gear brings a huge amount of joy — and bokeh — to your shooting thanks to an insanely fast maximum aperture and some quirks that give every image a healthy dose of character.
Sony cameras can feel devoid of soul, and this is a lens that can make you feel like even the most mundane scenes or details are worthy of being photographed.
If you’re a pixel peeper that wants crisp, perfect images, this lens is not for you – Sony has plenty of others that fit that bill.
If you want to rediscover some simple joys in your photography — or if you simply want to experience f/1.4 without spending an insane amount of money — this lens could be a perfect choice.
In addition, other than truly vintage lenses that require an adapter, there’s nothing else on the market quite like it.
7artisans 35mm f/1.4 Specs
- Images are full of character
- f/1.4 in such a small, affordable lens is rare
- As a walkaround lens, it’s a lot of fun
- Corners are consistently soft
- Vignetting can be very heavy (unless you turn off the electronic front-curtain shutter)
- Images are soft when focusing at infinity
- Focal Length: 35mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Format Compatibility: Full-Frame
- Angle of View: 63°
- Minimum Focus Distance: 1.31’ / 40 cm
- Optical Design: 10 Elements in 9 Groups
- Diaphragm Blades: 11
- Focus Type: Manual Focus
- Image Stabilization: No
- Weather Sealing: No
- Filter Size: 46 mm (Front)
- Diameter: 1.97 “(50 mm)
- Length: 1.97 “ (50 mm)
- Weight: 10.51 oz (298 g)
Build & Ergonomics
Two things will leap out at you as you slide this lens from its rather smart box: the size and the weight. This is an exceptionally small lens in a rather curious shape, with a real heft to it.
This lens is less than 2 inches in both width and length and is so slim that part of your camera’s mount will remain visible.
Thanks to its all-metal and glass build — even the lens cap is metal — the 7artisans 35mm f/1.4 has a very solid weight. It makes you feel like you could throw it much further than any other lens. (I don’t recommend this!)
Most 35mm f/1.4 lenses for Sony — all costing at least four or five times more than the 7artisans 35mm f/1.4 — have nine aperture blades.
By contrast, the 7artisans 35mm f/1.4 features 11 aperture blades. How they’ve managed to cram this inside such a small lens is a mystery.
This means that the out of focus areas have a wonderfully distinctive character to them that makes this lens unique.
The focusing ring is beautifully smooth, and the metal detailing almost gives it the feel of a cinema lens. The dampening is some of the best I’ve experienced and is completely unexpected for a lens at this price.
The throw of the focusing ring is only a quarter-turn, which is convenient but does mean that you need to be quite precise when you’re using this lens wide open.
Thankfully, that dampening means that you have a lot of control, but without it feeling like the lens is fighting you.
By contrast, the aperture ring that sits at the front of the lens is very slightly loose.
Each aperture clicks gently into place, and you can actually create your own f-stops by leaving it halfway between, should you wish.
It’s worth noting that, as well as being a manual focus lens, there are no electronics.
This means that no information is communicated from the lens to the camera. As a result, there is no aperture information embedded into your image files, and nor is the name of the lens.
This is a lens that does not produce a lot of sharp images, especially if you’re new to manual focusing as I was.
I thought that this would annoy me, but it’s actually proven to be a lot of fun.
When they are sharp, they’re sharper than you’d expect for a lens of this size and price.
If you want to increase your odds of getting sharp images, it’s worth stopping down to f/2 or f/2.8, but that does then mean missing out on a lot of what makes this lens so enjoyable.
The softness is an aspect to be embraced. This is a lens for making you feel more physically engaged with the image-making process, and enjoying the act of photographing.
Anything that’s not towards the centre of the frame will be soft however accurately you focus, and corner sharpness is quite poor all the way through to f/8.
In addition, the lens does not entirely render sharp images when focusing at infinity.
As a result, I embraced the looseness that this gave me with my photography, and it made me appreciate the character of images produced when shooting subjects that are only a few feet away from me.
If like me, you’re new to manual focusing, there are a few tricks to increase your chances of grabbing a sharp image.
You can switch on focus peaking, which introduces an overlay to show which parts of an image are sharp. However, this is not very accurate, and it can be distracting.
Instead, set one of your customisable buttons to become a focus magnifier. This slows you down somewhat, but it is much more accurate and gives far greater consistency.
Image quality is both brilliant and not fabulous at the same time.
Brilliant, in that the bokeh is beautiful and the drop off between in focus and out of focus, is rather glorious.
Not great, in that vignetting can be intense — especially when focusing at infinity — and flaring is very poorly controlled. To dramatically reduce the vignette, it’s necessary to turn off the camera’s electronic front curtain shutter.
You can further improve vignetting by shooting at shutter speeds slower than 1/1000th.
However, these are both aspects to be embraced as part of this lens’s character. I’ve been enjoying this as an excuse to throw on quite a heavy edit in Lightroom and embrace the vintage feel that this lens brings.
As mentioned, the corners stay soft from f/1.4 through to f/8. Only at f/16 do they match the sharpness in the center of the frame.
There’s a fair amount of green fringing in areas of strong contrast that you may want to fix in Lightroom.
All of this may sound like a long list of reasons not to use this lens, but I should emphasise again: this lens is for creating fun, imperfect, distinctive images, and you just won’t get that with more conventional lenses.
7artisans 35mm f/1.4 Sample Images
Value for Money
Lenses with such fast apertures can command some incredibly high prices, but with the 7artisans 35mm f/1.4, the manufacturers have created something that’s both entertaining and very accessible.
At less than $200, this is a lens that gives you a taste of what f/1.4 can offer while also providing a satisfyingly tactile and thoroughly enjoyable image-making experience.
As detailed above, image quality is compromised, but the bokeh and shallow depth of field more than make up for it.
7artisans 35mm f/1.4 Review | Conclusion
Faux-vintage lenses offer a huge amount of fun for photographers who are interested in loose, experimental images.
You can probably get a cheaper alternative by hunting down a vintage lens and then figuring out the best adapter to use, but if you want something fast and full of character delivered to your door, the 7artisans 35mm f/1.4 is an excellent option.
This has become my 35mm walkaround lens of choice for those days when memories and idiosyncrasies are more important than image quality.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.