Disclaimer: The text you will read below is based on my own thoughts and experience with my copy of the 7Artisans 35mm F0.95. The lens was bought as used but in mint condition. I’ve also bought an unbranded lens hood in aluminum, partly because it keeps the front glass element safer, but also because this lens has some major struggles with direct sunlight. I recommend everyone to buy a lens hood to get the best result out of the 35mm f0.95.
With that said, I will give you a background story that ended up with this Chinese little thingy. Back on August 5th 2015, I got my first vintage-lens for the Fujifilm X-M1 I had back then. After using the standard XC15-45mm and XC50-230mm for almost a year, I was hyped to try my very first F1.4 prime.
The lens I bought was a Yashica ML 50mm F1.4, and that just opened up a whole new world for me. It helped me to get some bokeh on my images, and the lens wasn’t made out of plastic. Don’t get me wrong, the XC lenses have some great glass if you’re on a budget. But they’re slow compared to the f1.4 prime, obviously.
I took these two back in 2015 when I went on a trip to Kos – Greece.
After that Yashica, I bought some more vintage primes in different focal lengths. But that Yashica 50mm was my daily choice for a long time. Everyone that bought a vintage lens knows that it comes with a history. The glass can be dirty, and the aperture blades can have some oil on them. And then we have the focus/aperture rings, some are really tight, some are kind of loose, and the travel distance can differ a lot.
Overall you will always feel that a lens has its history. That’s not a bad thing, it will give some characteristic shots. For a photographer like me, that started with a Fujifilm in the mirrorless era, the focusing ring equals to a vintage lens. In other words, the manual focus has never been ”perfect” for me, if a perfect focus ring means smooth handling and a good degree of travel.
So, I had some preconceived notions about a manually focused lens. And with a Fujinon 35mm F1.4 as a daily driver, I needed some motivation to spend my hard-earned money on yet another 35mm lens, that’s not pin-sharp and has manual focus.
When I put the Fuji 35mm on my camera today, I miss something… okay, I know exactly what I miss. I miss that mechanical focus ring. I wanted it so bad that I had a hard time going back to the Fuji lens. To be honest, I didn’t think this would ever happen.
When I decided to buy the 7Artisans, I thought I would use it from time to time when I wanted to play around and have some creamy bokeh. But it has been my daily driver since day one. I’ve taken it to photo walks, weekends, hikes, vacations etc. I’ve had it to shoot nature, family, portrait, street and documentary photos. If I put it this way, I’m in love!
I can’t say that the 35mm from 7Artisans is a better lens than Fuji’s 35mm F1.4. Actually, the Fuji XF35mm F1.4 has better sharpness, contrast, chromatic aberration and almost anything else. But the 7Artisans has something else. I can’t tell exactly what it is, but that hidden thing makes me use it day after day! As I said in the first section, I recommend a lens hood to protect the front element from direct sunlight.
You can get some crazy flares without it, and to be honest, you can get them even with the hood on, but it’s not that common, and some flares don’t hurt anyone. But that aperture ring, it’s clickless, and that’s probably… no, that IS the worst thing about the lens. If you want a specific aperture, you need to look at the lens, and that really grinds my gears (to refer to Peter Griffin for no reason).
My photography skills have evolved since 2015, and the confidence I have out shooting now helps a lot with the manual focus. And now I can see the advantage of a manual lens. As autofocus relies on a specific spot on the sensor or some AI that chooses what to focus on, manual focus gives you the whole frame. And with focus peaking, you can fast and easy directly find the focus anywhere within the fame lines.
It’s also easier to set the focus where you want it if something, or someone, will cross that point in some way. I can’t say it’s always better than a pin-sharp AF in a critical situation. But for most of the time, I have zero problems with that manual focus, even down to F0.95 (even if it’s easier to miss an eye on this wide aperture).
So I’ve gone from XC-zooms to fast vintage primes, to Fuji’s XF-primes to a third party Fuji X manual lens. And now I have a conclusion. And from here on, it could be good for you to know I’m an X-Pro shooter. I own an X-Pro3 and an X-Pro1. The latter is more of a B&W toy. I would love to write something more about another time.
You all know about the F2 primes from Fuji. I would say that they’re designed for the X-Pro series. The small form factor is great for street and documentary photography. The tighter front makes it easier when using the OVF. If I had the opportunity to change one thing on those lenses, I would make them manual (or at least give them a mechanical focus ring).
After I bought the 7Artisans, that’s the ONLY thing I wish from Fujifilm, a manual prime with data transfer, like the new Voigtländer 35mm F1.2. And if they would do such a lens, it would be insane if they made some software tweaks to get some focus peaking/digital parallax focus for the OVF. It would be a dream to have a manual lens that was fully functional with the OVF! Do I really need to buy a Leica to get that feature?
The 7Artisans 35mm F0.95 is not the best lens for the Fuji X system on paper, not even on that specific focal length. But it changed my thoughts about everything when it comes to capturing a photo. How I want my camera to feel when composing a frame and get that focus on point. So please Fujifilm, please join this trend and do it the Fujiway!
“I’m born and raised in the cold land up north where we still have Kings and Queens, just like the old medieval days. Talking about the kings, Our King and I share the same name, Gustaf. I’m a full-time employed photographer for fun, and a full-(free)-time Fuji X photographer for passion! At work, I shoot products in all kinds of situations. With my Fuji setup, I focus on things that make me feel good, like my family, the streets of Gothenburg and the nature of Scandinavia. “