8.06.2017

Can a $70 lens (brand new) deliver decent results on a Micro Four Thirds camera? VSL investigates.


I was buying some cheap bits and pieces for my Godox AD200 flash at Amazon.com a day or two ago and, after getting my pressing flash accessory business squared away, I started doing a little good natured browsing. I was looking to see all the different lenses that are available for my Panasonic cameras. I was especially interested in a fairly fast, normal lens which, on the GH5, would be a 25mm. I was surprised to find a number of choices, including: the (most coveted!!!) Olympus 25mm f1.2 (with 19 elements, no less) as well as the 25mm f1.8 Olympus and it's counterpart, the Panasonic 25mm f1.7. The lens I wasn't expecting to find was a new product by a company called, 7Artisans. 

The lens is a 25mm f1.8 lens that is fully manual in its operation with any of the Olympus or Panasonic cameras. The thing that caught my eye was the price; it was a mild and rational total of $70. 

Usually I read a few reviews before taking any sort of action; even before sticking the item in my shopping cart for later dismissal or acceptance, but in this case there were no reviews. Nada. Nothing. But the lens looked pretty cool, the specs were nice (12 bladed aperture) and I went ahead and
ordered it. Given the price point my expectations were nice and low. I thought it would be acceptable but not wicked sharp or any competition to the better known brands.

I didn't want to go outside this afternoon because it feels like the surface of Mercury right now in Texas. Not the dark side but the side facing the sun...  But I knew my VSL readers would need pertinent lens information right away so I put on my hat and sandals and khaki shorts and breezy shirt, a squirt of sunscreen for the exposed areas, and headed out the door. 

I put the lens on the G85 and the pair creates a very small and handy walking around system for those who prefer single focal length lenses. The lens is made of metal and glass and seems robust and solid. It's not perfectly finished in the way we expect expensive lenses to be and by that I mean that when examined with my bifocals I can see small defects in paint, etc. but not on things that are image forming. 

The lens features a 12 bladed aperture ring which should give nice out of focus renderings but it's important to mention that the aperture ring is not click stopped. You'll have to pay attention to where the ring is set if you want a specific aperture setting.  The aperture ring is located closest to the camera body and the focusing ring is on the front of the lens. 

Two or three things of note about the focusing ring. First, mine goes just a tiny bit past infinity. This may be a not perfectly calibrated scale or it may be that the lens is designed with the ability to go past infinity in order to deal with expansion caused by heat. I think I'll stick with the first reason....

Second, the lens is capable of focusing down to 0.6 feet or 0.18 meters (whichever one you like better) which is think is just great for a lens that is a "normal" equivalent. And third, The lens features a good, old fashion depth of field scale for those of use who like to do hyperfocal length lens setting. It's really very well done. The only drawback will be for died in the wool Leica M users as the focusing ring and tab on many of our most well loved lenses is reversed. 

Both the focusing ring and the aperture ring are buttery smooth with just enough resistance to help your brain realize that everything is working as it should. 

In years past I would not have been as interested in a 25mm normal lens that manually focuses for use on a m4:3 camera as I would have struggled to hit sharp focus. But the inclusion of focus peaking and in-finder magnification makes nailing manual focus an easy and accurate action. 

I thought I would dislike the un-clicked aperture for anything but video work but I was wrong. Once I got a handle on the general illumination of the day I set the camera to manual, set a low ISO and a fast shutter speed and used the un-clicked aperture ring as my exposure compensation; staying between f2.8 and f5.6 for the most part. It worked well with the instant visual feedback in the finder. What a nice way to work. 

So, how does the lens do as a lens --- as opposed to a blog topic? In short, I think it's a very good lens and does a very nice job at most aperture settings. I shot several hundred images this afternoon and looked them over pretty well while importing them into Lightroom. I've included my favorites down below. Take a look at the detail in the hanging yarn photograph about three down in the street photos. I think you'll find the rendering of fine detail in the yarn very acceptable.

I haven't played enough with the lens wide open to know how it will handle flat objects while maintaining quality in the corners but I am impressed by the contrast and resolution of it in actual, normal, human use. It's a great match for the 16 megapixel sensor in the G85. I'm impressed enough to be actively considering picking up its big brother, a 35mm lens, for my full frame Sony cameras. I've put off buying any other 35mm and the cost is so low...

My first day's assessment of the 25mm f1.8 for the m4:3 is that I've got a lens I like and I'm keeping it.

Here's where you can get one:                             

Product photos courtesy of my Panasonic fz2500....
Yay. Depth of field scale! Yay! Close focus.

8 comments:

Frank Grygier said...

This lens looks like it will be great for video. What a bargain!

Joe V said...

Well, thanks, Kirk. I just ordered one. Not that I need another 25mm, but my only other one is an old film-era Minolta 24mm, and it's rather big and heavy, especially with an MD-MFT adapter. And only has a 5-bladed, pentagonal aperture. And I've never been too thrilled with the Minolta lens quality wide open, so th is one has to be at least as good.

Uscenes said...

Interesting lens, I am most attracted to the clickless aperture, being into video. Not sure about the sharpness though, the left side (the left third) seems less sharp than the center. Whereas just poor corners would be more acceptable. I will try it in store as that aperture ring alone could be worth it for a couple of sunset videos where the side sharpness doesnt matter too much.

Mohammad Shafik said...

Hey Kirk, what an exciting finding. I immediately checked it on Amazon and saw your review there. I have added one in my cart, and another one for the Sony A7II as a wide angle option to be used stopped down. I just hope to find some reviews for the FF version.

I will wait before clicking the button to see your opinions on wide-open performance.

David Maxwell said...

This is pretty tempting for my a6000. The only "native" lens that I have for it is a 12mm Samyang, which I enjoy. Otherwise I have a bunch of adapted lenses, which I'm really not that into. I also saw a Neewer 35mm 1.7 for $90 on Amazon, which might be better for me. Maybe tomorrow morning I will walk around downtown Nashville with my zoom set to 25mm to see how I like the focal length.

Travis said...

Lovely results. I pulled the trigger on one for my Fuji earlier today, so I'm glad to read your first impressions. I'll be curious to see how it looks wide-open on the bigger image circle, but I'm not a sharpness snob. I like character.

Charles "Rain" Black said...

I ordered one. I'm going to be doing some projects where a "Nifty Fifty" will be useful, in part because I'm wanting to "recover" some good habits from the old days when I didn't even use zooms. This lens will take things even further, since I'll also have to focus manually. Added bonus is it's small enough to make my EM1 easier to fit in a coat pocket or backpack slot.

Thanks for the heads up Kirk.

Charles "Rain" Black said...

Well Kirk, now you've done it. This little lens is a delight. It won't blow anyone away with its sharpness or microcontrast, but it has "charm" that includes taking me back to a time when taking photos involved a more measured pace.

I bought the lens in part to do just that. I have some personal projects in mind in which I want to force myself to be more contemplative in choice of subject and composition. This lens is perfect for that.

The problem you've created is the lens is so small, it begs me to buy a smaller body like an EPLx or perhaps the GX7. Thanks for mucking up my gear budget!