7Artisans 25mm F1.8 APS-C Lens review: I wanted it to be good so much

Shooting Fujifilm has really got me hooked on prime lenses. Previously, I just like the idea of one zoom lens that is capable of a wide range of scenarios, no faff. But recently, I have been experimenting with my style of photography and the genre that I really enjoy is documentary photography. But not any fancy stuff, just the mundane everyday life. I started to slow down a bit in my photography, something film photography has taught me, to be a bit more intentional. I started to play with the idea of a manual focus prime lens. Something that forces you to be slow down, think before you smash that shutter button. I was looking for something compact, don’t need to be super sharp and a focal length that best documents life. That’s when I came across 7Artisans 25mm F1.8 for Fuji and started my love-hate relationship with this £79 lens for 2 months.

Appearance

This lens is very small. Even smaller than my XF 35mm F2. Full metal construction that makes it look and feel much more expensive £79. It has a silver ring at the front which makes the style even more fitted with the whole vintage look that Fujifilm cameras roll with. Two textured rings for focus and aperture selection. And it also comes with focus distance and scale markings.

Love

1.    Tiny

If you follow this blog, you would know that I love a good gear that’s compact. I want this lens to be “THE” lens for my life documentary photo setup, so it needs to be small enough that I am willing to bring it with me anywhere and everywhere. With it being a manual focus lens, it shaved off the size and the weight of a motor. It weighs in at 143g which is very light and makes it extremely portable.

2.    Nice styling

The one I got was black with the hint of silver right at the front. It fits so well with my Fujifilms that get a very high styling point. Although the focus scale markings can do with a little bit of work and just don’t use the lens cap.

3.     Short focus throw

There is no official figure I can find, but the focus throw is about 120 degrees if not less. It makes manual focus very quick from the closest of 0.18m to infinity in less than half a turn. Yes, at F1.8 the very shallow depth of field can make it a bit harder to focus, but I never have real trouble nailing it with focus peaking and the zoomed-in focus checking features Fujifilm has. That is if it is within its focus limits – I will talk about what I mean below.

4.    Dreamy image rendering

Should I use the word dreamy? It is basically a cheap lens that does not render a razor-sharp image. But that’s exactly what I like about it. For my day to day photos, I actually don’t want it to be too crisp and “too digitise”. These cheap lenses are like vintage lenses that give you a bit of character, sharp in the middle and soft at the corners. But these cheap lens softness areas can be a bit random as their QC won’t be something they boast about.

5.    About a 35mm focal length with a wide aperture

25mm with a 1.5x crop factor gives you about 38mm focal length which is close enough to 35mm. I like this focal length for my day to day because it is still a standard lens as in they are close to human’s eyes focal length, but just a bit wider than a 50mm. It gives me the ability to give the picture some context. F1.8 is handy in low light and also able to render some nice subject separation.

6.    Cheap as f***k

Oh, and did I say it this lens only cost me £79 on amazon? I have even seen it went for as low as £64 a few weeks after I got it. A lens that only cost roughly 6 rolls of Portra 400 film is absolute bonkers.

Hate

1.    Unclicked aperture ring

The focus ring and aperture ring are very well dampened and lovely to use. But I really dislike an unclicked aperture ring because I am a photographer, not a videographer. I don’t get the benefit of changing the aperture smoothly and quietly but I get all the bollocks about accidentally nudging it. 

2.    Poor quality control

Consider this is a £79 lens, there isn’t really a lot to hate. You could be saying, ‘mate it’s £79, what do you expect from “quality control”‘. I have to say for £79, this lens feels much more premium than £79. It is nice to touch, feels good to use and I like the images it renders. What really made me give up on this lens is the fact that both lenses I got cannot focus to infinity. I don’t have high expectations from £79 quality control. So when my first order arrived and I cannot focus beyond 5m, I thought it was a one-off bad sample with slightly off calibration. So I sent it back and get another one hoping it will be better. But unfortunately, the second sample also can’t manage to focus on infinity. I suspect it’s likely something to do with the focus plane not being calibrated properly in the manufacturing process. Could be a bad patch, could be I was unlikely to get 2 of the bad samples in a row. Either way, it got me frustrated enough that I cannot be bothered with it anymore. Other brands do 25mm F1.8 as well like Meike and Pergear which I might give them a go in the future.

Just would not focus on the bridge, and the “infinity” focus falls on the leaves and branches on the left

Verdict

7Artisans 25mm F1.8 is a really nice lens. It ticks a lot of boxes for me, compact, manual focus with short focus throw, good looking and have a bit of character in terms of image quality. However, the poor quality control frustrates me enough for it to become a deal-breaker for me. I order two different samples of the lens and both of them are not able to focus beyond 5m. It is such a shame because when it focuses, the image it produces is really up my street. If you are on the market for a cheap manual prime lens, it is certainly an amazing lens if it works. If you are the type of person that wins in lotteries and raffles, try your luck!