The TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 M is one of my favorite affordable modern manual focus lenses, now after the M-mount version we are getting a native (and cheaper!) E-mount version.
What has changed? Optically: nothing, mechanically: a bit, MSRP: a lot. So let us have a closer look which makes more sense to get as an E-mount user.
This lens is optically the same as the M-mount version so I will reuse many sections of my review of the M-mount version here.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
- Sample Images
- Handling / Build Quality
- Flare resistance
- Chromatic aberration
- Focus shift
- Sample Images
- Further Reading
The new E-mount version is very similar to the M-mount version. Notable changes: 30g heavier and minimum focus distance 0.5 m instead of 0.7 m. Full specifications of the new lens are:
- Diameter: 60 mm
- Field of view: 47° (diagonally)
- Length: 68 mm
- Weight: 432g (without hood and caps)
- Filter Diameter: 49 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 12 (straight)
- Elements/Groups: 10/8
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.5 m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:7.7 (measured)
- Mount: Sony-E
The TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 E was kindly provided free of charge by TTArtisan for reviewing purpose for a duration of 4 weeks.
Handling / Build Quality
From the outer apperance the new E-mount version looks even more like a Leica M lens than the M-mount version due to using fonts more closely resembling the Leica ones. Markings are yellow/white (engraved and filled with paint), the focus ring has a nice albeit not perfectly even resistance and turns about 160° from the minimum focus distance of 0.5 m to infinity. There is no focus tab like on the M-mount version.
The aperture ring has equidistant and very distinct half-stop click stops and feels very tightly assembled.
There is again no hood included in the package and the lens also does not feature electronic contacts to communicate with your camera.
Wide open there is strong light falloff of roughly 2.7 EV in the extreme corners, stopped down to f/2.0 this improves to 1.9 EV, stopped down to f/2.8 it is 1.4 EV and further improves to 1.3 EV at f/8.0.
Stopped down these values are comparable to other small yet fast 50mm lenses like the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton, at wider apertures the TTArtisan lens is slightly better (by about ~0.3 EV).
It is recommended to have a look at this article first to get an idea how this brightness graph works.
Very fast yet compact lenses usually show a significant amount of optical vignetting. Without going too much into technical details optical vignetting leads to the truncation of light circles towards the borders of the frame.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low optical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.
For comparison’s sake I included the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 here. I consider this performance average for a lens with these parameters. You can clearly see some onion ring structures caused by the use of aspherical elements though, these are still noticeable with the E-mount version.
I did not shoot both lenses side by side, if I did the circles from the f/1.2 lens would be bigger in direct comparison. The focus distance was 0.7 m and you may get slightly different results at other distances.
infinity (42mp Sony A7rII)
At infinity the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 is a bit soft at the maximum aperture even in the center, but this improves significantly on stopping down to f/2.0. Midframe and corners are nothing to write home about at wider apertures, but from f/4.0 onwards the across frame performance is very even. Therefore – stopped down to f/5.6 to f/8.0 – the lens is also a good choice for landscape or architecture infinity shooting, this is rare among small yet fast M-mount lenses.
The performance here reminds me a lot of the 7Artisans 28mm 1.4, which is good news.
There are no changes here compared to the M-mount version.
portrait distance 2.0m distance (24mp Sony A7III)
For portraiture it isn’t so important how flat the field is, it is more interesting to see what the sharpness is like when focused at different parts of the frame to take field curvature out of the equation.
We will be looking at 100% crops from the 24mp Sony A7III.
Sony A7III | TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 E | f/1.4
The outer midframe shows a worse performance compared to the center and inner midframe, but it still is a decent performance and I did not encounter any issues in the field.
close (0.50 m, 1:7.7, 42mp A7rII)
100% crops from center, A7rII, refocused for every shot
The M-mount version had a minimum focus distance of only 0.7 m and showed a surprisingly good performance for a fast lens without floating elements at the maximum aperture.
Now the minimum focus distance has been improved to 0.5 m for the E-mount version but this came at a price: at 0.5 m stopping down to f/2.0 is a good idea to get rid of most of the spherical aberration. Still, I gladly take the ability to focus a bit closer.
The TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 does not ship with a hood, but I think it would have been useful, as the lens has quite some issues with stray light. It is pretty easy to catch some distinct bars running through your picture, this might be caused by internal reflections.
At maximum aperture you can also encounter a significant ring flare (internal reflections) with strong point light sources in the frame:
Stopping down to only f/1.7 makes it go away completely:
Sony A7rII | TTArtisan 50mm 1.4
This is true for the E-mount version as well, no changes here.
The lens does not have any severe issues with ghosts, so if you can avoid stray light and you stop down you can often shoot straight into the sun without encountering major issues:
At f/1.4 and f/2.0 there is noticeable coma visible. Stopping down to f/2.8 improves the performance significantly, but to completely get rid of it you have to stop down to f/4.0 to f/5.6.
Performance is not that different from the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 or other small yet fast lenses, so I cannot complain here.
100% crops from extreme corner, focused on center, A7rII
Leica M10 | TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 | f/8.0
The TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 shows moderate pincushion distortion. There is no lens profile available yet, but dialing in -4 in Lightroom/Camera Raw is doing a pretty good job at correcting it. If you look very closely you may see remains of a wavy sub frequency, but this should hardly be field relevant.
Most people interested in this lens are probably looking for a portrait/streetphotography lens, so bokeh may be an important factor. Generally we can choose from plenty 50mm lenses these days, but in my opinion not many of those offer a smooth and undistracting bokeh rendering.
The optical design gave me a bit of hope though, so let us have a closer look how the lens behaves at different distances.
Close to the minimum focus distance the bokeh is very smooth (this is true for most lenses):
At half body portrait distance (roughly 1.2 to 1.5 m focus distance) the lens yields smooth blur and sharpness as well as contrast are good, exceeding my expecations:
Even at longer focus distances (e.g. at full body portrait distance) and with difficult backgrounds – where many lenses struggle – the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 is doing a good job.
This also holds true with complex backgrounds like foliage:
All things considered, I have been very happy with the bokeh rendering of this TTArtisan 50mm 1.4. My favorite small 50mm lens in this regard was (and still is) the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2, but the TTArtisan comes really close.
I cannot really see a clear line when it comes to aperture constructions of TTArtisan lenses yet. Out of 5 lenses I saw 4 different aperture diaphragms. This one features 12 blades and might become my favorite among those, as it yields well defined sunstars between f/8.0 and f/16. The alignment of the blades is not as perfect as it is with Zeiss Loxia or Voigtlander lenses though.
If you want to know more about sunstar rendering of different lenses have a look at this article.
50% crops from center, A7rII
100% crops from border
There are only minor lateral CA visible that are easily corrected either in camera (for Jpegs) or in a raw developer like Lightroom by one click.
In close up scenarios there is green behind and magenta in front of the focal plane visible. It takes stopping down to f/2.8 to mostly get rid of this aberration (see focus shift section).
As is usually the case with fast lenses purple fringing can be quite pronounced:
Sony A7rII | TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 | f/1.4
In extreme scenes like the one below you can sometimes spot longidutinal CA even in smaller output sizes, but it should be noted that this TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 fares no worse here than e.g. the Sony 55mm 1.8 or the Sony 35mm 1.8, both slower, more expensive lenses.
50% crops, A7rII
With some lenses when stopping down the plane of optimal focus shifts to the back or the front. Here the focus shift is minimal and should hardly be an issue in the field.
I will only cover the really obvious alternatives in detail here, but if you ended up here by accident and you are looking for an AF lens may have a look at our Guide to 50mm lenses for Sony E-mount.
Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E:
The most obvious competitor. You gain electronic communications with your camera, half a stop of light gathering capabilities, better flare resistance and you are loosing a bit of weight. The Voigtlander is slightly worse close to the minimum focus distance and 4 times as expensive though.
buy from CameraQuest | B&H | Robert White | amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de for $999 (affiliate links)
Voigtlander 50mm 2.0 APO-Lanthar:
If you are looking for the best possible correction of optical aberrations instead of lots of bokeh this is the lens you are looking for.
buy from CameraQuest | B&H | Robert White | amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de for $1049 (affiliate links)
Leica Summilux-M 50mm 1.4 Asph:
If you can easily afford the Leica lens I wonder why you are reading this. I have never used this lens personally but I would expect it to do better in certain scenarios like contrast and flare resistance, but I am not so sure about bokeh rendering. Are these possible differences worth spending almost 20 times as much? If you think so consider using one of my affiliate links next time you buy a Leica lens.
buy from amazon.com | amazon.de | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de for $4.000 (affiliate links)
7Artisans 50mm 1.1:
This is a very different lens as it is not optimized to give smooth bokeh at maximum aperture but rather nervous bokeh with lots of field curvature. Does not fit my taste, but may be the cheapest option to get a new very fast 50mm lens.
buy from amazon.com | amazon.de | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de for $349 (affiliate links)
What I wrote about the M-mount version holds true for the E-mount version as well:
“Reviewing and using the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 has been a pleasant surprise as it offers surprisingly good bokeh for a small 50mm lens as well as good sharpness where it matters.
It manages to accomplish something where even some of the fast Voigtlander lenses fail: stopped down it is plenty of sharp across all of the frame, too.
This makes it a great allround 50mm lens that can be used for portraiture as well as landscape and infinity shooting.”
Now the minimum focus distance has been improved to 0.5 m – which is very welcome – but being an E-mount lens now, it would be nice if there were electronic contacts to communicate with the camera.
The price of the E-mount version of the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 is about 30% lower than that of the M-mount version, so now you are getting 90% of the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2‘s qualities for about 25% of the price. It even competes with plenty of the better legacy 50mm 1.4 lenses in terms of price, in terms of image quality usually surpasses them and you don’t have to deal with the used market, you can buy it with no hassle new from stock.
All things considered: a real bargain if you enjoy using manual focus lenses with high build quality.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
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