To my surprise – shortly after the 50mm 0.95 – TTArtisan also released a more reasonable 50mm 1.4 lens. The optical design looks very interesting on paper: a longer focal length double gauss with a “speedbooster-like” rear group. This is similar to Cosina’s latest designs for the fast Voigtlander lenses, is this a good sign? Let us find out in this review!
This lens will be reviewed on the 42mp Sony A7rII and the 24mp Leica M10.
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
So far this lens only comes in M-mount and has the following specifications:
- Diameter: 60 mm (without focus tab)
- Field of view: 47° (diagonally)
- Length: 58 mm (+adapter)
- Weight: 402g (+adapter, without hood and caps)
- Filter Diameter: 49 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 12 (straight)
- Elements/Groups: 10/8
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.7 m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:11.7 (measured)
- Mount: Leica-M
You may also have a look at the official page.
The TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 was kindly provided free of charge by TTArtisan for reviewing purpose for a duration of 4 weeks.
Handling / Build Quality
From the outer apperance this looks very much like a Leica M lens including the famous red dot. Markings are yellow/white (engraved and filled with paint), focus ring has perfect resistance and turns about 120° from the minimum focus distance of 0.7 m to infinity. The focus ring is also equipped with a focus tab.
The aperture ring has equidistant and very distinct half-stop click stops and feels very tightly assembled.
The lens features a rangefinder coupling which can be adjusted yourself using a small (supplied) screwdriver. Being an owner of an M-mount camera now I cannot stretch enough what a wonderful design decision this is: the lens can easily be adjusted to be perfectly calibrated to your rangefinder camera and give best possible results without sending it in. I wish every M-mount lens would offer this.
Out of box the lens was well calibrated on my Leica M10, but it looks to me that true infinity would be a tad behind the hard stop (see sharpness infinity section).
As was already the case for the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 there is no hood included in the package.
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.
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.
infinity (24mp Leica M10)
Wider M-mount lenses sometimes show very different performance when used on cameras with different filter stacks in front of the sensor.
The TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 is not one of those. Performance on the Leica M10 and Sony A7rII is very similar, so again from f/4.0 onwards you get very even across frame performance.
It looks like true infinity would have been slightly behind the lens’ hard stop when used on my Leica M10. Due to mount tolerances on lens and camera this can always happen and is the reason most lenses can be focused past the infinity mark.
portrait distance 2.0m distance (24mp Sony A7III vs 24mp Leica M10)
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 and the Leica M10. Both cameras do not have an anti aliasing filter in front of the sensor.
Sony A7III <—> Leica M10
At a focus distance of 2.0 m we see some noticeable differences when using the lens on a Leica camera or a Sony camera with its thicker filter stack. On the Leica camera we see pretty decent performance even in the outer midframe while the Sony pictures look slightly blurry here. This also matches my findings in the field.
close (0.70 m, 1:11.7, 42mp A7rII)
100% crops from center, A7rII, because of focus shift (see corresponding section) I refocused for every shot.
For a fast lens without floating elements the performance is surprisingly good at the maximum aperture. There is only a minor amout of spherical aberration, for many applications this will be easily good enough from wide open.
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
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 any 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 bokeh is smooth (this is true for most lenses), and as we have already seen in the sharpness close section contrast and resolution are also good at these distances.
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 or shiny metal parts:
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, M10
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, good news for M-mount users!
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 almost 3 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 11 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)
When I bought the 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 FE-Plus (manufactured by DJ-Optical) I was not only impressed by its optical qualities and price performance ratio, I was also hoping we will see many lenses that share its qualities. That was in March 2019.
Now in October 2020, one and a half years later, it seems to me DJ-Optical is manufacturing lenses for TTArtisan exclusively and I have reviewed all of them. The 21mm 1.5 and the 50mm 0.95 especially offered staggering specs at a low price point, but in the end they might have been a bit too ambitious, spotting too many compromises.
Why am I wasting your time telling you all of this?
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.
This makes it a great allround 50mm lens that can be used for portraiture as well as landscape and infinity shooting.
I felt like getting 90% of the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2‘s qualities for about 40% of the price. Not a bad deal in my book.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
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