There are a number of inexpensive prime lenses coming out of China. After purchasing the Meike 35mm f/1.7 and, for the most part, really liking it, I thought I’d try the even cheaper 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 for my Fujifilm X-Pro2. Can a low-end lens be any good?
7artisans was founded by seven photographers who wanted to make lenses, so they did. They have several different offerings, all of which are very inexpensive yet intriguing. The 25mm lens for Fujifilm has an equivalent focal length of 37.5mm, which is slightly less wide-angle than the X100F, but a similar focal-length.
Despite the fact that they are two different companies, there are a lot of similarities between the Meike and 7artisans lenses that I own. They both have solid build quality, they are both manual-focus only, they both have click-less apertures, they both are super sharp in the middle, they both are super soft in the corners wide-open, they both have significant vignetting wide-open, they both have noticeable pincushion distortion, they both produce nice bokeh, and they both are at peak performance between f/2.8 and f/8. It’s almost as if the same people designed both lenses, although, supposedly, that’s not the case.
One difference that I found is Meike controls lens flare better, which is not necessarily saying much. If you like flare, both of these lenses are for you. The 7artisans lens produces lots of flare whenever there is a bright light source nearby. It’s almost a bit over-the-top, and if you don’t like lens flare, be sure to buy a hood for this lens (something that I did after a couple weeks of use). I like lens flare sometimes, but it was much too much with this 7artisans lens.
What you get with the 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 is a new lens that looks and feels vintage (maybe early-1980’s-ish), and produces results that have a vintage quality. It’s not precision engineered like most modern glass, so it has flaws, and those flaws give your photographs character, something that’s missing from most modern lenses. Whether or not that character is something you want for your photographs is for you to decide. I personally appreciate it. I also appreciate manual-focus, and those not used to it might not care for it.
I like the Meike 35mm f/1.7 slightly more than the 7artisans 25mm f/1.8, but it also costs a little more, too. At just $70, the 7artisans offering is $20 cheaper, and for that price, it’s pretty darn fantastic. It’s possibly the least expensive lens option for your Fujifilm X camera, as I don’t know of any that are cheaper; however, this is a lens that you could capture some great pictures with because it has very sharp glass. It does have some faults and quirks, but, considering how little it goes for, it’s easy to overlook those issues, and perhaps even embrace them. If you have a limited budget but would like to add some quality glass to your collection, the 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 is a good option that you should consider.