Back in early-August, Pergear reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in testing out an upcoming lens. I said sure, agreeing to provide feedback and keep quiet about the lens until it was announced sometime in the future. Two weeks later a box arrived at my door containing a TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 Autofocus lens. I eagerly attached it to my Fujifilm X-T5 and put it to use!
Before I go any further, I want to state a few important notes. To start, this is the first time that I’ve ever been given a chance to try out and provide feedback for a piece of unreleased camera gear. Heck, I’ve barely been offered gear that’s already been available! This was such a big honor, and I appreciate the opportunity given to me by Pergear. I hope it’s not the last time, or that it’s limited to just one manufacturer (Fujifilm: hint, hint). Second, my copy of the TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 AF was a preproduction model. They told me that the production version would have a slight tweak to the mount (which, for my copy, is X-mount, if that wasn’t obvious), but the optics and functionality would be identical; however, I have some notes (and an apology) about this in just a moment. Third, I wasn’t given any technical information until after I’d finished writing this review, so I had to edit that information in as best as I could.
The TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 AF competes directly with the Fujinon XC 35mm f/2 lens, which is the budget version of the XF 35mm f/2. Those two Fujinon lenses are, as far as I understand, optically identical, but the cheaper XC version lacks an aperture ring and weather-sealing. Going head-to-head with such a high-image-quality-yet-still-very-affordable lens seems a bit risky. Clearly, if money is no concern, one will opt for the $400 XF version (which is both smaller and better-looking); however, those on a tight budget now have two lenses to consider: the $200 Fujinon XC 35mm f/2 or the $149 TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 AF. At $280, the Viltrox 33mm f/1.4 AF could also be mentioned. Plus there are a number of manual focus options, including the TTArtisan 35mm f/1.4, TTArtisan 35mm f/0.95, and Meike 35mm f/1.7, which I compared side-by-side in Sedona earlier this year.
From a pure technical image-quality perspective, the Fujinon options are significantly superior. The TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 AF lens has some corner softness when wide-open, as well as vignetting. Across the entire frame, the TTArtisan is noticeably less crisp at f/1.8 than the Fujinon is at f/2. Once you stop down, things quickly improve, and the TTArtisan is quite excellent (and comparable to the Fujinon) from around f/5 or so and beyond, with nothing negative to report. There are 10 elements in 8 groups, with 9 aperture blades. The minimum focus distance is about two feet, which is so-so. The lens seems to be well built, with more metal than plastic. The filter thread size is 52mm. Of course, photography is art, and character in real-world use can be much more important than test charts and spec sheets, so we’ll move right along.
Thankfully, the TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 AF has excellent character, especially when a bright light source is just outside of the frame. I cannot tell you strongly enough how much I love how this lens flares! However, this is where I need to apologize. You see, I told Pergear that I really love the flare produced by this lens—especially the multiple rainbow flare—and showed them some examples of it, but their response was not what I expected: they didn’t think that most of their customers would appreciate it, so steps would be taken to reduce it. I reached out to them a few weeks later to inquire what was changed to reduce the flare, and they simply replied that TTArtisan reduced the flare, but did not change any of the optics or coatings. So I don’t know what’s different between my preproduction version and the final version that’s now for sale, but apparently there is a difference, and my copy is more prone to the absolutely wonderful flare, and yours less so to some extent, if at all. I pleaded with them not to make this change, but to no avail. I hope that whatever they did change has a minimal impact on flaring, but I have no idea. The lens comes with a square lens hood (mine did not), and maybe that was their solution; I’d definitely try the lens without the hood and see what you get.
The TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 AF doesn’t have an aperture ring. This might or might not be a big deal to you, but it is to me. In my opinion, all lenses for Fujifilm X cameras should have an aperture ring, because it’s such an integral part of the experience for the majority of Fujifilm models. However, I do understand that not everyone feels the same as I do, and that many third-party lenses are available for other systems where aperture rings are less common or essential. I told Pergear that if this lens was offered with an aperture ring, I’d definitely buy it. I hope that TTArtisan makes an aperture ring version at some point in the future. I don’t know how much that would cost, but I think $250 would be a fair price for such a lens. The minimum aperture is f/1.8 and the maximum is f/16, with 1/3 intermediate stops in-between the full stops (except for in-between f/11 and f/16, where it has only a single 1/3-stop before jumping 2/3-stop to f/16); however, you must use the command dial to adjust the aperture, which isn’t my preference. That makes the use of this lens more frustrating (and, in turn, less fun) than it should be.
There’s one issue that I want to mention cautiously, and that you must take with a big grain of salt. While the autofocus was quiet, I experienced a lot of focus-hunting and misses with the TTArtisan lens, much more than any other glass I own. My guess is that this is due to it being a preproduction model (an early one at that), and I assume that the firmware on the production version has rectified this problem; however, I cannot verify one way or the other. It’s important for me to point this out just in case it is an issue, but I hope it’s not. Most likely it’s no issue. It’s common for preproduction versions of gear to have problems that are partially or fully resolved by the time they’re released. It’s probably only a problem on my copy, which was an early model, and those being sold today have fast and accurate autofocusing, but I cannot state that with certainty. A side note is that the firmware for this lens is updated via a USB connection in the rear lens cap, but apparently requires a Windows operating system.
Is the TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 lens worth buying? Despite no aperture ring and the autofocus woes of my preproduction copy, this has been my most-used lens since it arrived at my doorstep. I have used it on both my Fujifilm X-E4 and X-T5, but mostly on the X-T5. I love the character that this lens gives to my pictures. I have shared some of these images on Fuji X Weekly and on my Instagram page, and I’ve had a lot of people inquire about the lens I used (much more than usual), and I had to respond with “I can’t tell you yet” (because I agreed not to talk about it). The way this lens renders seems to pair especially well with Fujifilm’s excellent JPEG output and my Film Simulation Recipes. It’s highly desirable. In my opinion, this lens is well worth the small price-tag. With that said, I would much prefer an aperture ring, and I want the lens flare that my copy produces, which might be different than the one they’re currently selling. I hope that TTArtisan will someday offer such a version.
Pergear asked that I not show some of the pictures in this article that have the rainbow lens flare, which might not be so pronounced (if produced at all) on the final version. Some of my absolute favorite photographs captured with the TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 AF lens have this flare. I have so many examples of it, I could have shown it in every picture. Instead, I only included a handful of those images, with the hopes that TTArtisan will realize that this unique characteristic is desirable. If you agree, please leave a comment below saying so.
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Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs captured using my preproduction version of the TTArtisan 35mm f/1.8 AF lens on my Fujifilm X-T5:
See also: TTArtisan 27mm f/2.8 Review
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