7Artisans 60mm F2.8 Macro MK II Gallery and Review
August 12th, 2021
The past several years have seen the rise of a number of new Chinese lens makers, many of which follow a fairly typical blueprint of lens design. Metal construction, full manual focus and aperture control, and no electronics. Many of those early lenses had nice construction in terms of materials, but there were some mechanical quirks. Focus rings that felt a little “gritty”, poor fit in some materials, and occasional weird ergonomic designs. But companies like 7Artisans are quickly learning lessons, and in some cases we are seeing the second generation of their lens design. Such is the case with the 7Artisans 60mm F2.8 Macro MK II. The 60MII (as I’ll call it for brevity) solves several of the shortcomings of the first generation lens while retaining its amazing value. It is available in a wide variety of mounts, including the Canon EF-M mount (which I’m testing), Sony E, Fuji X, Nikon Z (APS-C mode), an M43. The 60MII can be had for about $180 USD, which is an amazing price for a 1:1 macro lens.
In many ways, it is this price point that makes this a very tempting option. Some photographers are very macro-centric, but for most photographers macro is an occasional sideline when the mood strikes them. A macro lens that costs less than $200 allows those occasional macro photographers to have a lens to do macro with but without a major investment. More serious macro photographers will probably prefer a more premium option, but if you are a casual macro photographer, the 7Artisans 60MII will allow you to get some good looking images on a budget.
The first generation of the lens had some of those quirks that I alluded to in my intro, including an inner cylinder that would extend during macro focus and a focus ring that many found tight or uneven. This new lens is fully internally focusing (much preferred!) and has a beautifully damped, smoothly moving manual focus ring. Likewise the declicked aperture ring moves smoothly and accurately. Aperture “stops” are just markings on the lens barrel that you will line up with if you are trying to approximate traditional stops. This is preferred for videographers, though I prefer traditional stops and detents in my aperture ring for photography.
My one complaint in operation was that I found the focus throw on the manual focus ring a little too short. Roughly 85% of the focus throw is before 1.5 meters, which means that you have very little space on the focus ring to precisely focus on subjects beyond that point. Even the tiniest movement can result in a significant focus change. This is exacerbated by the fact that you will often want to magnify the image while focusing to visually confirm focus, and each little movement also causes shake if you are handholding the shot. A few of the camera systems the lens is sold for have in body image stabilization, but the lens itself does not. The Canon camera I was using for the review (EOS M5) does not have stabilization, so I did find handholding the lens for macro shots to be very difficult. This is a lens that is going to work best from a tripod when doing macro work, though that is the recommended approach to most macro photography.
Like many lenses of this class, this is a fully manual lens without any electronics. Things like metering, live view, and normal camera function is all fine, but you do have to manually focus and manually change the aperture…and no electronic data will be transmitted to the camera, so the camera won’t know what lens took the photo, the focal length, or the aperture value chosen and so that information (EXIF data) won’t be embedded in the files.
The behavior of this focal length will depend on the camera system it is mounted to. On my Canon EF-M mount, that is a 96mm full frame equivalent, while on Sony, Fuji, or Nikon, that is more like a 90mm lens. Micro 4/3rds shooters will see a lens that acts more like 120mm. The 90-100mm focal range is one of my personal favorites for macro photography.
The 60MII is a mixed bag optically, with minimal distortion but fairly heavy vignette. The lens is quite sharp, but contrast is fairly low due to spherical aberrations. This is detriment to delivering crisp detail but a positive when it comes to the defocused areas as the bokeh is smooth and creamy. Stopping down to smaller apertures helps to improve contrast though it never reaches great levels. Sharpness is fairly even across the frame, with some drop-off to the middle of the frame but little further decline towards the corners.
Flare resistance is another weakness for the lens, as it is prone to some loss of contrast and veiling when the sun is in the frame. Fortunately the effect is quite artistic, and I actually consider this to be a net positive in many situations.
I really like the look of images on a global level. The rendering of the lens is quite nice, though I’m less impressed with images on a technical level (at a pixel level).
There’s no question that you can get some beautiful images from the 7Artisans 60MII, however, and it delivers great value for money. This is a welcome addition to the 7Artisan catalog, as it shows growing maturity in lens design. If you are either an occasional macro shooter or on a tight budget, the 7Artisans 60mm F2.8 MK II is well worthy of your consideration.
If you want the full picture, then check out my video review here:
Thanks to TTArtisans for sending me a review copy of this lens. As always, this is a completely independent review.
Photos of the 7Artisan 60mm F2.8 Macro MK II
Photos taken with the 7Artisan 60MII
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