TTArtisan 23mm F1.4 Review
January 10th, 2022
TTArtisan has started to emerge from the pack of the many newer lens makers who produce inexpensive lenses in my mind. I’ve seen a consistent theme in the lenses that I’ve tested where their optical performance has exceeded my expectations. In times past I would often resort to adapting vintage lenses to fill this void, but these inexpensive lenses from lens makers like TTArtisan come in modern native lens mounts even if they handle similarly (manual everything). I’ve enjoyed the organic experience of using vintage lenses and often enjoy their unique rendering despite having a less corrected and often less sharp performance. When these modern lenses are done well, however, they can often combine some of the nostalgic rendering of past lenses with a bit better correction and higher sharpness. TTArtisan seems to nail this formula pretty well, and the TTArtisan 23mm F1.4 for APS-C camera mounts (Sony E, Canon EF-M, Fuji X, M/43) is a perfect example of executing that formula. This little lens costs only $100 USD, is extremely compact, and, if purchased in the silver (like I’m testing), has a wonderfully vintage aesthetic.
Is this inexpensive little lens a good option for you? For a deep dive, check out the video review below…or read on.
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Thanks to TTArtisan for sending me a review copy of this lens. As always, this is a completely independent review. The opinions here are completely my own.
TTArtisan 23mm F1.4 Build, Handling, and Features
The TTArtisan 23mm F1.4 has a focal length equivalent (in most mounts) to the classic 35mm angle of view on cameras with a 1.5x crop factor (Sony and Fuji), with a slightly longer focal length on Canon (1.6x) and M/43 (2x). On Canon it will behave like a roughly 37mm angle of view and 46mm on M43. It’s nicely compact at 60mm in diameter (with a slightly odd 43mm filter thread) and a length of 40.5mm. Because of an all metal and glass construction the weight is a lightweight but dense feeling 225g. This is definitely unusually compact for a lens it’s a maximum aperture of F1.4.
I like the silver edition of the lens, which is still primarily black but with silver accents on the focus ring and near the lens mount. It has a very retro vibe that I’ve seen on some of my vintage lenses. Distance markings are etched and filled with white paint. There are also hyperfocal markings as well for those that like to zone focus.
I really liked the focus ring, which moves smoothly and with excellent weight and damping. The focus throw isn’t exceptionally long (about 110 degrees of rotation), but it seems sufficient for accurate focus. There is a minuscule amount of barrel extension during focus, but it is so minor as to almost imperceptible.
The aperture ring is less appealing. It’s extremely narrow (essentially a ribbed ridge along the front of the lens) and relies on a single red dot engraved on the side of the fascia with the filter threads. The aperture seems to have half stop intents through F4, where the range narrows and there is only room for full aperture stops from F4 to F16.
The aperture iris itself has ten blades and stays fairly rounded as you stop it down.
One practical handling note: since the barrel is dominated by the rotating focus ring, it is a bit difficult to grab the lens and use the force necessary to remove it. I find grabbing more of the lens helps.
Another positive is that the lens has a fairly close minimum focus distance of just 20cm. This allows you to have a nicely high magnification level (I estimate in the 0.26x range), which gives more creative options for close up shots.
Image Quality Breakdown
As I noted in the intro, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the image quality from a number of TTArtisan lenses despite their very low price. The same is true here for practical applications, though the lens doesn’t test as well on a technical level. The MTF chart shows a sharp center and very good mid frame, but a fairly steep drop-off into the extreme corners. In most real world shots at wider apertures corner sharpness is less important, so the lens feels sharper in real world applications than the MTFs or chart tests suggest.check out the video review.
The bokeh quality is fairly good here, with nice softness and minimal busyness. The ability to get close allows you to create a very shallow depth of field for those type shots despite the fairly wide angle perspective of the lens.
There can be a bit of color fringing in bokeh highlights.
In some situations the lens can be a bit flare prone. There isn’t an included lens hood, and if intense light hits the lens it will flare in some varying ways, though I didn’t see anything particularly severe.
In conclusion, though, this is a lot of lens for the money. The close focus abilities make this lens more attractive than some competitors who don’t share that capability. I look at this lens as an alternative to classic lenses and conclude that it: 1) costs no more than them 2) doesn’t require an adapter and is thus more compact and 3) offers a lot of the same charms but with better overall performance.
If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with a manual focus lens, this is a great starting point. It’s low risk and potentially very high reward, and you might just find that you enjoy the organic process of shooting with a manual focus lens. The TTArtisan 23mm F1.4 is also one of the least expensive ways you can add the classic 35mm angle of view to your APS-C kit, and that makes it definitely worthy of consideration.
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