After releasing their first autofocus lens for Fujifilm X-mount, the TTArtisan 27mm ƒ2.8 (review here), TTArtisan is here again with a pleasant surprise in its yet latest release. Announced last week, the TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95 seeks to break new boundaries for Fujifilm X-mount. For Fujifilm native lenses, there are currently no lenses of this spec with the closest in terms of maximum aperture size, the classic XF35mm ƒ1.4, and of course, the more modern XF33mm ƒ1.4 (review here).
I was pleasantly surprised that TTArtisan has designed and built a lens of these specifications smaller than the already compact native XF35mm ƒ1.4. Let us take a closer look at the technical details before going into how it performs.
- name: TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95
- 52mm filter size, at approximately 247 to 267 grams (due to different mounts being made available)
- 7 elements in 5 groups, with a minimum focusing distance of 0.35m (1.148 feet)
- ƒ0.95 to ƒ16, with a 10 diaphragm blades design
- Fujifilm X-mount but only manual focus
How does it stack up?
After testing the much-vaulted XF50mm ƒ1 (review here), I have learned to understand that the toughest part of lens design in these super-fast lenses is whether the manufacturer can design them for optimum performance wide open. The XF50mm at ƒ1.0, for example, though exceedingly sharp, exhibited some chromatic aberration issues wide open, which I must emphasize here is perfectly expected for a lens that is so fast.
For example, even the USD12,995 Leica Noctilux, for all its superb performance and known for its superb balance between sharpness wide open and characteristic rendering, comes in with an onion-ring effect in its bokeh and underwhelming sharpness at close range, at a weight of close to 800 grams.
And in this perspective, it is then important to say the TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95 is 1% the price of the Leica 50mm Noctilux and easily only approximately 33% of its weight, and we cannot run from the laws of physics in lens design.
Firstly, the TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95 scores well on being ergonomically designed. The aperture ring clicks in a ‘clickly/crispy’ way, so one has a very good idea of the aperture value even without having to look at the lens. The focusing throw for a manual lens is pretty decent, allowing room for more accurate focusing while not having to do wrist gymnastics to move from minimum focusing distance to infinity.
For those accustomed to manual focusing lenses, using the TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95 on even the non-back LCD Fujifilm X-Pro3 will be easy, though it takes practice and patience. The more updated and larger EVFs on the X-H2, X-H2S, and X-T5 make this process even easier.
A quick reminder that manual focusing assist modes on Fujifilm X-mount cameras are pretty useful even with the X-Pro3. I use the standard ‘magnification’ option. No, I do not use the Digital split image mode as I find it too gimmicky.
Using the TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95 for street photography was nifty, with its size providing a good balance even on my X-Pro3. A plus was that TTArtisan has done a good job of making the distance and aperture markings visible (etched in and not painted over like some other cheap lenses) for focusing work. I generally work around ƒ2 to ƒ4 on Fujifilm X-mount for street photography.
But what about photographs at F0.95?
For that, let us look at a series of samples at various apertures.
For the TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95, I can honestly say that at ƒ0.95, the image is decently sharp at the center, mostly due to a ‘‘glow’ effect one can see around the edges of the subject, which is likely due to spherical aberration.
My preference is stepping the lens down to ƒ1.4 onwards, where the center gets significant improvements in sharpness, and images provide a very good amount of ‘bokeh’ and pop.
I prefer going from ƒ1.4 onwards on this lens, while I am sure some users will be keen on the rendering at ƒ0.95.
Interestingly, the lens performance vignetting-wise is much better than I expected. In fact, the TTArtisan 27mm ƒ2.8 had more vignetting wide open at ƒ2.8 versus this lens at ƒ0.95 and I do recall that the Mitakon 35mm ƒ0.95 II for X-mount having more vignetting too.
A conversation with a fellow reviewer today was third-party makers should go where the native lenses don’t. In this case, TTArtisan has delivered with its 35mm ƒ0.95, whereas Fujifilm has thrown in the towel with its supposed XF33mm ƒ1 (which became the XF50mm ƒ1 in the end) (yes, I understand I am comparing autofocus with manual focus here).
What about potential competitors in the 35mm ƒ0.95 manual focusing arena for X-mount?
Before the TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95, Mitakon and 7Artisan had already released a 35mm ƒ0.95 for Fujifilm X-mount. Still, from the samples I have seen online, Mitakon and 7Artisan are pretty close optically, and all three have their own strengths and weaknesses (what some will label as lens character), with the Mitakon being pretty wild in flaring and sporting a clickless aperture ring.
That said, to each his/her own, and I am again sure some will like the signatures of one of these over the others in their own ways, and frankly, these lenses will still give extraordinary output in the right hands.
While the TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95 is not a lens I will be using wide open frequently, it performs very well from ƒ1.4 onwards with a lot to like about the lens, including its quality all-metal build (even its lens cap is made from metal, versus the plastic hoods and lens caps Fujifilm has been including), its well-designed ergonomics and most of all, image quality down to its quality of bokeh which is actually pretty classical in its render.
Some detractors may say manual focusing lenses, and well, third-party lenses are not for serious work, and in this case, I beg to differ; in fact, I was using this exact lens for a review with the just launched Polaroid P2 (review here).
The TTArtisan 35mm ƒ0.95 is a lens I will use when I want to have a bit of fun with manual focusing and performs optically admirably for its cost with a very good quality build to boot and is a lens I will purchase too.
TTArtisan is a brand doing pretty well with its releases, and I look forward to seeing its future releases for both Leica M mount and Fujifilm X-mount.
About the Author
Keith Wee is a Singapore-based mathematics teacher and photographer who believes in sharing honest, hands-on reviews of photography gear with real-life samples of its use. He works to live a life of positivism and to spread a bit of optimism. You can find out more about Keith on his website and follow his work on Instagram.