These days, it seems like there’s an abundance of cheap third party lenses from Chinese manufacturers. Some are pretty awful while some are spectacular despite their low pricetag.
Today, we’ll be looking at the 7artisans 60mm F2.8 (Mk II), a manual focus macro lens that you could buy with pocket change. This is actually the second version of this lens, with the first version being somewhat… poorly received.
This review will be focused on the Mark II Sony e-mount version (tested with the Sony a6000), but the lens also comes in Fuji X, Nikon Z, M43, and Canon EF-M mounts.
So how does this cheap third party lens stack up against more expensive competitors? Is it worth the purchase? Let’s dive in.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Pleasant manual focus experience
- 1:1 magnification with good minimum focus distance
- Beautiful all metal build
- Budget option for casual macro
Size & Weight
Starting off, let’s look at the size and weight. The lens weighs 14oz (399g) and measures a length of roughly 3 inches (7.4cm).
While this may seem a bit on the larger side, macro lenses tend to be heavier and longer than non-macro variants in similar focal ranges.
Regardless, I found that, despite the heft, it still balanced well on my a6000, even if it was a bit front-heavy.
Is the lens well built?
The heavy weight comes from the rather premium all-metal build. A lot of budget Chinese lenses tend to be fully metal, and this one is no exception.
The 7artisans 60mm F2.8 certainly doesn’t feel cheap, but it should be noted that 7artisans (and some other low budget lens manufacturers) generally have inconsistent quality control. I’ve had a few cheap lenses over the years that have had wobbly barrels, scratched optics straight from the factory, etc.
For this reason, I can’t say for certain if this lens is truly built to last. It’s heavy and feels like a tank, but my experience with cheap lenses in the past makes me hesitant to give it a positive outlook. Some of my budget lenses have lasted years, while some have crapped out on me within months. Only time will tell.
Aesthetics & Ergonomics
Next up, let’s talk aesthetics. It’s all subjective, but I think this lens is absolutely gorgeous.
The lens barrel is finished with sleek black metal which contrasts extremely well with the white and red text (sadly, the text is printed, not engraved). The scale near the base of the lens is very reminiscent of vintage glass, which I love.
The focusing ring is positioned at the center of the lens barrel, creating a very natural gripping point (seriously, the ring material is very grippy). My only complaint is that, as I stated prior, the lens is quite heavy. The weight makes it a bit tough to get super precise focus without a tripod (I have naturally shaky hands).
Alright, next up we’re going to talk about sharpness. I’m not the type to do any sort of complicated scientific lens tests, so this is mostly based off what I observed by pixel-peeping.
Even wide open, the lens is pretty sharp, showing decent edge-to-edge performance with only moderate fall-off. Stopping down a bit (think F5.6) is where it seems to peak. Really impressive performance and definitely no complaints from me there.
The only thing I have to note is that, as this is a macro lens, the focus plane is extremely thin. As such, on non-static subjects (plants, insects, etc.) you’ll run the risk of getting “soft” images due to slightly missed focus.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
As for optical quirks and flaws, the 7artisans 60mm F2.8 suffers from some major vignette unless stopped down. While this is largely fixable in post (or stopping down), it may cause digital noise in the case of low-light shooting. Still, a bit of vignette can actually enhance a picture and bring attention to the subject.
Distortion is non-existent and I didn’t notice any sort of chromatic aberrations. The lens does flare a lot, but generally you won’t be shooting into the sun with a macro lens, so I don’t see it as an issue. Honestly, heavy flaring can even be used artistically if you’re creative enough.
What I did notice, however, is just an overall lack of contrast, regardless of F-stop. While this isn’t great for capturing a crisp, sharp subject, it does help with creating creamier and smoother bokeh. I personally like the look myself.
Alright, next up we’re going to touch on macro performance. This lens offers 1x magnification which is a little lackluster compared to some other alternatives on the market such as the Laowa 65mm F2.8 (2:1). Still, it’s a cheap lens, so you can’t expect perfection.
Minimum focusing distance is roughly 7 inches (18cm). Pretty standard and nothing to complain about in that regard. Subject isolation and bokeh are, as you’d expect, spectacular.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall, the lens is optically strong. Being a low cost lens, you can’t expect everything to be flawless, but I was pretty happy with the performance. It’s razor sharp and, despite the lack of contrast, delivers nice images that pop against the (very creamy) backgrounds.
Magnification isn’t 2:1, but that’s rare to find, especially at this price point, so it’s definitely excusable.
Focusing & Other Notes
So now we’re going to talk about focus. As stated prior, the 7artisans 60mm F2.8 is fully manual focus. I’ve used a LOT of manual lenses over the years and this one is pretty solid, but with a few caveats.
It’s hard to explain how a lens “feels”, but I’ll try my best. The focusing ring is perfectly dampened, spinning very smoothly with just the right amount of resistance. There is some (very) small play when moving around, but I didn’t find it to cause any issues for me as I refocus before each shot anyway.
Focus throw is quite large, about 180 degrees in fact. Those 180 degrees are almost entirely the travel between minimum focusing and 3ft (91cm), however. Beyond that, focusing to infinity requires only a tiny bit more turning, making focusing on distant subjects quite a challenge. The focusing system in this lens was clearly designed with purely macro in mind, so consider that if you’re looking at using this lens for anything besides exclusively macro.
Being a fully manual lens, the 7artisans 60mm F2.8 has no electronic connections to the camera. This means that photos will not automatically have EXIF data such as aperture, focal length, lens name, etc. embedded.
Due to this, the lens features a physical aperture ring. It’s clickless, which means it spins smoothly without any hard stops. I personally prefer clicked (hard stop) aperture rings, but this one worked just fine.
By the way, if this is your first manual lens, make sure to enable the “release shutter w/o lens” option in your camera settings. In fact, if you’re looking to learn more about manual focus lenses in general, check out my huge Sony a6000 manual focus guide.
My Final Thoughts
So, before we round out this article, I want to offer some potential alternatives to consider.
First up, we have the spectacular Laowa 65mm F2.8. It offers 2:1 magnification, excellent optical quality, and an incredibly premium build. It is, however, A LOT more expensive than the 7artisans lens.
Second, consider the Sony E 30mm F3.5. It’s arguably the most popular macro lens for Sony APS-C cameras, and for good reason. Price is reasonable, sharpness is decent, and it has autofocus.
Still, if you’re looking to get into macro on a budget, I really think the 7artisans 60mm F2.8 is the way to go.
It’s not the absolute greatest macro lens you can buy, but it is, however, cheap. If you’re just a hobbyist looking to experiment in the world of high magnification, this lens can be a solid pick to get your feet wet without a huge investment.
If you’re interested in picking it up, I’ll throw purchase links below. Thanks for reading, let me know if you decide to pick one up for yourself. 🙂
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