A $300 Noctilux

7Artisans, a Chinese lens manufacturer, has introduced a new M mount 50mm f1.1 lens, manufactured in Shenzhen, China (where they make your iPhone).  A 7 elements in 6 groups optical formula like the Nokton 50/1.1, but apparently, it’s a clean sheet design, not based on the Voigtlander offering.  It has clickless f-stops, a .7 minimum focus, and the focus can be calibrated for personal usage (focus shift, film to flange issues etc).

The most interesting thing is the price: $320 on Amazon, although you can buy one direct from China for a few dollars less than $300. As for the “Made in China” issue, your iPhone is manufactured down the the street from 7Artisans.

Mass produced, consumer grade lenses are not as hard to make as they once were – all the equipment you need can be purchased if you’ve got the cash. These days it’s pretty much a function of computers and money; you can design a lenses from the bottom up with raytracing software running on your laptop. 20 years ago you’d have needed a mainframe.

Not bad for 300 bucks, shipped.

Like the Noctilux and the Nokton, it’s a big lens. It’s also heavy, weighing in at +/- 400 grams. Unlike the Nokton, it can close focus. As for its comparison to the Noctilux, suffice it to say that a Leica polarizing filter costs $150 more than the 7Artisans lens.

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4 thoughts on “A $300 Noctilux

  1. Ross

    “There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.”
    – John Ruskin

  2. danielteolijr

    I shoot a lot of wide open pix. But I don’t do it for effect, it is out of need at night / low light. The lens I use has to be able to produce decent res wide open. I like my street / doc work to be crisp.

    This was show with a Leica 35mm f1.4 wide open with a MM. To me it is on the low side of sharpness I like.


    Now, if I was looking for a soft lens, sure the Chinese lens sounds like a bargain when compared to the unaffordable Noctilux.

  3. Andrew

    According to the expert on all things Sonnar (aka Brian Sweeney), the 7-Artisans lens is based on a 1950s 50mm f/1.1 lens known as a Zunow. The Zunow was actually based on the 50mm f/2 rather than the faster f/1.5 Sonnar design, and is quite different from the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1 Nokton.

    Brian has been playing with the new Chinese lens and is quite impressed by it.

  4. Scott

    I bought one, shot a roll of FP-4 with it, and then returned it, because it won’t mount on my M3 or M4. The very wide and very shallow-angled body of the lens crashes the ring around the lens release button on those bodies.
    It mounted properly on my MP (the film MP from 2000 or thereabouts, not the film one from the 50’s, not the digital one. Why does Leica do that? They’ll probably bring out a new digital at some point, and call it the M3.).
    I shot it mostly wide-open, because why else would you use a lens that weighs a pound, and didn’t find it exactly “soft” except maybe compared to a $10,000 Noctilux. I wouldn’t know.
    It’s soft in the same way that my mid-sixties Summicron is soft, and I’m fine with that.
    7 Artisans says they’ll be producing a new version in September that will fit the other film Ms. I’ll probably buy one.

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