M mount slippery slope update.
I had feared that once I acclimated to having an older M Mount digital body one or both of two things would happen. M GAS would hit me full on like a bus and:
- I would then become obsessed with upgrading to a newer M body.
- I would become obsessed with upgrading from my relatively humble Artisan glass to more lauded Leica, Zeiss, or Voigtlander glass.
Well, none of that happened and I do not believe it will. Addressed one at a time:
M body upgrade.
I love a deal. And this was a heck of an M body deal I landed. Would be hard to let it go.
Above that, after using it for a couple of weeks I feel no need to replace or add to it because I am genuinely pleased with the M240. Have not once thought I needed more. Many point to the larger size, but it does not bother me at all. Swifter processing speed is not needed. Newer cameras tout better high ISO performance but I am good with the M240 once again. That leaves the high MP count on the M11, but I am fine with 24MP.
Upgrade from Artisan glass.
Surely once the fun and games of adapting to mirrorless and using them with lesser M film cameras (No offense meant. Just in that the Leica M3, Leica CL, and Voigtlander Bessa R2 were not the most prized and/or the most expensive M film bodies.) I would eventually pivot away from knock-off lenses (No offense… You know what? Nevermind. Blanket disclaimer: Everything here is opinion. Your mileage may vary.) and “upgrade” to more respectable glass once a Leica M body made in the last couple of decades was secured, right? Wrong.
I can honestly say that I am good. All of the Artisan lenses are performing at more than acceptable levels for me. Combine that with my obsession with similar lens pedigree when possible where I really do not want to mix things up by adding more traditional M mount brands. Plus there is something cool about getting perfectly good results or better with a Bad News Bears bag of lenses that when combined cost much less than one Leica lens. All bought used for even more savings except the 50mm, which I bought marked down from other websites from KEH brand new. I currently stand at five and I am perfectly happy with each one of them.
There was nothing wrong with the Artisans lenses I had in the past. Focal length redundancy or a certain mount APS-C variant sell off, not any fault is why I no longer have them. Here is a rundown of lenses I have had in the past and those that I have currently with sample images and high-level notes.
Used to have.
7Artisans 7.5mm f/2.8 Fisheye (E Mount)
- An unbeatable price at around $139 new for the version II copy. A borderline no brainer. I had the version I lens and it performed very well.
- Compact and well built.
- As an added bonus hit it with the Rokinon/Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens profile in Lightroom and you get yourself a decent looking 11.25mm full-frame equivalent rectilinear image.
Why do I no longer have it?
- Easy. When I went from a6XXX to the A7C all of my Sony APS-C glass shuffled off also. Not too much of a hardship since there is another fisheye below.
7Artisans 28mm f/1.4 (M Mount)
- Arguably the best Artisans lens I have used optically. I found no fault with it. Even without a hood I rarely saw a flare or chromatic aberrations if at all. Sharp with great colors and produced out of focus blur that I truly liked. For example:
Why do I no longer have it?
- Nothing to do with the optical performance. Largely to do with their being two different versions and there being another 28mm lens I wanted more. 7Artisans made two versions of this lens, one optimized for Sony and another optimized for Leica. I picked up a Sony variant previously because I planned to use it mostly adapted and occasionally with film. This go around I planned on using it more with digital M but still adapted to Sony and I did not want to choose. As far as the other 28mm lens, more on that is below.
- A solid lens at a great price. This was a first generation copy that I had, and even the replacement gen II model is reasonably priced. Oddly it only seems available new at KEH. But if you can find a used gen 1 model you have found yourself a great deal.
Why do I no longer have it?
- Given a larger camera than the Leica CL I prefer the 7Artisans 35mm f/1.4. That is it. That is all I have got. I really liked this lens.
TTArtisans 11mm f/2.8 Fisheye (FE Mount)
- A great full-frame replacement for the APS-C 7Artisans 7.5mm f/2.8 Fisheye. A fantastic lens. Well built. Good looking. Great IQ. And like that other Fisheye lens, rectilinear images are just a Lightroom Rokinon/Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye lens profile away.
Why FE and not an M copy?
- You can already focus the 11mm so closely that a close focus adapter is not really needed. An 11mm Fisheye is pretty much always in focus so a rangefinder is not really needed. Sans rangefinder coupling the FE copy is considerably less expensive than the M variant. Add not needing a separate viewfinder to frame for the definitive win for me.
TTArtisans 21mm f/1.5 (M Mount)
- This lens is fun. Period. Bought it as a more affordable and “practical” wide-angle alternative to the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 I had in the past. What I got is a lens that made the most of the trade between a narrower field of view and a much brighter aperture. It is like the perfect combination of that 15mm Voigtlander and the 28mm 7Artisans lenses above. The result is a lens far more usable and faster than the 15mm, wider than the 28mm, and for me more fun than both. It is the last lens I obtained and has already become a favorite. Add in good looks, great accessories, and close focus capabilities and AF when adapting and this lens is a real winner.
TTArtisans 28mm f/5.6 (M Mount)
- It’s purdy, compact, built like a small blunt force throwing weapon, and captures great images. That about sums it up. Reasonably priced also. Whatever misgivings one might have about the slow aperture are easily offset by the image quality and aesthetics for me. Also great for a wide angle point and shoot using zone focusing. A better 28mm solution for me than the 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4 mentioned above. On paper, the wider aperture seems better, but I tended not to use it as that aperture brings a greater size and weight. 7Artisans makes a lens at this spec also. I am sure it is good also, but I like the look of the more compact TTArisans model better and I have read that the 7Artisans lens does not bring up the correct rangefinder frame lines while the TTArtisans model does. Again. Personal taste.
7Artisans 35mm f/1.4 (M Mount)
- This lens replaces the wider 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4 as my most sober M mount lens. Other lenses listed here lean into their value, unique IQ, or looks. But, much like the 28mm, this 35mm f/1.4 lens is just plain good. No caveats. It produces solid images. So much so that I would not consider going to another brand. TTArtisans makes a lens at this spec and I am sure that is a great lens also. I found a deal on the 7Artisans first and I must also admit that I prefer the design and built in lens hood of the 7Artisans version. Great IQ and build quality. An all around solid lens with few compromises. And they throw in a rather snazzy case.
- This lens is an old favorite of mine that has a bit of a split personality about it. And that split personality is exactly why I like it. It already helps that 50mm is just about my favorite prime focal length. Then add a brighter than average aperture that makes easy work of low light scenes even with film. The split personality part is its IQ. One moment it produces flare-tastic images with a wonky personality that I like. The next moment it is taking a solid portrait without an IQ foot put wrong. Add in bokeh that is an acquired taste, that I fortunately like, great colors, and a bargain price and you have yourself a winner. Have left analog M-dome from time to time but each time I return this is the first lens I pick up.
7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 (M Mount)
- Come for the novelty. Stay for the IQ. This lens is not the first I would think of for a rangefinder camera. In all honesty, I had adapting in mind when I picked it up. Had thought focusing could be an issue with the film rangefinder I had at the time, the short effective base length Leica CL, and I was right. Doable, but not pleasant. But as expected it was fantastic when adapting. With its longer focal length and fast aperture, it was capable of some impressive images using close focus adapters. But when coupled with a “full size” rangefinder I have found that focusing is not an issue at all. A pleasure to use actually that has already created some portraits that I really like. Great IQ and bokeh. A great looking lens as well. And far less money than the, clearly superior overall but it better be, 32x more expensive Leica variant. To say that lens is far out of my price range would be the mother of understatements so access to the rather pleasing 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 is quite the appreciated consolation prize.
Again, I did not think it would turn out like this once I had a digital M. Thought I would be all over the used websites daily trying to score more traditional glass, but nope. Unless something shows up half price or better it looks like I am good to go. And even then I will likely not be tempted. Above use with digital M there are other advantages as well.
Modern mirrorless is touted as being the compact alternative to DSLRs. Well, rangefinders are far more compact still. Whereas other mirrorless kits require a “please knock me over the head for my gear” sized backpack be dragged about, I managed to get all of this kit (One body and 5 lenses.) plus a Godox Lux Jr. flash in a tiny little unassuming shoulder bag. And courtesy the very reasonable prices of the Artisans lenses it is likely far more affordable as well. Yes, you give up modern conveniences like AF and IBIS but that is worth it for anyone who enjoys the simplicity of rangefinder cameras.
I am really glad I finally got ahold of a digital M. As much as I thought I would like it, this has turned out far better than I expected.