Choosing Wisely: TTArtisan APS-C 50mm f/1.2

The 50mm f/1.2 all-manual APS-C lens from TTArtisan costs around a hundred bucks and is built like an Acme anvil. It offers outstanding value for the dollar and is fun to use. But it's not perfect. Read on to review the Pros and Cons as we see them.

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Like many of you, I've used more than a few 50mm lenses in my time, but not many that were f/1.2. My budget always topped out at the f/1.4 price level—or lower. TTArtisan changed all that with their 50mm f/1.2 lens for APS-C format cameras. On my Fujifilm X-T5 it's the equivalent of a 75mm f/1.2 portrait lens. Micro 4/3 users will enjoy the equivalent of a 100mm f/1.2.

I know as much as the next guy about the shallow Depth-of-Field provided by super-fast lenses. Wide open at f/1.2 the DoF is amazingly thin, my brain tells me. But experiencing it firsthand over several weeks has been an education. It's fun to experiment by shifting the ridge of sharpness across the viewfinder. And when you need more DoF and/or want to crank up the detail rendering, it's a simple matter to stop down to f/5.6 or so.

The TTArtisan APS-C 50mm f/1.2 is manual-manual, i.e., manual focus and manual aperture. Not so many years ago, virtually all cameras were MF. Focus Peeking and other focusing aids have made MF much easier to master than in days of old. As far as the manual aperture goes, it's not an obstacle, although it definitely slows down overall operation in many situations. 

This 50mm f/1.2 feels good in the hand. Build quality is very, very good and the lens has some heft, 11.9 ounces (336 g) in fact, about the same as my morning coffee including the vintage 1971 Starbucks mug. The front element is jewel-like. I didn't know much about TTArtisan as an optics manufacturer before I purchased this 50mm f/1.2, but based on everything I've experienced so far, I'm planning to investigate more of their offerings. In my sights now is the TTArtisan APS-C 10mm f/2 ASPH which I've seen priced as low as $159 (plus shipping). It's manual-manual too, but with a lens this wide, focusing accuracy is the least of my concerns. Watch for it in a future Choosing Wisely story.

The TTArtisan 50mm f/1.2 has some downsides too, to be sure; after all, it's priced around $100. There's noticeable magenta fringing in washed-out highlight areas, and some unsharpness in the corners. But I expected those flaws. The bokeh is downright peculiar—out-of-focus highlights appear like 10-sided geometric shapes, stars and other assorted glyphs. In some shots, they look cool; in others, it's damn distracting.

Key Features
50mm focal length (75mm equivalent)
Large f/1.2 aperture (to minimum f/16)
Very good build quality & metal construction
Appealing retro design
Aprox. 18-inch (0.5m) minimum focusing distance
Clicked aperture ring (a boon to still photographers)
Interesting bokeh
Budget-friendly price

Available Mounts
Sony E, Fujifilm X, Nikon Z, Canon RF, Canon M, L Mount, Micro 4/3
[Choosing Wisely]

Reasons to Buy Today
Low price but very good build quality
Sharp from about f/5.6 down
Fun lens with very fast aperture
Useful 75mm (equivalent) great for portraits
Focuses to about 18 inches

Reasons to Shy Away
Some noticeable magenta fringing in highlights
All manual focus, aperture, everything = S L O W
Unusual bokeh (some will like, others vehemently hate)
Clicked aperture ring (a bane to videographers)
Focuses only to about 18 inches

Sum & Substance
I'm happy I bought this TTArtisan APS-C 50mm f/1.2. To me, the good points outweigh the bad by a considerable margin, and it's enjoyable to use. I'm getting some good images, and that's the most important thing. Furthermore, it's put TTArtisan on my radar and reopened my eyes to budget-priced manual focus lenses.

Price & Availability
Available now in black or silver colorways, you can order the TTArtisan APS-C 50mm f/1.2 from Amazon for $112. Also available directly from TTArtisan's website (potentially for less but with additional shipping charges) and hopefully from your local camera store, your resident connection to expert information, honest dealings and fair prices.

—Jon Sienkiewicz


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