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Five things I hate about the TTArtisan 90mm f/1.25 (and six things I LOVE)

This is not going to be my standard review. It simply can’t be. Because this lens doesn’t check enough boxes to do a proper review. I’m going to depart from the usual format and instead of covering the usual aspects of a review, we’re going to focus more on my experiences with using the lens.

Let me just tell you right now — this lens not easy to use. Far, far, from it … but the lens’ output? Breathtaking! Now, whether it’s worth putting up with the shortcomings, that’s up to you. I’m simply going to share my experiences with the lens.

I’m going to give you five things I absolutely hate and six things I absolutely love about the TTArtisan 90mm f/1.25 lens mounted to a Fujifilm GFX 50S camera.

Five things I HATE about the TTArtisan 90mm f/1.25 on a GFX 50S

1. It’s a cinder block

That’s a formidable front element! The combo of the GFX 50S, the battery grip and the TTArtisan 90mm f/1.25 is a bicep busting 4.5 lbs.!

This thing is rock solid … too solid. Yes, I know it’s f/1.25. But the casing may as well been made out of lead. It literally feels like someone took two lens balls and encased them in solid lead. Heavy, really, really heavy! 

Given its relatively stout profile, the 90 still weighs in at a hefty 2.3 lbs. Combine it with the workout weight of the GFX and my arms are burning 30 seconds into the shoot. The combo of this lens and camera could double as a kettle bell — lens, grip and body — 4.5 lbs.! Bottom line is, unless you’re a body builder, a study tripod is a MUST!

2. The focus ring is too tight

It’s too well dampened. In fact, it’s laborious exercise rotating the ring. Combine the tightness with the relatively long throw (around 170 degrees) from the minimum focus distance to infinity. It’s made of high quality stuff, but the ring is as heavy to move as this lens weighs — if that even makes any sense … It’s very precise, but it’s just hard to rotate. At least, mine is!

3. It’s literally impossible to focus accurately

f/1.25 is pretty awesome, especially if you love bokeh filled images. But f/1.25 on a medium format GFX 50S is a whopping f/0.98, which translates into razor thin depth of field. Given the robust weight of the GFX 50S, handholding, while manually focusing makes getting a sharp shot almost impossible. A steady tripod is a must!

Unless you’re Hercules — and get a sharp shot handheld — especially wide-open. Given it’s super shallow DOF, and the tough to maneuver focus ring, getting a sharp shot handheld is a serious, serious challenge! It would be a challenge anyway, but factor in the toughness of the ring, and it’s darn near impossible.

4. The lens cap is too tight on the barrel

I’m already noticing scuff marks and wear marks on the barrel from taking the lens cap on and off. This should be more refined.

The land cap is an unusual design, it’s really tight and there are rub marks on the lens barrel because the lens cap is so tight.

5. It’s a completely manual lens

Keep that in mind because the max aperture is a razor thin f/1.25. I’ve chosen to shoot 90mm natively on a medium format GFX 50S, which means the effective depth of is f/0.975. That’s super, super thin.

What this translates to is, in practice, I have to slow down and focus on what I’m doing before I take the shot. If my subject is impatient or if I’m short on time, I will not use this lens!

The good stuff: Six things I LOVE about the TTArtisan 90mm f1.25 on a GFX 50S

It was once said to me, that many a sin is forgiven, so long as you make your goal. If your goal is incredibly beautiful, bokeh filled imagery, then you may very well forgive all of the TTArtisian 90mm’s sins. In spite of all those warts and sins, there is some good news;

1. The build quality

It feels like a quality product. I know I said it’s a cinder block, but this thing is built like a brick wall. No, it’s not weather sealed. No, the lens cover isn’t refined as mentioned. And sure, the focus ring is hard to move. However, this lens is built more like something you’d get from the 1930s. The materials are rock solid and anything but lightweight.

Though the build translates into hefty 2.3 lbs., which makes it hard to handhold, it’s undeniable the TTArtisans is built exceptionally well!

2. The focus ring

Though really hard to move, has a long and very precise throw — about 170 degrees, This makes fine and accurate focus adjustments possible. You do get used to it, I just wish it moved a bit more fluidly.

3. 10 aperture blades!

This lens has 10 — count ‘em 10 — aperture blades! This creates some very unique bokeh and very unique images. It kind of has that swirly bokeh you’d see from old school manual lenses like the Helios 44-2 58mm. If you’re familiar with that lens, you know what I’m talking about.

I watch a videographer on YouTube named Brandon Li; he’s well known. Back in October of 2021 he did a video with the TTArtisan 90mm on a Sony a7S III and filmed a guy walking through the streets of Hong Kong. The bokeh was simply epic and sublime! This lens is capable of mind blowing bokeh — completely melting away backgrounds and foregrounds — and it does it beautifully! Especially with the bigger sensor on a GFX.

No one’s going to deny the bokeh ability of the 90mm f/1.25, combined with 10 aperture blades and background disappear into bokeh heaven!
Wedding couple — many a sin are forgiven if a lens can deliver results like these. Happy clients, happy photographer!

4. Surprisingly sharp in the frame center, even wide-open (even on a GFX!)

I’ve been on a vintage lens kick lately, and virtually all of the old lenses have bad optics — but instead of calling them bad, most photographers and videographers who use them describe them with euphemisms like “I love the lens’ character” to describe the optical flaws of these lenses.

I get that, but Im telling you this, because I’ve gotten used to less than stellar results in the frame center on old school manual lenses. But the TTArtisan 90mm f/1.25 surprised me! The frame center — so long as you nail focus, which again, is a challenging thing to do, can reward you with razor sharp images — even at f/1.25.

5. The price

Sure, it has a lot of shortcomings, but the results are simply stellar and unique. At under $500, for what it is, I think the TTArtisan 90mm f/1.25 is a great value. If your goal is to chase your kids around trying to capture memories, then buy something else. If you’re shooting portraits, especially outdoor portraits, then indulge in the bokeh and consider a TTArtisan 90mm f/1.25 on any system. But it’s really unique and really shows off what it was intended to do on the large format sensors of the Fuji GFX system.

6. The TTArtisan 90mm f/1.25 forces me to slow down, be deliberate and create

../ instead of just spraying and praying (that’s because you can’t). There’s something beautiful about getting in touch with your craft, slowing down and really focusing on the subject, composition and lighting at hand. We’ve become so impatient and we always want instant gratification. For me, it’s been a refreshing change to slow down, take my time and CREATE an image.

So in that sense, the TTartisan 90mm has been kind of a cathartic experience for me. When the opportunity has presented itself, slowing down and getting a shot has been a really neat way to reconnect with my craft. 

Stellar imagery, with some shortcomings

There you have it. If you can deal with the lens’s shortcomings, you’ll be rewarded with stellar imagery! But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

The 90mm f/1.25 is available in several mounts — including Hasselblad, Sony FE, Nikon Z, Canon RF and Leica/Panasonic L Mount. Thanks for reading and now go out and capture some stellar bokeh filled imagery!

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