Lens Review: TTArtisan 17mm f/1.4
Updated: Oct 13
This is the first lens review on my website. The TTArtisan 17mm f/1.4 is a compact, budget, manual focus, fast wide angle lens designed for APS-C mirrorless cameras. This review is of the Sony E-mount version.
Construction and Design
The TTArtisan 17mm f/1.4 lens is a compact wide angle lens designed for APS-C mirrorless cameras, with versions for most APS-C (and M4/3) mirrorless mounts apart from Canon RF-mount (APS-C is only a recent introduction to this mount). The 81 degree viewing angle at 17mm on APS-C is equivalent to the 25mm focal length on 35mm full frame cameras, with 24-28mm being a popular focal length for general photography. The lens is available in Black or Silver versions.
The lens arrived in a branded box, with instructions, warranty card, and a lens cleaning cloth. Not bad for the price of US$120.
The lens is of a metallic construction, with an unusual but attractive tapered shape. A print of the optical design (9 elements in 8 groups) on the lens is a nice feature. There are two rings, a clicked aperture ring with (half stop clicks, and full stop markings), and a manual focus ring. As with most budget Chinese lenses, this lens is manual focus only, with no electronics or electrical/data connections.
The lens is relatively lightweight at 248g, and maximum dimensions of 54mm diameter by 60mm length. There is an unusual 40.5mm filter thread, and the metallic lens cap screws into this thread. No lens hood is provided which may increases susceptibility to lens flare from light sources just outside of the field of view in some scenes, though this was not an issue during testing.
Sharpness at f/1.4 is soft in the centre and very soft at the edges, and I would struggle to get useable results at this aperture. Focus peaking can struggle at f/1.4 in some lighting conditions. Sharpness get noticeably better from f/2, though only the centre 1/3 of the image is what I would call sharp until f/5.6 from where the edge to edge sharpness is acceptable. Optimal sharpness is at f/8 very good in the centre, and OK at the edges. Diffraction kicks in from f/11 as usual but sharpness is still acceptable. Optical performance is, as expected, not as good as the much larger, much heavier, and more expensive (but still reasonably priced) Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN lens which performs excellently at every aperture (though my Sigma 16mm appears to be decentred, and is thus not so good in the top left corner). However, the TTArtisan 17mm f/1.4 still performs admirably well for the price at mid-apertures. Christopher Frost's excellent video review shows the centre and corner sharpness far better than I can.
Manual focus was fairly easy from f/2, and the focus continues fractionally beyond infinity. For light painting and night photography I prefer to use manual focus, and like the focus to stay put. This is actually an issue on the aforementioned Sigma 16mm on my Sony A6400 which intermittently resets focus when switching between live view and playback even when manual focus mode is selected on the camera body. Minimum focus is 20cm, which is pretty useful.
Purple fringing can be evident, more so at wide apertures. There is also a slight blue colour cast. Both are easily correctable in Lightroom. Barrel distortion is acceptable, non-complex, and correctable in post-processing if required. Vignetting is noticeable with wider apertures, but I don't see this as much of a real world issue.
The TTArtisan 17mm f/1.4 has 10 aperture blades. Even number of aperture blades result in the same number of sunstar points e.g. 10 blades = 10 points. Odd numbers of aperture blades double the sunstar points e.g. 7 blades = 14 points. For night and light painting photography, well defined sunstar/starburts are a huge bonus, and this lens performs well. In fact, I even managed to get a sunstar (in a "bubble") from a streetlamp at f/2!
The flare resistance was much better than what I was expecting. Most of my light painting photos did not suffer from significant flare (either ghosting, internal lens reflection, or decreased contrast). If I use a lot of "fairy dust" (pointing a strobing flashlight directly at the camera lens), or T8 tubes with no end cap, then I do see some flaring and decrease in contrast. This can be corrected with local use of dehaze in Lightroom. When shooting in daytime, with the sun just outside of the field of view, there was no flare or reduction in image contrast.
The conclusion has to put into perspective the budget price tag of US$120 of the TTArtisan 17mm f/1.4 lens, compared to the $370 Sigma 16mm f/1.4. The lens performs well for its price at all apertures from f/2. For wide angle portraiture I would prefer more sharpness at wide apertures and more of the frame to be sharper. For general hobbyist use, this is a fun wide angle lens to use. For long exposure night photography, and light painting using mid-apertures, where manual focus, low weight/size, starbursts, and fairly good flare resistance are useful, then I would certainly consider this a good option if you are on a budget or require a manual only lens. I have personally used this lens for every light painting and night photography session since testing, as I like it a lot!
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