It’s been quite a while since I was so excited to write my subjective impressions on a recent piece of photographic gear, like the new, mind-changer TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 manual focus lens, built for Leica M mount cameras, but also perfectly well-fit for mirrorless cameras (with the right adapter).

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3

This lens came as an interesting surprise for me and I think it’s fully justified; the courageous and skilled Chinese lens manufacturers like those from TTartisan probably enjoy doing that: astonish photography enthusiasts with new products, new lenses, providing remarkable image quality performance at unbeatable prices. What they do is creating manual focus lenses with modern technology behind their optics science, while giving a character to each product which needs to be discovered by each of their users (and probably this character is also touched by what type of digital sensor stays behind one of these lenses).

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 with its native M mount on ZEISS Ikon ZM

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 via K&F L/M – NEX adapter

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 via Voigtlander Close-Focus VM-X adapter

This is not supposed to be your typical review that you’re used to read on this cosmic internet; it probably isn’t even a review, but more of a set of personal impressions about this new lens. The internet is full of cold, hard facts and data sheets and I am not just one more contributor to this type of data. Personally, I enjoy reading original stories and impressions from photographers from all over the world and it’s their subjective approach I need the most, when talking about a new camera, or a new lens. My story is subjective as well and there are some of you interested in this type of personal feed-back; combined with the scientific data available from professional reviewers, you cand build your own idea about the need to use this lens on your camera(s).

Indeed, the release of a very fast 90mm M mount lens from TTartisan was a total surprise for me. I wasn’t planning on getting such a new lens, but it’s true that my interest in manual focus lenses was present for quite a while and especially for M mount lenses, since I started to do and love film photography. Using and enjoying a ZEISS Ikon ZM camera with a set of well-sought lenses is a liberating adventure, when you need to slow down, have the authentic photographic experience and get back to the roots of photography, while bathing in the mature satisfaction when you get the anticipated results.

I started my rangefider M mount film camera experience by building a set of 4 essential lenses: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. My first choice was ZEISS Biogon 28mm F2.8 ZM, a lens wich I loved in terms of built quality and design, followed by two Voigtlander Nokton 35mm in their latest MC versions (35mm F1.4 VM and 35mm F1.2 VM), followed by the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F1.2 VM. Only one left: having the framing lines of my rangefinder viewfider designed for 85mm, the obvious choice was the ZEISS Tele-Tessar 85mm F4.0 – a compact tele-photo lens with plenty of possitive reviews, beautiful and solid build with great IQ.

However, some plans might change. This is why I recently sold my ZEISS 28mm Biogon F2.8 ZM plus the compact and lovely Voigtlander 35mm F1.4 VM, to make room for an interesting 7Artisans 28mm F1.4 and when I’ve heard that TTartisan plans to launch a new 90mm F1.25 for M mount, I just took a leap of faith and erased the 85mm Tessar from my wish-list, inviting this new, superfast tele-photo Chinese prime lens into my set of four light gatherer prime lenses for my ZEISS Ikon ZM.

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 @ F4

I knew it from the start that my preferences for shallow depth of field and great light gathering capabilities in low light situations demanded good quality fixed lenses with an aperture as wide as possible, delivering images with pleasing sharpness and character, without breaking the bank. I think my choices reflect quite well those selecting conditions. We need to understand that nowadays, digital cameras have reached an impressive level of performance in low light conditions; we have IBIS, great image noise control at higher ISO levels and we are fine with slower lenses, too (like F2.8, or F4).

However, when using film cameras, you are stuck with the same film sensibility, which means the same ISO level. I like to overexpose the films a bit (not all of them and not always), but I don’t like to underexpose them. The safest bet is to take the box speed of your film as a solid reference for your exposure. This is very limiting, in terms of shutter speeds, when you shoot indoors, in the evening, or during the night. No optical image stabilization inside the lenses, no IBIS for your film cameras – just your skills of adaptation to the situation and to the film speed you are using at that time. I have a tripod, but I don’t travel with a tripod and to be honest, apart from landscapes and static urban scenes, where could I use it? I just consider I don’t have it and I try to make the best of it, without it.

There is one think we could do, in terms of pushing the technical limitations a bit further for low light conditions: to use fast lenses with wide apertures. This will significantly impact the shutter speeds of the film cameras, offering comfort and sharp images in many situations and making possible to get photos in darker settings, otherwise impossible to obtain with a slower lens. This is why I feel comfortable with:

28mm F1.4

35mm F1.2

50mm F1.2

… and the surprising TTartisan M 90mm F1.25.

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F4.0

The speed they have achieved for this focal length is impressive, to say the least! What are the alternatives? The Noctilux from Leica with the same speed as this one, but 15mm wider and 11.000 euro more expensive, or the Summilux with the same focal length as this one, a tad slower and 10.200 euro more expensive? Of course, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to compare Leica lenses with TTartisan lenses; but sometimes it makes sense. 🙂

Now, back to the elephant in the room, this lens makes quite a first impression! You can find the technical sheet and some other specifications about the newly lauched TTArtisan M 90mm F1.25 on their official page. It seems big, with its 77mm filter thread (just like my Fujifilm XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR pro-grade standard zoom), heavy, with its 1kg+ weight and very well metal built. It has 10 diaphragm blades for beautiful bokeh and smooth transitions from the subject in focus towards the out of focus areas and a specified 1 m minimum focus distance from your subject. I have tested this lens on my ZEISS Ikon ZM in its native M mount and on both Fujifilm X-T4 and Sony A7R3, using the well-crafted Voigtlander Close-Focus M lens adapters, one for each camera.

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.4

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F4.0

I cannot confirm the minimum focus distance with my analog camera, but with both digital cameras, the minimum focus distances I measured have the following values (with the Voigtlander Close-Focus adapter in its standard position and at the maximum close focus position):

Fujifilm X series

Minimum focus distance with standard setting: 92 cm

Minimum focus distance with maximum close focus setting: 65 cm

Sony A7 series

Minimum focus distance with standard setting: 92 cm

Minimum focus distance with maximum close focus setting: 65 cm

These measurements were made with both cameras on the tripod, measuring between the top edge of the lens and the subject itself, with the lens set at F2.8

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.4

Build & Handling

Big, bold, beautiful. The first time when you touch it and hold it in your hand, the most prominent sensations are of beautiful craftmanship, impressive size and for a bit over 1 kg, it feels like this was designed to be used on the Moon (check Moon’s gravity pull, if you want); it’s very heavy – it’s the heaviest prime lens I have ever had. To be more precise, I have used the digital kitchen scale to get these values:

The lens without the metallic cap: 1013 g

The lens with the metallic cap: 1062 g

The lens without the cap, mounted on Fujifilm X-T4 with Voigtlander Close Focus adapter: 1724 g

The lens without the cap, mounted on Sony A7R3 with Voigtlander Close Focus adapter: 1799 g

This lens has beautiful engravings and it’s nice to have the opportunity to use the zone focusing markings, although I doubt how useful it could be for 90 mm focal length at wider apertures. If I read this scale correctly, at F8, things are in focus between 1.5 m and less than 2 m away, for example.

The metal build is beautiful. The design is simply gorgeous, in that classic Leica style. The focus ring rotates with the right amount of resistance and the aperture ring has very discreet, yet noticeable clicks. It seems to me that towards the edge of the lens (mount end), where its exterior diameter starts to convex towards the lens mount, there is an edge which seems a bit too sharp and harsh in some places, like an uncomfortable feeling at finger skin level.

The overall perception is of durability and quality. It may not be your most comfortable lens to carry around your neck for the whole day and focusing it at the widest aperture is a challenge itself, but if you want something special and “speed” is what you’re after, you will get plenty of it.

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.4

Image quality & character

I have to say I am pleased with the image quality. The softness I see at F1.25 and F1.4 is something to be expected and it’s due to pushing the technical limits of creating such a fast lens for 90mm. I find it difficult to focus at F1.25 when the light isn’t abundant. Focus peaking is the key element of the equation; to get contrast lines when the image is soft, you need plenty of light. Sony does a better job than Fujifilm, in outlining the contrast areas for focusing. Images at this maximum aperture are soft and things start to degrade the more you look towards the corners / edges of the frame and also the more your camera comes closer towards the minimum focus distance.

At F1.4 things start to improve a bit and we can see significant improvement at F2.0 and F2.8, but the image remains still soft, very similar to what my two Voigtlander Noktons F1.2 can produce at their widest apertures.

Let’s see some image examples with Fujifilm X-T4 in a transition from F1.25 to F4:

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 @ F1.4

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 @ F2.0

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 @ F2.8

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 @ F4.0

Vignetting, flares and CA

I am not into these kind of technical details; we all know that almost all lenses from almost all manufacturers have their weakest spot at their maximum aperture, when talking about sharpness, vignetting, chromatic aberrations, light flares. This lens makes no exception, especially when talking about a very special lens design which pushes the technical limits; 90mm F1.25 is very different from 85mm F4 from Zeiss. I am glad I made this choice: 90mm focal length means 5mm extra reach and when mounting the TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 lens on my ZEISS Ikon ZM I have the 85mm frame lines activated, to help me compose my shots on film. I would automatically assume the real shot would be a bit tighter than what the 85mm frame lines show in my viewfinder and I could comfortably live with that. At F4, Zeiss Tessar would be at its maximum aperture (with the typical weaknesses of using a lens at the maximum aperture, even if it’s an excellent lens in terms of IQ), while the M 90mm F1.25 lens would be at 3,5 Stops away from its maximum aperture, where the IQ is remarkable for this type of lens, although some softness still remains in the corners. I need more time to look for sun flares and CA, but those are not a concern to me and being not an expert, I believe the 4 sets of achromatic doublets which were used in this M 90mm F1.25 lens should make a positive impact on the chromatic aberration control and the resolution performance, delivering a better image quality.

Below, a set of image examples with Sony A7R3 in a transition from F1.25 to F5.6:

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.4

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F2.0

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F2.8

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F4.0

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F5.6


I just saw this lens for pre-order in one of my favorite European photo stores listed for 799 euro. It is one of the most expensive lenses, coming from China and being manual focus only. However, if this lens, in its exact performance and design, would carry the Voigtlander brand for example, it could easily be 2x – 3x more expensive and still be very cost attractive for many photography enthusiasts.

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.4

Pros & Cons

Again, this is not a very scientific approach in defining the pros and cons of this lens. However, I strongly believe there are more pros than cons, or better said, you could live with the disadvantages, once you understand there is no perfect lens and if you want something special, you have to admit and accept some drawbacks. Most of the times, what could be an advantage, comes together with a disadvantage, like praising the aerodynamics and handling of a Ferrari and in the same time complaining of the lack of comfortable suspensions and the almost non-existent trunk space for your luggage. We cannot have everything; who dreams of this 12-300mm F1.0 AF OIS hypothetical lens? Back to the reality!

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.4


Beautifully built in solid metal with attractive design and Leica style markings; the lens cap is simply gorgeous.

Quite the unique portrait prime lens! Very fast aperture: at F1.25 for 90mm focal length, I’d say you don’t have other real choices.

10 rounded aperture blades for incredible bokeh and very creamy transitions from subject in focus to background.

It produces beautiful images, rich in character, while maintaining the IQ of the expected modern optical technology.

Pleasant manual focus experience with well dampened and nice focus ring and aperture ring.

The presence in the box of a screwdriver and user guide to perform your own focus adjustment.

Tripod mounting hole at the bottom of this heavy lens, to protect your camera mount from the stress of its weight when using a tripod.

Very attractive price for its performances.


Big and heavy – this means anticipated fatigue for your hands, neck, shoulders.

Difficulty in focusing at largest apertures, especially at this speed and for this tele photo focal length. Focus peaking is a life savior on mirrorless cameras – I cannot see myself adapting this lens on a DSLR => game over.

Soft images at the widest apertures (something to be expected).

Metal casing could be better finished in some areas and there is a small wobble / play on the mount of my M mount rangefinder film camera (but nothing wrong when mounting it on the digital cameras, using 2 types of adapters from 2 different manufacturers, for both Sony and Fujifilm cameras).

Recommendations in use

The TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 is a modern manual focus lens with a vintage character in the way it renders the captured images. It is a lens for very specialized needs. I need more time to use it in comparative and different situations, also mounted on my film camera; I am very curious to see how its character will merge with the character of the film types I normally use.

My frugal tests on my digital mirrorless cameras show me the responsibility one should have in mounting this lens on a camera. You can be playful in using this lens, but often, what you have in focus is literally 1 mm of the whole frame. Nailing the focus is a real challenge and maybe this is what some of us really need in these days on superfast, eye / face tracking autofocus. We need something different, if we are tired of the instant gratification we get when using the smartphone and the latest digital cameras; we need to see how we do some work and sometimes struggle with the technical limitations of our gear, while enjoying the satisfaction when the results are pleasing.

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.4

I would recommend using this lens for portraits, mostly (and this is probably the main reason the manufacturers had in mind when building this lens). Maybe not that type of corporate portraits, where a professional photographer makes portraits of a company’s employees, but the artistic type of portraits, delivering images with character, softness and vintage look. The test images show that F1.4 is significantly better than F1.25 and there isn’t much difference in terms of shutter speeds, ISO levels, or shallow depth of field. Knowing that the most vulnerable spot in terms of IQ is at the maximum aperture, you could easily consider this lens a 90mm F1.4 and get beautiful results. So, no need to fear stopping it down to F1.4, F2, or even F2.8 when the situation permits. If the light isn’t sufficient, I would consider F1.25 as an advantage. However, all of these will help you make your images even better if you step away from the minimum focusing distance. For portraits, your photographs will look significantly better if your subjects is a few meters away from the camera, especially for full body portraits, or environmental portraits. The closer your subject is to the minimum focusing distance of this lens, the softer the images will get.


As I’ve said, this isn’t a scientific approach in describing this new manual focus lens, but I am excited to post some images made with it, using my earlier mentioned digital cameras. The idea is to get the opportunity to use it on my film camera, as well, develop the film(s) and update this article with images made with my ZEISS Ikon ZM + TTartisan M 90mm F1.25.

If you want a very unique tele-photo lens for portraits and the extra reach those 90mm could give you, if you enjoy the manual focus experience on both film cameras and mirrorless cameras, if you cherish the creamy bokeh and need the best background isolation, if you love the lenses with character, instead of the cold, clinical sharpness of some modern lenses (which require afterwards some skin softening techniques in your PP software, when doing portraits), if you need the remarkable speed for low light situations for low ISO levels and comfortable shutter speeds at 90mm FL, all of these without setting your wallet on fire, then this lens might be what you need, to bring a smile on your face and get a very interesting (and challenging) photographic experience.

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.4

Towards the end of this story, I have the pleasure of showing you some additional photographs made with this lens, exclusively at F1.25, using both Fujifilm X-T4 and Sony A7R3 mirrorless cameras. Those images are JPEG files SOOC (straight out of camera), after resizing for web publishing. The variations in colors, contrast and luminosity depend on the camera color profiles I have customized and used:

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Fujifilm X-T4 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.25

TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 on Sony A7R3 @ F1.25

This was my personal review of this TTartisan M 90mm F1.25 manual focus lens; those views are my own and I have no affiliations with the manufacturing company, or anyone else.

May the Light be with you all!

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2021 /