The TTArtisan 10mm f/2 lens for Fujifilm’s X system

It is rare for me to write so called “lens reviews”, mostly because I do not have the technical ability or background to carry out that type of detailed analysis. Also, for many years my preference has been to skip this type of reviews and learn more from the opinion of trusted photographers that are kind enough to share their experiences with others. These days, with computer aided lens design, and complex manufacturing of exotic lens’ elements, it is hard to find a “bad” lens. Following this introduction, in the next paragraphs I will summarize my experience with a lens that I have recently acquired; its full name is TTArtisan Super Wide 10mm f2 APSC, in Fujifilm X mount.

I have always enjoyed photographing the nigh sky in a landscape context, with the Milky Way, or star trails. Given that I am now living in Oman (where there are still remote dark sites), and I have the opportunity of going out once a month with an astronomy group, I started searching for a dedicated ultra-wide and fast prime lens. I did not want to spend a lot of money, so I chose the above-mentioned lens; it is manual focus, and it does not feature electronic communication with the camera, but these are not important for the intended purpose. On the other hand, it is robustly built, all metal and glass. During the last couple of months, I have used the lens in several trips, photographing both during the day and night. What follows is a series of photos, where I will try to illustrate my key findings. All images were taken with the Fujifilm XT5, which has one of the most demanding APSC sensors, with its 40 mp.

Sun stars – they are generally excellent, but you have to watch out for flare. The lens flares easily, which is probably its most significant downside for daylight photography. You can mitigate against this by slightly adjusting your framing or position. With the sun outside of the field of view, you can also get some minor flare, which you can eliminate by carefully placing your hand next to the lens; just be careful to avoid your hand showing up on the image. Even with this downside, I managed to get some really nice photos.

Wakan village, Oman.
Wakan village, Oman.
Gubrah bowl, Oman.
Jebel Akhdar, Oman.
Jebel Akhdar, Oman.
Jebel Akhdar sunset, Oman.

General landscapes – I am happy with the results. Sure there are better lenses, but for Fujifilm the other options covering 10mm are much more expensive. Remember, this is a lens that costs around USD 150. So far I have used it in the Oman mountains and desert, without a problem. The sharpness is actually excellent at normal landscape apertures, diminishing to the corners; still, A3 and even A2 size prints are fine.

Jebel Akhdar, Oman.
Dawn, Jebel Akhdar, Oman.
Jebel Akhdar, Oman.
Nizwa, Oman. The geometric distortion is low, with straight lines not bending.
Nizwa, Oman.
Nizwa, Oman.

Night sky – this was the main reason why I got the lens. With such a wide angle of view and large aperture, it ticks the right boxes for those vast Milky Way and star trail images. Manual focus at infinity is easy to achieve using the magnification function of the camera, and carefully bringing a bright star into a pinpoint on the screen. Again, there are probably better lenses in terms of coma and other optical defects, but I am happy with the results I am getting thus far. I have used f/2.8 because it reduces those defects, compared to f/2. Vignetting is also present, but for Milky Way photos, it actually helps to guide the eye towards the important part of the frame.

Wahiba sands desert, Oman. 15 seconds exposure.
Wahiba sands desert, Oman. About 150 shots stacked, 30 seconds each.
Jebel Akhdar, Oman. Around 100 shots of 30 seconds each.

My conclusion is that for the price, this lens delivers the goods. Certainly I will keep using it for my night sky images. For day light landscapes, it is also perfectly usable, bearing in mind that it flares easily. The low distortion also makes it useful for interior photos. I keep repeating myself, but this lens delivers well above its cost.

Blossoms in Wakan

A couple of months ago I visited the village of Wakan, I the Jebel Akhdar mountains. I wrote about that visit here:

I have recently returned for another visit, to see the fruit trees in blossom. Typically, this occurs during February, and makes for a different experience in Oman, as the surrounding hills and gardens become alive with the white patches of flowering trees. My plan was to spend some time walking in the village and the fields, and then hike up the mountain following the well-marked trail. I have done this many times before, but once you gain altitude, the views are amazing; so, it is well worth the effort.

Last time I visited the weather was cool and cloudy, but this time it was warmer and there was plenty of sunshine. There were also lots of visitors, which created some traffic jams not only in the narrow gravel road that leads to the village, but also in the (small) parking lot. But, with a little bit of patience, all is well. People come to admire the Spring blossoms, mostly from the peach trees.

For this trip, I had with me a new lens, the TTArtisan 10mm f/2; my idea is to use this lens in astronomy trips, for general night sky photography, such as star trails, and Milky Way. It is quite challenging to use such a wide lens effectively, but I wanted to give it a try. Despite a few shortcomings (mostly lens flares), for the low price it carries and robust construction, the lens is quite interesting and useful. As a complement, I also carried the Voigtlaender 35mm f/1.2 lens, for more general photography.

I walked around the village and the fields for about 1 hour, framing some interesting shots of Wakan against the mountainous backdrop and the “bowl” down below. The surrounding mountains are bare of vegetation, apart from small bushes; their peaks are characterized by jagged edges, well defined against the crisp blue sky. I am used to the beauty of fruit tree blossoms, as we have many areas in Portugal where they occur; but here in Oman the setting is different, because of the geography and climate.

Sun burst.
View from above.
Old man.

As the visitors and tourists walk about admiring the views, the locals try to carry on with their daily chores. Life in this, and other more isolated, villages, is still hard; it is necessary to take care of the small parcels of planted land, of the trees, and the goats that roam the hills. Once you leave the village behind and enter the rocky trail that leads up to the top, you will hardly see anybody else. In one of the viewpoints a group of youngsters asks me to take a picture of them using my camera, not a phone. I suppose cameras look cool these days, especially the Fujifilm ones with their retro design! We exchange contacts so that I can send them the photos later.

With the small goat.

I stop a few times along the trail to take some photos, and to eat a picnic lunch, before negotiating a tricky section of the path. This is where the trail hugs the base of a huge vertical wall above, and one needs to follow along the bedding planes of the rocky outcrops. Even though it is noon, this area is in the shade, and some drops of water fall from the rocks above, creating small stalactites and stalagmites as it dissolves the limestone. After that, it is an easy walk again, and the views are remarkable. After a while, it is time to head back to Wakan, which I reach after meeting a few more goats on the way.

Rocky trail.
Wakan panorama.
Another panorama.

On my way out of the Gubrah bowl I stopped in the valley plain to take more photos. The sun is approaching the crest of the mountains, and the quality of the light is getting better, so I frame some of the thorny bushes against the stark surroundings. At the exit of Wadi Mistal, I stop again, waiting for the sunset, and for the full moon rising in the East. I never get tired of visiting these mountains and experiencing their beauty.

In the valley.
Moon rise.