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I own a Leica M7 and M240 but rarely use them these days. Initially my lenses were all Leica “proper”, which = expensive = I had just two. Then I after getting a Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 for my GH2 which I adored, I saw that they made some pretty nice M mount glass which were all much faster than the Leica focal lengths I owned.
Starting with the very small 35mm F1.4, followed by the sharper but bigger 35mm F1.2, the wide angle 15mm F4.5 then my favourite, the 50mm F1.5 and last but not least the amazing 21mm F1.8 “Ultron”
These are all of course manual lenses as they are for Leica rangefinder cameras. They are also all pretty small lenses, something which is pretty desirable on the mirrorless A7 series.
My favourite native lenses for my Sony A7RII (and will be the same I am sure for the upcoming A7SII) are my two Zeiss Loxia lenses. The 35mm and 50mm F2. The reasons are simply, the optics are lovely, they have proper manual focus (no fly by wire nonsense) and they are TINY. They aren’t cheap though, and there are only two focal lengths. Zeiss have brought out the impossible to source Batis lenses with focal lengths of 24mm and 85mm. These are autofocus lenses though.
Sony are increasing their line up of FE lenses, which are E mount lenses covering the full frame as opposed to the plain “E” ones which are APS-C only. I have the 55mm F1.8 which is lovely and sharp with terrific autofocus but rubbish manual focus. Soon I will add the 90mm macro to my collection. All their zooms, though, are slow. Nothing faster than F4 for now.
As many people are switching to the Sony A7 series, buying loads of new glass is an expensive thing to do. I have always preached about buying glass that will work across as many cameras as possible, mainly Nikon F mount glass. The downside is that if you want image stabilisation using Nikon lenses that have it, there are no adaptors that support this. Metabones and their Canon adaptors do, though. The downside to using Canon glass on the Sony is mainly the size of the lenses compared to the native ones. I love having a small discreet powerhouse full frame camera both for stills and video. Whilst in Peru recently I used the amazing Sigma ART 24-35mm F2 zoom (Canon mount) with my A7RII. BIG & HEAVY but amazing results. I just wish there were more Loxias really!
That’s when I remembered about my old Leica M mount glass! They are all small, I have loads of focal lengths, and they are fast. Some of them are cheaper than others, especially the 40mm, but they are all very made solid lenses. No plastic here!
For video, until the A7RII came along, I was really only shooting handled with IS lenses due to the rolling shutter issues. That generally meant the 24-70mm FE F4 Sony/ Zeiss. Now with the 5 axis stabilised sensor of the A7RII I was suddenly shooting video with my favourite Loxias, which I had only been using for stills prior to this. Every lens I own effectively is now mage stabilised. Well, the sensor is doing the work, but the end result is much the same!
For my next shoot for The Wonder List this week which is in Cuba, I will be bringing a number of my M mount lenses to shoot both still and video. I could of course use these lenses on my main video camera for the shoot, the FS7, but that’s where you need bigger lenses for balance, and of course they would look ridiculous! I also mostly shoot with zooms with my FS7.
I wanted to see what these lenses looked like on my A7RII, so I took some photos of my cats, which of course is a terrible test as they move around and I shot everything wide open! So I did a more controlled test to get a better idea of sharpness of the lenses with the f stop at F5.6. I knew the 21mm was sharp as a tack, but how would the others fair? Well judge for yourself. All images are uploaded full resolution, so simply right-click to save the originals. First the cats though! 🙂
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Before I show you the results, one of the issues with rangefinder lenses is that their close focus abilities are generally pretty poor. My 50mm Voigtlander F1.5 minimum focus is 70cm where as my 50mm Loxia is 45cm. That’s quite a difference, and that’s why if you do go down the route of using Leica M mount lenses on the A7RII and other A7 cameras, then you should pick up the Voigtlander M to E close focus adaptor. It works as a straight flange adaptor but also with the turn of the adaptor pushes the lens further away from the sensor, meaning the minimum focus distance is much reduced. On the Voigtlander 50mm it can now focus as close as around 43cm, pretty much the same as the Loxias!
When you have turned the adaptor to do this, you won’t get infinity focus until you turn it back. Obvious really. This adaptor changes these lenses enormously when using the Sony E mount. They now work better than they ever did on my Leica M cameras!
So starting with the widest lens, here is the same setup all at F5.6 ISO 200 with shutter speed of 1/6 of a second. First the main frame then the crop. As before, all images are full resolution and can be downloaded by right clicking. All of the lenses featured here work with the close focus adaptor.
There is no in-camera optical corrections done for any of these lenses but they are all in the Adobe Lightroom database. All images are optically corrected this way to remove vignetting or distortion.
Just to confuse you, I have used a collection of different lenses as the subject matter for this test! The beastly Pentax 645z 28-45 soon, Sony FE 16-35, Canon 16-35 F4, Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART, Loxia 50mm F2, Voigtlander 35mm M mount F1.4
This isn’t made anymore so you can only buy second-hand. It’s the Leitz made lenses so are much cheaper than the “proper” Leica ones but are still exceptional. Minimum focus even with the close focus adaptor means I can’t focus on the Canon lens like the rest. The closest I can do is the little 35mm Voigtlander lens at the back!
So there we go. Not exactly scientific, but as you can see, all the lenses are sharp at F5.6. Naturally the more you open up the softer they will get like any lens, but that’s why I have included all my cat pics as these are all wide open!
The new stabilised sensor opens up so many lenses now for hand-held shooting. So until Zeiss bring out more lovely Loxias, take a gander at the wonderful Voigtlander lenses for M mount. They are pretty damn fine! Part of the reason I love the Sony E mount so much is the ability to put so many different types of lenses on with an adaptor. As long as the lens can cover the sensor, there should be an adaptor out there. This opens up the camera not just to these lenses I have talked about here but all sorts of vintage ones.
Oh and yes, I love the A7RII, low light isn’t the best compared to the A7s but the image is stunning both in stills and video. I can’t wait until the A7SII comes out later this month, 5 axis stabilised sensor, in camera 4K, 120p full HD and low light goodness? The only thing it won’t do is the epic photos that my A7RII can do with its 42mp sensor. One day we will have a camera that does it all….maybe!
For quick reference, here are the shots again in gallery form.