Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter birds with the Sony A7r with 135mm Leica APO-Telyt lens

The temperature was 10° when I left the house early this morning to run some tests on the Sony A7r camera with Leica lenses. A light snow was still falling and I headed over to Union Square Park. There I found numerous birds in the low trees searching for food. Their feathers were all puffed up to keep them warm. It also made them look like feather balls with a small heads. They were perched on branches deep within the smaller trees, but the white snow and sky helped to outline them.

I had the Leica 135mm APO-Teleyt-M mounted on the Sony A7r via a Metabones adapter.  The maximum aperture of the APO-Telyt-M is f/3.4, which I selected to give me the shallowest depth of field that would isolate the birds sharply against the out-of-focus tree branches. With the Leica lens this is a manual focus situation, of course, and I relied on the focus peaking feature of the A7r to outline the birds in red when they snapped into focus.

Here are a few samples, all shot manual focus with a wide open lens:

A House Sparrow, one of the more common birds in the city.
A White-Throated Sparrow looking like a little fur ball. 
I actually like the shots best when there are a lot of branches so the bird blends into them, as this puffed-up White-Throated Sparrow did, even with his color.


  1. nive pictures, BUt: are you shure it's 135mm lens? Isn't it the APO Telyt 3.4/180mm?

    Arno Nühm

  2. It is definitely the 135mm APO-Telyt-M lens f/3.4. It is the only one I own for the M Leica. I should have put the "-M" after the name. There is an APO-Telyt-R f/3.4 that was for the R Leica. I just added the clarification in the text. Thanks.

  3. The results look promissing. I'm looking forward to get a Leica APO Telyt R 3.4/180mm for my Fuji X-E2. As far as I remember the Leica APO Telyt R 3.4/180mm was the only lens that ever reached the "10.0" test result of the German magazine "Fotomagazin" in the 1990s.

    Arno Nühm

  4. I am thinking about getting this lens for my A7r, but I have one burning question. How bad is the CA along contrasty edges? Specifically, is it all removed by checking the CA box in ACR, or must one also use defringing?

    Some background. I have used this lens on M9 and Nex 7, and loved it, but sold it along with all my Leica gear last year. I now have a Leica 90mm Macro Elmar M F4, and love it on my A7r. It does have some CA at contrasty edges, but that is all removed by the ACR checkbox. I also just got a new old stock Pentax SMC 135mm F3.5 lens for my A7r, and it preforms pretty well. Sharp, but not quite as sharp as my 90mm (which is not quite as sharp as my Nikon 70-200mm F4), but the Pentax has just a little too much CA. Defringing is required to remove all the CA, but this has other side effects that I often hate. Hence my question.

    Your help with this would be greatly appreciated!

  5. Paul, the Leica APO-Telyt 135mm lens is really superb a pretty much as good as it gets for controlling aberrations. The fringing is not that bad on telephotos like this anyway, and easily removed in Post-processing. I use Adobe Bridge and use the defringe removal sliders under "Lens Corrections/Color".

    My full review of the Leica M lenses on the Sony A7r will be posted later this week. I'll have more to say about it then. I can say that of all the Leica lenses I used on the A7r, the 135mm delivered the best results. Stay tuned. - t

    1. Tom, Thanks for your quick reply. I use ACR not Bridge, but defringe in ACR will neutralize borders of blue everywhere in a picture, not just where the CA is. So, if you have say a blue door in the photo, and use a purple defringe of say 3, there will be a fairly wide band of gray at the edges of the door, where blue has been removed. Ugh! That's why the "Remove CA" checkbox above the defringe sliders in ACR is so much preferred.

  6. The 180mm Apo-Telyt R is a superb lens, but it, at least mine, seems not to focus close enough for birds to fill the picture. Is this something others have experienced, or is it just me? I am using it with the Fuji XE-2 with a Metabone adapter.