Sony brought the A7r into the world with only two Zeiss prime lenses available for it plus one A7 Sony kit zoom of dubious quality -- a very limiting series to say the least. The other Zeiss lenses in the series intended for this camera only begin to become available months from when the camera came out. You can adapt other Sony lenses to the camera, but this is a stop gap measure until the real thing comes along, and most of us do not have the other Sony lenses anyway.
There are a number of M to E adapters available. I tried two and had problems with one of them. Until the A7 series came along, the E-mount was used on smaller APS-C sensor cameras that did not require an opening as large as a full frame camera. One adapter I used, a Voigtlander, had a black ring inside of it that caused vignetting with the M lenses. I ended up using a Metabones M-E adapter, which worked fine with the full range of M lenses I tried.
|The real question mark of lens adaptability is with the wide angles, such as the 28mm Summicron mounted above and the 21mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M next to it.|
While testing the A7r with Leica lenses I had a Leica M 240 with me also and did some side-by-side comparative shots. For the sample below I used the same 50mm Summicron lens on both cameras.
|One of these photos of the Chrysler Building was taken with the A7r, the other with the Leica M 240. You can download a high res version of the comparative set by CLICKING HERE. They are full res crops of the originals. The photos are not labeled. The results are given at the very end of this blog post, but first see if you can tell the difference on your own between the 36MP A7r and the 24MP Leica.|
Digital cameras with high megapixel sensors, like the A7r and Nikon D800, also demand good shooting techniques. The whole purpose of using one of these cameras is to achieve optimal image results. To get the most from them means using a tripod almost all the time -- a lesson I learned the hard way shooting out west with a D800 and occasionally not using a tripod on a very sunny day. Even at high shutter speeds with vibration reduction lenses traces of motion blur softened the shots. The A7r is going to be even more demanding because of its light weight. It doesn't have the heftiness often needed to dampen vibration, even when on a tripod. Its small size won't suggest a heavy mount so it might be tempting to lighten your carry load with a lighter tripod. Not a good idea with this camera, if you want to get the most from it.
|This picture of the Flatiron Building was done with the Leica 35mm Summilux lens, an excellent performer on the A7r.|
The chart shows that the middle and long focal length lenses of 35mm and longer need only minimal correction. It is when you hit 28mm and wider that the problems begin. This does not mean that exceptional images are not forthcoming from the A7r with Leica lenses. It does mean that some post-processing will be necessary to massage the images. Longer lenses like the 90mm (not shown) and 135mm need practically no corrections.
Color fringing was evident in pretty much all shots I did with the A7r and Leica lenses, but less so with the longer focal lengths.
|This photo was taken with the Leica 90mm Emarit-M lens, one of the better performers on the A7r. This is an unretouched shot, and you can see the typical color fringing that is present on the left, contrasty edges and corners. Download a full res version of this shot by clicking here.|
|One of the best performing Leica lenses on the A7r was the Leica 135mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt-M used for the shot above.|
The A7r auto color interpretation was very good, although I did not have an opportunity to try it out in portraiture.
|Two adapters were used to mount this Leica 80-200mm Elmarit --R zoom on the A7r -- a Leica R to Leica M adapter and then the Metabones M to Sony E adapter. This combo was used to take the two night shots below.|
|Two super-wide angle Voigtlander lenses with Leica M mount, the 12mm on the camera, and 15mm next to it.|
|Taken with the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 lens on the A7r. Heavy vignetting and edge discoloration are a typical characteristic of this lens. As mentioned above, all of this can be corrected by running the image through CornerFix software.|
|Same scene as above, but taken with the Leica 21mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH, one of my favorite super wide angle lenses. No post-processing was added to the two shots above. Results from the 21mm are very good, especially considering how wide it is.|
If you are going to be using the A7r with Leica lenses, you should be prepared to compensate for the mis-match by having to perform some post-processing corrections.
This camera is probably going to be better served by its own Zeiss lenses when they become available. Until then, yes, we can adapt Leica M lenses to use on it, and from a point of view of size the fast aperture Leica lenses are more proportionate to the very small camera body. Sony had to make a serious compromise when it tried to have the smallest full frame interchangeable camera body and couple it with modern, auto-focus, stabilized lenses. The Zeiss lenses made for the camera are inherently heavy and bulky. To keep the size of the lenses to a level where they don't overpower the diminutive A7r body, they were given slow apertures. The two zooms, for instance, are f/4 lenses.
The A7r is a very specialized camera, and I am not sure its formula -- a full frame sensor in such a small camera body -- works. If I really need such high resolution, I feel like I have to pay my dues and go with the heavier, but more stable (i.e.vibration resistant) Nikon D800. If I want small and compact, I prefer an actual Leica M with its own lenses, or a Fuji X camera with its smaller lenses kit.
I am not even sure that full frame and small camera is a viable combination. APS-C sensors have come a long way and are a much better choice for a small camera. Right off the bat, the lenses can be smaller and lighter simply because they don't have to cover so large a sensor area. A camera like any of the top Fuji X models may be best-of-breed in this genre. Leica works because it comes with a full stable of top notch, tiny lenses -- manual focus, admittedly, but that is how to keep things really compact.
My main purpose in this experiment was to determine if the A7r could serve as a higher resolution substitute, or act as an extra body for a Leica M system. In the end I concluded that the results, while marginally better from the higher res A7r sensor, were not enough for me to use this camera instead of my Leica M 240. The Leica worked better and with considerably less post-processing hassle using its native lenses. This tended to negate any benefits the larger 36MP A7r sensor might have. If it's a less expensive spare body I want, I think I would opt for the features of the A7 over the A7r and save even more.
|Pigeon in the snow, Leica 135mm APO-Telyt-M at f/3.4.|
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