Friday, September 4, 2015

A trip to the market with a Sony A7RII and Leica M lenses

At the Union Square farmers market in New York it sometimes seems there are more cameras than produce with everyone snapping away at the colorful, locally-grown fruit, vegetables, and flowers fresh from the farm. I often use the market as a subject for testing new equipment. This time it was to try out my new Sony A7RII with a couple of Leica lenses. Leica M lenses have a drawback in that they do not focus very close. They are made this way to avoid the close-up parallax problem inherent with rangefinder cameras. Of course, when used today with a digital finders instead, the whole problem of parallax is avoided, but this does not change their ability to focus any closer. To get around this, I usually carry a couple of close-up filters with me -- not necessarily the best solution in that it adds an inferior optical solution that may deteriorate the superb Leica glass.

Voigtlander makes a VM-E Close Focus Adapter for the A7 series cameras that acts as a built-in extension tube, but I had some problems with this device when I tested it on a couple of other A7 bodies previously, so I stay away from it. If anyone else has tried this adapter successfully, please let me know.

One problem for me of shooting at the market is that it is getting to be boring as a subject-- same produce, same flowers, same vendor setups. It's difficult to do something original anymore. To change things  up a bit, this time around I decided to concentrate on some of the grittier looking produce and post-process the images in a matching technique. With my Fuji X-T1 this would have been easier. Its Classic Chrome setting is a natural for this look. Deepen the shadows with a +1 or +2, mute the colors by dropping the color saturation a -1 and you have the perfect look right out of the camera.  One thing the A7RII taught me on this trip is how much I miss the built-in conveniences of my Fuji X-T1.

The images here are samples of the results. Once I had the images in Photoshop, I muted down the colors using a Vibrance adjustment layer, and then placed a new layer of pure black color on top. I changed this layer to "Overlay", added a layer mask to it, and painted out the important central areas leaving a deep gritty vignette over the rest of the image.

These images were taken with a Summicron 50mm lens used wide open at f/1.4 and a +2 close-up filter. I particularly liked the bokeh effect this combo gave the images. One nice side benefit of using the Sony A7RII is that even with the image cropped to a square -- something I do a lot -- the 42mp sensor left me with a very large, 80mb photo.


  1. Nice set of images! Are you going to do a full review of A7RII + Leica lenses? Would love to know your opinion how it all works out in the field (hard to find definite reviews of Sony + rangefinder lenses)

  2. I definitely plan to be reporting on the A7RII/Leica-M combo as I use the equipment.
    Stay tuned.

  3. impossible to judge fully on screen at this size, of course, but the pictures really sing. shooting with the xt1 would have left you with a much smaller file, for sure. but i wonder if you printed them at, say, 15" square, how they would compare to the sony files (printed at the same size).