Monday, July 27, 2015

Testing the Sony A7r with Leica lenses

Sony's new A7rII camera is due out in a couple of weeks, and I am back to testing the A7 series with Leica lenses to see if the new 42mp camera is one I want to add to my Leica system. I already performed two test sessions with an A7II that ended prematurely with an unknown error message. I finally traced the problem to the lens adapter I was using. So this time I switched over to the Metabones Leica M Lens to Sony NEX E-Mount adapter instead of the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter I had used previously, and so far there have been no problems with using all of my Leica M lenses on the A7r.

My main reason for trying this combination is to achieve very high quality, large file sizes with the 42mp sensor to make extra large prints. In many cases I will be taking multiple images to cover a scene and combining them later into an even larger, high resolution, single file that can print to a 4-8' width. Yes, I could do that and more with a Gigapan system, but this will be much more convenient to use.

Another reason for finding an alternative to the Leica M is that it does produce moiré patterns on building facades when I do cityscapes. I was hoping the Sony A7rII would eliminate this. Turns out, there was some moiré with the A7r and Leica lens, but not nearly as much and easier to fix than with the Leica M.  I have a feeling the moiré is appearing due to the super sharpness of the Leica lenses. Fortunately, in this case the moiré was easy to fix using the moiré adjustment tool in ACR (Acobe Camera Raw).

Size-wise, the Leica M lenses are a perfect fit and very convenient to use on the Sony A7r. Most important, the sharpness of the lenses and high resolution of the Sony sensor work well together. 
Most importantly, and as I had hoped, the results with the superb Leica lenses on a high resolution Sony sensor are excellent. It is beginning to make perfect sense to me to use the A7rII camera as a second Leica body. The lenses are pretty much perfectly scaled for the down-sized, full frame Sony A7r. Photoshop has the lenses as part of its database so it is easy to perform the necessary corrections in post.

As I was thinking about acquiring the A7rII, I was also considering picking up one sort of universal zoom for times when I don't want to cart around a bag full of Leica primes. I borrowed the Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 lens to try out for this. As I have suspected right along, like most lenses made specifically for the small A7 series, it is too heavy for the body and the whole assembly is out of balance. On top of that, the optical results were no where near what I would consider good enough to use, especially with such a good camera. So there goes that idea.

The Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 universal zoom bulks up the A7r, but the optics are the real deal breaker. The results were very soft, especially at the longer focal lengths. 
In the meantime, I discovered an adapter for using the old Contax G Zeiss lenses with the A7's. Not only that, but the adapter preserves the auto-focus of the G lenses. That could be a really good option and one I am going to try, since I still have my original Contax G3 and full complement of lenses. I'll post a report once I try it out on the new A7rII in a few weeks.

This is one of the test shots I did with a Leica M 50mm f/1.4 Summilux lens used at f/5.6 and 8 seconds. The results were very impressive, and about as good as I have ever achieved on this view that I shoot quite often. 

If the Contax G lenses can fit the A7's with an adapter and still maintain AF, I don't know why Sony or Zeiss can't make some small, fast lenses for the system that are more in keeping with its size. A camera of this quality requires optics to suit. Unfortunately, everything currently available for this camera is either too big relative to the camera size or has a slow maximum aperture.

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