Sony A7RIII and Leica lenses
Last week we went on a mini road trip of northern universities, for my daughter to check out their medical schools and the cities themselves. York, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, in four days. Manchester is my old university- so a nostalgia trip too…. But what camera to take with me? A chance to see how my Leica M lenses worked on the Sony A7RIII camera – I’ve seen very mixed reviews online, for this combination.
Sony Mirrorless Cameras
Since the end of last May, I have been using the Sony A9 camera for my reportage wedding photography work. Mirrorless cameras have looked like the future – certainly for that sort of work – for a few years now. I’ve tried many Fuji and Sony cameras, over the years. But with the A9, the technology seems to have finally reached a milestone. Small, light, fast, responsive (needs a bit more on that I think) and most importantly, an electronic shutter that works. A completely silent camera. No operating noise at all. Makes even the Leica rangefinder seem noisy. So useful when you are shooting discreet reportage in situations like ceremonies or during speeches. I’ve even found it useful in corporate work – shooting reportage in offices, meetings, etc. I upgraded my Sony A7RII to the latest version (MKIII), as it brought many of the practical operating features of the A9 to the big daddy of the A7 series. A big sensor – for portraits and travel shots. ( The sensor is the same as the MKII version, a slightly different processing engine but it has not got the silent shutter capabilities of the A9. As I found out, as I forgot I was using the A7RIII as I took shots of an evening ghost tour we went on in York. Severe banding from the artificial streetlights – no use a tall. The A9 would have had no problem I reckon…)
Leica glass on a Sony camera
So the Sony A7RIII as a travel camera – a features camera. You lose the silent shutter but gain a big sensor. A 42.4MP sensor, in a small, light camera. But….most of the lenses aren’t small and light.
Lenses like the Sony 50/1.4 and 35/1.4 – have fast AF, are sharp lenses but are big and heavy. What if I could use my three Leica M lenses on the camera though? (I sold my Leica M240 M-P to fund the Sony A7RIII) Sure manual focus only, but small, light, sharp, top quality glass. So with an adapter from Voigtlander – a chance to try out my Leica glass on my Sony mirrorless. The three lenses are: Leica 28mm f1.4 Summilux asph, the Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux asph and the Leica 75mm f2.0 Summicron APO lens. One day I’ll buy a Leica camera again, I’m sure, but I’m reluctant to sell these pieces of glass – so can I get them to work with my Sony, in the meantime?
So that key reason – to reject the fast AF, etc? Small and light. Here is the Leica 50mm, sandwiched between the Sony 50mm f1.4 and 35mm f1.4. Quite a difference to carry around all day!
There are small Sony lenses. The sublime 55mm f1.8 is a lens I use all the time. It is the first Sony lens I bought, with an A7S. So, in fairness, it could replace the Leica 50mm – being only slightly bigger. My Sony 28mm f2.0 is small too and light – but not a patch, optically, on the Leica 28mm I have. So, three Leica lenses – all small, light and sharp….well, they are if I can focus them! This is where I need to practice and get used to the focus peaking on an EVF. (Electronic viewfinder) Get to know when I can trust it or not?
This isn’t meant as an exhaustive review for this combination, of lenses and camera. More about me playing with some camera equipment, away from how I usually work. So here are a few images from a very, very cold and very windswept Crosby beach, near Liverpool. As the university tour was in progress, my son and I drove to the beach, to exercise our dog. Here are a few images from our time there…
And that big sensor? Here’s a crop of that opening image of ‘Another Place’ on the beach. Taken using the Leica 75mm and the camera held close to the sand (the foreground is a puddle ) using the tilt screen. Lens wide open.
I didn’t see the ‘smearing’ I’ve read about but then neither did I get every image perfectly sharp (it was seriously cold and windy). I need to play with this focus peaking a bit more. But from what I’ve seen, apart from the poor vignetting when using the 28mm at f1.4 (can correct it in C1) it does seem like a good combo. There is of course the Zeiss range of manual focus lenses for the A7 cameras but they are not cheap. So when you have some Leica glass ‘laying around’, it’s good to find a proper use for it. (until I can afford an M10 maybe?)
It is also nice using good manual focus lenses for a change. Certainly easier to use longer focal lengths, like the 75mm or the 90mm, on the Sony, than it is on a rangefinder – as the EVF shows the full frame for the focal length. To combine this, in a small, light package, with such a big sensor, is a lovely option going forward. This could be my go-to kit when out and about…