Sony a7 torture test with Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander rangefinder lenses

UPDATE – January 26, 2014

I was finally able to run the test I originally wanted to back in October. Please click the link to read the Sony a7R vs. Leica M9 shootout with 20+ Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander rangefinder lenses.

Continue reading below for the Sony a7 with various rangefinder lenses. Note, if you’d rather access images one by one instead of a large zip file download for each lens, please see the images posted on my Flickr page.

———

I was able to briefly borrow and test a preproduction Sony a7 camera along with the new Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2.8, Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 and Sony 28-70mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS FE lenses. Unfortunately it wasn’t the a7R, in which I am more interested for the purposes of adapting rangefinder lenses. But this provided a good opportunity nonetheless to generate some images to help me (and hopefully also you) determine whether or not the a7 is a possible platform for rangefinder lenses.

First off, the images presented here are in no way intended to be examples of creative photography. Given I had 1.5 hours with the camera on a gloomy morning, and the burning question in the minds of many is how well this new Sony camera will work with adapted rangefinder lenses, an infinity focus test was in order. Why an infinity focus test? Because when a lens is focused at infinity, the rear element of the lens is typically closest to the sensor, meaning for certain lens designs, the light rays traveling to the sensor arrive at a strongly non-perpendicular angle, rather than straight at the sensor, which results in image quality degradation if the sensor isn’t well optimized for such types of lenses. The results tend to be edge color shifts and/or edge/corner smearing of the image.

This generally isn’t a problem with lenses adapted from SLR systems because such lenses must be design with the mirror box in mind, meaning the lens sits farther away from the image plane and the light rays arrive at a more perpendicular, and preferred, angle. Rangefinder systems never had the mirror box and the lenses were made to sit much closer to the image plane. Not such a big problem with film (other than perhaps light falloff into the corners), but definitely not desirable with digital sensors due to the many sensor ‘toppings’ that contribute to image degradation when light rays arrive at a strong angle.

Anyway, there are much better technical explanations available online, particularly in this PDF from Zeiss. See page 12, points 2 and 3.

I’m required by Sony to state that the camera and Sony lenses used to create the images presented here were all preproduction models and the image results are therefore not necessarily indicative of results that will be obtained from production units once they become available.

However, unless Sony makes major revisions to the sensor package itself, I doubt results with the rangefinder lenses tested here will improve considerably once production units are available.

The lenses tested, in order of focal length and maximum aperture:

Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f5.6 Aspherical (LTM version which is identical to the current M mount version) (referred to as CV12)
Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f4.5 Aspherical M (referred to as CV15)
Leica Summilux-M 21mm f1.4 ASPH. (referred to as 21 Lux)
Zeiss Biogon T* 21mm f2.8 ZM (referred to as ZM21)
Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f3.4 ASPH. (referred to as 21 SEM)
Leica Summicron-M 28mm f2 ASPH. (referred to as 28 Cron)
Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 Aspherical VM II (referred to as CV35)
Canon 35mm f2.0 LTM (a lens from the late 50s-early 60s)
Zeiss C Biogon T* 35mm f2.8 ZM (referred to as ZM35C)
Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f2.8 (newly announced with the a7/a7R)
Voigtlander Nokton classic 40mm f1.4 (referred to as CV40)
Leica Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH. (referred to as 50 Lux ASPH)
Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM (a lens from the late 50s-early 60s)
Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 Aspherical LTM (optically identical to the current M mount model, though apparently there may be some coating differences) (referred to as CV50)
Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50mm f1.5 ZM (referred to as ZM50C)
Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f2 ZM (referred to as ZM50P)
Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm f1.8 (newly announced with the a7/a7R)
Sony 28-70mm f3.5–5.6 OSS (newly announced with the a7/a7R)
Leica Summarit-M 90mm f2.5 (referred to as 90 Summarit)

Test scenes include one view overlooking downtown Hamilton, Ontario, from the escarpment brow, one intended to show ‘bokeh’ differences between the 35mm and ~50mm lenses, and one ‘brick wall’ test of foliage with the wides and up to ~50mm lenses (though not including the LTM 50s, CV40 and Sony zoom due to time and weather constraints).

I had also intended to shoot the exact same scenes with the same lenses on the Leica M9 (though obviously not including the new Sony lenses), but I ran out of time, and it started to rain. This would have provided a ‘control’ reference against which to compare the results from the a7. I’ll spill the beans now – none of the rangefinder lenses performed as well on the a7 as they do on the M9, specifically referring to image smearing into the edges/corners. Some are not so bad and are good enough when stopped down sufficiently, but some are outright horrible (ZM21, 28 Cron), to the point where one would think the lens was defective.

Naturally there were some variable that couldn’t be tested, such as whether the Novoflex NEX-Leica M adapter I used was perfect. I had a Kipon adapter as well, but no time to run a duplicate set of test images to see if, or how much, the adapter influenced the results. Therefore, take these results for what they are and weigh them against other tests that will certainly soon appear online.

Everything was shot on a tripod with the two second timer at ISO 400. While perhaps not optimal, I wanted to keep shutter speeds somewhat reasonable considering the gloomy weather (even though a tripod was used). Images presented here were taken directly and uncorrected from in-camera Jpegs. I also shot RAW, but don’t have a way to convert those yet. While it certainly would be possible to improve color and tonality, nothing could possibly improve image rendering into the edges/corners with some of the lens combinations. In-camera lens corrections (vignetting, chromatic aberration, distortion) were disabled, in case some or all of these might also apply to non-native lenses. ISO noise reduction was also disabled, though I suspect it never entirely turns off. The camera was set to manual focus and each lens was focused on the steeple in the center of the frame using 11.7x magnification. No attempt was made to correct for focus shift, which was certainly a problem with at least the ZM50C.

Infinity Focus

Bokeh

Foliage

DOWNLOADS

By lens:

CV12
CV15
21 Lux
ZM21
21 SEM
28 Cron
CV35
Canon 35mm f2.0 LTM
ZM35C
Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f2.8
CV40
50 Lux ASPH
Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM
CV50
ZM50C
ZM50P
Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm f1.8
Sony 28-70mm f3.5–5.6 OSS
Leica Summarit-M 90mm f2.5

By scene:

infinity: 12mm-21mm
infinity: 28mm-40mm
infinity: 50mm-55mm
infinity: 28-70mm zoom and 90mm

bokeh 35mm
bokeh 50mm-55mm

foliage 12mm-15mm
foliage 21mm
foliage 28mm-35mm
foliage 50mm-55mm

Note, the download links will take you to zipped files hosted on Google Drive. These are quite large, and at full resolution (though compressed somewhat more after applying the watermark shooting information, than what came out of the camera). The full set of links is several GB, so be warned.

My take on the results: I’m hoping these lenses will fare better on the a7R. Results on the a7 are for the most part disappointing. All I can surmise at the moment is that the toppings on the a7′s sensor work against achieving optimal (or in some cases, good enough) results with the rangefinder lenses I had available for this test.

What may also be the case with this new system from Sony, as was with the Nex cameras, is that compatibility with adapted lenses will be model specific. Future cameras may work better, but some may be even be worse…

Those looking to adapt SLR lenses will probably achieve much better results with the a7 and the new Zeiss lenses look to be quite good, especially the 55. Sure, it’s pricy for an f/1.8 lens, but it looks great right from wide open.

And of course a short pitch at the end to encourage you to kick some cash my way, in thanks for this information, by making any purchase at B&H Photo Video through the affiliate link and search box below…

Or send me a donation via PayPal:






B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio








Equipment mentioned in this article:

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

84 Responses to “Sony a7 torture test with Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander rangefinder lenses”

  1. SONY NEX FF & Leica (M) - Seite 25 - Leica User Forum Says:

    [...] SONY NEX FF & Leica (M) Check this out: http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224 Perhaps things will be better with the A7R which has microlenses unlike the A7 Pete [...]

  2. Wide Angles and Sony A7 - Leica User Forum Says:

    [...] Angles and Sony A7 Ad Not so encouraging. Perhaps the A7R will be better? http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224 Pete __________________ [...]

  3. To M240 or Sony - Seite 3 - Leica User Forum Says:

    [...] To M240 or Sony Wake up call: http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224 Muahahahahahahahaha…. __________________ http://fotografiainc.zenfolio.com/ I can't [...]

  4. FF NEX and F E lenses - Page 4 - The GetDPI Photography Forums Says:

    [...] [...]

  5. A7 or A7r - Page 2 - The GetDPI Photography Forums Says:

    [...] Re: A7 or A7r Hmmmmmm Reality check? – will the A7r be the same? A7 Torture Test with M mount Lenses [...]

  6. henry Says:

    Hi Ron,

    thanks for putting this together, I appreciate the work. The news is somewhat disappointing, but not totally unexpected.

    Please see my post at http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52351544 for some of my insights.

    I feel strongly that the A7r will perform worse than the A7. The problem is not in the sensor topping, but in the pixel site sensitivity and how the steep ray inclination propagates. The A7 (not the A7r) was my main hope for using some of the RF glass, alike on a Nex-6.

    I am a long term Nex user, and have seen the color shift on Nex-5, Nex-7, and then the elimination thereof in the Nex-5N and Nex-6.

    The only true remedy, in my mind, is to make the pixel pitch larger, as in reducing the resolution to well below 20Mp.

    I have to look for the link (I referred to it in one of my posts) which explains the smearing effect in terms of pixel-spreading. Leica may or may not have correcting software, (going from the 18Mp M9 to the 24Mp M240), as the angles get so steep that digital sensors no longer appear as pixels. The smearing effect makes it very hard to correct, or even down-sample. to overcome this (but stopping down does help, of course). The hint that Leica has convolutional software that understand this smearing is a tough one to understand, for it gets very complex quickly.

    Without this, the smaller pixels will in fact show more smearing than the larger pixels. Magenta shift just deals with light-ray efficiency dropping as the angle of inclination steepens, but the corner smearing worsens for smaller pixels. Removing the AA filter and the offset micro-lens array grid will not help.

    The reports from China regarding the A7r seem to confirm this – I see higher levels of magenta shift as well as corner smearing in the few images that have popped up so far.

    I would be more than thrilled if the A7r would surprise us, but I am not keeping my hopes high. I do hope that you can shed some light on this before our pre-orders convert into order.

    I think that Sony has to reduce pixel count, to well below 20Mp, to make this problem manageable.

    Thanks again for the effort, keep up the good work,

    Cheers,
    Henry

  7. Ron Says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Henry. I do think the sensor toppings play a role, and this was explained by Dr. Nasse of Zeiss in this PDF publication. See page 12, points 2 and 3.

    That said, I don’t disagree with you about pixel density being related to edge color shifts.

  8. Really Disappointed in Olympus Shift Lens on Leica M - The GetDPI Photography Forums Says:

    [...] [...]

  9. The Sony A7 thread [Merged] - Seite 68 - Leica User Forum Says:

    [...] von sisoje Wake up call: http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224 [...]

  10. You have to see this: Ron Scheffler supertest with Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses! | sonyalpharumors Says:

    [...] It is Ron Scheffler super well made 21mm test that convinced me to grab the Voigtländer Ultron 21mm f/1,8 (here on eBay). But the question is…how good do M-mount lenses work on the new A7-A7r cameras? Well, Ron just published an impressive(!) list of image samples taken with a huge amount of Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses. You can read the article and download tons of image samples here: http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224. [...]

  11. Johan Says:

    But with this general optics and sensor limitation when using rangefinder lenses, how come the native e-mount lenses perform well when they are even closer to the sensor? What makes the manual lenses so special that they cannot deliver good performance on these types of cameras?

  12. Ron Says:

    It’s not just how close the optics are to the sensor, but also the distance of the exit pupil to the sensor. Many of the rangefinder lenses were designed for use on film, with exit pupil positions close to the film, to which digital sensors respond poorly. The E/FE lenses are designed with the very short flange distance in mind. But even then, it doesn’t mean the optic are all that close to the sensor. The new Sony 28-70′s rear element is recessed quite deep in the lens when I took a peek at it yesterday. Some of the RF designs that appear to be more telecentric, such as the 21 Lux, 21 SEM and CV35 perform fairly reasonably on the a7. More symmetrical designs, such as the ZM21, had worse results.

  13. Nuno Says:

    Hi Ron,

    Thank you for the amazing test. Any chance that you will be running something similar with A7R? I was hopping to get this camera for using M lenses almost exclusively.

    If the A7R doesn’t manage to avoid the corner smearing then it is a no for me.

    Cheers
    Nuno

  14. Ron Says:

    Hi Nuno,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I can’t promise I’ll get my hands on a preproduction a7R soon. Apparently there are currently only a few in Canada and it was somewhat a matter of sheer luck that I was even able to get a couple hours on my own with the a7.

    As mentioned in the article, the a7R is the camera I’m more interested in and I definitely want to test it with the same set of lenses.

  15. Raul Says:

    Hi Ron, phenomenal work here! Thanks for the stupendous effort getting this out to an anxious data impoverished audience. It would be great if you can share your early thoughts on the A7 with the native 35 and 55 vs the Leica M9 with Summicrons. Thanks!

  16. Jonas B Says:

    Hi…
    …and thank you for the publishing the results! I know tests like this one means work and every time somebody puts them together I’m grateful.
    Many of us are now waiting for a similar test but with the A7r instead. The results from your A7 test reminds me very much of what I got from my old Nex-5 when I, in an enthusiastic way, mounted my 50mm Summilux ASPH – great wide open in the center, not so great when looking around the borders. The new Sony 55/1.8 does much better. This was not unexpected but thanks your work it is now confirmed.
    Cheers,
    Jonas

  17. Messsucher Objektive (Leica M, M39, Contax G & Co.) an Sony KB E-Mount - Seite 4 - Systemkamera Forum Says:

    [...] [...]

  18. Anonymous Says:

    [...] [...]

  19. Erste reale Aufnahmen mit der Sony A7 @ Augenblicke-fangen by Tobias Arndt Says:

    [...] Ron Scheffler Sony A7 Test [...]

  20. AlexDROP1984 Says:

    Ron, many thanks for your efforts and time spent.

  21. 3D-Kraft.com Says:

    Although I highly appreciate your work, this test is not very helpful. The conditions were not good (low contrast) and for the infinity wide angle test you see either sky or leaves very close to the lens in the edges which do not really allow to judge the edge performance.

    If you look at the samples wider open than f/8, you mainly see flaws of the lenses but not of the sensor anyway.

    If you want to judge how it compares to results from the M9, you also must show comparable examples taken in the same situation and settings and scaled to the same resolution.

    If you want to rate for rangefinder lenses in general, you also have to test them in gerneral. Where is the Ultron 21/1.8? Where is the WATE 16-18-21mm f/4 ASPH? Both of these I expect to performa also on the A/ and A7R very well.

  22. lu Says:

    very nice shots and comparison! thank you!

    IMHO, the 21-lux performs best from f2 and the 50-lux asph is simply splendido!

    can not stop imaging their performance on A7r and waiting for your next report.
    cheers,
    lu

  23. Arctic Fox Says:

    Great work! Thanks!

  24. Sony A7 / A7R - die ersten Vollformat-Systemkameras - Seite 34 - Systemkamera Forum Says:

    [...] [...]

  25. 相机入魔 a7转接旁轴镜头 Says:

    [...] Ron Scheffler 的原文:http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224 [...]

  26. M9 Ersatzkamera - SONY NEX-3 - Seite 78 - Leica User Forum Says:

    [...] (ZM21, 28 Cron), to the point where one would think the lens was defective. " im Link http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224 dämpfen den Optimismus für Leica M an den neuen KB-SONYs, grüßt polygamer! [...]

  27. Hari Says:

    Hi Ron!

    Thank you for taking the time to do these meticulous tests with such a wide variety of lenses. Very helpful.

    However, google is not playing along ->

    “Sorry, you can’t view or download this file at this time.

    Too many users have viewed or downloaded this file recently. Please try accessing the file again later. If the file you are trying to access is particularly large or is shared with many people, it may take up to 24 hours to be able to view or download the file. If you still can’t access a file after 24 hours, contact your domain administrator.”

    Thought id let you know as i havent seen anybody else inform you

    Cheers,
    Hari

  28. janne höglund Says:

    A bit sad to hear about this, but what cameramaker makes cameras for other lenses than their own ;-)
    I think Sony will build furher here on the success with Nex and Nex-Zeiss lenses.
    Maybe Sigma will build some well working lenses like the 19 and 30mm :-)
    No doubt the A7r will be a great camera for aerials!
    Regards.
    /Janne
    helikopterbild.se

  29. Sony did it A7/A7r - Seite 9 - Leica User Forum Says:

    [...] Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses. You can read the article and download tons of image samples here: http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224. Important note: Ron tested the A7 and not the A7r. And it looks like it’s the A7r and not the [...]

  30. Jason Says:

    Thank you so much for doing these tests. In your experience or thoughts, given these results, do you anticipate better results using Leica R-mount lenses? Given their design, I would anticipate these lenses being far more telecentric as they would need to account for a mirrorbox. My guess would be that these lenses, despite their increased size, would be our best bet for mating to an A7/A7r

  31. chenbo Says:

    Hi Ron,

    Thanks for this amazing report, very much appreciated!
    It seems that the download service have some trouble due to large amount of download. However I am just curious how does the voigtlander 12f5.6 perform on the new a7? Could you please say something on the 1)purple corner issues 2)vignetting
    Thanks for you time and effort!

    Best Regards,
    Chenbo

  32. Scott Says:

    Ron: Wow! just found your site -thank you for the great photographic tests with the A7. While I am disapointed in the RF results, I’m not at all surprised. IMO the A7R will fair a bit better but one will most likly need to get comfortable with fixing corners and shifts with wide lenses. What I was pleasantly suprised with escepially given what is available today in the way of A7 samples, was how well the A7′s sendor rendered with the new Zeiss FE lenses. Quite RX1 like IMHO. Makes me hopeful that the A7R will be a home run with naitive lenses.

    Thanks again!

    Scott

  33. A7は、ライカのレンズに合わない? | カメラ熱狂 Says:

    [...] Ron Scheffler の原文:http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224 [...]

  34. zaqi Says:

    Can’t download samples from google drive. is there any other place where I can get the samples. Google says it has been downloaded too much times.

  35. Ron Says:

    Thanks for letting me know… I’m in the process of putting them on Flickr, though it will mean individual image downloads.

  36. Ron Says:

    Thanks Scott. I’m also looking forward to results from the a7R!

  37. Ron Says:

    The Voigtlander 12mm does have some edge smearing at wider apertures as well as color shift. IMO, the 15mm is a better option on the a7, at least based on my results. I’m also not 100% sure the uneven sharpness across the frame I see in my 12mm images (left side is soft) are due to the lens. It could be a problem with the adapter, though it is the expensive Novoflex one.

  38. Ron Says:

    I agree it wasn’t ideal, but I only had very limited time with the camera and ran out of time to shoot the same scenes with the M9.

    For the infinity scene you can get some idea of infinity edge detail at each side of the frame. Wanted to keep some sky in the wide shots to also show if there was any color shifts

  39. Ron Says:

    It’s going to be a greatly different shooting experience with the a7 vs. M9. I guess with the native FE lenses on the a7, it will be pretty fast and possibly intuitive. But there are a lot more dials and buttons to use, and some of them I found not optimally placed for easy/quick use. Perhaps it’s a matter of time to get used to the camera, but my initial feeling is I prefer the M9.

    In terms of image quality, I think the new Zeiss lenses look very, very good. The 35mm I had was possibly a bit off in terms of across frame sharpness at wider apertures and infinity, but remember also that these were preproduction units. The 55 should be a great lens. Bokeh quality is definitely Sonnar in feel and pretty similar to the ZM50/1.5. Not quite as super smooth as the 50 Lux ASPH, but very close.

  40. KGruppe Says:

    Very bad bokeh on picture note as “Bokeh”.

  41. alterstill Says:

    Obviously Sony has no interest to make non-Sony (including RF) glass work. I will stick with my Nex7 for now. Thanks for your comparison, much appreciate your work.

    http://alterstill.com

  42. Ron Says:

    @KGruppe: Thanks. These images are not intended to be creatively inspiring, rather, give an idea of how the rendering of the various lenses compare to each other…

  43. themartist Says:

    How do you think canon FD lenses will fare?

  44. golfkidds(Japanese) Says:

    10/19-20,at Sony Ginza(TOKYO),I touch and shoot sony A7&A7R with Contax Biobgon21mmF2.8.
    resarut was a7B was very good,but A7 was poor. I used AF-adaptor(MXCAMERA),It work very well.
    AF is OK,and Exif shows 21mm.

  45. Ron Says:

    @themartist: Image quality from SLR lenses shouldn’t be much of a concern on the a7/a7R. It will probably be more a matter of adapter quality resulting in problems like one side soft while the other side is sharp, and more so with wide angle lenses. But a camera like the a7R will probably push a lot of older lenses to reveal their limitations at such sensor resolution.

  46. Ron Says:

    @golfkidds: That’s good news, thanks for sharing! I know in the forums some are very interested in how the Contax G lenses will perform.

  47. tommy Says:

    Do you think the Zeiss ZM 50mm 1.5 and the Voigtländer 35mm 1.4 works fine with the A7? This two lenses would do 90 % of my work. For architecture I would use a Minolta or Canon 24mm 2.8 with an adapter. Would these lenses (the two mentioned 24mm) exhibit vignetting too, although they are not so close to the sensor?

    Another question: Maybe I misunderstood, but why do you mention focus shift with the Zeiss50C? Shouldnt that be a non-issue for an ELECTRONICAL viewfinder?

    Greetings,
    tommy

  48. KGruppe Says:

    Ron, I believe that a full test of this interesting system Sony may not be the quickest. I try a new lens for me is almost always about 3.5 months. One of them I have tried about half a year. However, the work done by you is my respect and I can see the first results. Me a little convinced by elaborate graphics and laboratory analysis.

    Also, it was already clear that the camera sensor is not always able to take good to excellent optics from past years. Probably the reason here in the way of digital signal amplification that goes with the sensor in the camera processor. It lacks the smooth work which made the film and developer before. The deterioration of the image starts at ISO 400. This is the reality of the digital sensor today. A number of pixels does not add my joy.

    Please keep your interesting work and good luck!

  49. M Says:

    Hi and thank you! Very interesting, but as you’ve already noted the bandwidth on Google Drive has been used up. I see you’ve uploaded them to Flickr, but I can’t find any full res files there. They’re all 2048 pixels on the longest side and I get “The owner has disabled downloading of their photos”, so it is impossible to make any judgements based on the files there. I’m so eager to check them out! I’m going to buy the camera based on whether it will work fine with M-mount lenses.

  50. Zachery Says:

    After finally being able to look at the images after reading a pretty damning opinion I have to say, I think the criticisms have been extremely exaggerated at least for most of these lenses. Even that terrible-on-any-camera Voigtlander 12mm looks fairly good stopped down a bit. Color shift remains but it’s fixable (and invisible as anything but vignette in B&W).

    That CV 35 f/1.2 is looking absolutely incredible though. I had been toying with picking that up for the a7 and now I’m almost 100% sure I will.

    I was also super impressed with the detail even wide open on the Sony FE 55/1.8. Now I wonder if $999 isn’t too cheap :)

  51. Ron Says:

    @Zachery: I agree to an extent. Viewing anything at 100% is going to reveal more than will typically be seen in print or at normal web viewing resolutions. A lot of the lenses look decent stopped down, which is fine if that is how you shoot, and you already own the lenses. But would you spend $1300 for a ZM21/2.8 and only shoot it at f/11? Or a $4000 28mm Summicron? Compared to how many of these lenses perform on a digital M camera, the wider aperture results are fairly disappointing. Again, depends on how technically strict your requirements are for what you’re photographing.

    I agree the CV35/1.2 looks really good. Unfortunately I no longer own the CV21/1.8, but these two lenses on the M9 really impressed, and perhaps the 21 would also be good on the a7… Considering that a ZM50/2 is ~$800 and the 50/1.5 a few hundred more, the new 55 is quite competitively priced, I think. It’s definitely in a different league from the $150 cheap-o 50/1.8s.

  52. Ron Says:

    @M: Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve changed the download parameters to allow access to the high-rez files. I might change it back at some point in the future, but will leave it for now while the topic is popular.

  53. Ron Says:

    @tommy: I think it depends on the kind of work you will do with these lenses. Neither are lenses that try to maintain high performance out to the image corners at wider apertures. If you’re fine with that, then I think they’ll be OK. I don’t have the Voigtländer 35/1.4 and can only assume it shares similar characteristics with the 40/1.4 and it therefore would not be my first or second choice for demanding applications such as landscape or architecture, but I love the 40 for people photos.

    I can’t say how the SLR lenses will work, but they should be less of a problem.

    Focus shift with the 50C is an issue if you don’t refocus at nearer distances for each aperture value. I didn’t do so in the tests because I had very limited time with the camera and wanted to shoot as much as possible. In the foliage images you can see the focus shift backwards in the 50C images. Also in the ‘bokeh’ series. But you are right, if one takes the time with and electronic viewfinder, one can compensate for focus shift.

  54. Ron Says:

    @Jason: Sorry to miss your comment earlier. I expect the R lenses to generally work better with these cameras, though in some forum discussions I’ve read there is some concern about certain wide angles, such as the 28/2.8 v.2.

    In terms of optical compatibility, I think SLR lenses in general will be a better match, but the a7/a7R as such small cameras and seem to be an ideal match to small rangefinder lenses, at least on paper. For some, size is a signifiant consideration, and is one reason why I decided to try Leica’s M9 instead of adding higher quality, but larger, 3rd party primes to my Canon system.

  55. tommy Says:

    Dear Ron,
    thank you very much. I own both, the Voigtländer 35/1.4 and the Zeiss 50/1.5 and use it with a Nex-6. I think the Zeiss has a way better optical quality, but due to the crop factor the Voigtländer 35 is the one I use more often. Therefore the A7 would be the perfect camera to make the Zeiss my standard objective. Plus I rarely need I am an amateur and do photography on trips (travel photography including people and landscape/city photography, sometimes stills). A Leica M would be to much money for my purposes. I dont want to change objectives all the time. This is a basic reason why I am not a big fan of extreme wide angles or teles. 35 and 50 would be perfect for me. If I expect to need a wider angle I will use the 35 and still could do portraits without extreme distortion of faces and if I expect to need the 50mm I will use the Zeiss. Therefore 35 and 50 would work perfect for me. For the moment it looks like I have to live with the problems if I will get an A7.

    As for the focal shift: I always thought that it isnt an issue at all with ELVs since u see exactly what the senso will get (Bokeh, focal plane, etc.).

    tommy

  56. tommy Says:

    I could find a grey field analysis for the Zeiss ZM 50mm 1.5 at the Leica M9 without lense profile correction activated:

    http://lavidaleica.com/content/zeiss-c-sonnar-t-1550-zm

    The M9 sensor exhibits vignetting as well at high apertures. Consequently the better results for the M9 is most likely due to the correction of the inner-camera software. Maybe there is hope that sony will have the same kind of software within the final product or within a fimware update during the next months.

    Greetings,
    tommy

  57. Ron Says:

    @tommy: Sounds like the a7 could work OK for your style of photography. In the bokeh comparison images where there really isn’t a flat subject plane across the image, the technical differences and edge blurring problems become much less obvious. It’s only when you subject the camera and lens combination to something technically demanding that you’ll see some image quality problems. As I mentioned, I don’t think either the ZM50C or the Voigtlander 35/1.4 were designed with the intention of perfect corner to corner performance.

    Do you already own the 50C? I’m only curious because for its price, you could buy the new Sony/Zeiss 55/1.8, which looks like it will be a fabulous lens. Its bokeh rendering is quite similar to the 50C, yet it’s a technically better lens across the frame. The tradeoff however, is it’s fairly large and long, whereas the 50C is surprisingly compact.

    Regarding vignetting on the M9 – it certainly is a factor with most lenses and Leica’s software correction is pretty reasonable at minimizing it without completely eliminating it. Personally, I like some lens vignetting and it’s something I really like about the 21 Lux and 28 Cron on the M9. But from what I understand, Leica’s corrections are for vignetting and color shift only. Not for edge sharpness degradation because the sensor and its ‘toppings’ were designed specifically to minimized this problem. And this is the biggest problem with rangefinder lenses on the a7. Vignetting and color shift can be easily corrected with Cornerfix, or Capture One’s LCC, or Adobe’s flat field plug-in for Lightroom. But edge smearing cannot be fixed. It’s very much dependent on the various ‘toppings’ over the sensor and it unfortunately appears Sony has made no effort to optimize the sensor package for the optical demands of many rangefinder lenses.

  58. tommy Says:

    Dear Ron,

    thank you very much. Yes, I own both the CV 35/1.5 and the Z 50/1.5. I bought them because of the small size (though adapter) and their high apertures which makes them great performers in low light situations. I really like my z50c for its artistic characteristics. It is hard to describe the physics behind it, but I have never experienced (or seen from others) a lens with such a fantastic 3d impression of the images. The new FE 55/1.8 will surely be a great lens, but I dont like its size plus I like manual focussing and i dont think that the mechanical conditions (ergonomics, long focus screw channel, etc) will be as pleasant as with native m lenses since the 55/1.5 isnt made for manual focussing at first place.

    As for the corner issues: I think the mentioned drawbacks will only occur at some landscape photographs and it looks like I will have to live with it. I actually didnt notice the smearing at first, only the color shifts. You are right, only the latter can be corrected. I would be a great benefit if there will be an in-camera correction since many people dont want to spend time with doing that manually at the computer.

    FYI to all: in Germany the A7 goes for 1200 Eur (1640 USD) instead of 1500 Eur (2050 USD) for unisversity employees or students. So the prices are similar to Northern America in that case and I assume the US/CN student prices will be even less, but I cant check on that.

    tommy

  59. tommy Says:

    *since the 55/1.8 ist made….

  60. Ron Says:

    Tommy, thanks for you additional thoughts. Sounds logical to me.

    Regarding the 55/1.8. I agree about the size, but in my brief time with it, I was pleasantly surprised at how nicely dampened the manual focus feel is of the focusing ring. It was quite easy to move the point of focus to the correct area in the scene. While the feel and action still isn’t as good as a true manual focus lens, it’s much better than earlier ‘fly by wire’ manual focus implementations.

  61. Mike A. Says:

    Thanks for this, Ron.

    It looks like if one wanted a symmetrically designed wide on the regular A7, the CV15mm along with the Adobe Flat Field Plugin will be the way to go.

    I think when mine arrives in December, that’s what I’ll give a try. Otherwise, I suppose the retrofocused Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 wouldn’t be horrible. I’d loose the build quality and gain a lot of extra weight (500g?), but resolution would be excellent. Not the wilderness backpacking landscape lens that I initially imagined when the A7 was announced, but I can make it work. Even that lens combination will be roughly the same weight as my Canon body by itself.

  62. Ron Says:

    Hi Mike – I was also surprised the CV15 did reasonably well compared to many others. I agree it will likely be a good solution. I don’t have any experience with the Samyang/Rokinon, but have heard it is good, other than strong barrel distortion. At least for me, I think its size would be off-putting, though the price is definitely good.

  63. Naht das Ende des APS-C Formats? - Seite 50 - Systemkamera Forum Says:

    [...] [...]

  64. Not impressed by the A7/A7r - The GetDPI Photography Forums Says:

    [...] [...]

  65. Crix Says:

    Hi ROn,
    thanks for your efforts! This paints a rather bleak image of the A7 to me.
    When pixelpeeing, even for the 55/1.8, I wonder that the buildings look kind of gritty to me.
    Due the OOC JPG files look the same or is this a comrepssion artifact of Google/Flickr?
    Thanks again,
    Chris

  66. Michael D Says:

    When I got an X-Pro1 I tested several RF lenses in the 24mm range, including the Zeiss ZM 25/2.8 and the Leica Elmar 24/3.8 ASPH. The Zeiss, being a nearly symmetrical lens, was completely smeared in the corners – even on the Fuji’s APS-C sensor – I suspect in part because of the relatively thick cover glass on the sensor. The modern Leica lens is a more retrofocal design and works very well on the X-Pro1.

    This just reinforces the need to confirm your lens (model) with your body (model) and avoid making decisions based on generalizations.

    I remain hopeful that the A7 and/or A7r will function well with the Elmar 24/3.8 ASPH, as this is as wide as I need to go FF for my work and I expect from 35mm up, the general compatibility should be good with my existing legacy glass.

    By the way, the Zeiss white paper referenced earlier is a must read for those wishing to have any understanding of the topic.

  67. Ron Says:

    @Chris: I think a lot of it is the OOC Jpeg processing by the camera, though I did compress the images further to keep upload sizes relatively reasonable. RAW conversions should be somewhat better, though I haven’t yet had the chance to try the RAW files in a compatible converter. Maybe best not to scrutinize these images too closely.

  68. Ron Says:

    @Michael: Thanks for you comments. I agree it’s going to be a case of testing lens by lens to see what works and what doesn’t. The other problem I mentioned is that even if you find a good combination with this round of cameras, there is no guarantee the next generation from Sony (or anyone else) will retain good performance with your favourite lenses.

    Now that there are more examples available from others, on both cameras, my impression is that this is certainly the case. For example, I’ve seen some really nice results, without considerable edge smearing, from the CV12 on the a7R – better than my a7 results, yet the CV15 doesn’t look as good on the ‘R’ as what I got with it on the a7…

  69. Mike Stratil Says:

    Could you comment on the adapter you used with the Canon lenses. Did you use the Metabones? If so, was it the MKII or III?

    If you used the MKII, that is interesting because Metabones says it won’t work with the A7/A7R. Your comments on your experience with adapted Canon lenses would be much appreciated.

    Mike

  70. padam Says:

    Thanks for doing the test, very useful.

    However I would like to add that the infinity point of the Voigtlander and Zeiss ZM lenses are ever so slightly different to the Leica M lenses because the flange distance of the film bodies they are used on are different as well.

    Therefore a different adapter may be needed for each of them to achieve infinity focus. The new helicoid adapter from Voigtlander looks nice although very expensive but should work nicely with the lens mentioned in the attachment. It might not be optimal for a Leica lens though.

  71. Ron Says:

    @Mike Stratil: The Canon lenses I tried on the a7 were late 1950s, early 60s era rangefinder lenses, which are the Leica thread mount and required a thread mount to Leica M adapter before I could use them with the Novoflex NEX-Leica M adapter.

    I haven’t yet had the chance to try any of my EF lenses on one of these Sony cameras.. Until now I really wasn’t interested in doing so, and therefore didn’t have one of the Metabones adapters on-hand.

  72. » Sony a7 torture test with Leica, Zeiss,... Says:

    [...]   [...]

  73. » Leica M9 comparison images for Sony a7 and rangefinder lens test - TechTalk with Ron Scheffler Says:

    [...] Just a quick post to mention I had a chance to quickly shoot a handful of mostly Leica lenses on the M9 from the same vantage point and in similar weather conditions as a basic comparison against the “infinity” images from the Sony a7 and rangefinder lenses test. [...]

  74. Bruce Says:

    Thanks for an interesting, but not really a surprising insight into your test … It helps reconfirm why the M9 was such a milestone camera, and is still so very relevant currently, despite having the “worst full frame sensor of any camera” … it is unique in the full frame sensor world, and very special.

    These new Sony’s are going to be game changers too!

  75. Elio Di Claudio Says:

    From an optical point of view, I don’t see too much disappointing results with most optics (especially the CV15…). CA, vignetting and color shift depend on sensor demosaicing and thickness (prism effect), which can and must be cured by the appropriate software, Capture One Pro 7, for instance, at least at these low levels. They are not optical faults and it is plain that the demosaicing rules must be adapted to optics and not viceversa. The a7r certainly will do better, since has smaller pixels and less tick filters. It is a bad joke to reduce resolution (wich improves potential demosaicing correction) to try to avoid harmless casts and vignetting removable the appropriate software. This is the future, not big, naive retrofocus lenses with terrible distortion, whose correction destroys MTF and IQ. This is also the choice of Leica, which has better software support…

    However I see leaves near corners too close to be in acceptable focus even with a 21 mm. It’s a geometric problem, not an optical fault. The pictures are noisy and the sharpening must be applied after denoising and cast/geometrical correction in a computer.

  76. Jens Says:

    Over the last two weekends I got the chance to quickly do some test shots with the new Sony A7 and A7r cameras with a Leica Elmarit 28mm aspherical 11606 f2.8 lens (with a Novoflex adapter).

    The results are rather dissapointing to me.
    While sharper in the image center tt the image corners the 1800 Euro Leica lens at f2.8 performs much worse in terms of resolution on the A7/A7R than the A7 kit lens 28-70mm FE at f3.5.

    A comparison shot between the Sony A7 and Leica M9 revealed that the Elmarit performed better on the M9.

    Unfortunately, the resolution issues of the lens at the Sony A7/A7R can not easily be fixed in software such as other lens characteristic (radial distortion, chromatic abberations).

    I also made test shots with the Leica Summicron 50mm f2.0 and an Leica Summicron 90mm f2.0 and those lenses perform much better on the Sony A7/A7r (no images, yet).

    The full resolution images of the Leica Elmarit 28mm aspherical 11606 with the Sony A7 + A7r + Leica M9 can be found on my flickr set here:
    http://goo.gl/BeHHqu

  77. Glenn Says:

    Thanks a lot for this awesome test. I really appreaciate it very much.

    I have M220/ME and previously I plan to get the Zeiss Biogon 21/2.8 ZM special for landscape shots.
    Now I am interested in this Sony twin FF MILC A7 and A7.
    I have checked your test photos of ZM 21.
    Glad that the magenta color shift on the border is not too obvious, but the vignetting is not good enough at f8-f11. And in some photos it looks soft in the corner plus CA.
    So I decide to wait and see more examples till I buy the A7.

    Other reviews said that on A7R the magenta color shift is worst. OMG.

    My question is : is the ZM 21/2.8 better on M9/M220 than on A7? In what aspects?

    Thanks a lot

  78. Ron Says:

    Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for the comment!

    I just received a demo a7R to try and will test the ZM21/2.8 on it and will post the results as I did with the a7. Should be in the next week or so. I expect there will be more color shift at the edges with the a7R, since this seems to be the trend others have demonstrated. But color shift can be corrected in software, though it adds additional steps to your workflow. The real problem is smearing of details in the outer image zone.

    In my opinion, based on what I’ve seen with the a7 in my own tests, and what others have posted with both Sony cameras in conjunction with rangefinder lenses, I believe you will get better across frame sharpness with rangefinder lenses wider than 35mm (and some 50mm lenses too) on the M-E/M9/M240. Edges don’t smear and lose resolution like they do with the same lenses adapted to the Sony cameras. This boils down to optimized sensor cover glass thickness in the Leica cameras vs. sensor toppings that are too thick in the Sony cameras.

    If it was between the M-E/M9 and a7 (24MP), I would always opt for the Leica bodies in respect to image sharpness/quality. I’m not yet sure which way I will go in respect to the a7R. From what others have shown, central image resolution is excellent and definitely bests anything from Leica at the moment… But if you’re in need of great across-frame performance, then it may not be such an easy decision…

    As for f/8-f/11 levels of vignetting shown by the ZM21 – Zeiss has stated this is to be expected from all rangefinder lenses due to the shorter/closer exit pupil distance to the sensor plane. Light rays illuminating the edge of the frame travel farther than light rays in the central part of the image. And as you know, the farther light travels, the less intense it becomes, and the falloff is quite rapid (double the distance and intensity drops 4-fold (two stops)). With SLR lenses the exit pupil distance is farther from the sensor plane and the difference in distance traveled by the central and peripheral light rays is more similar, and vignetting is less noticeable. I guess it’s a subjective matter, but the degree of vignetting from rangefinder wide angle lenses hasn’t really bothered me….

    My feeling so far is if future Zeiss FE lenses continue to be as good as the 35/2.8 and 55/1.8 currently available for these Sony cameras, they’ll be the best option for squeezing out the most image quality and will almost certainly outperform most adapted rangefinder lenses for across-frame image quality by a fair margin. It’s just a matter of waiting to see what becomes available for this system…

  79. Ron Says:

    Hi Jens,

    Thanks for sharing your observations. So far it looks like 28mm is going to be a difficult focal length for adapting RF lenses to these cameras… I’m also not happy with how the 28 Cron looks on the a7. There aren’t a lot of 28mm RF options to begin with, and the two from Leica are certainly the best in the class… For neither to perform well on the Sony cameras doesn’t leave many options. It might be that legacy SLR lenses will be better, such as those from Contax/Yashica, Leica, Canon FD, Nikon, Olympus..

  80. Sony a7 torture test with Leica, Zeiss, Voigtla... Says:

    [...] Attention: It seems this quick and dirty test has become quite popular and access to the zipped files hosted on Google Drive (links below) has become temporarily unavailable due to excessive demand. I’m in the process of uploading the images to my Flickr account. It will mean having to access them one by one, but at least you’ll be able to see something. If you prefer the batch downloads, maybe demand will ease over the next few days and they will become available again……  [...]

  81. » Sony a7R vs. Leica M9 infinity test with Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander rangefinder lenses - TechTalk with Ron Scheffler Says:

    [...] a follow-up to my overwhelmingly popular October 2013 infinity test with a preproduction Sony a7 and various rangefinder lenses, here’s the infinity shootout I really wanted to do back then… between a regular [...]

  82. Steven Crichton Says:

    Why do people not understand that half of the R&D for the leica full frame digital M’s was directly related to rectifying the problems of smear and corner-shifts as much as possible. That’s one of the reasons the price is so high. Low production highly specialised offset and varying edge pixel spacing mixed with varying micro-lenses.

    Pretty much the sony mount is made for straight line light paths, hence a new tele-centric range as per m 4/3 and previous NEX bodies.

    In short, as I did with a very financially worrying but correct move, if you want to use leica lenses buy a leica… much like every other camera brand and it’s glass. Anything else adapted is a compromise of design and specifications.

  83. Stanley T Shao Says:

    Has anyone tried the A7 with leica Super Elmar 15mm 3.5 ? Any pointers or links i could view would be much appreciated.

  84. Ron Says:

    Hi Stanley,

    I haven’t come across any reports about the 15mm SE on the a7 cameras. Is this a lens you have, or are you looking to buy something in this focal length?

    With it being an SLR lens design, it should not suffer from any of the edge smearing and color shift problems that arise with wide angle rangefinder lenses.

    That said, the 15/3.5 is a fairly old design and is likely bettered by modern UWA options, such as the Zeiss ZE/ZF 15/2.8 and perhaps even the Samyang 14/2.8, which has been used a fair amount by a7/R owners, in part because it’s quite inexpensive.

Leave a Reply


Copyright © 2014 TechTalk with Ron Scheffler. All Rights Reserved.
No computers were harmed in the 0.344 seconds it took to produce this page.

Designed/Developed by Lloyd Armbrust & hot, fresh, coffee.