Sony a7R vs. Leica M9 infinity test with 20+ Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander rangefinder lenses


UPDATE: I’ve moved this post to a permanent page. Click HERE to go to it.


As 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 production Sony a7R and Leica M9, with a similar, though not identical, collection of a couple dozen mostly rangefinder lenses… Unfortunately, this time I’m not one of the first in the world with the results! Please refer to the a7 shootout for an explanation why infinity focus is such a ‘torture test’ for these lenses and cameras.

As with the a7 test, I’m making this information and the high resolution files freely available for personal, non-commercial use only. If you find this useful, please consider making a donation through the Paypal button below, or making your next purchase through B&H using the indicated links throughout the article. Any amount is appreciated!

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8 Responses to “Sony a7R vs. Leica M9 infinity test with 20+ Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander rangefinder lenses”

  1. » Sony a7 torture test with Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander rangefinder lenses - TechTalk with Ron Scheffler Says:

    […] 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. […]

  2. Sony a7R vs. Leica M9 infinity test with 20+ Le... Says:

    […] “Some lenses tested on the M9 were not 6-bit coded. If correction was not applied (and therefore embedded in the DNGs), it's sometimes indicated in the watermark. – Two Sony-Leica M adapters were tried.”  […]

  3. riz Says:

    Hi Ron,

    I am planning on getting Sony A7 camera. I am really confused between which lens to go with: 35mm 2.8 Zeiss from Sony or Voigtlander 44mm 1.4.

    I am also planning to do some video with my A7. Do you know if I set the zoom to infinity on Voigtlander, how is the video quality compared to Zeiss infinity (can you even do it on this?).

    I know that Voigtlander is only manual focus but reviews I read so far doesn’t seem like I will have any issue with focusing manually. Since I do want to be lazy sometimes does it require a lot of attention to get the focus right on Voigtlander?

    Lastly, which is better at lower light? I really don’t want to use flash for any of my pictures.

    Thank you in advance for your help and nice review

  4. Gavin Says:

    Hi, this is a wonderful study that you’ve done. Thank you very much for the hard work. I did my own study shots on a limited set of ZM lenses a couple of weeks ago, and just didn’t have the time to finish it. I found that anything below and including 35mm smears at the edge of the frame, all the way around.

    Did you ever test the Voigtlander 21mm f/1.8 Ultron? I heard that it is one of the only ~20mm lenses that will not smear at the edges of the frame, and the color shift is also quite well managed. Unfortunately, I can’t find a lens locally (in NYC, can you believe that??) to test out. Perhaps I have to try

    Anyway, thanks again for all this. It’s just so helpful.

  5. Ron Says:

    Hi Gavin,

    Sorry for not replying sooner. I haven’t yet tried the 21/1.8, as I no longer own one. From what I’ve seen elsewhere, such as the review at 3D-Kraft, it still appears to smear the edges and needs to be stopped down a fair amount to be useable, compared to how it would perform on a digital Leica. About the only rangefinder lens I’ve seen in this focal length range to have minimal smearing problems is the Leica 16-18-21 Wide Angle Tri-Elmar (WATE), but of course, it’s over $5000 and a difficult purchase to justify for use on a Sony body when there are cheaper SLR lens options available.

  6. Gavin Says:

    Ron, I didn’t realize you had responded. I didn’t even think to check :)
    I got my hands on a WATE attached to a novoflex (which is much better quality than the metabones, IMO) for my A7r. It’s a real beauty! I’m still putting it through its paces, but here are some initial observations:
    – The WATE is incredibly compact. It could fit inside my Nikon 14-24/2.8 and have room enough to jiggle around. I would certainly carry it around a lot more at this size, but does it justify the eye-popping price?? (It’s my wife’s eyes that are popping, btw).
    – At 21mm it outperforms the 14-24 at every aperture setting. In fact, doing this quick study has made me realize that even the venerable 14-24 also smears at the outer edges. The WATE loses sharpness toward the edges, but the image integrity remains fairly well intact. No muddiness there.
    – At 16mm it’s a little weird. The Nikon is sharper in the center, but the WATE is sharper in the edges with the exception of the right side of the frame which is smeared. The left side of the frame is relatively clean, and is sharper than the Nikon. Does it make sense that the lens is smearing only on one side? I feel like you encountered this on one or more of your tests, but I can’t remember. Anyway, I’m not really sure how it makes sense that the lens would only be lopsided at a certain focal length.

  7. Ron Says:

    Hi Gavin,

    Thanks for the feedback. The WATE does seem to be one of the more promising M lenses on the a7 cameras. It seems there are also promising signs of better compatibility also with the a7S, though I have yet to try one.

    I would suspect the odd performance at 16mm, with one side good and the other side smeared, could be a problem with the adapter. Only way to rule it out would be to try another adapter, or another lens, or try your lens on a different camera, such as an M9 or M240. Unfortunately the need for an adapter adds another variable into the equation and makes it more difficult to determine where the problem lies without access to another camera, lens or adapter.

    It could be a problem with the lens too, as any UWA zoom is fairly complicated and can change performance throughout the zoom range.

  8. Andy Taylor Says:

    hi Ron, thanks for the write up, very time consuming i can imagine. i am in the market for a new camera coming from a nikon d7000 i want a smaller option and time to venture into the world of full frame, now the sony a7 series does captivate me as does the voigtlander lenses and Zeiss too, i mainly shoot landscapes/seascapes as i live near the coast. i am steering towards the a7r for resolution and if i need to crop i won’t lose a great deal and still retain a great amount of detail however, i love the look of these legacy lenses in particular the Zeiss 50mm planar to go with the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter. as well as the image quality i believe will be well suitable for me, I’m no pro but i also love the look of this lens and other Zeiss zm lenses, they just have such an aesthetic appeal to them, anyways Ron, what can you recommend for me please, would you think the set up I’ve explained is a good one, i have a budget of £2000 gbp?

    many thanks in advance Ron, cheers


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