Posts Tagged ‘Rangefinder’

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

Sunday, January 26th, 2014


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!

Leica M9 comparison images for Sony a7 and rangefinder lens test

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

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.

Lenses used on the M9:

Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6
Leica 21mm f/1.4 ASPH.
Leica 21mm f/3.4 ASPH.
Leica 28mm f/2 ASPH.
Leica 50mm f/1.4 ASPH.
Leica 90mm f/2.5

All are available as a single zipped file hosted on Google Drive. It’s about 235MB.

Of course, because these were done at a different time, they’re not the exact same framing (sorry about the tilted horizon) or visual aesthetic due to differences in light and weather. That said, the basic technical considerations of sharpness and edge detail rendition can be observed and compared. The M9 images were captured as DNG files and converted in Lightroom 4.4 with generally the basic settings. No additional noise reduction, CA correction or lens profile correction was applied. The default sharpening setting was left as is. White balance was tweaked and the tone curve was adjusted to open up the darker mid and shadow tones somewhat to better reveal image sharpness. Therefore these don’t have the overall heavy look seen in the A7 images.

Maybe, given time, when I upgrade to Lightroom 5, I’ll reprocess the A7 RAW files to see how much of an improvement there is over the in-camera Jpegs.

Here are some basic thoughts about the similarities and differences of these lenses on both cameras…

The most similar results for a given lens on each camera are with the CV12 and 90 Summarit. All of the other lenses generate considerably better edge zone detail on the M9. Even the 21 Lux, that seems to be pretty good on the A7, and certainly would be usable and most aperture settings, is visibly better on the M9. The 21 SEM is sharp across the frame wide open, whereas it’s not on the A7. While the 28 Cron needs a couple stops to improve the edges on the M9, it’s not blatantly soft (along the edges) shot wide open. The 50 Lux ASPH also exhibits better edge performance, which makes its mid zone sharpness dip, especially around f/2.8, all that much more obvious.

Still hoping to get my hands on an a7R and running a test with the full set of lenses I did with the a7…

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

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

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




By lens:

21 Lux
21 SEM
28 Cron
Canon 35mm f2.0 LTM
Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f2.8
50 Lux ASPH
Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM
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…

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