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Leica M Lenses on Sony NEX-5 with Novoflex Lens Adapter

Thanks for Roy P for alerting me to the fact that Leica M lenses can be used on the Sony NEX-5 using a Novoflex lens adapter for Leica M lenses. Roy’s comments in my Open Letter to Leica are sharp on the value of this approach.

The Sony NEX-5 has a 23.4 X 15.6mm sensor, so there is a 1.5X field of view crop as compared to the full-frame Leica M9, so that a 50mm lens has an equivalent field of view of 75mm in full-frame terms.

The other big concern is how the steep ray angle from the exit pupil of Leica M lenses interacts with the Sony NEX sensor in terms of color shading; this could be a big issue with some lenses, even with the reduced size sensor.

Since I have a number of Leica M lenses, the Sony NEX-5 looks like a cheap accessory— you can’t even buy a Leica optical viewfinder for the price of the NEX-5 with two lenses.

I’ve ordered a Sony NEX-5 with the 18-55 zoom($549.99) and “pancake” 16mm f/2.8 ($99.99 when bought with the NEX-5 18-55 bundle), along with the Novoflex lens adapter for M lenses ($269.99), at B&H Photo. Those prices reflect instant rebates through July, with August bringing the Sony NEX-C3 with a slightly higher-res sensor.

My intent is to supplement my 73-page Guide and Review of the Leica M9 in DAP with my findings on this approach— usability, image quality, etc. The key issue I see is whether the ability to focus accurately is fast and convenient.

Reader Herb S

Some readers have experience here already. Since B&H Photo now has a 30 day return policy, I’ll learn a thing or two, and if it doesn’t work to my satisfaction, back goes the NEX-5. It doesn’t sound as promising as I had hoped; Herb S writes:

Just to share some experience. I am using the NEX 5 with adapter and Leica, Zeiss an Voigtlander lenses for a year now.

Main issue with all the wide angle lenses is color shifts towards the edges. From 50mm onward there is mostly only vignette and asymmetry issues.

Also in Lightroom I frequently see Maze artifacts. This has to do with the Bayer Greensplit setting. There is a way out here. One opportunity is Cornerfix. It will address the Maze artifacts and the color shifts / vignette.

An even better way in my experience is to use the Pro version of Capture One with has the option of profiling each lens/aperture. No Maze artifacts here and color corrections and vignette are easily fixed with the LCC profiles.

DIGLLOYD: I’m not sure what Herb means by a “maze artifact”, perhaps he means a demosaicing artifact. Nor am I sure what he refers to with “asymmetry”. Perhaps he means asymmetric color towards the edges and corners. This is no surprise; the sensor in the M9 is specially designed to minimize these issues, and the M9 takes care of the rest in software by modifying the RAW data based on the lens used.

I'd rather throw away the camera than endure this kind of extensive "post", and instead focus on making images with a better tool. The Leica M9 might be the only camera appropriate for best results with M-mount lenses, but I’ll still check out the NEX-5, at least briefly. And return it if it doesn’t do something particularly useful. A possible solution would be a lens module for the Ricoh GXR that used a special sensor to deal with the ray angles of the M lenses, along with appropriate settings. But such an offering would be a bit of a surprise.

Basically you are right; lets throw away the camera. At the moment there are no really good lenses available for NEX that directly fit. And the best camera's for Leica lenses are non digital M's.

So it will take some extra effort. Or wait until a digital M with life view and a good price. On the other end, wait until Sony / Zeiss comes up with some good lenses for NEX. And a marriage between Leica M lenses and any other brand camera with adapters is always mediocre at best. Nothing unusual I think.

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