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Leica M Users Ask: Is the Sony A7R the Ultimate Leica M Lens Platform?

Mark B writes:

I have been a Leica M user since they introduced the M8. I currently have an M9 and several Leica M lenses. I have been on the waiting list for an M(240) at two nationally recognized dealers for the better part of a year. I love the results produced by my three M lenses (50 Summilux, 75 Summicron and 28 Summicron) but I have always chafed at the poor low light performance of the M9.

After a year of reading critiques of the M(240), including yours, I am having serious doubts about plowing almost $7k into a new M body. It seems like a product that is immature and possibly rushed to service (although clearly not rushed to consumers). It is only 24 mp as opposed to 36 on my D800E. The EVF is already seriously outdated and the inability to explore the entire frame while zoomed seems strange. I have also read of numerous glitches that may or may not be firmware related.

Because of these doubts, I recently pre-ordered the Sony A7R. My intention is to use the M primes through an adaptor on the Sony, at least until Zeiss starts introducing more lenses native to that system.

I have the D800E and numerous very fine lenses but I want an M size unit with small but very fine lenses for walk-around (I ALWAYS have a camera with me). I enjoy the rangefinder system and use it without real problems except that sometimes I have trouble framing the shot because I wear glasses. I am a little worried about relying exclusively on an EVF because I have never used one.

This background is the basis of my question to you: If I am called by one of the dealers that they have an M(240) for me, should I pass on it and rely on the new, untested, Sony A7R? You have now used the new M extensively and I rely on your opinions.

DIGLLOYD: This is the very question that many are now pondering. And one that I will be studying carefully soon*.

Get the Sony A7 / A7R and Leica M lenses at B&H Photo.

The appeal of the Sony A7R lies in its 36-megapixel state of the art sensor, it superlative high-res EVF, its adaptability to a wide range of lenses (including Leica M lenses and many others, in addition to its native-mount lenses), and its compact form factor. And faster operation to be sure. And of course it is 1/3 the price.

Operational characteristics of the A7R as well as the actual performance of Leica M lenses on the A7R are open questions which I will be studying in detail soon, the acute ray angle of rangefinder lenses being the issue of concern, which degrades both sharpness and color in off-center areas.

As for the M240, the low-res Leica VF-2 EVF feels like a crude child’s toy compared to the latest Sony and Olympus EVF offerings. Surely this should be the #1 priority at Leica for the M240: to support the Olympus VF-4. Well, maybe #2 priority, since the M240 continues to bedevil me in the field even last week with the latest firmware; each and every day in the field it locks up at least once, and regularly delivers a damaged image from time to time. Recoverable to be sure (power off and/or pull the battery), but an ongoing irritant.

See also:

* The Sony A7R and its native-mount lenses will be reviewed in Guide to Mirrorless. Lenses go into their respective guides regardless of which camera body: native-mount lenses always go with the matching camera. Leica M and Zeiss ZM rangefinder lens performance goes into Guide to Leica. Zeiss ZF.2 lens coverage always goes into Guide to Zeiss.

Leica M Typ 240, Sony A7R
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