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Sony A7R: Adapting Zeiss and Leica Lenses via Lens Adapter

Lens performance assessments: lenses are covered in their appropriate Guides regardless of which camera body is used. Native lenses are always reviewed with the matching camera(s). See Which Content is in Which Publication?.

There is a lot of interest in using Leica M and/or Leica R and Zeiss ZF.2/ZE lenses on the Sony A7R: the combination of an EVF and a 36-megapixel sensor are appealing in terms of using high-grade manual focus lenses conveniently and accurately, because an EVF at 10X allows precision focus.

See also:

DSLR vs mirrorless

Why not use a DLSR, e.g., the Nikon D800E? Size and weight come to mind.

But the lack of an EVF on high-res DSLRs presents a serious impediment to imaging success (misfocus). A high-res camera + high-grade lens using the optical viewfinder is a low hit rate proposition. And hit rate is what is key in the end. Indeed, autofocus has its own issues, and there there is focus shift, a challenge poorly met by a DSLR because it shoots with the lens wide open when used conventionally.

Current high-res DSLRs lack an EVF option, and while the rear LCD suffices with a high quality focusing loupe, doing so is awkward at best and really means using a tripod. Moreover the Nikon D800 Live View image quality is mangled by 3:1 subsampling. Usable but visibly substandard. The Sony EVF on the Sony RX1R is superb, and assuming the A7R is equally good that is an enticing prospect.

Summing up: the prospect of a compact 36-megapixel camera with no anti-aliasing filter that can take a wide variety of lenses (via adapters) and with a high quality built-in EVF, well, that is very exciting to some, including me. It’s a testament to inertial thinking that to this day, the latest DSLRs still do no offer an EVF option in the hot shoe. Crazy.

Ron W writes:

Will you be testing/commenting on the use of Zeiss Leica mount lenses on the Sony a7r body? They all perform very well on the NEx7.

DIGLLOYD: the NEX-7 is an APS-C camera, and while DSLR lenses perform well in general, many rangefinder lenses do not perform well on it, e.g. the Leica M 28/2.8 ASPH and Leica 28/2 ASPH.

On full-frame (much larger than APS-C hence even more extreme ray angle), quality losses with non-telecentric wide angle lenses will worsen: stronger color shading and increasing loss of sharpness to the edges. This is due to the combination of ray angle and sensor cover glass thickness. The A7R has micro lenses which mitigate the losses, but I don’t expect good results with any wide angle non-telecentric lens. The good news is that at least some of the Leica M wides have some amount of telecentricity, and all Zeiss wide angle DSLR lenses are inherently telecentric (Distagon design).

See Sony Full-Frame NEX A7r: Rangefinder Lenses, Telecentric Design.

Adapting high-grade lenses to the Sony A7R

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