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Leica T System vs Sony A7/A7R for those M Lenses

A question arises for owners of Leica M lenses (or any M mount lens): compared to alternatives, does the Leica T system make sense specifically for shooting M-mount lenses?

The Leica T with EVF comes in at ~$2450, whereas the Sony A7R has a built-in EVF and 36MP sensor. Its sibling Sony the A7 comes in at half the price (also with built-in EVF).

The issue with M lenses on any digital sensor is quality loss at the edges of the frame due to ray angle. But this varies by focal length and lens and aperture. By comparison, the Leica T is cropping at all times to APS-C, since its sensor size is APS-C.

Now consider these points which really involve wide angles of 28mm and wider, since 35mm on up rangefinder lenses perform quite well on the A7/A7R:

  • The Sony A7R can be shot in APS-C cropped mode and still yield 15.6 megapixel images (10.4MP for the Sony A7).
  • The A7R or A7 can be shot in full frame mode and cropped to 1.52X (APS-C) or 1.3X or 1.2X or 1.1X or 1.0X—if the edges aren’t so great, crop them off. And in most cases by ƒ/5.6 the 1.2X crop is going to be highly satisfactory—and that’s 25 megapixels on the A7R, way more than the 16MP of the Leica T.
  • The A7R or A7 full-frame image can be downsampled to 16MP, which increases per pixel quality throughout and reduces or eliminates Bayer sensor artifacts. Combine that with a slight cropping (say 1.2X) and the resulting image downsampled to 16MP will be of high per-pixel quality.
  • We are likely to see some very nice new lens options this fall for the A7/A7R. And those will be full frame.
  • Sony is on the full frame warpath. Investing in an APS-C system and lenses limited to that format is not “wrong” (always relates to personal needs and desires of course!), but for those not in a rush, it seems dubious until 2014 sorts out the market.
  • If one is willing to shoot M-mount lenses in APS-C crop size , the Sony Alpha A6000 has to be worth a good hard look: it is 24MP and costs only $48 more the Leica T Visoflex EVF alone! However, its EVF is only 1.4M, not the high-res one found in the A7/A7R.

The Sony A7 and A7R deserve a look from the shooter with existing Leica M lenses. In a way, it’s a shame that the Sony cameras don’t just build in crops for 1.4/1.3/1.2/1.1X as well as 4:3 and 5:4 raw output aspect ratio options right off the bat, coupled with the viewfinder showing exactly what will be recorded.

Counterpoint: the Leica T might read the 6-bit codes on Leica M lenses, and thus correct for lens color shading just as with the M9 and M240. That is a significant plus in favor of the Leica T.

   
Leica T supports M lenses using the optional M-Adapter T

Hakan K writes:

I thought I'll put a few comments on this topic too as I mainly use M lenses on camera bodies other than Leica's.

T camera

I must say Leica T's sensor is disappointing. I am not going to be as kind as you are to it given it's "boring" sensor.
T should have been out 2-3 years ago before the likes of RX1 and GR. View this in the light of 36Mp sensor in RX1 successors and more quality FF Zeiss E mounts it becomes even more challenging for T to shine more than its beautiful silver body.

I have now been using the Sony A6000 almost a month with the M lenses and I have A7R too (we've corresponded before about this..why bother with A6000 when there is A7R) and you can be more enthusiastic about A6000 now that the T is in existence. It's just as sleek as T, lighter, smaller, it has a built in EVF, tilt screen and the gapless sensor design (which doesn't have the problems like Nex-7 had) which can output 24Mp RAW files at 11 shots per second.

Unless of course the T can perform corrections other than vignetting and distortion for a lens like Super Elmar-M 18 at wider apertures the 6 bit code aware adapter is not going to be too much of an advantage over Novoflex's. Also as you touched on, if Sony introduces different crop factors in a menu via a firmware update with so much better IQ in their A7 range, how will T boast itself as another camera body for the M lenses or count M lenses in its lens range so loudly when someone else does it so much better.

However, T camera could have been very loud if it came with an "exciting" sensor (like that of A7R, A7S or Monochrom or the Merills). It really should have had the best APS-C sensor possible period (even if it means using a larger sensor partially to achieve high DR and S/N ratio etc, so what if it costs $500 more)

T Lenses

It's great that Leica made the Summicron-T 23mm (which is about half the size of SEL24F18Z) so small. Obviously lenses are their forte and they prevail this in their T range too. T zoom lenses being the best quality autofocus zoom lenses for APS-C will be my only reason to invest in the T lenses and that's about it, but is that a strong reason alone? No, especially when it is for one camera only and which has yesteryear's sensor.

If autofocus and zoom is not that important then its not looking too good for the exciting T lenses on a boring T sensor even in Leica's own backyard. T primes will have competition from their own M lenses. Take Elmarit-M 28mm ASPH. for example, it's not that much more expensive than the Summicron-T 23mm (~15% more)
and it's made in Germany. It can be used on FF as well as APS-C and MFT on several bodies. Similarly Super Elmars 18, 21 and Elmar 24 are outstanding performers on Sony A6000, A7R in crop mode, Leica M and T and cost not much more than 50 percent extra and retain better value.

2014 is a good year. Look how many camera/lens options become available out there so quickly.. and consulting you becomes more and more of a necessity. I'm glad you exist.

DIGLLOYD: camera bodies become “obsolete” quickly, but quality lenses are good for the long haul. In that regard Leica M lenses hold value, are widely usable on many cameras, and cover full frame. An investment in Leica T has nowhere to go: the camera body is only 16MP and the lenses are unlikely to have any other use. The point about the 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH is a good one, but I’d bet that the 28/2 Summicron-T will handily outperform it at ƒ/2.8 on the Leica T, a case of lens optimization for a digital sensor of a known and fixed sized. Like the Fujifilm X system, investing in lenses that can cover only APS-C is a dead-end street for those lenses. The flip side is lenses optimized for the camera and a size/weight/functionality that will surely be more useful.

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