The Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH just happens to be my favorite wide-angle lens. Actually, this is probably the best wide lens I have ever used.
IMHO nothing can compare to what can be achieved using this lens on a digital Leica. I had loads of fun putting the little gem to use with my Leica M9 and Leica M Typ 240. The results were nothing short of spectacular.
I was pretty happy when I heard Sony was introducing a full-frame mirrorless ILC (camera with interchangeable lenses) which would let me mount my Leica M lenses using commonly available adapters. But would the results be adequate? Previous tests with the Sony NEX 7 did not work out the way most people thought, so there was always room for doubt. Using ultra-wideangle lenses might prove a problem – or maybe not.
Some early adopters and professional reviewers have already had the chance to try the new Sony Alpha A7 and Sony Alpha A7R and have posted first look (p)reviews. Some have been full of praise, especially in combination with the new Carl Zeiss Sonnar FE 35mm f/2.8 prime lens (as depicted above). Others have more than hinted there might be color shift and other complications using legacy lenses.
I was hoping I would be able to keep on using my Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH with the new Sony, so I had to give this combination a go myself. My local dealer finally gave me a call saying he had the new Sony body in shop and I was able to take a look at the offer. Unfortunately there was little time and I was only able to take a few quick snaps. Only JPG using Auto ISO and standard camera settings straight out of the box. Nothing professional, i.e. only some basic shots without interest in art or composition 🙂 .
I actually chose a quite demanding city setting simply to push the new Sony with the UWA Leica lens to its limits. I used f5.6, aperture priority, Auto ISO and OOC JPG straight out of the camera. No compensation for shadows and no post processing applied (except for change in file size and e.g. blanking out faces for use of the images in this blog). But see for yourself.
These first snaps may not be a professional test under ideal conditions and the results may be somewhat limited. I simply did not have enough time for anything more. And I guess the resulting pictures (with bad light, out of box camera settings and not using RAW format) are quite o.K. – sort of…
I do not see myself as a pixel peeper. But these quick snaps with the Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH on the Sony Alpha A7 did not really get me overly excited. I had high hopes for this lens combo. Some minor color shift, vignetting and distortion at the edges may be manageable in post processing. But do I really want to go to all the trouble? Do I want to spend hours manipulating files in Photoshop or Lightroom? Not really.
There may be cause for hope. The Sony Alpha A7R with its offset microlens design might be able to handle Leica UWA lenses better than the Sony Alpha A7. But that remains to be seen. Due to the higher pixel count (36mp compared to 24mp) the results might be even more disillusioning. Native lenses for the new Sony Alpha full-frame system will probably be the best bet. But there are only few to choose from right now. The Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 and the Sony 28-70 kit zoom are available right from the start but no UWA will be available for some time to come. The Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH I was hoping to use with a Novoflex adapter does not seem to be an ideal stand-by player. I will probably wait on the sideline until there are more lenses to choose from.
The camera itself was a pleasure to handle. Just as pleasing as the Sony RX1 which I used quite extensively in the past few months. But I am just not quite willing to sell off any other camera in favor of this machine. The Sony sure is a great piece of equipment. But the glass is what really makes a system stand out and there simply is not enough to choose from right now. Adapting Sony A-lenses may be good for photographers with existing Sony equipment but adapting legacy lenses may prove to be more restricting – not only considering the lack of Auto Focus. I did not like the focus peeking on the Sony Alpha A7 too much. I just could not see it well enough (at least not with standard settings using red highlighting color). Split screen focussing or rangefinder focussing in general seems a lot easier to handle.
Nonetheless this full-frame camera offering is quite outstanding and will probably frighten the competition to death. In time no doubt this will develop into a killer system. Some more full-frame lenses is all it will take to push me over.