'Another Place' art installation taken with a Leica M lens on a Sony camera

Road trip with Leica and Sony

Last week we went on a mini road trip of northern universities, for my daughter to check out their medical schools and the cities themselves. York, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, in four days.  Manchester is my old university- so a nostalgia trip too…. But what camera to take with me? A chance to see how my Leica M lenses worked on the Sony A7RIII camera – I’ve seen very mixed reviews online, for this combination.

Sony Mirrorless Cameras

Since the end of last May, I have been using the Sony A9 camera for my reportage wedding photography work. Mirrorless cameras have looked like the future – certainly for that sort of work – for a few years now. I’ve tried many Fuji and Sony cameras, over the years. But with the A9, the technology seems to have finally reached a milestone. Small, light, fast, responsive (needs a bit more on that I think) and most importantly, an electronic shutter that works. A completely silent camera. No operating noise at all. It makes even the Leica rangefinder seem noisy. So useful when you are shooting discreet reportage in situations like ceremonies or during speeches. I’ve even found it useful in corporate work – shooting reportage in offices, meetings, etc.

I upgraded my Sony A7RII to the latest version (MKIII), as it brought many of the practical operating features of the A9 to the big daddy of the A7 series. A big sensor – for portraits and travel shots. ( The sensor is the same as the MKII version, a slightly different processing engine but it has not got the silent shutter capabilities of the A9. As I found out, as I forgot I was using the A7RIII as I took shots of an evening ghost tour we went on in York. Severe banding from the artificial streetlights – no use at all. The A9 would have had no problem I reckon…)

Leica glass on a Sony camera

So the Sony A7RIII as a travel camera – a features camera. You lose the silent shutter but gain a big sensor. A 42.4MP sensor, in a small, light camera. But….most of the lenses aren’t small and light.

Lenses like the Sony 50/1.4 and 35/1.4 – have fast AF, are sharp lenses but are big and heavy. What if I could use my three Leica M lenses on the camera though? (I sold my Leica M240 M-P to fund the Sony A7RIII) Sure manual focus only, but small, light, sharp, top quality glass. So with an adapter from Voigtlander – a chance to try out my Leica glass on my Sony mirrorless. The three lenses are: Leica 28mm f1.4 Summilux asph, the Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux asph  and the Leica 75mm f2.0 Summicron APO lens. One day I’ll buy a Leica camera again, I’m sure, but I’m reluctant to sell these pieces of glass – so can I get them to work with my Sony, in the meantime?

Leica M lens on Sony E mount camera
Voigtlander VM adapter on Sony A7RIII
Leica M lens on a Sony A7RIII

So that key reason – to reject the fast AF, etc? Small and light. Here is the Leica 50mm, sandwiched between the Sony 50mm f1.4 and 35mm f1.4. Quite a difference to carry around all day!

Sony E mount lenses vs Leica M size comparision

There are small Sony lenses. The sublime 55mm f1.8  is a lens I use all the time. It is the first Sony lens I bought, with an A7S. So, in fairness, it could replace the Leica 50mm – being only slightly bigger. My Sony 28mm f2.0 is small too and light – but not a patch, optically, on the Leica 28mm I have. So, three Leica lenses – all small, light and sharp….well, they are if I can focus them! This is where I need to practice and get used to the focus peaking on an EVF. (Electronic viewfinder) Get to know when I can trust it or not?

This isn’t meant as an exhaustive review for this combination, of lenses and camera. More about me playing with some camera equipment, away from how I usually work. So here are a few images from a very, very cold and very windswept Crosby beach, near Liverpool. As the university tour was in progress, my son and I drove to the beach, to exercise our dog. Here are a few images from our time there…

Leica 28mm Summilux on Sony A7RIII camera
Leica lens on a Sony camera
Using Leica M lenses on a Sony E mount camera
My dog on a windy beach
Sony camera with Leica M lens

And that big sensor? Here’s a crop of that opening image of ‘Another Place’ on the beach. Taken using the Leica 75mm and the camera held close to the sand (the foreground is a puddle ) using the tilt screen. Lens wide open.

I didn’t see the ‘smearing’ I’ve read about but then neither did I get every image perfectly sharp (it was seriously cold and windy). I need to play with this focus peaking a bit more. But from what I’ve seen, apart from the poor vignetting when using the 28mm at f1.4 (can correct it in C1) it does seem like a good combo. There is of course the Zeiss range of manual focus lenses for the A7 cameras but they are not cheap. So when you have some Leica glass ‘lying around’, it’s good to find a proper use for it. (until I can afford an M10 maybe?)

It is also nice to use good manual focus lenses for a change. Certainly easier to use longer focal lengths, like the 75mm or the 90mm, on the Sony, than it is on a rangefinder – as the EVF shows the full frame for the focal length. To combine this, a small, light package, with such a big sensor, is a lovely option going forward. This could be my go-to kit when out and about…

8 Comments

  1. Pictures look nice. I am in the same boat. Only because Leica have taken away movies and USB tethering with the M10. So now I have to find an alternative!

  2. Peter T. Thanyawong says:

    I am very familiar with manual focus and peaking with Fujifilm and Leica lens for many years. I also have 4 Leica lens 28mm 35mm 50mm and 90mm. When A7iii was launched last year, I want to try full frame Sony sensor. I use Sony A7iii with Leica lens and I find difficulty for manual focus with peaking. I am not sure whether it is a problem of low resolution of A7iii EVF. It takes me longer time to focus each shot. 7 out of 10 pictures are out of focus and I am very unhappy. Somebody told me to zoom or enlarge image in EVF  when I do manual focus but that way is not practical at all. Finally I give up and decide to sell A7iii. I learn that A7riii EVf has better resolution than A7iii. How do you think of manual focus and peaking with A7riii. I understand that you also use Fujifilm camera. How is it comparing with Fuji manual focus. Now the price of A7riii has been dropped after news of a7riv and it is very interesting. I would really appreciate for your advice. Thank you.

  3. Amazing pictures . I too have a few Leica lenses and Sony a7riii but has never been that successful in setting up . Would be great if you can share a bit of tips on the set up (on Sony camera )

  4. I try to use Leica Lens 35mm 1.4 FLE on my Sony A7Riii but I have a problem with Sony peaking manual focus. Actually I has been used Leica lens on Fuji XT body for a long time and there is no problem. But when I use with Sony, I saw the right focus and right peaking in the EVF but it comes out not nail on. I almost give up now. Could you advice me any technique so I can nail on focus with Leica lens? 

  5. Hi Peter, Can’t say I get on with it either. It’s very hit and miss, as you say. I bought an M10 – so keep the leica lenses for that. Sony/zeiss for the A7RIII – it was an experiment but not one I carried on for long…

  6. Ricardo Montaño says:

    I have a large arsenal of Leica Glass, both ”M” & “R” that I used on a M6 & a R6; now I have a Sony A7 R3, 12mm Voigtlander, 21mm Super Angulon 3.4, M; 24mm Elmarit R; 28 Minolta Rokkor M; 35 Sumaron M; 35 Sumicron M & R, 35 Sumilux Asph. M, 40 Rokkor M; 50 Elmar, 50 Summicron M & Dual Range Sumicron, 50 Summilux M, 60 Macro Elmarit R, 80 Summilux R, 90 Summicron M & R, 135 Elmarit M, 500 MR Telyt R plus a 2X Leica Teleconverter; thank you very much for your article, I enyoyed very much, my name is Ricardo and I live in Guadalajara Mèxico.

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