Every now and then there is a time when some interesting camera models pile up on my desk. Usually this happens during a transition the from one model to another one. Recently the stars aligned again. Since I moved up to a Leica M240 a few months ago I wanted to test it against my older Leica M9P. While I like the M240s high ISO performance I wasn’t fully sure how it compares when being used during the day. This comparison had been on my agenda for a while and it just happened that a Sony A7R showed up. So what better time to actually test all three against each other by using the same settings and the same lenses for the same shots. I still have my Novoflex Leica to Nex adapter from my Nex 7 which perfectly attaches to the Sony camera. With this adapter in place I can switch Leica M mount lenses between all three bodies. These three lenses came to mind: A Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH. Probably one of the best 50mm lenses out there. A Leica 35mm 2.0 ASPH. This lens is not the newest. I bought it roughly ten years ago and it has been my trusted companion since. Last but not least a Zeiss Biogon 21mm 2.8. I bought this lens a few years ago for a Magnum Photo workshop. I wasn’t sure if I would like it but it actually became one of my favorite lenses on the M9. I shot almost all of the photos during that workshop with that lens. It is great for close-up street photography. I noticed some color cast with that lens when I switched to the M240 and since the A7R is known for poor wide angle performance with manual-focus lenses, I thought that trying this out would be a good idea. Would the color cast of the Sony actually be stronger than the one of the M240? This photo-shoot would give me some answers on that.

Here is my approach. I mount one lens on each body and start to walk around my neighborhood. When I see something interesting I take the camera with the appropriate lens attached. I set the settings and take a photo. Then I switch that lens to the next body, using the same settings for F stop, shutter speed, and ISO and take that photo again. Then I do that step again with the third body. Needless to say that creativity suffers a bit since I have to find still objects, and rotating the lens and adjusting the settings is an exhausting exercise. I shoot all photos as uncompressed Raw, not Jpeg. At the end of the day I import all images into Lightroom 5.3. It supports the new Sony A7R files. Once imported I do not make any adjustment but export as Jpegs for online viewing. All shots are handheld. Why don’t I use a tripod? Because almost 95% of my photography is being done handheld and I believe that many buyers of these cameras will use them that way unless they do some landscape or architectural work. This exercise is purely to evaluate which camera/lens combination provides me with the most ‘keepers’. It is not a scientific test nor is it a statement on how these tools can unleash your creativity. Be aware that the metadata of the Leica files shows estimated F stops. They may differ from what I actually use. Some readers may suggest that I should try this or that but what I am trying to do makes sense to me.

So here are the results, always in the following order:

Leica M9/Leica M240/Sony A7R

Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux, 1/4000  f1.4  ISO 200

 

 

Here is a detailed view of the Sony (left) versus the M240 (right)


Next set taken with Zeiss 21mm  1/250  f11  ISO 800


Looking at the files it shows that the M9 renders a scene a bit colder. The M240 images are warmer in tone and the Sony creates the warmest files. Seeing all the images next to each other shows that the M9 creates the darkest files, followed by slightly brighter M240 and an even brighter Sony output. Using the 21mm on the M9 leads to some light fall-off. The M240 shows less fall-off but indicates a hint of magenta cast on the right side. The Sony creates the weirdest colors possible, with strong magenta casts on the side and a yellowish tone on the top. For black&white conversion this may not be a problem but for color photos it is. The Sony clearly shows more detail than the M240, like the M240 shows more detail than the M9. Surprisingly the A7R captures good details along the edges with this wide-angle lens. I did not expect that. It is amazing to see what this small camera can pull off. Have a look at the red pipe close-up. Notice that for the the Sony photo I stood slightly further back than for the other ones. Still it presents more detail when properly focused. Focusing the Sony is tricky. With the 50mm you can look throught the viewfinder and dial in the focus. As wider the lenses get as more difficult it is to see the focus changes. Several times I found myself dialing back and forth the 21mm lens (wide open) without seeing any difference. Often the focus peaking distracts more than it helps and I switched it off on most shots and focused by sight. Close-up shots are easier since the focused area is more pronounced.

Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux, 1/4000 f2.8 ISO 800


Overall the Sony is fun to use. I don’t find the shutter to be too loud outdoors. I did not take any photos of people but I didn’t get the impression that the sound would hold me back from doing so. Indoors is a different story. People clearly notice that sound every time you take a photo and they react to it. The M240 shutter in comparison is smooth and discreet. When I take photos indoors with the Leica people may react to the first shot but will ignore the following ones because the shutter sound is very ingorable. The feel of the Sony is similar to the Nex 7. Once you have it in your hand it feels like the Nex 7 with an electronic viewfinder mounted to the top. It is a bit thicker than the Nex 7 but still lighter and thinner than the Leicas. The interface of the A7R needs a bit to getting used to. I am not a fan of many buttons and I can easily get confused. Usually I don’t spend much time with the manuals and I don’t explore all features. I stay with the basics. Once I had discovered how to quickly adjust the shutter and ISO on the Sony I happily ignored most of the other buttons. The M9 in comparison is so simple to use that you don’t really need a manual. It is very intuitive and I noticed that it is the only camera that I managed to use with thin gloves. I tried to press the buttons on the M240, which are more flush with the body,  but never really hit them correctly.

Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux, 1/4000 f1.4 ISO 200

Zeiss 21mm Biogon 2.8, 1/250 f8 ISO 200


For the following set I was looking into 3D rendering of the scene. I used f1.4 to get very shallow depth of field. Focusing on the frame with a range finder is easy. You can’t get it wrong. The bicycle frame provides enough contrasting lines to quickly and accurately overlap the rangefinder images. With the Sony I used focus peaking. Through the Sony viewfinder it looked as if the frame was in focus. I used focus peaking and the bicycle frame was surrounded by white highlight of the focus assist. When you look at the detailed view you can see that the actual focusing point was on the wall, not on the frame. The focus peaking range is sometimes not tight enough to precisely pinpoint a wide-open Summilux lens. The only way to get this right with a manual lens is to use the magnifying feature of the camera. But that requires an extra step.

Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux, 1/4000 f1.4 ISO 800

 

Here are a few shots of a wall. Kind of typical ‘brick’ image.
Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux, 1/250 f5.6 ISO 800

Close-ups of the Sony (left) and the Leica M240 (right)

Looking at these files shows how much detailed the Sony can capture….in the center. Right in the middle of the image the files are clean and super rich. Once you move to the edges the photos start to look soft and the details are less than in the M240 file. Actually you don’t have to look at the edges. The softness starts gradually once you get off-center. It seems to me that the camera has not been designed to work well with Leica’s lenses. Is that a design flaw? For those who are looking for a cheaper ‘Leica’ to use with Leica glass it definitely is. From Sony’s perspective it may just be a basic calculation. Getting the full potential with Sony glass versus Leica glass will drive sales of Sony lenses. That’s where the money is. Buy one camera and then add a set of high-margin lenses to it. So while I can’t really recommend this camera as an alternative body to use Leica glass (unless you only shoot wide open with tons of blur around the edges), I still believe that it will match or outperform the M240 once you put a Sony/Zeiss lens on it.

Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux, 1/500 f2 ISO 400

 

Here are a few more examples that show Sony’s image softness when used with my manual-focus Leica and Zeiss lenses.

Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux, 1/500 f8 ISO 400

 

 

Here are some close-ups from the Sony A7R(left) and the Leica M240(right). Center crop first and the rest is from around the periphery.

You may be wondering what happened to my photos taken with the 35mm Summicron lens. I took a few and when I came back and processed them I first thought that I had screwed up the focus. So I sorted them out. Later I realized that it seems to be the lens/camera combination that just doesn’t work. Images are overall soft and just outside the center area start to be awful. Here I will show a few just taken with the Leica m240 and the Sony A7R.

Leica 240/Sony A7R
Leica 35mm 2.0 Summicron, 1/250 f11 ISO 800

Here are a few close-ups. Sony (left) Leica (right) As you can see, even the center is slighly soft on the A7R with the 35mm ASPH 2.0 Summicron.

The only other thing that came to mind was shutter vibration since I didn’t use a tripod. But I used fairly short shutter times like 1/250 or 1/500 with a 35mm lens. ( I use Medium Format backs at 1/300 for an 80mm lens and I get sharp images despite the huge mirror slap). So I don’t think it is blur caused by the shutter. To make sure that the focus was not accidentally a bit off I took one more shot out of my window and set the focus all the way to infinity with objects being far away.

Overview with Leica M240 first and Sony A7R second.
Leica 35mm 2.0 Summicron, 1/250 f5 ISO 800

The close-ups show the same softness in the Sony file. Sony left and Leica M240 on the right.

Conclusion:
So what do I take from that? My hope was to find a good, more affordable way to combine my Leica and Zeiss glass with a full-frame camera by using a Sony A7R. A 36 megapixel camera in a compact size, joined with a Summilux sounds like an interesting combination. My exploration showed me that the the Sony A7R is not that camera for me. My results were far below of what I believe the camera sensor is capable of. There are several possibilities that may lead to the unfavored outcome.

1. The lenses could have some issues.
I would think that this may happen with one lens but getting bad and similar results from all lenses seems to suggest a different reason. On the M cameras the lenses perform very well, which would suggest that they don’t have any issues.

2. Motion blur
As mentioned, since I did not use a tripod it is possible that the image got impacted by motion blur caused by the shutter or freezing fingers. It was cold!
The shutter speeds that I used were short. Usually I would get crisp results at these speeds. The Leicas had no issues. If my hands would have caused the soft images then I would think that the whole image would be soft and not just the sides. It could be that the shutter causes some rotational movement around the lens axis that would lead to more movement along the outside and less in the center. I don’t think that this is the case but don’t want to rule it out.

3. The Novoflex adapter could have issues.
Who knows. Usually the Novoflex is one of the most precise adapters for the Nex series. Since it only defines the lens mounting distance and angle I would not think that a faulty adapter would lead to a sharp center but soft peripherals.

4. The sensor
Is the Sony sensor outresolving the Leica lens? No. The M240 images show more detail along the sides than the Sony images. That indicates that the lens resolution is fine but that the sensor can’t appropriately capture the light. That leads to another reason. It could be that the angle in which the lights hits the sensor is to steep. Because the legacy lenses are mounted so closely to the sensor, the angle that the light hits the surface is very steep. Leica corrects this with microlenses above each sensor pixel. It looks to me that Sony did not go that path. It may just be too expense to do so or they want to show that a Sony camera and Sony lens combination is superior to a Leica lens combination, which would lead to more lens purchases and more revenue. To me this seems to be the most logical explanation. The only doubt that I have comes from some other tests and reviews on the internet that show a flawless performance of these lenses on the Sony A7r. Even Michael Reichmann recommends the use of legacy lenses above 35mm for that camera. But others have witnessed similar results to mine and have returned their cameras. So it is a bit unclear what the full story is.

All that being said, or written, the quality that I see in the center of the A7R images, taken with a 50mm Summilux, gives me a glimpse of what this camera is capable of. Combined with a specially designed Zeiss lens it may turn this camera into a fantastic image capturing tool. But the idea that a strong performing Leica lens would make the Sony sensor shine is just not the case. At least not for me. It seems to me that they have not been designed for each other and the results show this. Personally I will stay with the M240. It could be that my output is a result of bad photographic skills. I hope that is not the case. ;-) If so then the camera seems to amplify that since I am getting great results with other cameras. The quality of my M240 files is fabulous. That is what is comes down to. If I can not extract a perfect image from a several thousand $ camera, for whatever reasons, then it is not a camera for me. I will continue using the M240, which gives me overall superb image quality with my legacy lenses. Never change a winning team.

What about the M9 compared to the M240?
Some may ask about the M9P results. I prefer the tones of the M240. It is something that can be easily corrected in Lightroom, still I prefer how it comes out of the camera. I thought that the CCD would give crisper images right out the camera, but I did not see that in my shots. The overall quality is very similar, just more detailed with the M240 because of more megapixels. The better high ISO performance lets me take photos under conditions that previously would have been impossible to do with the M9. The battery life of the M240 is superb. In the past I was concerned when I grabbed the M9 with a half-full battery and walked out for a short stroll to take some photos. It always felt that the last 50% of the battery charge would disappear much more quickly than the first 50%. Now I take the M240 on a few days trip with 50% of battery charge and I know that it will last long enough to get a few hundred shots in. I did not do any scientific research on the battery lives of all three cameras but when I started taking my photos the M240 was at 92%, the Sony A7r at 88% and the M9 at 75%. With the M9 I took 60 images, with the Sony 68 and with the M240 107 (While the other two stayed in a bag the M240 was around my shoulder and I snapped some additional photos here and there while walking around). At the end of the shoot the M9 was empty, the A7R at 62% and the M240 at 68%.

There are a few things that I don’t like about the M240. The biggest issue is the slow startup time. It roughly takes 2 seconds after switching it on until the camera is ready. That is a 2003 standard but not 2013. It is too long and I missed a few shots because I was waiting for it to come to life. Interface wise it has too many buttons and wheels. Not as crazy as the Sony but still more than the M9, which to me feels very Zen-like. The interface of the M240 is sometimes difficult to use. The ISO numbers show up really small along the top edge of the screen while 90% of the screen is empty. I need to put on my glasses to read them. So why not make them a bit more prominent. I like the grid selection for ISO on the M9. The position of the highlight within the grid makes it easier for me to select an ISO number, even when I am not able to read the text. While the M9 is still a beautiful tool to use the M240 does better. Actually it performs better than the M9 in almost all categories, including image quality.

I am somewhat unhappy with the outcome of the photo-shoot. I am not fully sure on what causes the soft image performance of the Sony A7R paired with high-quality legacy lenses. I wish I would have used the new Sony 35mm 2.8 in addition to my lenses to fully explore the camera’s potential. Despite the softer edges I think the quality is good enough to make some stunning photos. Most people won’t see the difference on smaller prints. But for an expensive camera combo you expect it to perform perfectly with absolutely crisp and consistent sharpness across the image. I personally did not get that done. In a way the test raised more questions than it answered. The only answer that it gave to me is that a combination of my photographic skills, my lenses, and a Sony A7r don’t lead to great results. I believe that the answer lies in Sony glass and that you need specifically designed lenses to make that sensor shine. I am curious to see what other people think.

I hope you enjoyed the article. D!RK

54 Responses to “Leica M240 vs M9 vs Sony A7R Lens Combination Review”

  1. Nice review. I think it answers exactly what a lot of folks have been wondering. I have some Leica mount lenses and I thought that I might get a Sony A7 (R) if I decided to do some digital. Looks like it is an amazing camera if matched to the right lenses. Guess I’ll just stick to my silver-based sensors for now.

    • Hi Mark. Some people are saying that the issue is minor but to me that is not the case. If I spend a lot of money on a camera I want it to output detailed edge-to-edge images when I need that. Otherwise what is the purpose of a 36mp sensor. But the A7 with 24mp may be a better solution and you may want to try that out. It could be that the quality is very different from the A7R and better suited for your lenses. D!RK

  2. Great write up Dirk. I was expecting the edge softness and color cast on the wide lenses, but what a bummer that the 50mm isn’t performing the way it can!

  3. Looks as if this photographer who tested the leica M and the A7R with various lenses came to a same conclusion about softness.

    http://stilgar-photo.blogspot.ch/2013/12/sony-a7r-vs-leica-m-part-07-quid-de-la.html

    (you can find the various tests at the bottom of the page (Archives du blog – 2013 – Decembre)

    Also surprisingly not in line with Michael Reichmann conclusion.

    Thanks for the tests

  4. Hi Alain. It looks as if he came to the same conclusion. It is strange that people either get different results or don’t look closely. Some may say it is pixelpeeping but if you spend a lot of cash for a camera system you want some good results. And what is the purpose of 36MP if the combo can’t extract that. Some people were wondering why that is even important to test this since you can get Sony lenses which may work better. But the problem is that many people put big hopes into a Leica lens/Sony sensor combo because it would be significantly more affordable than a full Leica combo. Thanks for the link. D!RK

  5. please don`t put 23MB pictures on a website. ;-)

    • I didn’t want them to be so small that no one could see any difference. But I am surprised that they are 23MB. Have to check. They are just reduced size jpegs. :-) . D!RK

    • Just checked. The largest file is 2.3MB. You need to upgrade to a faster internet. :-) D!RK

  6. D!RK,

    And interesting comparison and one, I suspect, that will be of concern to those contemplating using the A7R with third party glass, particularly Leitz.

    I’ve only had my A7 (sic) for a couple of days and don’t have an M body with which to make comparisons, and I’m yet to make any stringent test shots. I’m using R lenses and I do have the odd M lens, so I’m wondering if the longer back projection distance of R lenses, all being retro designs, will be an advantage as the angle of incidence at the frame peripheries won’t be so acute.

    I was wondering if there could be, for whatever reason, a mismatch using the 35meg sensor? Would the 24meg of the A7 be a better bet for those wishing to use third party glass?

    Referring to point 3 above about the adapter, may I suggest that it is very easy to get a sharp centre and soft edges. Assuming that the lens is capable of rendering a flat plane sharp overall, then it only requires the adapter mount to be marginal out of kilter with the the sensor plane i.e. the mount is not perfectly parallel, then the optical axis will not be at a perfect right angel to the sensor. The offset may be miniscule, left or right, but will be sufficient to throw the edges out of focus, and leave a sharp central image. It is just these engineering tolerances that one expects to see minimised in the expensive adaptors.

  7. I have found the edges of the Sony a7r soft on all M-mount lenses less than 50 mm. My 50 f/2 Planar seems excellent, as does the 75 Summarit.

    I am most interested in the comment that the ZM 21mm f/2.8 had sharp edges. Were they as good as on the Leicas? That would amaze me.

    Overall, I conclude that the microlenses of the Sony a7r are not designed for rangefinder wide angle lenses. The ray angle is probably the issue. The OEM Sony-Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 is so good the only range I’m missing is in the 21-24 area. Thus my interest in your comment regarding the ZM 21mm f/2.8.

    Thanks for the good review.

    Paul
    http://www.PaulRoark.com

  8. Hi,

    Thanks for your detailed review! I bought a Sony A7 with Sony Zeiss 35 2.8. I’ve been getting stunning results. I chose this over the A7R for faster AF, better compatibility for wide angle legacy glass. There is a 50mm 1.5 voigtlsnder and other M class lenses I can use. would I prefer a Leica M240 with Leica glass…you bet. However, my setup was $3k versus $10k+. I just don’t have the budget nor do I see the vastly increased value for money with Leica. Yes, this is the poor mans Leica but I am amazed at the results and happy with my decision. Leica is for the super wealthy and this sony A7 is going to give Leica a run for its money.

    • Hi Leo. I would not say that the Sony is a poor mans Leica. ;-) It still requires a substantial amount of money to purchase it. I bet the results are stunning. It would not surprise me if the results would be even better than what you would get from the Leica. In the end it comes down to handling, the rangefinder feature, and the desired lenses available. Enjoy that amazing tool and don’t worry about not having a Leica. You have everything in your hand to create stunning photography. D!RK

      • Thanks Dirk,

        You are a nice guy. I spent a lot of money and saved for this and loving it.

        Take care and thanks for the informative well written review

  9. Thanks Dirk.

    Your experience fits exactly with mine. It is not a suitable spare body with some extra features for Leica users.

    I have the 35/2.8 and 55/1.8 native Zeiss lenses as well ….. and have been underwhelmed by their performance ……. the additional 36mp resolution is offset by so many other factors that I really cannot see this is a camera for me.

    Using the M240 is a pleasure ….. using the Sony is a chore …..

    • Hi Steve. I wanted the Sony to work for me but it didn’t. As you could read, I am not satisfied with the outcome. And it is not about pixel peeping. The results I got with my lenses do not justify the investment in such a lens/camera combination. I decided to stay with the higher investment of the Leica M with better overall outcome. This is a personal choice and I read articles by other who are very satisfied with their cameras. As I mentioned in my post, there may be something wrong with the adapter but honestly I think that Leica lenses and the Sony A7R are just not a well performing combo. And it looks like that I am not the only one who noticed a disconnect with some of the early, enthusiastic reviews that I saw on the web. D!RK

    • “I have the 35/2.8 and 55/1.8 native Zeiss lenses…and have been underwhelmed by their performance”. You sir, have some very high standards.

  10. Hi Dirk, great post thanks for taking the time and effort to put it together for us.
    You say the Sony’s images are warmer than the Leica ones, so I’m wondering if you exported the photos from Lightroom with the same white balance settings our just left them at whatever the camera had assigned to each raw. My thinking is the Sony tends to apply wb corrections after the photo is taken, whereas Leica leave the raws cold for your customization in post.

    • Hi FFB
      Yes, I did not do any WB adjustments with these images. I imported the RAW files into Lightroom and exported them the way they are. I totally agree that the files can easily be changed to a warmer or colder tone in Lightroom. I just wanted to show what you get right out of the camera. I leave it up to the readers how the files pleases them and how they would change them. Personally I am not too concerned about WB since it can be easily changed. I am more concerned about detail loss and color shifts. Thanks for your thoughts. D!RK

  11. Thanks for the detailed review. I appreciate the use of different lenses. It confirms to me that the Sony is designed as a commercial product with mass production in mind compared to Leica. And to be fair to Sony, why would they support Leica lenses when, as you noted, they made a camera to support the superiority of their own lens to create more revenue?

  12. Thank you for your test
    I saw your pics and unlike you i liked the M9 photos much more. They were crispier and more film like.
    The M240 has a reddish tendency which i dont like.
    I also tried the 240 for a whole day and found the photos had some plastic appearance especially when shooting faces .
    I did not like the wheel on the upper right side, i kept bumping into it . I also did not like the 5 buttons on the left rear as they are too close to each other ( 4 on the M9 )
    I know the M240 is a better camera and with this thought in my mind i sold my M9.
    I bought a new M9 last week again
    Simply love the M9
    Danny

    • I also traded in my M9-P for an M back in September. Last week I re-purchased an M9-P. I just like its colours and handling (and even looks) better.

      • Hi FTL. I understand why people do this. The handling of the M9 is much nicer. I will write a more detailed ewview of the M240 in a few days. I just sent it to New Jersey to get repaired. In the meantime I will use my M9P while the M is being serviced. That may take a few weeks. I am curious how that is going to feel. D!RK

    • I think this comes down to aesthetic preference/rendering, much in the same way as some have strong preferences for Leica glass over zeiss and vice versa. I have to say that I’m with Dirk on this.

      The longer I use my M240 the more I prefer it’s image quality over the M9 (and having live view available to frame UWA lenses without a finder lets me forgive quirks like the start up time). I would take the exact opposite view in terms of which is more “film like”. But that’s my view, not yours.

  13. Hi Dirk,
    I was very interested in your review as I too have recently received the Sony A7r. I have shot with the M system for years and was naturally intrigued to see how my M lenses worked on the new Sony. I had EXACTLY the same results (28/35 & 50). I can tell you this though – I then went out and bought the dedicated Sony/Zeiss 55 F1.8 and when combined with the A7R it is without any doubt the sharpest lens/camera combination I have EVER used – Absolutely extraordinary. Just to put that in perspective I have shot extensively with the Leica S2 and the Nikon 800E so this was quite a result for Sony.
    Charles Ommanney

    • Hi Charles. I absolutely believe that and I state that in my review. Combined with a Sony Zeiss lens this camera can probably pull off amazing results. But to do so it needs a lens that has been designed specifically for this sensor. While the Leica lenses are great, the Sony sensor has not been designed for them. So the assumption that a great sensor combined with a great lens would lead to a great outcome is not correct. Sensor and lens have to work as a combination and it looks like that the Sony/Leica combination is not worth the money spent. Rather invest in a new Sony lens (at a much lower price) and enjoy the fantastic outcome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Charles. D!RK

    • I would agree with Charles’ assessment of the Sony A7r Sony/Zeiss 55mm f1.8 combination as being extraordinary. The Sony/Zeiss 35mm f2.8 is just as good in my opinion. I have been a Leica Summicron shooter for many years and am impressed by the outstanding image quality of these Sony/Zeiss optics.

    • Charles, I have an A7 that I shoot alongside my M240. The 55mm lens is extraordinary, the 35mm is also good (though for me not quite as good as Leica or zeiss rangefinder lenses), the 24-70 is merely at the level of a slower constant aperture DSLR zoom. I’m not trying to denigrate the A7/r in the above assessment, but I do hope sony comes up with an excellent quality 21mm prime as I prefer the image quality of a DSLR to the zooms.

  14. Thanks for the review Dirk. I found that wide angle Leica lenses did not work well on my Sony A7r. The center areas were crisp and sharp but the edges were “smudged.” I tried the WATE 16-18-21, 21mm Super Elmar, 24mm Elmar, 35mm Summicron Asp, and 50mm Summicron. All had edge issues. The longer lenses; Apo 75mm Summicron Asp and Apo 90mm Summicron Asp were much better and produced outstanding image quality. My conclusion from that observation is that the shorter lenses sit too close to the sensor which cannot correct for the extreme angle of the light striking it. One other thing I noticed is that using the Novoflex adapter the lenses would focus correctly when set to infinity but using the Metabones adapter they did not. I had to set the focus a little closer than infinity for objects at infinity to be sharp.

  15. I used to be a pixel peeper. But since I got the Sony A7 – I have started enjoying 15 dollar cosina lenses like never before. The results with many of these manual lenses are magical. Even in the comparison above, I absolutely prefer the overall rendering of the Sony. This is the best camera you can get for $1500. Period.

    • I totally get that. The Sony is a great camera and I believe that it will create some magical images with older lenses. This test is less about judging cameras next to each other to say that one is better than the other. I made this test because I was interested if I would get similar or even better results with my current lens set and this significantly more affordable Sony full-frame (ff) camera. Many Leica lens users are interested in that because it would give them a great ff camera alternative. Overall it looks like that the some favorite Leica lenses may not be a good fit. You may still get a nice image rendering but if you get soft images you may even wonder why then buy a 36mp camera. The 24mp A7 camera would provide similar or better results. I would recommend that users should not blindly jump on a camera/ lens combination but do some testing. If you like to shoot full-frame, get the Sony and test what lenses work for you. Glad the Cosina works for you. The A7 may be a better fit for older cameras. You get good rendering and full frame. Resolution may not matter that much. The A7R I would only use with Sony lenses or would do a careful test with every lens. Since resolution seems to be the driver for this purchase it would not make sense to put a lens on it that renders badly. D!RK

  16. Thanks for your interesting review! For Sony, it is a great honor, and excellent advertisment, that the SONY A7R and A7 gets compared with the 3x times more costly holy prestige Leicas! I personally don’t care about, what M-glasses can do or not, on a Sony A7R. All my C/Y Zeiss lenses, even the 15mm and the 18mm, working excellent on the Sony A7/A7R, and that only Counts personally for me.

    The excellent 17.8mm flange distance, make it much easier for the Zeiss/Sony lens designer, to create superb FE lenses for these tiny Sony cameras, which we will get to know soon. The prototype are already working for sure, already in Japan at Sony and Zeiss in Germany. Both, the 35mm and the 55mm FE lenses are just the excellent and affordable beginners in a row of compact and excellent AF lenses! Someone has stated, that Sony eats Leicas lunch now! I guess, this is a realistic expression!

  17. Many of the M9 photos appear to have more detail to me than the M240 files. On the boat shot, it looks like the M9 has more resolution everywhere than the M240. For example, look at the sides of the ship and the brick walls at any distance in the photo. Do you have any thoughts on why that might be?

  18. Good review Dirk.
    I have been shooting with the M9 for over a year now and am overall happy with it apart from a few things: Lousy LCD resolution, Poor High ISO performance – though I have seen great results shooting low ISO in low light situations and then pushing the images in PS or LR. Noisy shutter/advance is another con for the M9.
    I believe the M240 sensor is designed/optimised to work best with Leica glass, hence the softer edges when shooting Leica glass on the Sony – the sensor is not optimised for Leica glass.
    I have been thinking of switching to the M240 but it looks a little too fiddly, and I would prefer to hang on to my M9 if I thought Leica would bring out a newer version which is more in keeping with the spirit of the M6 et al.

  19. This is a rather useless review of the A7R, by someone who made NO research into the matter of lenses. Leica lenses are simply not engineered for the requirements of the Sony sensor (aka imager). The problems begin to show clearly as the focal length decreases from say 55mm. Also, Leica lenses are inherently colour shifted to red, to give the “Leica look”. In short, Leica lenses are NOT a good match for the A7R. IF you want a better trial, use the dedicated Zeiss lenses, as these are engineered for the A7R. Then, you will find none of the weaknesses noted by the reviewer. Legacy Zeiss can be used, too, but colour shifts become noticeable for lenses shorter than 35mm. This is not a “problem”: it is simply a matter of matching designs of lens to camera. I know what I am talking about. I own Nikon, Leica, Contax, Zeiss, Sony. All my Leica lenses have colour shift on my A7R. My legacy Zeiss G 45 has no colour shift and is extremely sharp on the A7R, and resolves details better than ANY other lens. – regards,

    • I appreciate comments by experts. ” Leica lenses are simply not engineered for the requirements of the Sony sensor (aka imager)” Yes, smart. The Sony camera didn’t even exists when the Leica lenses were designed. The Sony sensor doesn’t meet the requirements of the Leica glass. Point. I am noticing Rob that you looked at the images but did not read the entire text. I do recommend to stay with dedicated Zeiss glass. I am not saying that the Sony camera is a bad camera. I am pointing out that the camera doesn’t work well with any glass that you can physiacally attach to it. I wrote this post when most reviewers told people that the Sony works fine with legacy lenses. So when I tried it last December I noticed that this was not the case. At that time there were a lot of photographers out there who had placed orders for the A7R in hope to mount a superb 50mm Summilux on it. The thought was that a great lens combined with a great sensor would equal a great camera. That is not the case. You may find this post useless but at the time it was written people didn’t expect the Sony to be so limited in its use with legacy glass. Yes, some individual lenses may work but it became apparent that Sony did not design the camera to become an M alternative for people who already own a Leica lens collection. That was the big hope when the camera got announced. I am not expecting photographers to go out and buy other legacy lenses that would be a better match for the Sony while selling the ones they already own. I would rather recommend to skip that camera model and go with something else. So I hope next time you will read and understand the whole article and then share your friendly expert knowledge and lens research with us again. D!RK

  20. Thanks for the nice review. I have used summicron 35mm f2 asph with Sony A7 for my recent trip, and I loved it for the size and quick focusing. However, I noticed some vertical shots (by turning my camera from landscape position counter clock-wise to portrait position) had significant shadow on the right side, mostly in the overcast light or facing the sun light. I am just wondering if you have had similar experience or not. Please see the sample pic from the following link:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/112042398@N08/14039987731/

    • Hello X Wei
      I have not noticed such a drastic shadow. Most of the shots I did were landscape format. I am assuming you checked on strap and finger in the portrait orientation. I am not sure what technically could cause that. Try to be scientific about figuring it out and do some test shots changing from landscape to portrait. See if this happens most of the time and make sure nothing blocks the lens. Is that with the 35mm only? If the lens performs well in a landscape mode then it should do the same in the portrait. Optically there is no reason why the lens would perform differently unless there is something wrong with the lens. My suspicion would be a camera strap that falls in front of the lens but that may be too easy of an answer. Is that shadow very consistent on all photos or does is vary in intensity? Strange. Never seen that before. D!RK

      • Hi Dirk, thanks for the reply. I bought this lens as new from an Ebay vendor this Feb. I noticed this problem during my recent trip in April and was pretty sure the camera was not blocked by stripe or anything. I had tried few things, such as using my hand to block some light on the left, or taking off the hood and UV filter, the shadow was not that obvious in the landscape position. The photos with shadow were mostly taken during the noon time with direct sun light. I have not seen this type of problem on the pictures from my 50mm lux. I will do some more tests and keep you posted. If the problem is persistent, do you think I should send it in for leica serivce?

        • Hi X Wei. Do you have another camera, ideally full frame to check the lens? I think key is to figure out if it is the sensor/lens combination, or just the lens. See if the aperture blades are all in the correct position at all F stops. If you could test the lens on another camera that would be good. Otherwise I would send in the lens to get it checked. D!RK

          • Hi Dirk, I plan to do some tests by using my 55 mm and 35mm during this weekend to see if the problem is due to the camera or lenses. I do not have another full frame or Leica body since I made a commitment to my wife that I do not need other cameras after getting these gears. After that, I may send it to Leica to check if the lens is ok or not. Thanks for your input and will let you know the outcome.

  21. Am I the only one hear who likes the look of the M9 images best? I’m sure with post processing all could get a similar color balance, but the M240 and A7r just look a bit too warm.

  22. I bought a Sony A7R as a replacement for my M9 (the battery life drove me crazy) to use with my large collection of Leica lenses. Not only do I get inferior images, but I do not enjoy using the Sony. I used a cable release with my M9 and loved using it in this mode (with a 90mm Summicron) for model shoots.The Sony is not designed for real world photography. It’s a fantastic video camera, but not the right solution for Leica M mount lenses.

  23. Wonderful blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News. Do you
    have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to
    get there! Thanks

  24. Hi Dirk:
    Do you have any opinions if the soon-to-be released A7s could achieve better results with the Leica wides? I don’t have a clue if the smaller MP and chip design would benefit these lenses.

    To a secondary opinion. You went thru a great deal of effort to cement my feelings that one should stay with lenses designed for specific systems, and vice versa. I think there’s always a compromise be it optical or ergonomics when deviating from this. For example, I shoot with an M240 and purchased an R-180 3.4 apo. Using an M to R adapter, I get good results. I also use a Canon L 70-200 L F4 with an EOS to M adapter. I can only shoot with the Canon wide open due to lack of aperture control; not a problem for indoor shooting. The Canon lens is way sharper than the touted Leica 180 especially wide-open. Go figure :) I use the leica lens outdoors if I need aperture control. To my earlier point, there’s always compromises when mixing-and-matching.

  25. Forgot to add in my previous reply… You mentioned the slow startup time with the M.

    I follow Thorsten Overgaard’s 35+ in-depth blog-pages on the M. In his section on SD cards, he states in-part “The Sandisk 64GB Extreme Pro 95MB/sec offer faster startup time than the 32GB version of the same card. Go figure, but the fact is that with the 32GB card the startup takes 2-3 seconds, with the 64 GB the startup time is reduced to half.” I have followed his advise and have realized the faster startup benefit.

  26. Hi Chris. I don’t have any opinions on the A7s. At least nothing that can be validated. I would assume that the performance with wides would be better but that is purely an assumption based on some patterns that you see with lower-res cameras and bigger pixels. So we have to wait for some tests. I agree with you that often lens-camera combinations that are not specifically designed for each other don’t lead to a combination of their individual, positive attributes. That doesn’t mean that good lens-camera combinations have to come from the same manufacturer, as we know that Zeiss makes good lenses for Leicas, but they have to be designed for the camera to perform well. Since Leica lenses existed before the Sony A7R, and Sony did not design the camera for the Leica lenses, the combined output is not always satisfactory.

    Thanks for the tip on the 64GB card. I will give that a try. The startup time is one of my biggest issues so far with the M240. I will write a more detailed review of the M240 soon. I had some bigger issues with it so far. D!RK

  27. Hi Dirk
    Thanks for this very interesting set of photos. I bought a M8 2 years ago out of curiosity to explore this ‘Leica’ thing which I saw around me.
    I am only interested in the over-all effect of a picture and its color. I don’t get obsessed over how sharp it is as I don’t work as a commercial photographer, and I never use photoshop. I do pop the exposure often for the Web but nothing else. I like natural looking photos; flaws and all. I use a Canon 1DX (for shooting art work, friends and fun) which I like for both video and stills. I have compared results of both M8 and DX1 for certain interiors and twilight kinds of shots which I like making with the M8. (I rarely use it outdoors at noon) I find with much fiddling I can almost get that Leica feel with the Canon DX, at least in terms of the color. The main difference (as good as the Canon is) is that there really is a unified kind of light in photos done with my M8 that the Canon cannot approach completely. Its as if the light is almost too perfectly diffused everywhere with the Canon (which makes it a trustworthy workhorse in real life) but, the M8 exudes that light which seems to come from that one place only, almost like a Giacometti drawing. As any Leica user knows, its very poetic without trying to be. But the M8 is an imperfect camera as much as I like many of its images. So I look for a replacement.
    I only ever use manual Kevlin settings because auto white balance has rarely ever worked for me except in Museum lighting where tungsten and fluorescent is often mixed with incandescent lighting.
    I want to upgrade my M8 and of course the price of the M240 is off-putting, so I was especially excited by the idea of mixing the Sony with Leica lens, even if I use just an elamrit 28, elmarit 90, and Zeiss 50. That said, I moved down through the photos with a building smile until I got to the photo of the pale blue wall which was sublime with the M240 but absolutely unacceptable with the the Sony. WTF? I thought..When I look at color photos I am drawn to the grey colors as I am when I paint (I am an oil painter, but I do not work from photographs) When the grey tones are harmonized bright color are sublime. But something awful happened to that wall. It turned violet it seems.
    I presume you used auto-white balance as I didn’t read you say anything about it otherwise.
    It closed my mind for this Sony despite really loving the warmish feeling in almost all the other photos.
    It might be said that the Sony seems to have almost ‘too much’ personality, a kind of look that might be better created by the shooter with kevlin settings on the spot out of a particular need, instead of it being an imposition. I agree that the M9 lacks the light in all the examples. The M240 shines in most of them for me anyway, but I liked the feel in many of the Sony photos too until I got to that blue wall…. ouch!
    The violet water (near the top) is unflattering as well in the Sony of the wooden pilings whereas the M240 is lovely.
    Personally, I find all auto white balance too cool for me in very camera I try (including the Canon DX1 so I always spend too much fussing over the Kevlin wheel, but, if one cannot get it right, what’s the point of taking the photo?… One may as well just use their i-phone.
    It looks like I will crack my wallet open for a M240 after all.
    Thanks for your great review/test and attention to this interesting subject.
    christopher coffey

  28. Dirk, thank you for your great review and tests.

    One lens that works well on the A7R is the 40mm f/2 Leitz Summicron-C. Excellent color rendition, very sharp even wide open, slight vignetting that can easily be corrected and disappears at f/4.0. It is small and lightweight and is one of my favorites on the A7R, as it was on the M3 and the M8.

    Some third party lenses in my collection work equally well. Such is the case for the 50mm f/2 T2.3 Cooke Speed Panchro Ser II and the 21mm f/2.8 Avenon / Kobalux / Pasoptik (Depending on where you are).

    My guess is that Leica RF lenses built for film before the advent of digital might work equally well. I have read various contributions to that effect in web fora but have no personal experience except for the pre-digital 50mm Summicon and Elmar and the 90mm.Elmar.

    My Leica R lenses all work well on the A7R, while their handling on the M240 was rather uncomfortable. I sold it after a few months. My main camera now is the A7R and I am looking forward to the announced A7S.

    Peter

  29. More kudos for your informative comparison. I mainly shoot film in an M3, M2 or M6 but I have been using NEX bodies for my digital output since the NEX-5. For what I need them for, they work great. I have M-E and F-E adapters so I can use all my 35mm glass on them. Honestly the one I use the most is a Macro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 for product photography for my wine shop. I have been quietly lusting after a full frame digital rangefinder or mirrorless and while I do prefer the classic M dimensions, I was able to spend some time with a black paint M9-P and it didn’t bother me at all. It is so much lighter than my mechanical Ms!

    Honestly I prefer the files from the M9-P the most. Since I have already invested so much in film bodies and lenses, I’ve been waiting for the M9-Ps to come down into reasonable territory before I buy. I don’t mind some of its “shortcomings” but then again, it was once the flawless flagship just as the M240 is now. That’s the vicious cycle. For now I’m completely content shooting magic emulsions in my film bodies.

  30. Recent, very interesting article by Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com and Brian Caldwell, designer of the Metabones Speedbooster — Digital cameras have a sheet of glass between the lens and the sensor. Angled rays produce aberrations going through the glass, the greater the angle, the greater the smear.

    For optimal results, the lens has to be designed with this glass in consideration. This sounds to me an explanation why some great lenses don’t perform well when adapted to mirrorless cameras.

    Rangefinder wide-angle lenses particularly demonstrate this problem.

  31. “Combined with a specially designed Zeiss lens it may turn this camera into a fantastic image capturing tool.” And it does. Try the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens.

    “But for an expensive camera combo you expect it to perform perfectly with absolutely crisp and consistent sharpness across the image.” True, if it was expensive, but it isn’t, not compared to anything with the Leica badge on it. It costs a fraction of what the M9 costs. And the Leica lenses are very, very expensive. Actually, it performs better than it’s relatively low price tag suggests.

    • Hi Mike. It is a fraction of the cost of a Leica M with a Summilux. I agree on that. Still a Sony A7R with a Summilux ends up to be a $6000 dollar camera/lens combination. It is, no matter what an expensive set and it easily sets an expectation that a kit at that price would create some decent output. D!RK

  32. Thank you very much for your nice review.

    I have the 50 Lux and 35 Cron. I really love the 50 Lux on the M9.
    I also have the Nikon D800 which has the same 36 MP sony sensor as the A7R.

    My conclusion: the 36 MP sony sensor is realy great and should be availble in a leica body :-)

    On my next digital leica I would like a sensor with the performance of the current sony 36 MP sensor (like in the D810; e.g. without AA).

    Leica glass is great, but all digital leica´s (M8,M9,m240) still seem to have some serious flaws in the electronics department (e.g. battery life, start up, speed, noise, color casts, etc.)

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