Using third-party lenses on the Sony a7 / a7R
1 Using third-party lenses on the Sony a7 / a7R
In theory, if you've got a collection of old or obscure lenses for long-defunct 35mm film cameras, the full-frame Sony a7 / a7R may allow you to breathe new life into them. Like the Leica M-mount, Sony's E-mount is supremely adaptable due to the short flange-back distance, meaning that lenses for a great many systems can be attached to the a7 / a7R without huge cost via a range of third-party mount adapters.
Being an unapologetic nerd when it comes to things like this, I was very interested in the a7 / a7R precisely because of their potential as a platform for some of the lenses in my collection which have proven hard or impossible to practically adapt to digital up to now. I say 'practically' because I can't afford a Leica Typ-240 and the crop factors imposed by Micro Four Thirds or previous Sony NEX cameras do make a difference to how useful a lens is to me.
My old Vivitar 17mm for Canon FD, for example, isn't that exciting on a 1.5X or 2X crop camera. But full frame… now that might be interesting. Likewise my KONICA HEXANON AR 57mm F1.2. It's a fun (if unwieldy) 85mm-ish equivalent portrait lens on APS-C but I want to see what it's like as a 57mm!
Armed with a selection of adapters (some of my own and some kindly loaned by Novoflex) I picked out a few lenses that I wanted to experiment with. A manual focus SMC PENTAX 1:2/35 that I found in a local junk shop, my Vivitar 17mm F3.5 MC for Canon FD, the KONICA HEXANON AR 57mm F1.2 (also from a junk shop - possibly the best $30 I've ever spent) and a treasured 1950 Nikon 5cm f1.4 S-C for Leica screw-mount.
The following is basically a list of tips, issues, and things to be aware of if you plan to shoot with old lenses, via adapters, on the a7 / a7R. Full disclosure - it's not completely hassle-free. Some of the frustrations that I experienced are just part and parcel of the experience of using non-optimized old lenses on a new high-resolution digital platform, but some are a consequence of decisions that Sony has made which complicate the process. We've got full reviews of both the a7 and a7R on the way very soon, but in the meantime, if you're interested in using third-party lenses on either camera, I hope you find this article useful.
The first thing you'll need to do, if you want to shoot with a third-party lens on the a7/R via an adapter is to make sure that you've set the camera up to take pictures without a lens attached. That's easy, because it's enabled by default. If you (or a friend, mischievous child or malevolent spirit) have disabled it for whatever reason, you can find the option at the end of page three in the custom setting tab of the menu setting. 'Release w/o Lens: Enable'.
Once this is done, crack out the adapters, get adapting, and you're ready to shoot.
1: Shutter priority is your friend
I can't remember the last time I used shutter priority (I'm an aperture priority kind of guy) but it's pretty much essential if you want to shoot with a third-party lens via an adapter on the a7/a7R. As we will explain fully in our forthcoming review, in aperture priority and program modes the Auto ISO function of these cameras LOVES to select a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. Just LOVES it. This is frustrating enough when using one of Sony's new FE lenses, but it's courting disaster when using a fully manual prime, especially 50mm or longer where it almost guarantees blurry images from camera shake much of the time.
Hopefully this can be fixed via a firmware update (I'd like to see at least an option to bias the recommended shutter speed on a faster - slower scale) but in the meantime, for handheld shooting I've found that shutter priority mode is the way to go. I select an appropriate shutter speed for blur-free shots, and let automatic ISO take care of exposure while I work at my desired aperture.
The adapters I'm using are a mixture of cheap and simple mass-produced units and more complex adapters that incorporate an aperture stop-down / open up control. Whatever type of adapter you use, I'd recommend working primarily at your desired shooting aperture. Contrast will be higher, and you won't need to worry about focus shift when aperture is changed between focus and exposure.
2: Magnified focus is also your friend, until it isn't.
The thing about manual focus with fast lenses especially on 24 or 36MP cameras, is that it's really pretty difficult. For static subjects, with the camera mounted on a tripod it's straightforward but shooting hand-held, especially when it comes to portraiture, accurate manual focus is challenging on any high-resolution platform, and the Sony a7 / a7R are no exception.
Focusing third-party lenses manually on these cameras demands magnified live view. Unless you're talking ultra wide-angle / fisheye work or really small apertures, there's no way you'll be able to reliably hit accurate focus without it. The most convenient way of activating the focus magnifier is to assign this function to either custom button c1 (to the right of the shutter button on the top of the camera) or c2 (to the right of the EVF on the rear). This is simple enough but the way that the focus magnifier works could definitely be improved.
For one thing, pressing the focus magnifier button doesn't magnify anything at first. It just brings up an orange box on the screen, indicating the area to be magnified. which you can move around using the 4-way controller. Pressing the button again initiates magnification. So you might have already gone through at least three actions by the point at which you're looking at a magnified view.
The next issue is that the minimum level of magnification is 7.2X, which is extreme enough that without built-in stabilization, when hand-held the resulting image is likely to be pretty shaky, due to camera-shake. Mild 'jello-effect' at this magnified setting doesn't help either. Certainly, for 50mm lenses or longer, you'll need a steady hand to really be able to get a clear view of what's sharp and what isn't. A lower magnification option would be more user-friendly (and might give focus peaking a better change of working too - see the section on the following page).
Two final frustrations - the little orange rectangle which indicates the area to be magnified gets reset when the camera is powered off. This might sound trivial, but if you're in the habit of turning your camera off between exposures to save the battery (hello, Fujifilm X100S users…) it soon becomes annoying.
Also a little tiresome is the fact that when you're reviewing images, the zoom option in review mode ignores the position of the magnification frame that you used when you took the picture. So if your point of focus was towards the top of the frame, for instance, and that's where you positioned the focus magnifier, that's the area that you really want to check when you're reviewing your shot. But when you zoom in on the image in playback mode the camera will just dumbly zoom to the very center of the image, at which point you need to shuffle around the picture using the 4-way controller to track over to the area that you want to look at.
It's a small thing, but annoying in a high-end camera body and a time-suck if you need to review multiple images for critical focus. Fortunately though, once you've tracked to the desired area, the position of the magnified frame stays the same if you scroll through more images using the rear control wheel.
Jan 4, 2017
Dec 31, 2016
Jun 28, 2016
Jan 17, 2017
|Base, w/ 24-70mm|
|Base, w/ Battery Grip|
|w/ 28-70mm, Base|
|w/ 28-70mm, w/ Battery Grip|
|w/ 28-70mm, w/ 55mm f1.8|
|w/ 28-70mm, w/ 70-200mm|
|Patrick Finds Inner Peace by ecastellon|
from Your best photo of the week!
|Forks by Kukla|
from Arranged everyday objects
Snapchat is using its augmented reality tech to replace the sky in your photos. The so-called 'sky filters' can swap out a boring sky for a colorful sunset, rainbows, a starry night, and more.
A court ruling our of Newton, Massachusetts has set an important legal precedent for drone pilots: federal drone laws will now trump local drone regulations in situations where the two are in conflict.
Photographer Mathieu Stern has put together another interesting vintage lens shootout. One model, three lenses, three locations.
From landscapes to motocross and white water kayaking to a wedding, exactly what can't the D850 do?
Calumet UK and Wex Photographic, two of the biggest photography retailers in the United Kingdom, are going to officially merge tomorrow.
macOS High Sierra came out today, but if you use a Wacom tablet you need to wait a few weeks before you upgrade. According to Wacom, they won't have a compatible driver ready for you until "late October."
Do you think a $3,000 Canon 80D video rig can compete with an $80,000+ Arri Alexa setup? Well it can't, but check out this video anyway to see how the rigs compare.
Seven simple rules to make sure you get the most out of your next photography outing.
Vitec, the company that owns popular accessory maker Manfrotto, has just acquired JOBY and Lowepro for a cool $10.3 million in cash. The acquisition adds JOBY and Lowepro to Vitec's already sizable collection of camera gear brands.
A master drone pilot has captured one of the most incredible (and highly illegal) drone videos we've ever seen by flying around, inside, onto, and under a moving train.
Intel just debuted their 8th generation desktop CPUs, and the lineup packs a performance boost for 'content creators' that photo and video editors might be intrigued by.
Canon is developing a 'Free Viewpoint Video System' that will turn real life sports games and events into immersive 3D interactive experiences. It's video game-like camera control IRL.
A veteran photojournalist, Rick Wilking secured a spot in the path of totality for the August solar eclipse. While things didn't quite pan out as predicted, an unexpected subject in the sky and a quick reaction made for a once-in-a-lifetime shot.
The new iZugar 3.25mm F2.5 super fisheye lens offers an insane 220-degree angle of view. That means it can basically see behind itself... good luck keeping your feet out of the shot.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll remember that time you took a picture of the frozen pizza baking directions.
A Craigslist poster has discovered the worst possible way to photograph a car: taking pictures of pictures displayed on a cracked and scratched up smartphone screen.
With the iPhone X coming out soon, the title probably won't last, but the iPhone 8 Plus is officially the best smartphone camera DxOMark has ever tested, and the iPhone 8 is second.
Kodak's new Facebook Messenger chatbot is trying to bring back the 'Kodak Moment' by digging up your old social media photos and trying to sell you prints and custom coffee mugs.
Affinity Photo for iPad was touted as "the first full blown, truly professional photo editing tool to make its way onto the Apple tablet." This update makes it that much more convenient.
Yashica has released a new teaser video, and this one claims they'll be releasing an "unprecedented camera" in October on Kickstarter. Ready... set... speculate!
Storage solutions company Synology has just released its very first 6-bay NAS tower. Combined with the DX1215 expansion units, it can hold and control up to thirty drives.
We're always expanding our collection of product overview content, and we've just added videos for the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, the EOS Rebel SL2 and EOS M6.
The venerable Canon PowerShot G1 was announced seventeen years ago this week, marking the start of a line of enthusiast-focused compacts that's still alive and kicking.
Super macro photographer Can Tuncer captured these incredible close-ups of a single peacock feather using a special setup and three different microscope lenses.
After successfully crowdfunding the Biotar 75mm F1.5, Oprema Jena is at it again. This time they're bringing back the Biotar 58mm F2: the world's only lens with a 17-blade aperture.
Adobe's move to a subscription model is treating it very well indeed. The company has posted record revenue for the second quarter in a row, hauling in a mind-boggling $1.84 billion.
More details have emerged about the potential sale of Blackstone's 45% stake in iconic camera brand Leica.
Popular mobile editing app Snapseed just got a major update that includes a new interface and 11 new presets for both Android and iOS, as well as adding the Perspective tool to the iOS version.
It might sound like a strange idea, but taking macro photos of boiling water can actually result in some really cool photographs. A good photo experiment for a rainy day.
The database was created to "break with the narrow lens through which history… has been recorded" by equipping those who commission photography with "the resources to discover photographers of color available for assignments.