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Date: 28/12/2013 | By: Mathieu

Christmas in Lyon: A Sony A7 Gallery (with Leica Summilux M lenses)

ILCE-7, 1/160, f/ , ISO 6400

Christmas in Lyon: A Sony A7 Gallery (with Leica Summilux M lenses)

Since the release of the new Sony A7 and A7r, there has been a lot of talk about the cameras and their use with third party lenses. Of course Leica M lenses have been the hottest topic. The idea of using the world’s best lenses on an affordable full frame body has intrigued many photographers and enthusiasts. I don’t own any Leica lenses and would certainly not start a collection now just because I bought the A7. As wonderful as they are, I wouldn’t use them enough to justify the expense.

X100S, 1/40, f/ 56/10, ISO 200
Sony A7 with the Summilux 35mm f/1.4

Luckily for me, one of my relatives in France owns some Summilux lenses, so the only thing I needed to do was find an adapter to mount them on my Sony A7. I bought a Voigtländer Leica M to Sony E adapter in a camera store in Lyon and paid €89 for a used version, meaning it’s an expensive adapter. There are cheaper alternatives you can find on Amazon but make sure to buy a good one (check the reviews). The sample I got was perfect and very well-built, something you can expect from a brand like Voigtländer.

X100S, 1/30, f/ 28/10, ISO 1600
The Voigtländer VM adapter

The weather wasn’t great during our stay in Lyon, and spending time with relatives I barely see during the year limited our time with the A7 but honestly, I was happy just to relax and enjoy my French family. Luckily for me again, some of them are also enthusiast photographers so we managed to go out on some photography walks in the city.

X100S, 1/150, f/ 36/10, ISO 400
Me with the Sony A7, courtesy of Heather
ILCE-7, 1/160, f/ , ISO 100
…and returning the courtesy! ILCE-7, 1/160, f/1.4 , ISO 100 – Summilux 50mm – OOC JPG

Walking with my relatives in Lyon is always a good opportunity for me to discover new things in town. Lyon is always evolving with new paths, buildings and entire neighbourhoods being built over the years. On Thursday, we walked along the “Rives de Saône” (one of the two rivers in the city) where I found some interesting masks that were decorating the wall, made by artist Pascale Marthine-Tayou.

ILCE-7, 1/160, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/160, f/1.4 , ISO 100 – Summilux 50mm – OOC JPG
ILCE-7, 1/100, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/100, f/1.4 , ISO 100 – Summilux 50mm – OOC JPG
ILCE-7, 1/100, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/100, f/2 , ISO 100 – Summilux OOC JPG

Lyon is a city I really love. I lived there for three years when I was very young and came back after high school to attend cinema college. There you will find typical French architecture with very colourful buildings linked together along the streets, as well as a mix of very modern buildings and Roman ruins. The little hill of Fourvière right in the center and “les pentes de la Croix-Rousse” are the cherry on top.

ILCE-7, 1/200, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/200, f/8 , ISO 100 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW

It is both similar to and different from Turin at the same time. The two rivers are one of the most characteristic aspects. Along “Les Quais du Rhone” there are also recently built paths, and with the right light you can find some interesting reflections.

ILCE-7, 1/160, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/160, f/8 , ISO 100 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW
ILCE-7, 1/160, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/160, f/8 , ISO 100 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW
ILCE-7, 1/200, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/200, f/8 , ISO 100 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW

I also love to walk through my favourite zone, le “Vieux Lyon” (Old Lyon) and stop for a delicious cup of hot chocolate.

ILCE-7, 1/60, f/ , ISO 320
ILCE-7, 1/60, f/ , ISO 320 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW
ILCE-7, 1/60, f/ , ISO 2000
ILCE-7, 1/60, f/ , ISO 2000 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW
ILCE-7, 1/60, f/ , ISO 2000
ILCE-7, 1/60, f/ , ISO 2000 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW

As with many modern MILC cameras, the Sony A7 offers two options for manual focusing: peaking and magnification. I personally didn’t find the focus peaking precise enough for lenses like these. I used the 50mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/1.4 and when focusing at their fastest apertures, the result was always longer or shorter than the focus I wanted. The focus peaking has three different colours you can choose (white, red or yellow) and it also has three levels: High, Mid and Low.

X100S, 1/340, f/ 28/10, ISO 1600
The peaking in yellow

The high level has too much peaking and it is really hard to see where the precise focus zone is. The Low level shows almost zero peaking. As for the mid level, I found it to be the best solution, but the whole peaking option seems to work better on certain colours and in contrasted conditions, such as a dark chair against a white wall. I found it very difficult to use for portraits for example.

In the end, I turned it off on the second day and relied on the EVF, which has a very good resolution. I often used the hyper focal for outdoor shooting during the day, as well as the focus magnification feature to verify my focus when I wanted a shallower depth of field. It works well as long as you have time to compose, check the focusing and take the shot.

As for the Summilux lenses, there isn’t a lot to say if not that they are truly amazing lenses. Perfectly sharp wide open, with a wonderful and very soft bokeh. There is very little, if any, distortion. On the A7, the result seem excellent. I noticed some very subtle vignetting at the edges when using the lenses wide open but it adds a nicer look to the photographs in my opinion.

ILCE-7, 1/50, f/ , ISO 250
ILCE-7, 1/50, f/1.4 , ISO 250 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW
ILCE-7, 1/1600, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/1600, f/8 , ISO 100 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW
ILCE-7, 1/8000, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/8000, f/1.4 , ISO 100 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW
ILCE-7, 1/100, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/100, f/8 , ISO 100 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW
ILCE-7, 1/1000, f/ , ISO 100
ILCE-7, 1/1000, f/8 , ISO 100 – Summilux 35mm – From RAW

Again, I would never buy Leica lenses for the A7, as we are talking about $4000 per lens, but for those who already own some and would like a cheaper digital alternative to a Leica body, the Sony A7 is certainly a good option … unless you are a Leica purist or simply prefer rangefinder cameras, that is!

Below you can check out additional photos.


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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Mathieu

    That’s a very good question. I definitely love the rendering of the Leica Summilux (sharpness, bokeh, etc). Overall I prefer its rendering in comparison to the 55mm but then I would still choose the latter. Money aside, it’s a native lens for the system and a very good one (one of the best AF prime on the market). In most scenarios and for my style of shooting the 55mm rendering is more than fine while I would get the best out of the summilux just in rare occasions.

  • Yoga

    Thanx for the article Mathieu. I have a question to you, based on your experience, do you prefer Leica Summilux 50mm 1.4 ASPH or Sony 55 1.8 in Sony A7s if it has no relation with cost?

  • Mathieu

    Leica glass are fantastic but their cost is prohibitive, at lest for me 😉 I think that in the end the Sony Zeiss lenses will be the best option, not only for AF but also because they will be completely developed and adapted for the system.

  • erocinov

    I did a brief test of the A7 with 28-70 vs E-M1 with Super Elmar 21/3.4. The sony IQ was a notch bellow with not rich colors or as realistic.
    It does take an extra effort to understand the camera to produce results. At the end the results are rewarding. I would stick with Leica glass. Only if you need AF is worth it to buy Sony glass.

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