Article: 'Why manual lenses on the Sony a7 series are a smart choice'

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by Karim Ghantous, Mar 10, 2017.

  1. Karim, I agree, slowing down can work against you for the reasons that they say slowing down helps! And your right, its not a right or wrong issue, although in the case of a Landscape when precise focusing is needed to insure hyperlocal distance placement, manual focusing for this is best although not required but if the autofocus reticle is not placed right, voila.
  2. Bunch of baloney. Slowing down by focusing on the operation of the camera isn't the means to increase your "creative freedom" but just a waste of time "paying attention to the process" that could be spent thinking about the image and its creation. Other than a lack in discipline, nothing should prevent him (or anybody) to "slow down" with any camera and any lens. I have to think as much about the aperture when I use an AF lens, and about as much what to focus on; the mere act of having to set them manually is a distraction and not an aid to focus the mind. Just my 2 cents. If it works for him or anyone else, fine.
    Jochen likes this.
  3. david_henderson


    I think this author is equating "smart" with "cheap". I don't. I'd want a camera that I could use very fast when I need to, and I'd guess that means having autofocus available. I also prefer the framing capabilities of zooms. So I guess this author is not going to persuade me to give up my Dslr to do what he's done.
  4. Manual lenses on a mirrorless camera are not necessarily slow. Slower perhaps than auto focus, but much faster than on a DSLR or rangefinder camera. Mirrorless cameras have focusing aids which make focusing quick and extremely accurate.

    With a manual lens, you can preset the distance (e.g., street photography), set the hyper focal distance and have a hard infinity stop (landscapes and astro). AF is of little use for closeups, and tends to focus on the wrong thing if something is in the foreground. Manual operation opens the door to selective focusing. They also tend to be smaller and more robust than AF lenses. This is particularly true on mirrorless cameras. Whereas MF lenses for SLRs tend to be old, manual mirrorless lenses tend to be state of the art.
  5. Being involved to a great degree in botanical photography, I'm used to being "slow", and AF is not a lot of use when a couple of millimeters of focus adjustment can make or break the shot. I changed from Canon DSLR's to the full-frame Sonys with their excellent focusing aids, using dozens of old MF lenses, and it's proved to be a leap forward in terms of both quality, and ease of use.
  6. Having changed from a Canon 70D to a Sony A6000 (slightly off this topic for A7), I have been using my Canon lenses with either a Sigma M-11, or a Comlite adaptor. I find the Sony manual focusing aid exceptionally quick. Particularly with my Canon 100mm macro f2.8 IS.USM.L lens. For macro work I rarely use AF anyway.
  7. Today I'm wondering and in keeping to the OPs question, if I were to move to full frame in a Sony for the purpose of re-vitalizing 7 Nikkor AIS lenses, would Sony be the way to go? Or would there be advantages in sticking with a Nikon full frame camera? I have been stung by the mirrorless concept, so I err towards a Sony.
  8. IMHO: the Sony is your money-melon, especially given that these are manual lenses. In fact, I can't think of any full frame camera apart from the A7 series that would be better for manual lenses, unless you wanted a high frame rate. In that case, wait for the 'A9', use a DSLR, or use the Leica SL.

    If you're happy to use APS-C sensors then the Fuji XT2 is insane and matches almost any DSLR for action. I assume though that you want the biggest sensor possible for those lenses.
  9. Sony FF v DSLR? It depends on what things you like to photograph. For action and sports, the scale tips strongly toward a DSLR. There is less viewfinder blackout, so following action is easier. Secondly, the auto focus mechanism is separate from the sensor and finder, so tracking is better. Since there is little overhead requiring power, you get a lot more images from a battery charge, and wakeup is nearly instantaneous.

    The viewfinder in a camera like the Sony A7xx is more accurate, and the brightness stays nearly constant regardless of the ambient light and aperture setting. AF detectors are built into the sensor, so no fine tuning is required for fast or long lenses, even used wide open. Final focusing, AF or MF, is done with the lens stopped down, eliminating the effect of focus shift. You have the option of an electronic first curtain shutter, which eliminates shutter bounce. In the A7Rii (and a couple of others), you have the option of a fully electronic, silent shutter. The loudest sound is that of the aperture closing. Even focusing is inaudible.

    Normal lenses tend to be smaller in mirrorless cameras, with some exceptions for highly corrected versions. There is little difference between mirrorless and DSLR zoom and telephoto lenses. Leica have long been cherished for sharpness of fast and wide angle lenses. That mantle has passed comfortably to the mirrorless clan. Shorter back focus distance means lenses require fewer compromises, with negligible CA and loss of sharpness in the corners.
  10. I got a bit ahead of myself in the previous post. I too have a collection of Nikon lenses, both manual and auto focus. Part of my justification buying a Sony A7ii (later adding an A7Rii) was to use these and other legacy lenses. That worked well for a while, but I soon found them wanting in comparison to dedicated lenses. All seemed a little soft, especially when used at maximum aperture, or in the corners at any aperture. It's not surprising, because they were designed for DSLRs with 12 MP or less, whereas the Sony A7 is 24 MP. Even 12 MP is sharper than film, at least in terms of acuity (subjective sharpness).

    In short, Nikon lenses will do as well or better on the Sony than on a DSLR, until you discover you can do much better.
  11. Ed, Is it to be understood that you thought that the manual Nikkor lenses seemed soft out of the Sony? Compared to new, lets say dedicated Zeiss glass? When you say soft do you mean softer that you hoped? Did the Nikkor lenses seem sharper out of the Sony than what film provided? The Same? In all is it safe to say that these Nikkor lenses that we love are very well complimented by a Sony mirrorless at 24MP? And that it provides a continued decent life for these lenses? The issue of fast sporting events is not a priority to me, so I've ruled out a DSLR.
  12. The issue of fast sporting events is not a priority to me, so I've ruled out a DSLR.

    I'm re-thinking this comment by me, I'm not ruling anything out. There are many complex issues regarding the choice of a full frame camera to run my 7 Nikkor AIS lenses. The Sony A7ii for example, as I've been poking around to get a better understanding of this, uses a 24MP sensor that is not at par with the D-750, and the A7ii seems to suffer from some other issues that have at this point giving me cold feet, so I'll simmer on this.
  13. I started with manual lenses on my A7 camera and had good success. Canon FD and Nikkor AIS lenses are very good. Over time and after getting the A7RII, however, I acquired more native lenses and now, with the exception of specialty optics for macro, shift, high speed, or super tele, I prefer the newer native AF optics. I don't shoot sports but I do shoot people and AF helps. Same with street shooting. Besides, my eyes ain't getting any younger. But if you are on a tight budget, or shoot a lot of static subjects, then manual lenses are the way to go and may be all you need. Heck, most of us started out in photography with manual focus lenses. They worked fine then.
    I'll add that although expensive, the native Zeiss and Sony G lenses are well made and optically E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T.
  14. Don,
    My portfolio has several comparisons using the Sony A7ii and A7Rii. I have also posted comparisons between various digital cameras and scanned film. On the whole, Nikon lenses, both AF and AIS, perform fairly well. However native lenses perform significantly better. Once you see what the A7 can do, it's hard to go back. 24 mp is all you get out of a Nikon scanner. While you may prefer the look of film, digital has better acuity and more predictable color.

    In the links below, the Summicron and Nikon AIS tests are mislabeled, and should be reversed.
  15. How real, or significant is the noise issue with the A7ii?
  16. Not very persuasive. I use a couple FD lenses and one Minolta lens. They are specialiy optics and are good for their uses. But I do not really relish the manual focus part anymore since autofocus has become so sophisticated and is rarely fooled and is faster than me. Manual means in and out and in and out to get what looks crisp.
    The motors and software have faster feedback than our measly brains..True. The big factor, in shooting micro four thirds is size and weight. And the legacy lenses are fixed focal length. Optical engineering has made zooms as good as the brace of fixed lenses..well good enough to argue about. By them and use them of course. And if you have them, buy and adapter. But not that pricey Novoflex in the photo!
  17. Continued good points, but please be patient with me knowledgable people, as I am hot on this new trajectory in learning Sony, as there is one oddity I would like to clear up. First as it seems 36MP and 42MP would be deemed useless using non native Nikkor Manual AIS lenses and that 24MP and less is more realistic. What's with the price differential between the A7ii 24MP camera and the A7s ii 12MP camera? $1498.00 for the A7ii and $2898.00 for the A7s ii? Is this a indication that Sony is about to spring a new 24MP camera release? Less money for more MP? Interesting. The pixel area size of the A7s ii is larger than the pixel area size of the A7ii, obviously a design optimum for low light, but what is the threshold? At what Iso does the A7ii get annoying? If its at 3200 I think I can live with that, or I should say if 3200 is not annoying I can live with that. My working methods is slow, tripods, landscapes, still life, street. I understand that utilizing Nikkor AIS lenses in conjunction with a digital sensor is about other than blistering resolution and that, character and depth in full frame is the expectation.
  18. The noise level is very low to ISO as high as 25,600. At 3200, it is nearly unnoticeable. Unless I have something special in mind, I use Auto ISO and set the limit at 25,600. Under most circumstances, including ordinary room light (enough to read by), the ISO seldom exceeds 8000. With in-body image stabilization, the shutter speed is seldom an issue either. I didn't feel a need to buy a flash for over a year. Since the pixels are so small, random noise us much less noticeable at the same enlargement.

    The A7Sii is useable to ISO 105,000, and reaches over twice that level. It is also optimized for 4K video. Oddly, it does not use the "back illuminated" concept use in the A7Rii. The latter has been Sony's flagship for nearly two years, so something might be in the works. 24 MP would be much better were there no AA filter. The camera itself could use a silent shutter option. The acuity of the A7ii is comparable to the 18 MP Leica M9, which does not have a AA filter.
  19. Ed Thanks, That all seems good and good enough to bring back my Nikkor AIS lenses. By the way, 20mm 3.5, 24mm 2, 55mm micro 2.8, 85mm 1.4, 105mm 2.5, 180mm 2.8 ED, 400mm 3.5. The 24mm f2 probably the weakest in the bunch, the 2.8 better of the two, but I don't have it.

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