Sony A7 system – in search of a wide-angle lens




It is well known that for Sony A7 series users, the options for wide-angle lens are not abundant. Say you need a lens that is below 35mm, the only native FE lens is the 16-35 f4 zoom, or the 24-70 f4 zoom. Zeiss has just announced a couple of lenses for their new Batis AF line, including a 25mm f2 lens that shows high promise (and concurrent price…). There are also expectations for a wide-angle lens coming this year in their Loxia MF line (18mm? 21mm?). We will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, there is no shortage of reports and user experiences about adapting and using both RF and SLR mount wide-angle lenses in the Sony A7 cameras. Evidence shows that many wide-angle RF lenses show varying degrees of problems with these sensors: corner smearing, colour shifts, and so on. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the Leica WATE (but at very dear prices), or the more recent Voigtlander 15 f4.5 MkIII VM lens (which has a fixed lens hood, so not much luck in using a square filter system – unless makers like Lee Filters come up with a special adaptor, like they did for the Nikon 14-24 zoom lens).

Anyway, for someone like me, who likes to use a prime MF lens around 21-24mm focal length, the options are more open when looking into SLR options. After some search and browsing the used market, I ended up getting the Nikkor 24 f2.8 AIS lens in very good condition (pristine glass). Using it with a Novoflex adaptor, it is very nice to operate in the field for landscape shots off a tripod. This Nikkor lens used to be (still is?) a classic for landscape shooters, so I suppose it is good enough for me. There are many other possibilities, from Canon FD to Olympus OM mounts, and this is just in the MF world.

My sample had a problem when I received it, it would not focus to infinity; so I sent it for a CLA job, and it is now fine. The focusing ring is not as smooth or as nice as a Leica or Zeiss lens, but then, I normally shoot at hyperfocal settings at f11 or f16, checking the focus on magnified LV; so no problem there. The glass is what counts, and this little lens (52mm filter diameter) delivers sharp and contrasty images with good flare control. Plus, it features Nikon’s famous CRC (close range correction), to ensure sharpness when focused close (via a rear floating element).

Below are some images I recently shot near where I live, in Carcavelos beach, at dawn. I like to go there and try out long exposures (say 5 or 6 minutes).




The Leica X (Typ 113)

The “serious compact” camera segment has always been a lively one. From the film days (Leica CM, Ricoh GR1, and many others) to the digital age, several cameras have been made from many manufacturers. In recent years, Fuji in particular seems to have hit the nail in the head, with the X100 series: retro-look, hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, fixed 35mm f2 lens, resulted in a classic hit. Sony has made the first full-frame compact with the RX1 camera, with an enticing Zeiss 35mm lens (but no integrated viewfinder). I have tried the former for a while, not the latter (too dear for my pocket).

Recently, Leica has introduced their “X” series of fixed lens compact cameras, with APS-C sensor, and with a 35mm equivalent field of view lens. Hence the X1, X2, and now the X (Typ 113). The X is a more serious proposition compared to the other two, as it sports a 23mm f1.7 lens, giving us the above mentioned 35mm equivalent field of view. It also looks and feels more like a mini-M Leica, with bare minimum dials to adjust the basic settings.

Since I like 35mm focal length a lot (for travel, reportage, and landscape), and the X is actually not exorbitantly expensive (for a Leica, that is…), I borrowed one for testing. I have to say that the camera handles very nicely, the lens is superb, the controls are responsive, and the files look very good. All in all, a nice shooting experience, as the camera does not get in the way of one’s photography.

I only wish the camera or lens had image stabilization (always useful), and an integral viewfinder (optical or electronic). As it is, one needs to cough up more for the accessory EVF – Visoflex. Well, it seems that Leica responds to “complaints” from their user base, as the new “Q” has both an integral EVF, and image stabilized lens (plus full frame sensor, of course). But it also costs double of the X, and has a 28mm lens, not my favourite focal length.

The images posted here were made during a short morning stroll near the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, which has some nice gardens and interesting subjects to photograph. In the end, I will be keeping the camera.