Sony a7R II thoughts

I recently purchased a Sony a7R II for slide scanning.1 I will hopefully detail that in a future post. Since I spent all that money on a nice camera, I naturally spent a bit more to buy a lens for it. I settled on the Zeiss Loxia 21 mm lens. While 28 mm is my favorite focal length, I’m quite fond of the Zeiss C-Biogon 21mm for M mount. And Zeiss doesn’t make a 28 mm lens for Sony, so…

The camera is pretty amazing. Great resolution and dynamic range. I still like negative film’s ability to retain grossly overexposed highlights, this Sony sensor does have impressive dynamic range. Throw in the image stabilization and great high ISO performance and you have an imaging core that is tough to beat. I know camera sensors will continue to advance, but really, this thing is pretty amazing.

The downsides are that the camera has fiddly controls. The Ricoh GR is much better laid out in my opinion, something that immediately struck me when I picked mine up after not using it for a month or so. In addition, I don’t really like the lenses.

Don’t get me wrong; the Zeiss Loxia and Sony macro lenses that I have are impressive and probably some of the highest performing lenses I’ve ever used. The Sony macro is pretty giant, though that is mostly a non issue since I’ll really only be using it for scanning. The Loxia isn’t too large, but it is noticeably bigger than my rangefinder lenses. I also do not like the focusing feel; far too stiff and damped. It reminds me of the 75mm Summilux which is one of the reasons I didn’t like that lens. I know some people like that feel, but I prefer the quicker and shorter 90 degree focusing of the newer RF lenses like the 28mm Summicron, 50mm Summilux ASPH, and even my beloved Zeiss 21mm C-Biogon.

With that being said, the Loxia 21mm is pretty amazing. And being able to focus closer than 0.7m is nice. My bag is a bit lighter now too. I bumped up to a Think Tank Photo Retrospective 6 (from the 5 I use for Leica), and even though the bag, camera, and lenses are all bigger, the sum total is lighter. Probably because I haven’t stuffed two film Ms in the same bag.

However, I’m going to give it a go. I’m sure I’ll get used to the (lack of) ergonomics on the camera and make some nice pictures. I’ll also probably pick up the Zeiss Loxia 50mm. The Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH is decent on the a7R II, with some smearing in the corners below about f/4. Should be serviceable for portraits and landscapes at the right apertures, but I don’t think I’ll get along with adapting lenses for too long. I also don’t like to have to think about what aperture I should be at for what type of picture, etc. I’d rather just pick the aperture I need, compose, and not have to worry about strange behavior in certain places.

The view from Leica land

I also suspect this exercise will make me long for a rangefinder again. But that’s the rub. Leica M digital cameras are just so expensive. On top of that, two of my favorite lenses (the 28mm Summicron and the Zeiss 21/4.5) aren’t really good on the color digital M cameras. The 28mm isn’t horrible, but not ideal. The 21/4.5 is horrible. So do you upgrade those two lenses (new version 28mm Summicron and 21 Super-Elmar) and get an M10? No, I can’t stomach that much money. Or do you get a Monochrom? (Yes probably.) But I’m not spending that much money on a camera that old. So maybe when an M10-based Monochrom comes out, I’ll pick one up used. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just shoot film and be happy with it, and for digital needs, I’ll have gotten used to the Sony by then.

  1. It was only about 50% rationalization. I also wanted a nice digital camera and can not convince myself to get a Leica, which is what I really want. We all know how that usually works out. ↩︎