Wow. Wouldn't it be so cool to put real, German Zeiss lenses on a high res EVF camera ???

This is one of those new fangled EVF cameras from Sony.  It's 24 megapixels and seems to be pretty nice.  Especially for studio work.  Even more especially with LED lights.  All it really needed to be really functional were some authentic, made in Germany, Zeiss optics for portraits and such.  I decided to try it out with one of my favorite Hasselblad lenses, the 80mm Planar.

So I ordered a Fotodiox Hasselblad to Sony a (weird, squiggly "a") adapter.
And it came in today, right before we headed out the door to eat Indian food.
When I got back home I put the whole rig together so I could see if it worked.

If you want to do this you have to remember a couple of things.  First, this lens doesn't autofocus on any body.  It's surly enough to believe that if you want to be a photographer you can damn well figure out how to focus on your own.  Practice on a view camera for a while.  Then a 35mm style camera will seem as easy as pie.  Secondly, you have to stop down the lens to the taking aperture.

So, why is a Sony a77 such a good choice for use with all of the Hasselblad lenses?  Well...you can go into the control menu and enable "shoot without lens" so the camera will operate and shoot with then Hblad lenses attached.  Cool.  Second, on an OVF camera, once you start stopping down the f-stop the finder gets darker and it gets harder and harder to focus.  But with an EVF, especially a bright and flawless one like the one in the a77, the camera stays bright and conversant even when you stop down.  (I'd probably not focus at smaller f-stops than 5.6 for best accuracy...).
But it's still a manual focus lens.  How do you know when it's really sharply focused?
Because your a77 has focus peaking.  When stuff comes into focus you get red (you can select your own color) outlines of the areas that are in focus.  How cool is that?
I tested the focus peaking.  It works.

What does this really get me?
Well, it's a very geometrically neutral lens that works well for product. 
It has a famously beautiful bokeh so it works really well for portraits.
And the long throw of the focus ring makes it pretty perfect for 
serious video work.  If it's a focal length you like.

A quick glance in the Hasselblad drawer tells me that we have two other lenses that will 
give me fun effects with this camera.  There's a 120mm Makro Planar and a 150mm Sonnar.
The three lenses, used with the APS-C sensor give me approximately (in old, 35mm speak)
a 120mm f2.8, a 180mm f4 that focuses pretty darn close, and a 225mm f4 that's all bokeh-y and chrome looking and wildly sharp and unsharp at the same time.

Crazy thing to do?  Nope. The lenses already live here, they may as well earn their keep.  And the adapter was a whopping $60.

I've been waiting for the lens adapter to arrive so I could try out some portraits with the rig.
I also have a bitchingly professional looking compendium lens shade for the Hblad lenses so clients will think I'm much more professional than I was when I shot for them yesterday.

The 80mm is already my favorite.
This is going to be fun.

If you only see the world thru wide angle lenses it's probably best that you ignore this post.  
Nothing wide enough in medium format to even budge the needle on a crop frame...

An almost immediate edit: Now I have image stabilization for my Hasselblad optics. :-)


  1. Aha! That is what you are up to. Great. Can't wait to see what happens next.

  2. Kurt, Now you know what it feels like to own a Pentax.

  3. Kirk. Like captain Kirk. Not. Curt, like Curt Cobain..... :D

  4. Interesting. Does the a77 focus screw-driven AF lenses? Then there would be one which the German Photozone (German domain, but test is in English) called the "new class owner", the 1:1.4/85mm Zeiss from Sony. So you'd have both AF *and* Zeiss glass...

    About that focus peaking: never saw and tried it, but many folks over at Mike's T.O.P. commented that it's not that exact, and that magnifying was better. Can this camera do both, maybe even together?

    Cool product shots btw - that combo will surely make you the geek, looking at least 20 years younger and much more attractive for those hot super models whom you wanted to illumninate with - what was it - gun powder? ;-)

  5. I've tried but just can't get into the whole lens adapter thing for digital cameras. I did buy a Leica M adapter for my E-P2 so I could use my Leica glass on it but just didn't enjoy it one bit in use, maybe the M43 system is not the best for this in practice .... at least with the Sony you have the benefit of "Focus Peaking" as you say Kirk or even the Ricoh GXR with the M mount unit has a variation on Sony's peaking system.

    Guess that's what it comes down to with using older MF lenses on a modern camera at the end of the day.

  6. I love all of your more philosophical and spiritual articles, but I have to admit that my inner hardware geek got activated when you said you sold off all of your Canon gear.

    I actually spent a few minutes contemplating your next move, and I missed the mark by a fair bit. I guessed you were going to adapt your Zeiss EOS mount lenses to a Sony NEX7 (won't work for the A77 - pesky registration distance). Still a possibility for the future... No image stabilization, though.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Great fun!

  7. Update to my previous reply:

    Kirk, if you still have some Leica R lenses, I just found this German fellow who is selling a relatively cheap Leica R to Sony Alpha/Minolta adapter (45 Euro). He has a short Youtube video as well (in German). I suspect that you lose infinity focus, but you don't have to replace the Leica R mount.

    I have no association with this fellow:

    Amazon carries some inexpensive mount replacements that would work also, but I would rather not go that route myself. I use an NEX5N and Epl-1 with my small handful of affordable Leica R lenses. (The less-exotic ones)

    Now, I don't really NEED it, but my inner geek is quietly waiting for Sony, or someone, to come out with a full frame NEX7 style machine. Completely frivolous, but so drool worthy. It is all an illusion, but I like some of my illusions, they give me pleasure. Oh, there are all kinds of rationalizations that I could spout to justify my toy lust, but I am content to just say that I get some pleasure from wanting, anticipating and preparing for it. I have no illusions of being a wonderful photographer. It's just fun for me.

    Thanks again, love your work!

  8. What about the Zeiss lenses in Alpha mount? Know anything about those? If you liked the ZE on a Canon...

    Just wanted to know what you think. When you get around to it.

  9. I always thought you'd like Sony cameras. In-body stabilization and their intuitive menu system were always big selling points for me. However, with the advent of all of these mirrorless cameras we all love so much, my full-frame a850 is feeling more bulky and heavy than ever. I'm really trying to avoid the temptation of getting an NEX-7. 90% of the a77 functionality in a much smaller, discrete package. The only thing that leaves me hesitant at this point is the lack of first-party lenses. Though the easy adaptability of older lenses might negate that point.

  10. This is the funny part about the mirrorless 'revolution'. All the talk about putting old glass on them as being an advantage. It really only applies to a subset of old glass. You could always put Nikon and Pentax (and others) lenses on Canons, for example... For some reason it took the mirrorless cameras opening up the field before people started to realize they had the option and started to mix and match with adapters. It is fun stuff, if you have old lenses worth adapting.

    As you say, the ability to gain up the view and magnify for focus (and now focus peaking) are more EVF specific advantages, not necessarily mirrorless...

  11. Brad, I've never called out the idea of "mirrorless" as being revolutionary. I've always talked about my desire for EVFs. But even so, the shorter back register between the lens mount and the sensor (by eliminating a moving mirror) means lens designers don't have to project the image over as far a distance to the imaging plane which in turn means less extreme retrofocus lens designs which should mean your choice of lenses with much better inherent image quality and geometric correction or cheaper lenses. There are some engineering issues that recede along with vanishing mirrors.

    Also, some of the older or alternative lenses can be much better than current lenses if only by dint of hand calibration and expensive construction techniques that ensure better tolerances. Really.

    1. You should compare the OM 28mm 1:2.8 physical size with the Panasonic 14mm 1:2.5. The 14mm is 1/2 the length but the same diameter (roughly). The exit pupil, interestingly enough, is the same on both lenses. But turn them around and you'll that the front element of the 14mm is half the diameter of the OM 28mm.

      I no longer wish for a 35mm digital equivalent for the OM series, and the E-M5 is not that camera either. The E-M5 is a Pen with a built-in EVF that takes design cues from the OM series, a subtle but important difference.

      I have three µ4/3rd primes; 14mm, 20mm, and 45mm. I would give up every other lens, µ4/3rd and otherwise, before giving up those three lenses. They may have their quirks, but they work the best with the E-P2, and I can carry all three lenses plus body in my computer bag and always be prepared for just about any contingency.

  12. Not quite the same, but I enjoy using my Pentax 6x7 lenses on my K5. They ain't light though.

  13. Dr Hassysonystien,
    When will see the fruits of your Creation?

  14. Kirk, your "weird, squiggly a" is actuall an Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Which, of course, you know :-) But just in case ...


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