Still feeling my way around the Sony Nex 7 but getting more comfortable with it by the day.

One of the reasons why so many experienced photographers are drawn to mirrorless cameras is the short distance between the lens mount and the sensor. This smaller distance allows for users to mount many different lenses from a large universe of camera systems to their mirrorless cameras. One of the reasons I bought the Olympus EP2 was the ability to mount my large collections of very good Pen F manual focus lenses to the camera and to be able to continue to use them and benefit from their unique capabilities.

The Sony shares this short flange to sensor attribute and has become a very popular camera/vehicle of using Leica M series lenses, various Zeiss lenses and a raft of Cosina/Voitlander lenses.  I recently discovered that several companies make Pen F lens to Sony Nex adapters so I bought one and I've been testing various lenses from the 1970's on the camera.

So far, the 60mm 1.5 and the 40mm 1.4 have come through with flying colors.  Or really good colors. Once each of these lenses is stopped down at least one f-stop from their wide open aperture they become competitive with current lenses.  Once they are stopped down two or more stops they become premium quality lenses for most applications.  I liked working with the lenses on the Pen digital cameras but it was always a process of framing, enlarging the frame for focusing, reducing the frame to shoot.  With the Nex 7 I have the  focus peaking feature engaged for manual focus lenses so it's really just a matter of focusing and checking to see where the color outline occurs to confirm focus. Bravo. That make things a lot easier.

I decided today to test a lens that I've had mixed results with on the Pen digital cameras. It's the Pen F manual focus, 25mm 2.8 lens. Hitting sharp focus with it on the Pens was always problematic and, at a certain point, I began to suspect that the optic itself was just sub-par. I thought today would give me a make it or break it finality with the easier discretion of the focus peaking.

I've re-evaluated the lens in light of the three photos you see here and from many other samples I took during the course of a hot and sweaty walk this afternoon.  When accurately focused the lens can be very sharp.  The colors in the lens are more muted than modern lenses and I don't know whether that is a difference in coating or a design philosophy in lens making that's evolved over the years.  I do know that I can take a "quieter image" and do quite a bit of manipulation to it before the manipulation becomes obvious.  In some ways a flatter and more neutral image rendition gives you more latitude to make changes in post without suffering much.  The files don't seem "fragile."

The adapter I got came from Fotodiox and it's much more accurate at infinity that some other adapters I'd gotten for the Olympus digital Pens.  That means I can use the depth of field scale on the lens to calculate a hyperfocal distance. In bright light, at f8, I can get a field of focus that's relatively sharp from about 5 feet to infinity when set to the correct hyperfocal distance.  That's a real plus for street shooting.  With the electronic front shutter curtain of the Nex 7 and using manual exposure control, I can bang out an image with absolutely no lag time whatsoever.  And if I've metered correctly (and who couldn't with a camera that "pre-chimps" for you???) and set the correct distance I can shoot without making any adjustments and be sure of a sharp and well exposed frame every single time. Old school meets new tech.

The Pen 25mm does have a few issues when shooting a wide shot with uneven daylight across the frame.  I shot a bridge and noticed some color shift to magenta from edge to edge.  Other than that the lens is a good, straightforward performer.  If you can find one cheap you'll have a nice 35-37mm equivalent focal length for a really high performance camera.  That being said, I'm happy with the performance of the kit lens in that range of focal lengths.

Nice day in Austin. Everyone was at Barton Springs pool.  Ahhhhh. 68 degree water on a 102 degree day. Perfect.


Art in LA said...

I have an "old" NEX-3, and I agree, I love having adapters for it. It's great to use my A-mount lenses via the Sony LA-EA1. However, my SR-to-E mount adapter has let me re-discover 35+ year old Rokkor lenses, ones that my dad bought me and my brothers when we were in junior high and high school.

My favorite is my old manual focus Rokkor-X 50mm 1.4. Focus peaking lets me focus as fast (or perhaps even faster) than my 15 year old self! These new mirrorless systems are *so* flexible. I'm sure the old Rokkor designers would be blown away that their lenses are still used -- for stills *and* video.

Keith I. said...

My biggest "issue" with my NEX-7 is that there are now SO MANY great lens options out there, just an adapter away! I have managed to limit myself to a few Minolta MD/MC, a pair of Nikon AIS, and the occasional borrowed Leica M so far, but some of the different Zeiss lenses and Konicas seem to be calling to me.

cidereye said...

OK, so my NEX-7 only worked for just a day but like you Kirk the very first thing I saw was that the metering was excellent and that the rich RAW files needed hardly any adjustments - Hey, who could ask for more? I just shot a few pics to use for some eBay ads in the single day my camera was working and all I needed to do in Lightroom was sharpen, bliss!!!

Kirk, just wondering how you are finding the Tri-Navi" controls and the complete lack of being able to save any preset settings to the camera?

It is by no means a perfect camera IMHO, but with work it is not far off once setup correctly. Looking forward to picking up my replacement from my dealer tomorrow morning. Also buying a Gariz leather half case to lengthen the body and get a better hold of the camera, looks like a worthwhile purchase going by reading this - http://www.bmupix.com/journal/2012/6/6/gariz-nex-7-leather-half-case.html

kirk tuck said...

Cidereye, I must be an incredible luddite but I don't use presets with any of my cameras and I tend to shoot pretty much the same way all the time. With the Nex-7 I'm generally in either the manual mode or the aperture mode. That means the Tri-Navi controls (at least the two big dials) are really straightforward. In manual one is for the aperture the other for the shutter speed. In Aperture priority the left most dial is the aperture while the right dial is exposure compensation. Once I've set the WB there's not a lot more I need to mess with while shooting raw. My penchant is to ignore all the stuff I never use and simplify the stuff I need to use. Frankly, I don't know what I'd put in a preset.

The raw files are really nice and highly detailed. It's like buying a new computer. Once you've set up your e-mail and a few preferences you don't keep messing with the OS you just fire up PhotoShop and whatever word processor you use and you get to work.

Corwin said...

Theres software called Cornerfix, originaly made for Leica M9 I think, which can fix these color shifts. Or Capture One can do similar as its desinged for MF backs, which have same issue.

It caused by bit too thick coverglass/IR filter on NEX-7. NEX-5N doesnt have this issue probably cause glass or filter are thinner. Should be visible only with rangefinder lens, or lens with very short flange distance (Pen F). Mostly just wide-angles ofc. Usually no issues with lens over 35mm, but ofc depends on lens design.

Corwin said...

Christ sake, Im writing like caveman. Sorry about that. :D (probably too hot here, brain melt)

kirk tuck said...

Thanks though for the good explanation.

Vitor Munhoz said...

Kirk, glad to know you found an adapter that doesn't make your focus scale go out to lunch! That made my life a real pain when I had the Nex-7. On sunny days at f8 the peaking would tell me everything was in focus. I got into the habit of magnifying into all my shots before I snapped which caused me to miss a lot of them. It's a great camera but it takes a while to get used to all of its idiosyncrasies.