Battle of the Champions: Leica M & 50 APO vs Sony A7II & 50 Zeiss Loxia by Brad Husick

battle-title

Battle of the Champions: Leica M & 50 APO vs Sony A7II & 50 Zeiss Loxia

by Brad Husick

It has been an exciting few years in the development of high-end digital cameras. With the advent of full frame sensors in compact mirrorless bodies, it is now possible to obtain truly outstanding results that can be printed at virtually any size for the home or gallery.

My objective in running this test was to examine the image quality of two of the most highly regarded full frame digital mirrors cameras today – the Leica M model 240 ($7,250) and the Sony A7-II ($1,699), paired with the best available standard optics for each. For the Leica the choice was obvious in the Leica 50mm f/2 APO Summicron ($8,250) and for the Sony the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* ($949). The prices listed here are retail. Street prices can be lower.

The cameras are very different from each other and there are many articles and reviews that go into these differences. My purpose here is to look only at image quality regardless of other factors such as price, functionality, shooting style, build quality, etc. The key question here is which camera and lens combination produces the best images under a variety of real world shooting conditions. This is not a scientific laboratory bench test, it is meant to see how well the cameras do under reasonable realistic conditions.

My methodology was wherever possible to shoot the lenses wide open at f/2 and match the other shooting settings as closely as possible, including ISO and shutter speeds. Both cameras were shot in RAW and the images are displayed in Adobe Lightroom 5.7.1. No adjustments other than tiny overall exposure movements used to match the images were made. Settings were left in default positions and do not differ between camera images.

These lenses are both manual focus lenses so I used each camera’s focus magnifying tool at maximum to obtain the sharpest images I could. I did not achieve 100% focus accuracy despite using a tripod for all the indoor shots and high shutter speeds for the outdoor shots. This points to my abilities and the nature of f/2 lenses having very thin depth-of-field when wide open. The indoor shots were taken at ISO 1600 and the outdoor shots at base ISO 200. The wind was blowing at about 5 mph outdoors. The cameras were set on manual exposure and automatic color balance. I did not re-adjust color balance once in Lightroom. These are “as-shot” images.

Each comparison starts with a “master” image showing the entire frame, followed by a few 100% zoom details taken from various positions around the frame.

Rather than try to make this a guessing game, I will tell you up front that each of the side-by-side comparisons has the Sony on the left and the Leica on the right.

I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions about the relative strengths of each image.

My conclusion, with which you should feel free to disagree, is that there is a surprisingly small difference here. Based on image quality alone, it’s very difficult to choose. I must conclude that both systems are capable of producing outstanding images, and other factors such as price, preferred shooting style, features and functions, and others are much larger influencers in the decision between these cameras and lenses. One might come to the conclusion that if you choose to invest $15,000 in a Leica system then $2,700 for the Sony system is cheaper than buying one more Leica lens, so why not own both if you care to?

I hope you enjoy this comparison.

IMAGE ONE – FULL FRAME

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Sony crops on left – Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops!

(Steve’s Opinion: The Loxia is sharper here in these MAP crops to my eye)

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IMAGE TWO – FULL FRAME

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Sony crops on the left, Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops

(Steve’s Opinion: These appear to be so close, I would call it a tie)

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IMAGE THREE – FULL FRAME

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Sony crops on the left – Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops

(Steve’s Opinion: What sticks out to me here is the warmer WB of the Leica, sharpness seems similar)

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IMAGE FOUR – FULL FRAME

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT – CLICK ‘EM!

(Steve’s Opinion: The LOXIA seems sharper in crop 2 and 3 with Leica for the 1st)

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IMAGE FIVE – FULL FRAME

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT – YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO!

(Steve’s Opinion: To my eye, APO wins this one)

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IMAGE SIX – FULL FRAME

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: LOXIA wins this one – less CA and sharper)

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IMAGE SEVEN

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: These are close, VERY close)

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IMAGE EIGHT

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: Again, VERY close but I pick APO for this one)

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IMAGE NINE

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: Almost a draw again but the APO Bokeh is a TAD smoother)

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Best regards,
Brad

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194 thoughts on “Battle of the Champions: Leica M & 50 APO vs Sony A7II & 50 Zeiss Loxia by Brad Husick

  1. Thanks Steve for doing this evaluation. I currently use Nikon gear since it’s best fit for sports and “must get the image” for publication. But… I’m looking at the future, not aimed for publication and doing photos just for myself. Sony is innovating and pushing the envelope for small size, high quality and lower cost than Leica. I’m watching them and working with some of their modest offerings.

  2. Somebody can have the opinion hat leica is better or sony is better, but in my opinion they are very close indid, with very small adavantage (focus and contrast) to sony. In my opinion the the very hight price of leica is not in quality.

  3. A very interesting article, thanks for taking the time to do it. Question: on the two images for the market scene, the left and right images in both pictures look identical. e.g. both photos have a person walking in the image, but in both images the perspective on that person is identical – that’s got to be impossible. Has there been an error in image selection?

  4. An interesting article, but you should have compared Sony and Leica bodies using the same M mount lens first. The A7 series sensor has a thick layer of glasses on it, and it is considered to be causing unfavorable results e.g. purple fringes, with wide-angle lenses, especially.

  5. Really surprised the Leica shows so much CA. I thought this was so expensive because it’s an apochromatic corrected lens? Clear winner is the Zeiss when cost is considered. Sony’s on to a real winner with this A7 series.

    1. The reason why the Leica shows CA is probably all due to the M’s sensor, not necessarily the lens. Such a huge contrast between the sky and the tree causes this kind of thing. The Sony sensor seems a little better in this regard.

      Just about every sensor fails with this kind of subject matter, the most typical being traffic at night or the night sky full of stars. There is only one sensor I know of that might not fail this test, but in any case it is used for cinema, and is not available in still cameras.

      As for Sony being onto a real winner – hell yes!

  6. Steve,
    I’d like to know how did you take the photo in the market place?
    they both look identical, the lady moving towards camera left, there is no time to put one camera down and take the shot with the other camera. How did you do it?
    Thanks in advance.
    G

    1. That particular photo is one of a print taken from about a meter away – Look at the full frame image. It’s far enough away that the print resolution exceeds the camera’s capability.

  7. I think if one was to tweak the white balance slightly on the sony it would be very hard to tell the difference between the two.
    I have always subscribed to the notion that getting it as right as you can in camera is preferable to post processing.
    The sony at default setting appears a tad cool to my eye.

    Good one though, it helps to see these kinda comparisons for future purchasing considerations.
    Appreciated.

  8. Very nice comparison Brad. I went to a local camera store and tried the sony a7 ii. I really want to like the camera but to me it feels cheap. Also, the ergonomics was not to my liking. Maybe a newer generation of A7

    1. JM, I had that reaction to the A7 and A7S, but the A7II is a different animal. The body is solid magnesium and the finish is a great texture. The knobs and buttons are all solid and high quality. But feeling comfortable with a camera is a very personal decision, so I respect yours. I suggest to anyone, go to a store and check out new gear, or do like I did and spend $150 to rent it for 5 days and really get to know it before buying.

  9. Gentlemen
    Great review. Was there any prospect that zeiss or leica could make a dud 50mm?

    They are just 50mm lenses. Not my favourite focal length. The real test is not between these lenses. Pit them against the legendary 80mm zeiss medium format lens that was the standard lens used in commercial photography for decades. Has the technology put medium format quality of old into a 35mm package?

    I am guessing no but would love to find out.

    Thanks always for a greal website
    Noel

    1. Noel,

      It isn’t that easy now to compare as there are so few proper optical testing labs. However, it was explained, and demonstrated to me mathematically by using optical formulae, many years ago that with increasing focal length and other things being equal, resolution actually drops. So the best 50mm will outresolve the best 80mm. This was in the days before aspheric and apo lenses started to become available, so I don’t know if the relationship holds today and with CAD.

      It hasn’t been easy to find proper optical testing data to support this, but I do recall that when the UK’s Amateur photographer tested the f1.7/50mm Planar when it came out with the Contax 139 they were astounded to find that their sample resolved 150 lines per mm, and the highest resolving power of any lens they had tested. I was pleased about this as I had not long bought the 139 with the Planar. I’m not keen on bandying data around without the full facts, and it goes that I do not know if the 150 is line pairs or not, or if it is an aerial image reading, and which always exceeds what can be obtained on film.

      I’ve only been able to find two reports about the Zeiss f2.8/80mm Planar, and both from photo magazines who tested it. And note, nothing wider than f5.6. However, the data is so different that without knowing how the tests were carried out, it has to remain more or less meaningless. Here goes:

      1. The Hasselblad Planar 80mm f/2.8 that Modern Photography tested in June 1977 peaked at the center at 68 line pairs/mm; at the apertures of F8, F11, F16…..It peaked at the corners at 50 line pairs/mm; at F11 and F16. This was at a 1:20 magnification.

      2. Dutch “FOTO” magazine consistently over years gets these results with the Zeiss Planar 80mmF 2.8:

      F5.6: ce: 115 lp/mm, corner: 90 lp/mm
      F8: ce: 130 lp/mm, corner: 100 lp/mm
      F11: ce: 120 lp/mm, corner: 90 lp/mm
      F16: ce: 110 lp/mm, corner: 80 lp/mm

      Tested at a distance of 50 or 100x focal length, with Agfa Copex film.

      I did notice that someone had appended the following comments about the FOTO results:

      “The Dutch numbers look about double the resolution of the three 80mm Planars I have seen published in magazines. I wonder if they are actual line pairs/mm; or are they cooking the books with the marketing factor of two factor.”

      Interestingly, if you halve the Dutch results you virtually get the line pairs reported by Modern Photography mag.

      Take your pick, but I’d suggest that the old 80mm Planar won’t produce the results with a digital sensor that you may imagine, or hope for. IMO. :D)

  10. Now if only Leica would offer a compact, lower priced option for M lenses with a rangefinder (the digital CL that many of us dream on), that’d be fantastic. I am not much for the T’s, X’s, V’s,D’s, S’s, and Q?’s. Just give me another option for “M”

  11. What a great and informative article, Brad. The Loxia’s are very tempting, and appear to perform at a level close to (and in some cases, superior to) much more expensive Leica counterparts. I think that it’s wonderful that there are now at least 2 systems, at very different price points, that offer a compact, full frame solution for those who enjoy street and travel photography, along with manual focus options. Sony and Zeiss have filled a great niche at a lower price point that will appeal to many. What Leica continues to offer are incredibly designed lenses that are capable of being used in multiple formats (given the M mount), while offering incredible image quality. The Loxias, at this time, are not mountable on any system other than Sony E mount. I continue to maintain a robust M lens set up, which I can mount on both M and E mount bodies, which offers me quite a bit of flexibility without having to duplicate lenses/focal lengths for different systems. All of that said, if I didn’t have an investment (both financially and emotionally) in Leica, I would likely pick up an A7 (r/s/II) and the 2 loxia lenses and be happy.

    1. Absolutely! I agree 100%, Ashwin. I have also been wondering that indeed the Loxia’s are only compatible with one system and the M’s with Leica + all mirrorless. But for me to decide for Loxia was because I always postponed to buy a Leica M-body (because of its price) and when I owned the A7(r), I definitally decided never ever to buy a Leica (because of its price ànd because of the Sony performance). My deep believe in the Sony system and Zeiss’s commitment was the final factor. Sony, being a leading sensor manufacturer, plays a great role in my faith.

      1. Wow, Ashwin and Dirk, I’m caught in exactly the same quandary expressed by your opinions here. I agree with both them and that’s the problem…they both make sense, but they’re opposite.

        Two years ago, my photo buddy went down Dirk’s path (buying into Sony/Zeiss), but a few years earlier, I was badly burned by the cost of shifting from Panasonic to Sony and I vowed never again. I went down’ Ashwin’s path of future-proofing myself by buying manual focus film lenses for my NEX-7. You can imagine my smug smile when I effortlessly upgraded to the A7 system!

        Today, I don’t own a single Sony lens, partly because, like Ashwin, I didn’t want to get sucked into one system. Thus, future-proofing stopped me buying the Loxia 50/2, but budget prevented me buying the 50/2 APO. I also wanted something for low-light with my A7S and shorter DOF, so in the end I decided on the Canon FD 50/1.2 L.

        Similarly, with the Sony Zeiss 35/1.4 Distagon, I’ve decided against it in favour of the ZM 35/1.4 Distagon even though it’s more expensive. But this time, it’s not just about future-proofing for use with other camera systems, but it’s also smaller.

        However, I’ve reached a dilemma when it comes to ultrawide angle lenses (i.e. around the 14-16mm mark). There just doesn’t seem to be any affordable non-Sony lens that meets my IQ needs and requirement to use square filters for landscape photography. The closest is the CV 15/4 Heliar III, but its fixed metal hood prevents use of square filters.

        Do you guys have any suggestions?

        Otherwise, I’m currently looking at either the E 10-18 or FE 16-35. Though part of me thinks may be time for me to cough up the money and get a Leica 16-18-21 WATE. Thoughts?

  12. I tried the “Leica Experience” and had trouble focusing quickly with the rangefinder. I was weened on SLR’s and they seem just more natural to me. After buying and using an RX-1, I discoverred that I really like the manual focusing with the magnification – especially as my eyesight is not quite as good as it used to be. So for me – I feel really glad that the zeiss/sony combo can compete on equal ground with the Leica system. Now we can have the best of sensors AND optics in a lightweight and affordable package. What a joy!

  13. Brad can you also do a comparison with 50 Apo on A7II please so we can see the differences/similarities purely in the performance of these lenses. A7II and Loxia is the result of state of the art technology. It’s been two and a half years since Leica M is announced. I have a feeling the Apo would perform better on the A7II or A7S than the M.

  14. Thanks Brad for this test! After reading the title I was convinced (and hoped) that Leica/APO would win, maybe not in sharpness, but in ‘feel’.

    I’m very surprised how close the results are. In my opinion, the Leica combo still “wins”, but it is very, very close.

    But I must say, I’m shocked, how good the Sony/Loxia combo is, especially being ONLY used on Leica’s holy grail of turf. If you would consider using the Leica where the Sony shines, f.ex. shooting handheld at 1/20s where its amazing 5-axis IBIS would come into play… or at ISO 12800… or video… the Sony/Loxia would simply blow the Leica/APO out of the water – no contest.

    Owning a Leica M3 and having a fondness for street photography, my heart is aching. But for the street, in 2015, Sony’s IBIS and high ISO capabilities, all in a very similar Leica form factor, are simply too good to ignore. And let’s not forget, I can put the Zeiss FE55 1.8 on and have autofocus, something that, especially with having soccer playing kids, I’ve really come to appreciate.

    To me, and to many others, Leica is a beautiful and sentimental thing, but maybe now, is the time to finally say good-bye to nostalgia and romance, and move forward.

  15. I find that I like M-mount lenses the best in terms of user experience feel and IQ when you look at the whole package. To be sure it’s personal taste. I have a Leica and a Sony and every time use the Leica for the overall experimence. I don’t do this for superior IQ reasons. I wish the Sony performed consistently with all M mount lenses but it doesn’t. If I had to choose one the Sony would go in a minute.

  16. Nothing interesting to say other than we live in an amazing time for cameras — that a $1,700 camera can keep pace (or even exceed) at $5,500 Leica (not to mention the huge difference in lens cost) is a great thing for photographers and gear-heads. My five year old M9 is still going strong, but it’s great to know when I do end up replacing it I’ll have some fantastic choices. At this point it would be a Sony A7xxx with with an M adapter.

  17. Brad, thank you for the effort! Despite the minor flaws, the verdict is quite clear: both of these lenses are excellent. Maybe the APO is slightly better – but whatever the case, we have a choice between two superb lenses. The only practical difference is that the Loxia can’t be used on film cameras (except maybe a few half-frame cameras).

    It’s interesting how similar they are in terms of bokeh.

    I’d like to request a follow-up test. Night shots, including the night sky, are useful for testing corner performance and other aberrations.

    So, who thinks that I should change from DxO Optics Pro to Capture One? Is C1 really that good? I guess I can just compare them and see for myself. 🙂

    I think that it’s interesting how some DSLR users react. Unlike DSLR users, Leica users on the whole seem very comfortable that the Loxia is so good. I’m a Sony user and a Leica fan and I’m naturally very unsurprised that both lenses cannot be beaten for optical quality. Yes, the Otus and a DSLR will match these, and that’s nothing but a good thing, but DSLRs are very niche products and make no sense to me these days. But they do have a ‘pro’ branding attached to them in general so we’ll see them sell very well for some time to come until reality supersedes reputation. There is a reason why the brontosaurus became extinct.

  18. I’m currently saving for a Leica MP (analogue, not the M-P). By the end of this year I should have one, along with two Leica lenses… all to be bought used. It’s fun to read tests like this, and interesting to compare resale prices… but I’m jumping off the digital boat 🙂

  19. Brad, this was a very interesting and informative article. Thank you for taking the time.

    I re-introduced myself to the Leica this summer after a twenty-five year hiatus in the Nikon SLR realm. I started with an M2 while working for a newspaper in the mid 60’s. Last summer, I was given an M3 my mother purchased about the same time. I quickly found that film was not to my liking, but found an used M9 which was a game changer. My 50 year old lenses were brought back into service, and the image quality dimmed my love of the Nikon. My shoulders and back appreciate the lighter load. Once you depend on a camera, you need a backup. On reading about the Sony A7 line in this site, I jumped for the A7ii as soon as it was in stock, and I haven’t been disappointed.

    It is surprising to see how little difference there is between the systems. An M240 and APO Summicron 50 is not in my future, but my Summicron 50 v2 does an outstanding job on both the M9 and A7ii. The weak side of the Sony is wide angle, but I’m hoping the Loxia 35/2 will fill that gap. I should complain, already. My ancient Summaron 35/2.8 is at least twice as sharp as anything in my Nikon stable, only smearing at the extreme corners (just like the Nikon).

    Where the Sony excels is in the use of lenses longer than 50mm. I simply can’t use a Summicron 90 on the Leica and get reliably sharp focus at f/2 or f/2.8, and an Elmar 135 was virtually useless. With the Sony, the focus is nailed every time, with image stabilization to boot.

    Where the Leica excels is shooting action (with pre-focus, anyway) because you can see outside the frame lines. It is also much easier to use in bright daylight, which tends to make the Sony viewfinder appear dim (unless I remove my glasses).

    Subtle differences in color an tonality are an illusion. Both cameras produces incredible facial tones, and everything else can be fixed in post. The days when you had to choose between grade 2 and 3 paper are long gone, along with bouts of contact dermititis – good riddance.

  20. These comparisons although interesting always negate the camera Leica/Sony user experience which I feel is unmatched for me, with the Leica…. The Sony is a fantastic camera, and the lenses are remarkable but the cost debate is always in isolation. I know that I am lucky that I can afford a Leica but overall IQ at this level is not the defining reason why systems should be purchased. I think we have almost got to a situation when we have entered diminishing returns on IQ…. If you look at IQ above the image it has failed and most camera systems can produce amazing IQ…. I did enjoy the comparison and in some instance the Sony seems better than the Leica.

    Also these test shots are pretty difficult to garner real comparisons with although I appreciate the effort involved. Photographing another poor photograph for IQ comparisons seems ambiguous to me as we end up looking at IQ from another camera…. I am confused!

    Anyway I like a bit of debate and my colleague has a Sony with lenses and it looks great… good food for thought.

    Howard

    1. I totally agree with you Howard. The performance from most modern digital cameras is reall quite amazing. I would think that most current Leica M users are buying Leicas for reasons beyond just pure image quality.

      Put it this way, an $80k 2015 Corvette ZR-1 has basically the same perfomance as a $1.5 million Ferrari 599XX….but if you’re spending that kind of money it’s for reasons than just all out speed and acceleration.

    2. Hi Howard, thanks for the comments. The photo of the photo was included because at that distance the detail therein exceeds the resolution of the cameras. Using “reference posters” is often done in comparison tests. The key information here is not how each camera might compare to an ideal, but how they compare to each other in the same conditions, even if those conditions were not ideal. The most important part is that the conditions are the SAME for both cameras.

      Good shooting!

  21. Here is my opinion: If I have all those, I would sell the M240 and the Loxi. Pair the AA 50 with the A7II.

    (I hope there is at least a 50% drop in the price of the AA50. Blood suckers.)

  22. When taste becomes the tipping factor (“I prefer this colour”) the comparison is obviously a draw.

    At the end of the day, then, the decision is about “That Leica feeling” v.s. what that feeling costs.

    Nothing wrong with tipping it one way or another, but these images demonstrates well, I think, that the issue is about “feeling” not in any reasonable way image quality.
    I laud Mr. Husick for the effort!

    1. Tage, the same can be said of almost any camera brand at the moment. If all you care about is ‘image quality’ you can’t really go wrong with almost any modern camera. Obviously there are a lot of other considerations to why we buy a given camera or most of us would just stick to an iPhone.

  23. It would be interesting to see the results with the APO used on the Sony as well. Also, why only shoot wide open? Would be interesting to see the results stopped down also.

    1. But then we would have to rely on composition and subject choice, at which point the differences would be meaningless! I need to know how pictures of my espresso will look at f/2 from 6 inches away.

  24. Thank you for this article. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of Leica M versus other cameras, and Sony A7 series seems to be a favourite as the other camera, and for good reasons. The Sony is comparable in size, resolution, and is an better performer than most other contenders in overall image quality and yet, I saw something in this test that I’ve never seen before. Since the M came out many of the Leica “fanboys” have spoken about the ability of the Leica to be able to capture something extra that other cameras miss. A recent article by Ajit Menon on another site recently spoke about the Leica’s “sharp yet soft look”. I’ve never seen an explanation of what that something extra was nor have I seen it in sample pictures, so I always dismissed it as hype until now.

    Now I finally understand what they’ve been talking about all this time. The Leica combination can capture a subtlety of tone and colour variations that are missed by other cameras, including the Sony. That’s not a bash of the Sony. It’s truly a great camera and I have seen first hand how it can outperform my 5DII and my friends D700. I also have an X-T1 and I think the Sony trounces that too when it comes to image quality, especially colour, but I really don’t care anymore about sharpness, high ISO performance, or a bunch of other characteristics where all cameras are now so close to each other, that differentiating them involves splitting hairs. If you disagree, just look at the sharpness of the picture in the article above. Miniscule variations in focus accuracy have made the difference between these two cameras.

    To see the subtlety of tone and colour variations I’m taking about, take a look at the first detail crop of picture four. Look carefully at the clouds. In the Leica shot there are subtle variations of grey, blue, yellow and pink tones. The colour palette of the Sony is restricted to white, blue and a hint of yellow. Then go out and look at real clouds. What you will see looks more like what the Leica has captured. The same seems to be true for the range of colours captures in the town. Thank you Brad for finally capturing an example of what the fanboys have been talking about! It’s subtle and it’s no surprise that no one has been able to describe it clearly before now.

    Now have a problem. I can’t afford the Leica M or that crazy expensive lens, but I can see why some people are so impressed with it. I also understand some of my frustration with my current digital cameras and why I haven’t been able to capture what I sometimes got from film. One thing is for certain though: I need that Leica!

    Steve and Brandon: Here’s an opportunity to take those camera comparisons one step further. Sharpness and low ISO performance are important, but for me most high end cameras get those right. What’s been missing for me is the beautiful, subtle colour rendition I’ve seen here. A test that looks for that would be something new.

    Sorry for the long comment, but this is a discovery I had to share.

    1. Richard, I really appreciate your comments. There is a subtlety to the Leica images that is just a bit different from other camera systems. Now that you can get an M240 for around $4-5K you might save up and try one. Best wishes.

    2. I feel you Richard. Leica cameras + lenses have this ‘special’ rendering and this seen especialy on good photos made by good photographers. That subtle soft yet sharp always make me buy at least some m8 for cheap. But if you will browse Leica groups on Flickr, you will see how poor Leica can perform in bad hands. Same with other cameras/lenses, you can see lots of beatiful rendered photos made with zeiss that look better than most of photos made with Leica. Even 10k Leica lens can look worse then 200. So yeah, when you get that feeling about Leica, I encourage you to browse Flickr.

    3. One more point: The difference I mention may be interpreted as subtle differences in colour and tonality between cameras. What I see here is not different colour, but a wider range of colour. That’s not fixable in post, unless you want to add something that the camera can’t capture, and that’s not what I’m looking for. Kudos to the Leica engineers for achieving this result. I tried several other cameras, know Photoshop very well, and can’t duplicate what they’ve achieved here.

  25. Pure “Kindergarden” game, my cutter toy is better than yours! But one of the toys, is much more prestige and expensive! I love it!

  26. I can’t help getting the feeling that many comments are just nitpicking. I think that every reaonable person must admit that in both cases we’re talking about the absolute toplevel in the market. What will play in that case is a choice, mainly based on subjectieve criteria: personal preference, feeling connected to one brand (for me that’s Zeiss, I admit)… But the big accomplishment here is that with the Sony, one can play in top league for less than $3000 instead of 14000. And what I totally don’t get is that anyone could tell that you’d gain money overtime with Leica. Even if the loss would be less, it can never be more than a few hundreds. To make that profit, one must pay 11000 more in the first place! How can you ever earn that back? And with every second and third Leica lens versus Loxia the gap only gets bigger. And those other Leica lenses are not of Apo level, whereas the Loxia quality is more equal. That’s what I experieced with th Biogon and expect from others to come. But of course the latter is my very personal opinion.

  27. Straight out question:

    Does anyone have a clue about how the difference will be seen “in the real world”. Real world as if you’re looking at these photos full screen on a 27″ retina display you have to really examine them to see a difference. If they’re printed out at a lab, you won’t see the difference. If these are converted to CMYK, printed at 200 LPI on a Heidelberg press, and you’re paying a premium for the paper to hold this sort of ink (70% -100% more), you won’t see the difference. So how about that the point of this review is to show that there’s 2 great systems out there, one’s iconic and another just as good but in the grasp of more due to the cost.

    Nice review by the way 🙂

    1. Thank you Pete. I agree, in most cases there will not be enough difference to tell, so it comes down to price and shooting style. I ask my students to raise their hands if they print their images and almost nobody does. Then I ask how many calibrate their monitors with hardware calibrators and just a few hands go up. It seems a pity that they spend good money on the capture end but not on the display end.

  28. Interesting comparison, but can’t say I’m surprised. What I find a little funny is how people always want to ‘put Leica in their place’ or to show how camera X costing thousands less performs as well or better than whatever the Leica flavour of the day is. The thing is, I recently bought an M240 but I was under no sort of illusion that a Sony wouldn’t have done 90% of what I wanted for way less….I bought the M240 for what the Sony couldn’t give me:

    1) Tactile experience of an M…nothing like it and either you appreciate the craftsmanship or you don’t but for people who value finely made things…there really is nothing like the M.
    2) If you want to shoot rangefinder lenses (small, small small!), then the Leica M is your best bet. some of the 35mm lenses work well on the Sony’s as do most of the 50’s, but if you like to shoot wide angle the Sony’s just don’t perform as well as the Leica does.

    For many people the two points I listed above are not worth the cost of Leica…I admit they are crazily overpriced…but I don’t regret the purchase one bit.

    1. Clint, I think your conclusions are sound. There are reasons to own the M that go beyond pure image quality – heck, if IQ was the only measure then we’d all be shooting 8×10 film and drum scanning, right? Leica does seem to have this high resolution wide angle thing down to a science though with the microlenses in front of the sensor.

    2. What I find funny is how people always try to justify their Leica purchase In the comments section. And like 90% of the time, they’re talking about some abstract stuff, not straightforward IQ.

      1. What I find funny is guys like vancitylicenseplate who like to constantly attack others who decide how to spend their disposable cash differently then them.

        Here’s the thing vancityman…I don’t have to justify anything to you….if you can’t afford a Leica or choose not to see the value in it then good for you. As I already stated, my purchase wasn’t just about image quality….and whether you do or don’t see any reason for my decision is irrelevant and none of your business. Seriously, if the rest of the world was like you we would all be driving one brand of car and using one brand of camera….last time I checked I’m not living in communist Russia.

        Cheers.

  29. Both Leica M and Sony A7ii systems are great tools. But my experience with Leica systems are that they last for a very long time. My M4 purchased in 1974 is still working, compared to my Nikon F2 purchased in 1973 died in the 1990’s. So, when you buy a Leica, keep it, because it keeps on working for you.

    1. Film Leicas yes, digital Leica, not so much. Most M8’s are breaking down and many M9’s are as well. The digital cameras will never last as long as the analog cameras.

      1. Yes, there are some Leica digital cameras that are having problems, but from personal and friends’ experiences I can tell you that Leica cares and tries to take care of its customers even beyond the warranty period. You don’t hear much about other brands’ digital camera problems probably because people don’t keep them for more than three years!

        True, digital cameras have a shorter period of time when they are considered “current”, but eventually the delta between film quality and digital will be so great that the long-lasting analog cameras will just be things we like to fiddle with from time to time on the shelf. People have vastly different beliefs on when this will occur, but it will definitely occur.

  30. One of the big questions I’d have is how the 50 APO compares against the Loxia on the A7II. I think it’s great to see the marginal differences between the two lenses but it’d be nice to see how each fare on the same body. Great comparison though!

  31. Yes there is small difference but seeing on doll’s head, door’s knob even map images, I choose leica’s images simply because I see more live, pop also a resonance of film like out of it.

  32. Quite a few photos are so close. What I did not expect was that one photo I liked the colors of one. And on the next one it was just the opposite.

    1. If Leica used Sony’s sensor then wide angle rangefinder lenses would perform poorly in the corners…just like on a Sony:)

      Sony sensors are superb, but I wish they would make a A7 camera designed to work better with rangefinder lenses…but then again why would they when the goal is to sell their own lenses.

  33. The funny thing is that there was a lot of Steve bashing on the Leica Forum over his comments that the Sony A7II was the equal to or better than the Leica M in terms of IQ. He was called a Ken Rockwell and many other unpleasantries. Her is a test done by someone else that illustrates Steve’s perhaps slightly exaggerated point. I wonder what will be said of this tester and Steve’s comments now. While no test is perfect, this test is sufficiently real world (Steve’s major claim to fame) to provide a reader with the kind of information readers want to know before making a major purchase whether for an M or an A7II.

    Steve, I think your analysis of Leica sales is right on target. I can see the change at stores like Sammy’s cameras in my area and OC Camera. The inventory of Leica gear both new and used has swollen and it is not flying out the door. Leica really needs to spend less money on paying fashion designers and instead hire better engineers, especially software, but even hardware with the spate of problems I see discussed on the web site. Make a CL size camera, make it FF and give it performance like the Samsung NX500 or NX1 and price the body at $3,500 and they won’t be able to make them fast enough. Have it use manual lenses and a new line of fast focusing lenses built small. Put 5-axis stabilization in body and either a superior EVF or hybrid EVF…WOW!! back Order city.

    1. I was one of those who didn’t believe Steve when he said that. So I went out and rented the Sony and lens and tried it for myself. Now I believe him!

  34. Pardon the candor, but I’m a bit confused by these sample images. By and large, they don’t seem sharp at all (whether from the Leica or the Sony). Were they taken at high ISO? (And, if so, why for the sake of this comparison?) Or are they just out of focus? It would have been nice to have the ISO and other specs reported.

    1. No problem. As I said in the article, the indoor shots were all at ISO 1600 and the outdoor all at ISO 200. I tried to nail the focus using 10x magnification and a tripod, but I am not perfect.

  35. I know It is virtually impossible to get a pure apples to apples comparison, and I truly appreciate the author’s efforts. But I don’t get the rationale of using pure RAW files as they always come OOC flat and needing some processing, especially sharpening. I would rather have seen the best attempt at sharpening in post, but realize there would then be endless debate on whether one effort was then better than the other. Unprocessed RAW files tell me something, but not a lot, as I would never post or print such an animal. Oh well, but again thanks for the effort.

    1. Thanks, Tom. It’s hard to decide what will give people more information, showing OOC JPEGs or shooting RAW with minimal processing, or RAW with optimal processing. I suppose I could do all three, using multiple RAW image processing engines, but it would be many times more work, and I don’t get paid to do this, I do it for the love of photography and the friends I have made.

  36. I greatly enjoy, shoot with and make the majority of my income with the M, and prefer it’s quality over my Canon fframe body. My clients have commented on the better quality of the M files vs. my Canon files. Eventually I will get into the Sony A-series to replace my Canon gear. No matter how you look at it, this comparison confirms that performance-per-cost, the Leica is a very distant second, and falling further behind. When I factor in what I paid for the Leica gear a few years back, today I could get a complete Sony system, and most of the new lenses made for this system. As I begin to explore video, the gap widens dramatically faster. I could care less about resale value and how much the gear depreciates. Obsolescence makes that a non-issue IMO.

  37. I used to shoot with a Ricoh A12 M-mount as a cheap digital M. I used it along side my M6. The Ricoh is tiny and the image quality great. However, one day during trip to China, I left the Ricoh at the hotel and just took my M6. The feel and usability of a simple rangefinder was SO refreshing. I had a smile on my face the whole day. The tiny digital EVF machine was just not a joy to shoot with.

    I have since bought an M240. It is a joy. I’m sure that on paper the Sony is superior at 1/5 the price. The same could be said for a Japanese sports car vs a classic German one. While the value is with the Japanese one, there is a soul and joy with the expensive (and arguably less featured) German one.

    I would never criticize someone for going the A7 route. It is such a great camera. But after watching a friend sell his M8, buy an A7, and then sell the A7 looking for a Leica again, I’m convinced that I’m in a good place.

    1. George, I know what you mean. There is a pure simplicity in shooting a rangefinder that’s unlike any other system, especially when you’re shooting people and interacting with them (as I did not do in this test!)

      1. I own both M240, A7S, A7II and EM5 II. From a picture taking experience, I can tell everyone thatthere is nobody can compare to the M240 experience (pure joy). I do agree we are not just talking about the IQ alone.

  38. I am a Leica M240 user and have been planning to get a A7 as a back up camera. Your piece with the Loxia has really convinced me, its the right move since I don’t own a 50 cron APO/ ASPH .
    FYI, A7 body is now selling at less than 1000 USD with plenty of goodies throw in to rid of the excess stock.

    Should I make the plunge tomorrow ? ( he! he! )

    Yuhau

  39. It makes no sense to shoot the whole test at f2.0. All that does is tell you how each lens performs at f2. Your opening statement says you were interested in learning which system produces the best image quality. That would mean, you want to know what the lens/sensor combo can achieve, and to find that out you need to shoot each lens at it’s sharpest setting, which is most likely somewhere around f6.3-f8. With the lenses both at their sharpest settings, then the sensor performance characteristics can be evaluated.

    1. At f/8 these lines will perform like any other decent 50mm lens at f/8. The character and “look” of each is at f/2. I would suggest if someone wants a lens to use at f/8 for either of these cameras get a cheap $200 50mm lens.

    2. I agree with Steve here. I meant to shoot in real world conditions and most people who shell out the money for f/2 lenses like to shoot them wide open. If this was a laboratory test I certainly would have stopped down.

    3. I definitally support Lawrence here!
      @Steve: you know I value your work enormously, especially allowing and even publishing all kinds of opinions. Mostly I share your opinion (otherwise I would’t be visiting that faithfully), but here I respectfully like to disagree. I’m more shooting at f/8 than wide open, because of the dof. I own 11 lenses of 50 to 55mm and I absolutely see differences between them, Otus and Loxia being the best. Agreed, I use a 36MP sensor and look at 100%, which is often not necessary. But sometimes it is. One of the great and unique fortes of photography, is exactly to show tremendous detail. So this is definitally something valuable. BTW even in this article the f/2 shots were shown at full size. So one can’t say that it doesn’t matter.
      I can only agree with Lawrence: please don’t show only wide open pictures! Many of you readers care! Maybe those two lenses both perform at the same level at f/8, but then at least we know. I remember comparing a Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 with the equivalent Leica and finding the Leica performancing a bit better wide open, but the Zeiss was clearly better stoppen down. So I chose the Zeiss of course. Not all photographers value lenses in the same way. I’d regret if you’d make this site only for wide open shooters.

  40. Steve – thank you for your efforts & review. Your earlier reviews of the A7 Mk2 helped me decide to buy it a couple of weeks ago.

    Here are my thoughts on it so far (including the Loxia) :

    Alpha7mk2.wordpress.com

  41. Sony looks sharper but has a tobacco skin tone. Leica saturation appears higher than sony in the reds. Sony blue sky looks good. If I had to choose I would always chase the skin tone. Would be interesting if Canon ever did a full frame mirrorless. I just processed a wedding 5DII 85L & 35L they are better than either of these options including the Nikon 810 but walk around camera always on me they are not. I have the RX100III for that which is just ok. I love these kind of reviews & hopefully I score an M9 when the price gets low enough for me.

  42. If you don’t buy the Leica, you have more than $ 12.000 left for a great vacation and your pictures are not even worse.

  43. What this just goes to show is that now if a person decides to buy a Leica, it’s not necessarily because of image quality.

    1. No as the Loxia is very close to the APO and the APO is much better than the standard cron. That was the point I think. To show that the Loxia can stand toe to toe with Leica’s ultimate 50mm for 1/7th the cost.

      1. Didn’t know that. Is the Loxia an apochromatic design? Even if it isn’t, it’s performance is admirable, certainly vs the Summicron as well.

    1. I am not a fan of the A7r due to the clunkiness, loudness, and for me, too many MP. I feel the A7II is a better camera in all areas from build, feel, operation, speed, IS, and even IQ (color & tone)

  44. I appreciate the effort that wen into this, but I’m not exactly sure what we’re supposed to gather from it. A lot of the shots don’t appear to be focussed the same (which the author admits) so I think it would difficult to judge sharpness by this, but there’s definitely is a difference in contrast between the two lenses. Besides, most modern lenses are acceptable sharp, I’m more concerned about the way a lens draws and how well corrected it is. The APO is extremely well corrected, even wide open. In typical Leica fashion though, it doesn’t look like flatness of field was a high priority with this lens.

    I always find the best way to test a lens is with a model lit by studio strobes. Skin is probably the best resolution test there is (or at least most relevant), and skin tones are definitely the most important and tricky to get right, and what our eyes are most sensitive to.

    If you’re a landscape shooter, then your priorities should be more skewed towards flatness of field at infinity and smaller apertures, because this will have more of an impact on large prints than anything else.

    1. Hi digipixelpop,

      Thanks for your well balanced and informative comments. I don’t mean to brag as I’ve never posted images on this site but I own the A7r with the Sonnar FE 55mm F/1.8 and the Loxia 50mm F/2.0. Thanks to Steve’s effervescent review of the Leica Apo Summicron 50mm F/2.0 Asph. and the great images he posted (at the beginning I thought Steve was full of it but I realized he knows what he’s talking about) I also bought that lens along with a Leica M-P Typ 240. In my experience, using focus magnifying or focus peaking on the Leica does not work very precisely. In fact, I think focus peaking stinks on the Leica whereas on the Sony with the Loxia it works great. I focus the Leica using the range finder which is far more accurate IMO. I love the Loxia but I’m surprised that it’s sharper than the Apo 50mm. I did find though that for very far distant objects the Sonnar 55mm sometimes may be sharper (always using the lenses wide open). I love the Sony with the Loxia but here is why I prefer the Leica and sometimes the Fuji X-Trans sensor with some of those great Fuji lenses like the Fujinon 35mm F/1.4. I shoot RAW and I find the Sony RAW files (I don’t think the A7II improves on the RAW vs. the A7 or the A7r) look dull and flat (I’m not talking portraits) and they are not that rich (may have to do with the fact that Sony compresses the RAW files). The Fuji RAW files look very dull but are not flat at all and there is so much detail in them that shots taken in good light look amazing after being processed with the right RAW converter (I used Capture One for the Fuji RAWs). The Leica RAW files obtained using the Apo 50mm look neither dull nor flat. They are beautiful to begin with and look very rich with great white balance and dynamic range and are super sharp when focused accurately. There is just so much more detail even in shadowy areas one can get out of them in post processing and it’s so much fun to work with them (again, I’m not talking portraits, here the Sony with either the Sonnar or the Loxia does an excellent job).

      W.P.

  45. This just confirms for me the bang for buck you get with the sony, I have to say since they bought minolta and started on the camera market proper they have just got consistently better. It’s a very smart move to have that link with zeiss as that glass is stunning. They are now without doubt a player in that market and I would venture they will only get stronger.

    If I had the money to drop for either of these without worrying afterwards it would be the sony I love its size and design. The Leica is no way on gods earth good value when you look at the balance sheet and comparison shots.

  46. Your test has a problem, Lightroom…

    Make sure to use Capture One with the A7(x), the colors pass into another world.
    Moreover lightroom accentuates the grain and smooth so much too strong.

    I did many tests to compare and this has nothing to do with good raw processing.

      1. Hmmm, every image in my A7s, A7II review were using Photoshop and Camera Raw. No mismatch at all. C1 is slow, cumbersome and clunky in use, have tried to get along with it on a few occasions.

        1. Lightroom is the right software for Leica, why not use the one suitable for Sony?

          I agree that it is slower and less simple to use but I’m ready for it to get a much better result. A reporter obviously lightroom is a more suitable tool but for those who have the time?

          How to highlight the color of Leica lenses in these conditions? the difference is hardly believable.

        2. I don’t agree with what you said steve, c1 has a problem woth the database and with the availability for plugins like vsco, but speedwise it is mich faster than LR and when it comes to sharpnes, microcontrast and colors, you can’t beat c1 for the sony files.

      2. C1 has some disadvantages. But the better output is the main benefit, especially, when it comes to Sony. I use it with an A7r, A6000 and older NEX – it is consistent. In the past with a 5D2 I had good colors together with LR.
        Today I prefer the “cumbersome and clunky” Capture One and I love it. 🙂

    1. I am curious – do you think C1 would give the Leica or the Sony the advantage here? Why? I did an apples-to-apples test of the most common setup (Lightroom).

      1. I do not know, I never processed photos of this specific Leica. But what I can tell for sure: Sony colors with C1 are very different. They are much clearer with better, deeper blacks and better highlights. And they have a totally different color profile and different white balancing. With one word: better 🙂

      2. And sorry if someone misunderstood me, I never said anything bad about the review, it is great. And yes, LR is the most common setup. (y)

      3. The Sony – being the preferred raw converter for the A7-raw files. LR will occasionally show strange artifacts (which may indeed be there due to the 11 bit catastrophy) which are not present when using C1’s wizardry. For people being dissatisfied with the Sony A7-series raw files it is definitely worth a free trial.

        When using A7 raw files Capture One is to LR what Epson Photolier is to LR concerning .ERF files. It is that much better. And that is before you start colour correcting…

        /Xpanded

      4. Lightroom/ACR is by far the most widely used raw processing software, which is why you will find it as the standard in almost all reviews, professional or amateur. However, that does not mean that it is the best software available. Far from it. And if anyone thinks that Capture One is great, just try Photo Ninja. In terms of raw conversion, PN is unsurpassed. I say this as a former LR and C1 user and occasional DxO user. I have kept up with the latest versions of all of them.

        1. Rob, this is getting a bit OT, but you implied Photo Ninja as offering the highest quality reproductions. How does PN function from an efficiency standpoint? I’m standardized on LR, because if I need to optimize 1000 files and I’m under a deadline, i can do it efficiently in LR. I found C1 Pro and DXO to be terribly inefficient in this high-volume environment. Not concerned about how fast the program processes files, I just need to do my edits and file tweaking very efficiently. In your opinion, how does PN work in that regard.

  47. To my eyes, the Sony combo slightly beat out the Leica combo on sharpness and contrast and beat out the Leica 50 by a larger margin on CA; however, even if you think they were too close or comparable, one point is obvious, you don’t spend $14,300 for a Leica for superior IQ. I’m sure each buyer will have their own rationale/justification.

  48. Ok so that tells us 2 things:

    1.) The Leica setup is way more expensive (no surprise we all knew that).

    2.) Leica, the producer who is often attacked for not being innovative, has produced a camera THREE YEARS AGO that is still unbeaten in image quality. The latest, best camera from arguably the leading mirrorless and sensor producer on this planet, paired with the top lens from what is arguably the best lens producer, comes very close today (a tie?)

    1. Ahh and one more thing on Point 1.) I bought my Leica M 2 years ago used for approx. € 5.5k, next year I might sell it for let’s say € 4,5k, so I lost 1k on the camera in 3 years, the Leica Lenses don’t really loose their value (I have made already money selling some at a higher price then I bought them).

      If you have bought the original Sony A 7 a year ago together with lets say the FE 55 and you would sell it today, how much would you loose in one year? €500, 700? How much will it be next year and then the year after? € 1000 or even more..

      Anyway the price difference doesn’t look too bad either considering this…

      1. Just posted on this, yo will always lose more with Leica over Sony, Fuji, Olympus, ect. Let us put forth the BEST case scenario:

        You can get a Leica M 240 NEW for $5500 these days if you know where to go. Used, you can sell it for around $4500, so best case, $1000 loss on an M if you buy low and sell high. The APO sells used for about $6300, so $1k less than new. Total best case scenario Leica loss? $2,000. Worst case, around $3000+

        Sony A7II – NEW sells for $1698 – Used they are selling for $1300+, so around a $400 loss. The Loxia goes for $950 NEW, and they are selling for around $900 used due to the scarcity. $450 loss vs $2000.

        If you take an older model like the A7, not the R or II or S, the normal original A7. One selling today would lose around $700 as they are going for around $950 used. Still less than a loss on the M. I think the Loxia will end up selling used for around $700 in a year or so, which would mean a $250 loss, way less than an APO loss. Or Noctilux loss (which will come in at around $3k)

        So at the end of the day you will always lose more with Leica due to the very expensive up front costs. The only way you can win with a Leica is with a lens, if you bought one new many years ago. Then you could sell today for what you paid or slightly more.

        1. True but one needs to consider the time as well, so the M you could own 3 years, the A 7 only about 18 months, the A 7 Mk2 even less.

          And of course in a worst case you loose more with the Leica (just imagine both get stolen), but in a best case the picture looks different. The Leica might still end up more expansive but we are talking more 1000 vs 700… And then – as a happy M owner I would argue that the feel of the Leica for 3 years in my hand (and mine still looks like new) was well worth the 300 more

          1. no I am not. Don’t get me wrong, the Sony seems to be a great camera and I also think that the Leica is crazy expensive. Yes if something like a price IQ ratio exists the sony is better, no doubt (so is the Hyundai over the Porsche)

            But when we make a price comparison, which people love with Leica, then let’s look at the full picture. Of course the Leica is still more expensive, but not 6-7 times more expensive than the Sony…

          2. I know why people pay for Leica and i don’t have any problems with people who can afford $10K lens. People can buy whatever they want, if i had excess 15K to drop on Leica, i would love to own one. I was talking about your silly comments, you’re trying so hard to defend your purchase. Steve was 100% right about the price, you will lose more on Leica no matter what, but that doesn’t mean that Leicas are not worth to own. And since you’re talking about prices, digital Leicas will decline in price with every new a7-level camera release.

          3. Yes that is what I have stated, you might loose more on the Leica, but not 1:6 or even 1:7 as some suggest here. We can do a lot of calculation on theoretical values but it is a matter of fact that I bought my M for € 5.500 (actually including a Leica lether strap and an Oly EVF). Today I could easily sell it for € 4.500, most likely for a little bit more…

            So over 2 years I lost about 1k, if I sell it in a year then I might loose 1,5k.

            I was tempted to buy an original A7, which was as far as I can remember € 1650 which I could sell now for € 950. So I would have lost € 700. Yes a bit less but well worth for me the Leica experience. We are talking more 1:2 not 1:6 or even 1:7.

            And yes the price of the A7 will influence the price of a Leica as much as the price of a Hunday affects the Price of a Porsche. And don’t get me wrong I would love to get the new M at a lower price but that is just not going to happen…

        2. Steve, you’re in tune with secondary market prices; any theory on why Leica secondary prices seem weaker than the past? (assuming you agree with that statement)… Obviously, Leica has body / lens rebates that they’ve extended, but it seems like used prices are weaker overall, and I’m wondering if it’s a temporary phenomenon or something longer term and structural with the competition… Always assumed Leica lenses would hold their value relatively well (understand that bodies are a different story)… Would love to hear your thoughts…

          1. Well, in the last two years Leica prices have been declining. The glory days for Leica prices was in the M9 days when nothing could match what it did or how it did it. The M 240, even though a gorgeous camera, has not been held to the same high standard mainly because other cameras are now out that can match or exceed it (was not the case when the M9 was out) – so with all of their price increases and competition that does better or the same for 25% of the cost, they are not selling as well as they did a few years back.

            Lenses are no longer going up every year for used prices, they have stabilized while Leica keeps raising prices. Leica sales are down, bug time, in 2015. They invested so much in the new factory, new Leica shops, but what they should be investing in is lowering prices and creating an M in the $3500 range. That would have been a smash hit.

          2. Agree wholeheartedly…I’m a long-term Leica user and admitted fanboy, but I moved into the Sony FE line based on your recommendation (started with the A7s)… Sony is really hitting a home run with this system, especially with the growing native lens line… As an aside, if AF isn’t a huge concern, have you gone on the record with a recommendation on the 50 Loxia vs the 55 1.8 and the 35 Loxia vs the 35 1.4? As always, thanks…

          3. Agreed! At the M9 period there was no other compact full frames available. But now there are A7 series and Olympus gets better with their 4/3.
            Another reason may not be aware from your side of the earth is that the PRC men were the main buyer for all these crazy ever raising priced new Leica at that time.

            You could find many new Leica as well as special editions here in HK camera shop ( yes, in stock for you to see) and they were sold to PRC men without blinking their eyes, shops could easily mark up an in-stocked M9 for additional $10000-$15000+. However, beside the professions many are buying for the band name only. The Leica was bought to increase their status. With an army of these new riches, that is also why all banded goods were getting outrageously expensive. (I don’t mean to offend any of those guys here, rich is good, right?)

            Now days the PRC trend for chasing banded goods has lost its steam (partly , many lookalikes like Fujis and the ‘wow’ factor is no longer that much when you take it out) so less PRC men are buying, (just like the Hermes bag trend : PRC buying much less now) and the importer from this side of the earth buying less from your side, so, the price becomes more ‘reasonable’.

            Thanks to Steve for the market inform. Thanks again for the comparison of both cams.

          4. I was looking at some old prices of cameras from back in the 1960s. Pricing on a Leica M and the Nikon F were broadly similar… the Leica being a bit more expensive. Both were the pinnacle of each company’s product line back then.

            Fast forward to now and a Nikon D4 is still cheaper than the Leica, but is now far removed from competing with an M240. Totally different market.

            Instead, as we can see here, a Sony is competing almost head-to-head in terms of Leica’s trump card… image quality. At least from these sample images.

            The fact that you can now get a compact mirrorless camera with outstanding image quality should be of great concern to Leica.

            It makes me wonder if they will become a pure luxury brand. Nothing wrong with that of course… a business has to make money. Just means I will never have the means to afford one if they go down this route.

            The resale issue with digital Leicas (IMO) is that, unlike film cameras, where if you compare an image taken on an old M3 to one, say, from an M7 I doubt the image quality would be radically different (if any), assuming they use the same film. Can’t do that with digital so much. It would be cool if Leica were able to upgrade sensors in cameras… we can do it with computers, why not cameras? It’s almost a tragedy to see such elegant machinery reduced to the status of a disposable camera due to sensor tech.

            And to the OP… great post!!

    2. Leica unbeaten in image quality? come on, that is nonsens. leica has nice little lenses, but to say that the 3 year old camera is unbeaten in image quality is not right. it is a nice camera but when it comes to IQ there are other winners out there

      1. yes maybe, but my understanding of this article was that the A7 is on par with the M 240 when it comes to IQ, right? So my point is why to compare a 3 year old camera with a new one?

        Sony is great, evey 6 months a new camera, that means they constantly have innovative Bodys out there, hence leading the mirrorless market. But that also comes at a price which is that a lot of people constantly sell their stuff to get the latest tech hence driving the resales value down. But I also like that, when the A7s is available at the right price I might get one as a back up…

    3. To resume about the prices, I will put a red dot on my Sony to get a better value and hide the red dot on the Leica to hide the price to don’t get stolen. 🙂

  49. How did the photographer obtain simultaneous exposures of the market scenes using two different cameras and lenses?

      1. The market image was done on the M and printed on an Epson 4800 at 8×10. The photo of the photo was taken about 1.5 meters from the subject.

  50. Your conclusion looks pretty sound. I’m not seeing a consistent, significant difference in the image quality in these samples. In one crop the Sony has better sharpness and less chromatic aberration, in another crop the Leica has better sharpness and less CA. If you just look at image quality and ignore the differences in camera body features, shooting style, price, etc., comparing these cameras and lenses is “6 of one, half a dozen of the other.”

      1. And what is the resales value of a 2 year old Leica M vs. a 2 years old Sony A7 (which was 1,7k when it was launched; but not sure I think it was launched only 18 months ago…)

        1. You can get a used M 240 for $4k these days, a $3000 loss. You can get an A7r for $1400 or so, a $800 loss from its new launch price. So $3k loss vs $800 loss. The A7II is $1698 new, used I have seen them for $1300+ so a $400 loss. With Leica M bodies you will always have a larger loss. The lenses not so much. The 50 APO used goes for around $6300 these days. About a $1000 loss. The Loxia is $950 new. Less than what resale loss is on the Leica.

          1. I tend to disagree. As of today you are of course right, but lets try to sell the A7ii in 3 years, and probably the same comparison in 5 and 10 years…

            The initial loss of the Leica is bigger, but over time the value is more stable then Sonys value.

            Anyway both are great cameras

          2. If one was to sell an M 240 they paid $7k for in 5years they will get $2300-$2500 for it ($4500 or so loss). 10 years, $1500. Sell an A7Ii in 5 years and you will get $600 for it ($1k loss) – You will ALWAYS lose more with Leica digotal bodies than Sony, Fuji, Olympus, etc due to the up front cost. Always. Leica digital bodies tank just like all other digital bodies but even more so due to the initial high cost. When the next M is released the 240 will drop to an all time low, and 3 years after that even more. I have seen M8’s for $1300, and those were $6k new, a pretty substantial loss. It has not been 10 years since the M8 release.

          3. I am an accountant and Steve is 100% right here. The total most you will ever lose on the Sony is $1700. That is it. Not a penny more. The loss on the M will always be higher. Even if after 10 years you could sell the M for an outrageous amount of money to someone for $5000 your total dollar loss is still higher than the Sony. You will always get more for the Leica than the Sony but your total dollar loss will always be higher. The cost is higher. If you are thinking dollars and cents and selling it in five years the Sony is by far the best buy. If you had $7000 to spend and bought the Sony and banked the $5300, in five years if the Sony was worth nothing you would still have $5300 to spend on a new camera. The Leica M would not be worth $5300 in five years. The Leica will always have a resale value strictly because it is a Leica but your total loss will always be higher because you pay $5300 dollars more for it than the Sony.

          4. Of course he is if you are buying now both cameras only to sell them 10 years later. But most people will buy in 10 years 3-4 Leicas (always the latest one) and probably 7 Sonys (again always the latest model)

          5. Only a fool or a Leica fanatic would pay several thousand dollars for a 5 or 10 year old digital camera that will not perform as well as a new entry level camera. That’s just a fact of life in the digital age. Technology waits for no man (or woman).

          6. Having been in the market for a used M recently, I can tell you that they are not commonly at $4k. Usually ones in good condition are in the $5000-5500 range. You occasionally see one in the high 4’s on eBay.

          7. Nothing between them but if you have owned a Leica there is just something special ,basic simple to use no fuss IMO 🙂

          8. If you can find the “willpower switch” in your brain, with many of today cameras you just care about shooting photos without caring for myriads of filters/scenes/options. With my E-M1 I just put the dial on Manual, the metering on Spot and the mode on Monochrome+Ye filter… And I’m back in happy b/w film land again 😉
            Btw, I used to use a Leica M5 too…

  51. Greetings!

    As you wrote – very close…indoors I do see an advantage for the Sony, the sensor can handle “noise” better than the Leica sensor. Outdoors the Leica lens really shines. So sharp, so much detail, advantage for the 50mm APO here.

    kind regards,
    Michael S.

    1. Not really, in some outdoor shots the Loxia wins for sharpness and detail. They really are so close IMO, its a draw. The APO has a teeny bit of a smoother Bokeh, and the M has a different color signature (warmer) but the Loxia has less CA, is just as sharp, and for $949, a steal for one of the best 50’s I have used next to the APO.

      1. I agree with Steve here. If you look carefully at the 100% images (you must click them) you will see that the Zeiss has some additional microcontrast in the indoor images, but that is often mistaken as “sharpness”. The Leica has a bit more dynamic range in some of these images and if the goal was to achieve the maximum quality for each image regardless of the number and type of steps in post processing the results would have been even closer in my opinion, but here the goal was minimal and identical processing to see what came from each setup. I was truly shocked by how excellent the Loxia is.

  52. I would say Sharpness Overall: Sony/loxia, Color: Leica/APO (slight edge though I think Sony’s WB may be better), Bokeh: Leica/APO, CA: Sony/Loxia, Distortion: It seems to me the 50 APO has a little more distortion but hard to tell without the complete full image from both.

    All in all the Sony stacks up very well here again… 🙂

      1. Hahaha David! I would love to see what camera and lenses you use if you are not impressed with either of these! God himself would be impressed by these lenses.

          1. Actually, no it does not. I used that exact setup last week and … never again for a few reasons. But that combo does not beat either of these. If Brad used the D810 and Sigma art here you would see that. The A7II and Loxia met or beat it for detail, bokeh and of course size and weight. The Sigma is HUGE as is the 810, and yes, it is a great lens and the 810 is impressive but it’s a tank. Something I would never ever buy or use due to the size.

          2. Speaking as someone who owns a D810, Sigma Art 50 and a Leica M plus APO-Summicron there is no doubt in my mind that the APO cron is the more complete lens. Its frighteningly sharp, even wide open, and its bokeh beats even the Lux ASPH IMO. However, the Sigma Art is the best practical 50 (again IMO). It has AF, it outresolves the APO cron (the results at base ISO really do rival medium format) and its biggest weaknesses are sometimes average bokeh and size/weight. Here’s a recent example taken with the Sigma: https://flic.kr/p/rxMVQa

            I can’t agree that the D810 and Sigma are too heavy to hold or use (I think that’s completely subjective and there really is no such thing as a free lunch in photography – size and weight reductions always come with trade offs) but they are heavier and my biggest criticism of both is that they are easier to notice. But sometimes as a photographer you would prefer easier to notice, it depends.

            My optical assessment of the APO has to be tempered with the fact that Leica doesn’t have a 36mp body with a sensor designed for the APO.

          3. Check lens rentals, the apo is the sharpest out there, ought to in regard to its price. But of course the Art is magnificent, especially regarding its price.

          4. The one camera that is perfectly matched to the 50 APO is the Leica Monochrom. The additional resolution of the bayer filter-less sensor is able to resolve everything the 50 APO can throw at it.

          5. The lens rentals test was on an optical bench, so not a “real world” test. That’s what I’m alluding to in my final comment above.

          6. I use the Otus 55mm on my D800 for this lens range and like it quite a lot. As for weight, I don’t if it is heavier than the Art or not, but it does cause pain in my wrist after a few hours of use due to its size. This is one of the reasons I started using an A7r + Leica 35 ASPH for occasions when I didn’t need the Nikon. This comparison is about image quality though, not ergonomic issues, so it is fair to compare image quality of the Art, but the weight wouldn’t be relevant here.

            AP

          7. The Sigma is a great lens for its price, but real-world comparisons show that it is not in any way superior than the Otus or the Leica APO. Or the Sony Zeiss 55/1.8 for that matter.

            That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. That is up to you. But results speak for themselves.

        1. I think he may be reacting to the photos themselves. I apologize in advance to the author because its nice that he took the time to see the comparison but the photos are not necessarily exposed very well nor are they the most ideal to judging performance against. I think it would have been better to take pictures of simple objects/compositions with better lighting scenarios to really judge the lens performance. But still cool to see the capability of the lenses in general use, which was the point…

          1. These images are properly exposed. I checked them in the histograms to make sure there were no blown highlights or shadows. They are not adjusted for optimal exposure because I wanted to do the minimum changes to the files in the test. If I was going for exhibition quality I would have done much more post.

          2. Histograms aside, its just seems like strange choices for tests shots when you are clearly exposing for the lights and leaving such dark shadows especially where your focus points are. The indoor shots seemed like a better route but they are so warm that it makes it hard to judge color accuracy. Sorry, Im not usually this critical. I just think the test would have been a little more suited having a more controlled environment, either with strobes or evenly lit outdoor scenes with definitive objects for critical focus. Again, I know you weren’t going for DXO tests but having a ‘control subject’ for testing might have been a little more beneficial in making a final judgment.

          3. These “comparisons” are worthless. All of them are. What matters is whether the camera/ lens works for you and enables you to take good pictures. Staring at computer images on a monitor is not photography.

          4. Jack, if someone decides to save $12,000 I don’t think this article would be worthless to them. 🙂

          5. It is a huge savings, to be sure.

            When Zeiss gets serious their glass generally outperforms Leica. The German-manufactured Zeiss optics almost universally beat Leica.

          6. Actually, the Loxias are designed in Germany but fabricated in Japan to Zeiss’s exacting standards.

        2. Adrian,
          That’s God Itself not “God himself.” Oops, sorry, just corrected by my wife to be “God Herself!”

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