One journey, two cameras: Sony A7r and Leica Monochrom by Jason Howe


One Journey Two Cameras

by Jason Howe – See his Website HERE, his Flickr is HERE

I’ve not long been back from a trip which took myself and my family back to the UK via a few other places, this wasn’t a photography trip but I’ve included a few of my favourite images picked up along the way. The are more images along with a more extensive write-up on my blog here – The Reluctant Tourist.

I have no idea how much time I wasted thinking about what gear I should take on this trip, certainly it was too much time. In the end I tried to keep it simple and went with what I’m most comfortable with, the Leica M Monochrom. For lenses I went all Voigtlander – 21/1.835/1.2 and 50/1.5. I also had a cheap PROST adapter which was all I could get hold of initially.

My gear plans went out of the window when the Sony A7R arrived by courier just a couple of hours before departing for the airport, at that point I really had little choice but to take it as leaving it meant I’d not see it again for 2 months. Obviously any new camera monopolises your attention and it also means a bit of a learning curve, it certainly did with the MM and the Sony A7R was the same just for different reasons.

I had a rocky start with the A7R, whilst I immediately fell in love with the OOC JPG’s I found focusing accurately at wide apertures to be almost impossible without magnification. Yes my eyesight is fine…

Image 1 – Sony A7R – 35mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.2 Asph Mk II – OOC JPEG


Image 2 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 3 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Eventually, I started to get to grips with focusing the A7R utilising the magnifier but for me it’s a little clumsy and I still can’t achieve focus as fast or proficiently as I can with a rangefinder.

Image 4 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 5 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.2 Asph Mk II


Touching on my original gear selection and with the benefit of hindsight it was totally flawed. I may prefer B&W but I still needed a colour option, fortunately the A7R filled this void. My biggest mistakes were in lens selection though, this was not a light bag!!! I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me and selected the recently acquired 35/1.2 over my v.1 Summicron. The 35/1.2 is optically superb but it’s huge and consequently heavy, in contrast the v.1 Summicron is tiny, light and optically superb. The 21/1.8 I just didn’t use, another weighty option. Instead I found myself wishing I’d taken the Summicron 90/2 on lots of occasions, a lens I’d been using quite frequently before I left. Now I didn’t carry all this everywhere, each day I’d select a camera and lens, on odd occasions I’d take two lenses but when you’re away for so long size and weight are big issues. The real winner was the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Asph, I really do love everything about this lens.

Image 6 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 7 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 8 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


You’ll notice the next two images were taken with the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, having tried and failed to get my hands on this in NY I managed to get one in the UK. There were a couple of factors that drew me to the Sony A7R initially, one of those was having a FF camera with the ability to autofocus, there are certainly times when I’ve missed this and I’ve missed shots.

Image 9 – Sony A7R – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA


Image 10 – Sony A7R – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA


Image 11 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 12 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


I’m still very much committed to working things out with the Sony A7R, Indeed I’ve just added the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA to the kit and I’ll be endeavouring to become more proficient with the camera on all levels. For now, well the Leica M Monochrom is still my favourite camera, you can get great B&W’s from other cameras but there is just that bit of something special in the files from the MM, to my eye at least.

Cheers, Jason.


  1. Hi Jason, really amazing images. I commend their work pro.
    I love the combo of sony A7R voitlander 50 + 1.5, I wonder if it is the best option in 50mm or the new EF 55 1.8 Zeizz Carl would be the one?

    • @Esteban Batalla:

      I have tried both.

      I have in the end bought the Sonnar FE 55 f/1,8 ZA, and not regretted it at all. If you want to augment it with a manual ‘standard lens’ with a good price to performance ratio, think of a Summilux R 50 f/2 and a decent adapter (Novoflex, Fododiox).

  2. Jason, beautiful photos. Any tip on how to set the camera to get the colors you get from the OOC Jpegs?

    BTW, all colors look wonderful: the dragons, the girls, the boy… I assume these are from RAW, but the OOC is quite good as well. I would love to get near these colors on my OOC JPEGS so I just need to process RAW in the ones I think I missed in terms of exposure, colors, whatever… Don’t know if if it is possible, though…

    If there is any way to help, I would appreciate. Thanks

  3. Nice to see a fellow Kiwi and m6 owner on the page…. these are good and your scenery shots are better — what I’d like to eventually get, particularly as I recognize some of the places!

    When you are traveling, size matters: the smaller lenses mean you can put things in a bag that does not scream photographer. And it means you don’t have to risk checking it in.

    And the new voight glass is getting very, very good.

  4. Thank you for the journey with you, Jason.

    Wonderful images as always. Love the way you getting on with that MM – the PP is really of the very best I’ve seen so far – subtle but distinctively MM. But your eye, Jason, is the distinctive factor in the images you are creating, not the camera – though it does help to use a great tool that somehow pushes one to make better images.

    I have to say I have the same “fear” of your initial experiences with the Sony. I have the MM and a couple of M9’s, but have been reticent to upgrade to the M240 and was waiting to see what this A7r was like. Unfortunately I have not yet used one and only read reviews and opinions on the web about it’s handling M/Leica lenses. Irwin Putts has been currently publishing some interesting comparisons with RF lenses used with the Sony , and so far Im not quite convinced that it is a good idea to give up the M9/M9P for this camera if I want to use the Leica lenses exclusively with the Sony… seems just too much bother and not ideal IQ-wise as well as focusing speed wise on manual… maybe one needs time and patience to perfect and speed up the process of live-view. But for now I have decided to stay with the M’s for color… the MM I will use and abuse for many many years to come… its is that damn good.

    Warm Regards and plenty more great shooting


  5. Hello Jason,

    Nice to read your article here. For those of you that have not checked out his website i highly recommend doing so. Great stuff. Thanks Jason.

  6. It has been sheer enjoyment to be let in on your journey with images like these. Many thanks! Subject-wise the Tai Chi picture is really life-affirming (image 5). Colour-wise, much harder to choose, but there is something quite special about the simplicity of your double portrait (image 6). Black and white, the magnetism of image 11 is undeniable. I wouldn’t have known how to choose between monochrome and colour for this one.

    • Thanks John, very kind.

      In terms of selecting between the Monochrom and the A7R for image 11 I had little choice. I’d make my decision in the morning based around the kind of images I’d hope to see and live with it…. 😉

  7. How refreshing to view an article with creative and thoughtful images combined with the narrative. Too often I have dropped by only to be disappointed in the quality of images created with top of the range Leica et al equipment, I liked this selection so much I viewed it twice, and shall definitely visit his site, once again thank you for posting this collection, I loved them.

  8. Some of the best shots I’ve seen from an A7R and definitely the best I’ve seen from a CV 50mm! Also the light and tones on that shot with the CV 35mm at the WTC memorial are incredible.

    Regarding focus peaking and wide open lenses, my experience (with a similar-ish Leica Pre-Asph 50/1.4) is that you can’t reliably nail perfect focus with peaking alone unless you and your subject are really sitting still. The touchscreen on the 5N is great for making the magnification process frictionless, since you can touch wherever you want to focus and quickly take the shot. When I first bought the camera, the touchscreen seemed like a smartphone-era frivolity, but it’s now a critical part of the way I take pictures. My hope is that EVFs will get good enough to make that an unnecessary step though.

    Going to go take some photographs of my own now!

    • The CV 50 competes head to head with the Summilux without question. When i did a side by side comparison no one could guess which was which. Nice looking, well made, 1/4 the cost. Only thing is the Nokton has some barrel distortion when shooting up close. The Leica does not have any.

      • Yeah, I get that from a technical perspective, the CV is better than the Pre-Asph Lux and arguably equal to the Asph Lux – and I was very close to buying the CV. After spending probably too much time scouring the internet for photos from the lens, though, there was always something I found a little dull(?) from the photos I’ve seen. I think it’s that the lens/bokeh has a tendency to make the OOF areas look more saturated than the critically focused areas. The pre-asph Lux has a tendency to do the opposite, and that’s something I’m really drawn to in photos.
        ( ^ Photo I recently took that sort of illustrates my point)

        Anyway, it’s a super minor nitpick that would probably have never prevented me from taking exceptional photos with the lens, and these photos are all excellent.

  9. Always nice to revisit your images Jason. I’d look at these over and over! I’m waiting patiently for your next post on your site :-)! Might be coming across to NZ this year…where are you based as might be able to catch up. I think the Ashes will be the main topic ;-)!!

  10. Jason:

    Great shots. The second to last shot with the MM is a killer!

    I have a ton of experience with a Ricoh GXR and manual focus SLR and M-mount lenses using focus peaking. Bearing that in mind, I had recently rented an A7R and I found that for me, the focus peaking on the Sony was useless. But I was able to focus fast glass easily by setting the “C2” button on the A7R to a 2 second long magnification. It did however drive me crazy that I was forced to push the “C2” button TWICE!!! I hope Sony fixes that in firmware. Also I wish you could set the ISO with the rear dial, and turn off the ISO in the control wheel, because I keep hitting the control wheel by accident! 🙁

    That said, I will be buying the A7R very soon. And am seriously thinking of getting a Leica 75mm f/2 APO to go with it!

  11. Simply stunning, Jason. you seem to be coaxing the best out of the A7R using CV glass. Great stuff, particularly with the 50 Nokton. As always, I am inspired to go out and grab some more photos, based on the inspiration that I see and gain from your images.

    All the best, my friend!

    • Thats funny Ashwin, cause it is exactly what i wrote when i first saw those images on his site. The nokton is a perfect fit and delivers superb IQ.

  12. Hi, Jason,

    I have the same two cameras and have similar impressions. I find peaking unreliable and magnification magnificent on the A7r. With Leica or Zeiss glass, the Sony delivers amazing resolution. That said, there is something yummy about the way the Monochrom renders black and white that conversions don’t match. Make sense given the advantages gained by dispensing with a Bayer Array. Nice shots, esp those from the Monochrom.

  13. A7r/Voight 50/1.5 is my everyday combo and I love it.

    I must say though that there is indeed something special about those MM shots.

  14. I had the same issue with focusing peaking on the A7R. As i do mainly landscape photos i just let the ranges on the lens dictate what should be in focus (based on the aperture selected) and really just set it to infinity. Solved the problem. I love that I can use filters easily on my A7R. And the extra electronics is very useful (eg link with iphone to take pictures). Leice ME has now gone. Sony and Leica lens all the way for me.

  15. Jason, really nice shots. And no, it’s not just your eye, the MM shots look wicked good. After seeing many pictures posted here on Steve’s site from that camera, it really does have something about it. The A7R shots are nice, especially the last one, but the MM shots take the cake.

  16. Excellent images, Jason. I’m curious about your focusing difficulties wide open with the Voigt. lenses. Was it because the focus peaking indicators were not showing or showing inaccurately? I guess I’m not sure why focus peaking wouldn’t allow you to focus properly, albeit more slowly than with a native AF lens. Thanks!

    • Thanks Harry.

      This camera was/is my first focus peaking experience. There seem to be plenty that can use it and plenty that can’t. I may have been naive but I fully expected to enable it and nail everything, in truth, for me it was hit and miss.

      Setting the peaking level to high proved to be a distraction, low was really too low……I intend to experiment some more though. Ultimately I ditched it on my trip in favour of my eyes because I didn’t want to miss anything.

  17. Finally a real photographer! Not to put some others down but with this photographer you can really see the capabilities of the Sony A7r. As soon as Sony/Zeiss offers a w.a. zoom I will mortgage the house and get one.

  18. Great shots Jason: A few questions for you. With the lenses fairly wide open, how do you compare focusing accuracy & speed between the Sony & Leica rangefinder? Other’s have expressed concern about shutter vibration with the Sony, and it looks like all of your shots were handheld. Have you seen any of these issues with the Sony? Others have also expressed concern about color aberrations using wider lenses with the Sony. Have you tried any shots with the Sony using the 21, and did you see any with the 35?

    • Thanks Chris.

      For me I’m currently faster and more accurate with a rangefinder, primarily this is because I can’t consistently nail focus without the magnification step. In all fairness much depends on you’re route to the A7R, arriving from a NEX would be a totally different user experience to mine, coming from the less popular rangefinder system.

      Whilst I’ve also been concerned about the shutter slam I have to say thus far I have not seen any evidence of it.

      My CV 21/1.8 does exhibit colour shift on the A7R, the CV 35/1.2 is fine in my opinion.

      • Thanks Jason, for the reply. I have the EVF for the Leica M, and still find the rangefinder to be more accurate when shooting quickly although if I have the time to do critical focus with an M-telephoto, for me the EVF is more accurate when shooting wide open.

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