The Sony A7s with Canon 35mm LTM RF Lens
by Paul Marbrook – His website is HERE
I’ve owned a good few lenses over the past 15 years and have learned over time that there is no holy grail when it comes to lenses. My favourite focal length is between 35mm and 58mm which would likely stretch to 60mm could I possibly justify trying the Hexanon 60mm f/1.2 but that will never happen. I have tried so many 55 to 58mm 1.2 lenses that I know there are only two to choose from. The Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 and the Nikkor Noct 58mm f/1.2.
I also have a good number of 50mm lenses including the Canon 50mm f/0.95 ‘Dream Lens’ and the Mitakon 50mm Dark Knight.
35mm lenses hold a particular interest for me especially if fast and I own a good number of these although I’ve never owned a Leica lens (apart from a 40mm f/2).
Being a Sony A7 series user who pre ordered the first A7 on the day it was announced due to it being the exact configuration of a full frame camera I had been waiting for since buying a used Canon 10D in 2004 and disliked the APS-C sensor size and even when I bought a 5D in 2005 I was searching for a solution to use manual focus glass on a full frame digital sensor.
Size and functionality is important to me as is ergonomics and also the user experience when I’m using a camera for personal projects and use. If I could have a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art in RF lens size in manual focus and with an aperture ring then all would be perfect! It’s a truly incredible lens and never fails to amaze me. The Zeiss Distagon FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA is also a superb lens for a native Sony FE mount and one I use for my professional work but it’s also pretty large and heavy as is the Sigma. The Rokinon 35mm 1.4 appears to be pretty perfect with its nice render and aperture ring but again its large.
I’m not a lens collector, if I purchase a lens I intend to use it, it will not sit in a case for all the time I have it.
There’s actually very little review for the Canon 35mm f/1.5 rangefinder lens and this raised my curiosity even though I had not heard anything particularly positive about the lens. It’s not a relatively cheap lens likely due to the number of them available as to its optical performance, but hey it’s an f/1.5 right?!
The lens is pretty small as per most of the RF lenses and on my copy all feels good with aperture ring and focus is very smooth and free. I have it mounted on a Tinray close focus adaptor which required an M39 to Leica-M adaptor to use it. As you can see it looks pretty good as a combination.
Lens design is from the late 1950’s and the rendering really displays this when used wide open. It’s never really bang on sharp if you are used to using a modern lens but for me its sharp enough if you are careful at f/1.5. Centre frame is sharpest as expected but you can do a mild off centre composition and retain enough sharpness to make the shot. Focussing is easy after some practice and you realise that it’s never going to hit a level of sharpness even exact on focus. Contrast is somewhat low so focus peaking may not deliver the best results if used so I find magnification the best tool for accurate focus. Sony could do a lot to help us in the area of manual focus such as implementing a one press 100% magnification button that doesn’t switch off between shots, right now its 3 presses between shots to check focus. At f/1.5 in mild bright light there is a blur to the edges of the frame and brightly coloured or white edges will bleed beyond the edge. I haven’t seen any purple CA at all. More info here at Canon Camera Museum.
Stopped down the lens becomes quite sharp and you could say it doesn’t particularly matter which lens we used once we get past a certain aperture unless we are looking at number of blades and sun stars etc. Wide open is where my interest peaks.
It’s a gorgeous little lens to use and looks very sweet on the Sony A7 series especially the A7/A7s. I would guess it’s rather overpriced for its performance but it does have some uniqueness with it which will completely come down to personal taste. I didn’t find a wow factor with it so my quest will continue….
i loved the colors of your pictures and i think the lens gives them a warm, dreamy feeling that would not have been the same if you’d have used a modern lens
Thanks for posting these images. Though I have to disagree about this lens not having any wow factor. There is a unique character in certain situations that provides a lot of wow factor. Your swimming dog image is an example.
I have been using 50’s vintage range finder lenses on a Sony A7II, and I have found that in general these lenses have a split personality on the Sony. When focused close (15ft and less for a 35mm) image quality can be okay wide open to very good at f2.8, and as good as almost anything at f5.6-8. But farther away you really need to be stopped down to f8 to be okay.
I think your images show the same thing. Though they may be better than my results. Certainly more interesting dubjects and locations.
Sorry about the break, I had to cut myself short above to catch a ferry.
In addition, I find the same is true, though to a lesser extent, with film vintage SLR lenses; which perform better sooner than range finder lenses. Even the latest range finder lenses. Which I believe is caused by the interaction of how the light is being projected onto the sensor and the thick cover glass.
So keep in mind with these vintage lenses that since no two samples are exactly alike, there are two basic “Wow” factors.
Wow! I got a recognizable image at f1._!
Wow! What a unique looking image.
Otherwise, to see how good they really are we need to use film.
Have fun and enjoy your lenses.
The first dog photo is stunning..
…and your web with wedding photos is just marvelous!
I enjoy all of your work, Paul, thanks for sharing
I had this lens- the vignetting seems more pronounced on the Sony than I remember on the Leica and Canon P.
The “swirlies” are due to residual astigmatism.
I sold this lens, kept the LTM 35mm F1.7 Ultron Aspheric. The latter has very smooth rendering, is faster, and cost about the same. The Ultron uses easier-to-find 39mm filters and accessories, the Canon uses 40mm filters: hard to find.
I have a lot of lenses in the 50~58 focal range. I prefer the 55/1.2 Nikkor-SC for a fast lens. Sharper across the center 2/3rds of the image than the F1.4. The problem with older Aspheric lenses is uniformity across the field. They just did not get the “wiggle” correct for the hand-ground optics, so sharpness tended to be good in the center, not-so-much at the 1/3rd mark, great at the 2/3rds mark, not so much at the corners. The older Aspheric Nikkor, Leica, and Canon lenses were optimized to reduce coma, not for absolute resolution. The 50/1.1 Nokton is perhaps the most under-rated lens ever made.
In case anyone is interested in Vintage 50’s~58’s: I uploaded some vintage lens tests from a 1976 Pop Photo test of 32 “normal” lenses. Used that as a guide to modify the Minolta 50/1.4 MC Mount, Konica 50/1.7 AR Mount, Canon 50/1.4 FL mount, and Pentax 50/1.4 M42 mount to RF coupled Leica M-Mount. Basically cut up a leg from an old tripod and made RF cams for them. Easier to use them on a Sony A7, and some real sleepers (Konica 50/1.7- compare with a Summicron)
(correction to my first post) The M-Mount Ultron is about the same cost as the Canon 35/1.5. The Canon 35/1.5 uses 48mm filters, The LTM Ultron is about the same price as a Canon 35/2, which used the 40mm filters. 48mm filters are much easier to find than 40mm filters, the Canonet used them.
Nice try with oldtimer. Horses for courses. Some lenses have just a look, call it period look which cannot be replicated in PH, well maybe you could but it`ll look phony. Lenses, especially the predigital ones, are like like wine. Each has it`s mojo. All thas discussion what outperforms what is for proffesionals meeting demands from clients or pixelpeepers. Rest is to ones own taste. Creativity should be enjoyed not discussed. Recently I`ve read about Arri DNA lenses for their, rent only, extreme Arri 65 digital movie camera. The lenses are old stuff which wouldn`t pass any MTF test but with uniqueness filmmakers now and then look for.
Looks like the place is Budva, am I right?
The colours, the light, the appearance of the water cause a wonderfull atmosphere and mood. It is a joy to look at the pictures.
The first 4 photos are good. The rest are unfortunately just ok. This vintage lens isnt that impressive.
If you stop down you would be able to get everything in focus.
I really like the first shot of the dog. That bokeh is something else!
The minolta md 35mm 1.8 has a pretty unique look too. Not inexpensive if you can find one either. I’m sticking with my FE 35mm 2.8, its just so light and it focuses quickly.
Love the photo of the dog in the water.
Nice to see some different photos of Dubrovnik.
What sony to canon adapter are you using???
The thing is, you don’t need expensive gear to produce shots like these. I have a canon T2i and kit lens. With Lightroom I can easily produce shots like these if not better. It’s not a criticism, it’s not hard if you’ve got a minimum of 18 megapixels and shoot Raw.
Making photographs unsharp is not a reason they would become better… good rendering can be equally a source for art or unicity.
These photographs are ok. Not more, not less. Some are better and offer beautiful colors.
All with a nostalgic air in some manner. Nothing special really.
That’s my opinion
Sometimes threads become like a sporting debate instead a place for creative minded folks to discuss passions. To call these images anything outside of unique is nonsense. They all have a different personality. Character in photo, like life, is worth so much more than clinical.
After seeing the first 5 images of this collection, I am selling my Canon stuff. I needed something more than a hunch and this sold me. Completely unique, as you mentioned.
Any modern lens would give you a better render…
you are missing the point ! it’s not about render, it’s about something unique, and artistic
“Unique and artistic” are made in any case by the photographer.
Good to experiment but those photographs are none of both.
The first dog shot is good, but the indifferent compositions of the woman-in-landscape photos are hardly artistic. Unique, but that’s not necessarily a commendation.
The aerial shots are rather prosaic.
A better render? How do you define better? Sterile and perfectly sharp across the frame?
I like many of these images and they are plenty sharp and contrasty enough for me. If the content is there (as it is in many of your images) then for me the precise nature of the rendering is not important. Plenty of ‘Wow’ in this one from your set:
Before going into media res, let me thank you for sharing your pics with us, Paul.
I quite agree with you when you say that the shots are not crispy sharp as with the newer “modern” lenses. But heck, that’s just what makes them so nice. I bet you have an old Nikkor with amber coating. Have you ever tried shooting those 2 side by side? Have a look at them afterwards.
Every lens has it’s own “signature” – if you want to call it that. Not everyone will like that unique signature – the question of taste is also a question of argument(s) !!!
Your pictures show very well that they’re sharp. The only downside, when compared to newer models is that the newer lenses are sharper from edge to edge. The older models are sharp in the center and drop off towards the edges (they get hazy or blurry).
The trade-off is definitely in size and weight – and sometimes the weight of your wallet as well !
My question to those lens manufacturers is if they would replicate their old lenses, by how much would their edge to edge sharpness gain ? My best guess is: yes they would gain; but not by a very far throw …
Thanks, Paul, for your post. To judge from your photos, this lens delivers exceptional results. I use a Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 with my A7ii. Size-wise, that’s as big as I want to go, notwithstanding the great allure of the Distagon. I’m tempted to try the f/1.5, though, inasmuch as lowlight-shooting and compactness are my chief requirements for work with the A7. Anyone have thoughts about the Loxia in low light? I’m generally impressed with the lens, but it lets me down somewhat in slightly tenebrous environments.
I appreciate you posting this, the look achieved by fast lenses from this era could be just what someone is after. I did a test once of a few leica M lenses from around this era (late 50s) and they really were unique and beautiful when used to their max advantage.
No wow factor? I think the first two shots (the dog) you present have wow factor. Beautiful.
Agreed! spectacular shots!