Sony Nex-7 with Leica M-glass (rolling review)

UPDATE: There are severe problems with this combination that I observed this week – see below

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A brief summary of my experiences. In the beginning I really thought that I found a great (non-Leica-)body for my Summicron. However I had to realize over the next days that there were more and more problems with the lens/sensor combination. As you can see, I was quite enthusiastic in the beginning and got more and more disappointed over the following days. In the end I had to sell the Nex-7, went back to my Sony Nex-5n and bought the EVF. This comes quite close the Sony Nex-7 however without any of the problems with the sensor/lens combination. 

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As promised here is the review of the Sony Nex-7 together with my Leica Summicron 35mm f2.0. This will be a rolling review and I will add to it over the next couple of days.

I am not going to write about the technical details or review the Nex-7 body itself. For this you can checkout these excellent reviews:

  1. Luminous Scape rolling review of the Sony Nex-7
  2. Steve Huff’s review of the Sony Nex-7
  3. Dirk De Paepe’s review of the Sony Nex-7 together with Zeiss ZM Lenses

Day 1 – First impressions:

AMAZING. Why? The electronic view finder together with the focus peaking future of the Nex bodies allows for fast, accurate focussing of the Summicron through the viewfinder. Sure it is not a real rangefinder and teeny little bit slower than an optical viewfinder, but it works extremely well. You get a very nice shooting experience which is much nicer than e.g., shooting a Nex-5n where you have to use the LCD. Here are some sample shots I took earlier today – not meant to be great shots: straight out of the camera, shot in raw and with default import in Lightroom 4 beta. Sorry had to scale them down but hope that they still give some impression…

This one was shot handheld and wide open at f2.0, ISO640, 1/60.

Petronas towers
This one was taken at ISO 1000, f2.0, 1/60 – almost no noise at all.

And another one at ISO 1600 again f2.0, 1/50.

Day 2 – Magenta shifts

Today I had some more time to check out the Nex-7 together with the Summicron. The body works really well with the lens in terms of focussing and using it. However, there is slight problem that has to be mentioned. Sometimes there is a slight magenta cast in the corners. See in the shot below. However I could not completely figure out if this is not also a white balance problem. I shot a grey card and could reproduce the problem there, i.e., either the center is perfect and the corners are off (shifted toward magenta) or the corner are ok and the center is shifted towards cyan. Below there is a real-world sample shot: 

I have to add though that this shift is only visible in specific situations. There is a an easy fix for this which is cornerfix which is a free tool to fix problems with corners, usually coming from even wider lenses. I created a specific profile for the Nex-7 and the Summicron 35mm – in case you are interested drop me a line. Once fed with a lens profile it fixes the corner issues. Here is the same shot fixed with cornerfix:

As you can see the corner are fine here (sure the image needs some overall white balance adjustment – but that was SOOC). So I guess I will setup a new workflow that first converts to dng (via adobe’s dng converter or lightroom) then pumps the pics through cornerfix and then in the last step import them into lightroom. I guess a folder action on Mac OS X will do the job 😉 – I will let you guys know… The good thing about cornerfix is that it also simultaneously removes vignetting of the lens. Ok enough complaining now. While this is annoying me a bit to be honest and the problem did not occur with the Nex-5n (because it has larger photo sites and a different micro-lens layout) it can be rather easily fixed…

Day 3 – ATTENTION: Unacceptable purple/cyan fringing and more color shifts

I am absolutely disappointed. Right after having thought that I found the “perfect” camera-lens combination I started to observe more and more optical problems up to a point where I just had to realize that the Nex-7 sensor and the Leica Summicron’s symmetrical lens design do not go together. Let me give you an example shot and some crops first you so that you can see yourself:

Apart from the obvious magenta cast on the right you would think that this shot is somewhat alright (at least for a quick snap). Now let us have a closer look at the areas that are slightly out-of-focus. In particular, at the rings on the left hand and the X100 which is reflecting some of the sun light. Let’s start with the X100:

As you can see the Nex-7 + Summicron cannot keep the light together and nasty purple and cyan fringing occurs. Look at the dials and the hot-shoe or the lens or… everywhere. This is really nasty. Also if you look at the hands you will see a complex yellow shift (no this is not normal either – no such problems with the nex-5n body + summicron; more later). Now a crop of the rings:

Again you can see the same nasty fringing. Also look at the camera strap and the red fringing. Unacceptable. And here another one – this time from the shiny metal on one of the benches – same issue.

This fringing issue essentially rendered 90% of my shots from Singapore this weekend trash – my own fault to bet on a combination that I barely tried out. Luckily I realized it on the first evening so that I could switch to my X100 on the second day, but a whole days work is gone and all that I was left with is some shots from the X100.

After coming back I immediately did the same tests with the Nex-5n body and none of the above issues showed. So I guess it is really the high pixel density of the Nex-7’s sensor, the micro lens design, and the design of the Summicron that does not work well together.

This is really sad, because the Nex-7 is such a great camera and I would have loved to use it together with M-glass as an alternative to an M9. Given the focus peaking in the viewfinder this would have easily worked if it weren’t for those fringing and color shift issues which make it impossible to use for anybody with an eye for image quality and let alone in a professional setting. And let’s face it – if you invest roughly $4000 – $5000 you want to get some serious IQ and want to be able to shoot it in (semi-)professional settings. I had a few shoots where I also tried the Nex-5n + M-glass and the only thing that was bugging me was the missing hot shoe for strobes and the missing viewfinder. Image quality wise it could have easily worked and some of the shots that where eventually taken came from the Nex-5n + 50mm Summilux.

You might throw in that this is my mistake. Only a nut case can try to shoot M-glass on non-Leica bodies but I do not agree. Apart from the huge difference in prize the Nex-bodies provide some serious IQ and the raw files are very editable – forget the jpgs from the camera they are all flat.

So what do you have to look for when putting M-glass on a different body. Here are a few things to try before you buy that would have spared me the disaster:

  1. Shoot some reflective surface and check whether fringing occurs
  2. Check the corners for magenta/cyan cast. these are indicators for other problems. shot against a mostly grayish-white background/surface.
  3. Check “slightly out-of-focus” areas for nasty bokeh rendering.

Some photos shot with Nex-7 and Leica Summicron 35mm ASPH – Chinatown walk.

Here are some shots from with the combination from my Chinatown walk – this was when I was still happy like a puppy having found this seemingly great combination.

So as I said I have been walking a bit in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur today and finished with the KL Tower. Here are some of today’s shots processed in Lightroom 4 Beta.

And this one is from the KL Tower of the Twins

and one in B&W

Here are some China Town shots

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18 thoughts on “Sony Nex-7 with Leica M-glass (rolling review)

  1. Pingback: Taking the Nikon V1 to the jungle – a first look (rolling review) « Terence S. Jones Photography

  2. Hi – was this a 35mm ASPH only or did you also try the older non-ASPH lens? WOuld tehre be any reason to believe that the non-ASPH would not have this problem (not sure what the implications of the different lens shape would have). Thanks for a great walkthrough!

    • It was the ASPH only. The problem seems to be the lens design! retro-focus vs. symmetric. I do not know if both have the same design. However there are many many more reports out there that report similar problems with a wide range of wide lenses.

  3. I also am thinking of buying the NEX 7 and I do own the 35 mm Summicron Asph but several other longer Leica M lenses and really there is not much of a problem with this lens. I would never shoot city,landscape or sky scenes anyway at f2 so it is not as bad as I thought. A minor problem like this can be overcome by using comer fix and I do know the M 50 90 and 135 lenses are great with the NEX 7. I probably will buy the NEX 7 this week to use with my 5 Leica M lenses.
    Regards Brian

  4. Pingback: Panasonic 12-35mm, Zuiko 75mm, adaptateur Fuji: les compacts montent en gamme « Béquilles

  5. The Contax G 35 is nearly identical in design to the 35 Summicron IV pre-asph, likely as a means to entice Leica users into the Contax system. I use the Contax G 35 with my NEX-7, and, while it isn’t as clinically sharp as the 35 ASPH, it’s a good lens, and there’s no color shift to speak of. I’d imagine the 35 Summicron IV pre-asph would perform similarly.

  6. Have you tried the nikon 24mm, 35mm and 50mm series D? I have and think works very well.
    alfredo Guadarrama
    Toluca, México.

  7. Pingback: Im Digitalkamera-Test: Sony NEX 7 mit Leica M Objekten | czyslansky

  8. Pingback: Leica M-Mount an Sonys NEX - Seite 286 - Systemkamera Forum

  9. Pingback: Cool Netherlands images » Images from Europe

  10. Well I am sorry this combo comes up short. I am using a Sony Nex 6 coupled with 75 mm Summarit Leica and the results are stellar. Rich, deep colors. No corrections of note. A great combo. Oh yes the Zeiss 35 on board is fabulous but definitely a different type of image. I love both and have no problems either. Maybe just luck.

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