There are some good articles already on using older non-Sony lenses on the Sony e-mount cameras, including the following which are worth reading:
- Phillip Reeve’s Beginners Guide to Manual lenses on the Sony a7
- DPreview Using third-party lenses on the Sony a7
- Brian Smith’s Gear guide: Sony Lens Adaptors
- Brian Smith GUIDE TO SONY A7 A7R A7S A7II A7RII A7SII LENS ADAPTERS
My experience is limited to using my existing plethora of Nikon full-frame lenses, my old student Contax and Yashica lenses (30 years old!) and a couple of Voigtlander wide angles, one relatively new and one ancient. The adaptors I have used are simple manual-focus only ones from Metabones and, the less expensive, K&C Concept & Roxsen (I think this is the make) – both the Metabones and K&C Concept worked well, with no issues to date. The cheap Roxsen I use with my old DKL mount Voigtlander lens, however, makes too tight a fit with the camera and I don’t use it for fear damaging the camera. I am not sure if this is just a one-off bad one (I picked it up free) or it is representative, but a new adaptor has been ordered to replace it.
My view so far is as follows:
- It works – with a few provisos (see the rest of the comments), using non-Sony lenses with an adaptor in manual-focus mode works. Sony’s focus-peaking is excellent and, if like me, you are happy with manual focus (hey, most near-IR photography is landscape!) it is easy.
- Remember hotspots ! – there are lots of older lenses still available, a lot of them with very high quality optics – the options are wide and deep. However, with near-IR and mix-band photography we have to also consider hotspot issues and outside the more commonly bought lenses, there is not a lot of information on what suffers or does not. Just because some old Minolta or Lica lens is famed for fabulous optics does not necessarily make it a great buy, if it suffers horrendous hotspots it will be useless. See my page on Hotspots to understand more:
- Good value, but no longer great – famed old optically great lenses are now in demand and prices have increased. Good if you have some to sell, but there no longer seems to be a rich seam of beautiful dirt-cheap lenses on the market. There is still a lot of good value simpler lenses to pick up (28mm, 50mm, 135mm primes), but less the stunning bargains of a couple of years ago.
- Buy carefully – antidotally, about 20% of the interesting older lenses I find have some issue (minor fungus, bad mechanisms etc.) that makes me put them back or return. The increasing demand for older lenses is also bringing out the duds and the rubbish; if you are looking to buy, do it carefully and play safe with the older exotica.
- Old can also be big & heavy – a famed lens like an older pro Nikon f2.8 17-35mm, or f2.8 70-200 ED, at first thought should be a great idea, well built with superb optics; however, in reality when you mount these lenses, in proportion to the little Sony, they are large, heavy and unwieldy. Yes they work, but they quickly feel wrong and don’t encourage getting out and about.
- Remember lens filters – manual-focus is much less of an issue when there is a large Depth of Field to work with, so naturally most first thoughts are to the ultra wide-angles (sub 20mm), hoping for some mad 8mm fisheye bargain. Many of these lenses, however, are unable to work with filters, consequently making them near to useless with full-spectrum cameras and highly limiting to other modified cameras.
- Its all manual – my best results have been when I have reverted to manual exposure and not used Aperture Priority. As others have noted, the Sony has an annoying preference for shooting at 1/60th and even with the a7ii’s in-camera stabilization this can be too low; consequently I use manual model most of the time, setting the aperture and speed and letting the camera sort out ISO, as long as it does not go too high.
- Not all adaptors are the same – the manual-focus only adaptors are in essence just simple metal tubes (normally aluminium), so should not be expensive; however, the quality and tolerance of the fit, both on the lens and the camera body is important and needs high-spec manufacturing. My sample set is too small to be representative, but my experience of the cheaper adaptors is 50/50 so far and I am happy to pay for better quality to play safe.
Lenses Used Successfully With No Hotspot
- Voigtlander 20mm f3.5 Color Skopar
- Nikon 16-35mm f2.8 AF-S
- Nikon 28mm f2.8 AI-s
- Nikon 85mm f1.4 AF-D
- Nikon 135mm f2.8 AI-s
- Nikon 135 f2 DC
- Contax 50mm f1.7
- Yashica 28mm f2.8
- Yashica 135mm f2.8
- Yashica 200mm f4
For more information on hotspots see: http://www.photoir.net/equipment/lenses-hotspots/