Monthly Archives: August 2016

Info: Older lenses on the Sony a7ii

Voigtlander Color Skopia 20mm, Nikon AI-s 28mm, Zeiss FE 55mm, Nikon AI-s 135mm

Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm, Nikon AI-s 28mm, Zeiss FE 55mm, Nikon AI-s 135mm

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:

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.

Nikon 135 f2 DC, 28mm f2.8 AI-S, 17-38mm f2.8 AF-S

Nikon 135 f2 DC, 28mm f2.8 AI-S, 17-38mm f2.8 AF-S

My view so far is as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
Voigtlander 35mm Skoparex

Voigtlander 35mm Skoparex

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:

New set-up for travel

I have decided to try out some alternative lenses with the full-spectrum Sony, continuing with the emphasis on being lightweight for tracking, hiking, climbing etc.

The new setup is to use all primes, rather than the combined small (and lighter) kit 28-70mm zoom and the f1.8 55mm. Similar to what I mostly use with my normal visible light photography, I am going to try and work with lenses at just 20, 55 and 135mm.

  • 20mm f3.5  Voigtlander Color Skopar (with Nikon adaptor)
  • 55mm f1.8 Zeiss FE
  • 135mm f2.8 Nikon AI-s (with Nikon adaptor)

The Voigtlander and Nikon primes are all metal lenses, so actually slightly heaver than I would wish (and heaver than the Sony kit lens). I also have an old Nikon AI-s 28mm, which is really light, and may add that as well for some trips. 

Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm, Nikon AI-s 28mm, Zeiss FE 55mm, Nikon AI-s 135mm

Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm, Nikon AI-s 28mm, Zeiss FE 55mm, Nikon AI-s 135mm

One of the big advantages of this set up is that I just need to carry 52mm lens filters (lens filters being the burden of full-spectrum), with the 20, 28 and 135 all having a 52mm native filter size (the Zeiss 55 uses a step-up ring of 49 to 52mm).

Although pure near-infrared filters (590nm, 720nm etc.) are now relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain, dual bands, like BG3, UG1 etc., and absorbent hot-mirror filters like the S8612, BG40 BG39 etc., are not. Having a full set of filters for all the common, especially the larger 62mm+, filter sizes would be very expensive. I am, hence, happy to use older and smaller aperture lenses so I can stick with my existing filter set (my previous M43 cameras were standardised on 52mm, so I have lots). 

With the Nikon to E-mount adaptor (I use a Metabones made one), the Nikon and Voigtlander lenses are manual-focus only; however, for most of this type of photography, predominantly landscape, it is not a problem and works well with Sony’s excellent focus-peaking functionality.

Images: More of the river Duoro

More of the river Duoro, shot from the Crystal Palace gardens.

Mixed-band image from a Wratten 47B filter on a full-spectrum Sony a7ii. The first image is desaturated a little, which is how I would normally process it; however, for once I liked the strong yellow and blues the W47B can produce.

River Duoro 03 - W47B

River Duoro 03 – W47B

River Duoro 04 - W47B

River Duoro 04 – W47B