Friday, March 24, 2017

Vintage Lenses and Adapters for Sony E Mount

Leica Summicron 35mm f/2 mounted on a Sony A7II

Watch the video on our YouTube channel -

I was able to take off from my day job (Staff Sgt. US Army) at lunch time last Monday and was happy to hear the news from my girlfriend, Vanessa, that she took the entire day off work. So that led to the cliche question; "What should we do today?". While I usually pride myself on being an "idea" person, it was Vanessa who suggested we take a drive up old New Mexico Hwy 28 to Mesilla, a small, quaint historic Southwestern town. Mesilla is centered around a town square, complete with a bandstand. I had seen Mesilla advertised in the local "Things to do in El Paso" magazines that you find in hotel lobbies etc., and it looked like a neat place to visit, certainly it would be a great place to snap some photographs. Without hesitation, I replied in the affirmative to Vanessa's terrific suggestion.

It had occurred to me that this fun, half-day trip, would provide an excellent opportunity to shoot a new vlog for "Hey Don't Shoot". The potential problem is that Vanessa has never, ever, shot video before. And believe or not, it's necessarily an easy thing to do. But what better way to teach her than to just put a camera in her hands and do it? 

I have been wanting to shoot a little video with my Sony RX1RII and thought this would be an ideal opportunity because it's small enough that Vanessa could put it in her purse when we weren't shooting. Also because I primarily wanted to enjoy a day off with my girlfriend, shooting the photos and vlog would be secondary. So I made an executive decision and gave Vanessa the RX1RII, attached to her body with a shoulder strap, naturally. This decision almost came back to haunt me because we learned, the hard way, that while the RX1RII is one of the finest still photograph cameras in the world, and it is capable of shooting high definition video in XAVCS, it wasn't made for that. As a result, it has a few shortcomings in the video department, the most noticeable was that it overheated after about 1 minute of shooting video! The day was warm, but not overwhelmingly so. I think it was somewhere between 80-84 degrees. As you may or may not notice in the video, when I talking on camera, I'm talking with a fast pace, because I have to hurry and record my monologue before the camera over heats! You might also notice a lot of "cuts" in the editing of my monologue because we would have to wait for a few minutes, every time the RX1RII would over heat, before we could shoot again. So that's why my monologue is a bit chopped up and also why the opening is shot in the sunlight, but then we moved to shade. Lesson learned: always shoot video with the VIDEO CAMERA (Sony AX33) that's what it's made for!

Vanessa did a great job her first time out shooting with me! She's pictured here resting in the hatchback of my Toyota Prius Hybrid (no big deal) with the Sony RX1RII in her hands. Now that's what I call trust. Note the shoulder strap.

Now, about the photography and gear...

If you follow "Hey, Don't Shoot" you might be aware that I, Felix, have been struck with a severe case of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and as a result have accumulated a relatively impressive inventory of vintage film cameras and lenses, including few that might be considered iconic. But prior to the E Mount system coming along, your options for shooting these lenses digitally were limited to a few rather expensive solutions. Digital backs are available for a few of the medium format systems like the Hasselblad V and Mamiya 645, and there's the Leica M digital system. The problem is that, even for a hardcore gear head like me, those solutions are far too costly (we're talking close to the tens of thousands of dollars).

But with the introduction of the Sony E Mount system, along came a plethora of E Mount adapters that were available for a wide variety of vintage lens mounts. The result is that you can now mount your vintage lenses onto a Sony E Mount digital camera for less than the cost of dinner at Applebees. I was able to find adapters for the following lens mounts:

Hasselblad (medium format) - Buy yours here
Mamiya 645 (medium format) - Buy yours here
Leica M - Buy yours here
Olympus OM - Buy yours here
Mamiya ZE - Buy yours here
Rolleiflex QBM (not working, more on that later) - Buy yours here

There are adapters available for more than what I listed, those are just the ones that I purchased.

The adapters are all manual focus only, and they don't support exif data, which means your lens settings will not be saved. If this is important to you, I recommend bringing along and notebook to jot down your lens settings, otherwise, you won't have that information available to you as if you were using a lens which would otherwise be compatible with the Sony E Mount.

There are some adapters, new to the marketplace, that can turn your old manual focus only lens, into an auto focus lens on the Sony E Mount. I am aware of one such adapter for Leica M lenses but there might be others. The problem for me, at this point, is the price. For now, i'll just be content with the manual focus adapters. Besides, part of the enjoyment of shooting with vintage lenses, is the entire experience of shooting in manual focus. If I wanted auto focus, I can just slap on one of my many modern lenses.

Let's get back to Mesilla and Las Cruces, New Mexico and have a look at the lenses and adapters that I brought along with me...

Below you will also see all the photos that we shot on Monday, including some behind the scenes and product photos of the adapters and lenses. We had a great time and I hope you enjoy the video and images. Perhaps this vlog and blog might sway you to pick up an adapter for one or some of your vintage lenses?

The bokeh from the Hasselblad 80mm lens is tremendous. This lens is a depth of field monster. This image was shot at f/2.8 in aperture priority mode. I was about 4-5 feet away from the small yellow flowers that I focused on. But just look how the shallow depth of field makes them "pop"! It's a great luxury to be able to capture this lens on my Sony E Mount cameras, thus, eliminating the need for an expensive Hasselblad digital back.

Capturing "Sunset on a Mesilla Farm" with the Leica lens and Sony A7II. We found this spot along scenic Hwy 28. There was just so much to see along this road. I could go back 50 times and never run out of new things to shoot. Farms, wine vineyards, pecan tree orchards, rustic architecture and much more!

Leica M to Sony E Mount adapter, Sony A7RII body, Zeiss Planar ZM 50mm f/2 and Leica Summicron 35mm f/2

Mamiya 645 to Sony E Mount adapter pictured with Mamiya 45mm f/2.8 lens

Mamiya ZE to Sony E Mount adapter with Mamiya ZE 50mm f/1.7 lens

Olympus OM to Sony E Mount adapter with Olympus 50mm f/1.8 lens

Hasselblad adapter with Hasselblad Planar 80mm f/2.8 lens

Here is the Rolleiflex QBM to Sony E Mount adapter that isn't working properly. The 50mm lens will not mount at all and the 28 mm will mount and "snap" onto the adapter, but the aperture ring doesn't turn completely. I have ordered a replacement from a different manufacturer and I'll report back.

Felix walks away like a champ after taking a photo of the cacti.

"Oh look, a door"

"Oh look, flowers"

"If I don't compose this shot well, YouTube commenters will have a field day"

"Oh look, a patio"

"I hate this god damned bag"

"Oh look, a shrubbery"

"My back hurts if I stand this way for too long"

"Welp, that photo sucks"

The lovely Vanessa. Trust is letting your girlfriend shoot with your Sony RX1RII!

Leica 35mm Summicron with Sony A7II

Mamiya ZE 50mm f/1.7 lens with Sony A7II

Leica Summicron 35mm w/ Sony A7II

Leica Summicron 35mm w/ Sony A7II

Olympus OM 50mm f/1.8 lens with Sony A7II. Added "restyle" color from Topaz Labs

Mamiya 645 45mm f/2.8 lens with Sony A7II

"Sunset on a Mesilla Farm" Captured with the Sony A7II and Leica 35mm Summicron

Leica Summicron 35mm with Sony A7RII

Leica Summicron 35mm with Sony A7RII

Leica Summicron 35mm with Sony A7RII

Leica Summicron 35mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

Hasselblad Planar 80mm with Sony A7RII

This is a 100% crop taken with the Hasselblad Planar 80mm lens and the Sony A7RII