2015, Favourite, Inspiration, Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH f/1.4, Portrait, Q&A, Sony (Alpha) a7S, Teaching point, Voigtländer VM-E Close Focus Adapter

This image was taken with the Sony (Alpha) a7S.

I wish to thank my good friend Ashwin Rao who was absolutely correct about three things with respect to this camera:

  1.  The a7S digital files are the most CCD-like CMOS files I’ve encountered (not quite like the magic of CCD, but very close — even in their behaviour during post-processing).
  2.  I need to re-acquaint myself with the “tunnel vision” viewfinder the a7S shares with most other cameras.  This is a significant limitation, since unless the camera is a rangefinder, it’s not (yet) possible to see “the world outside the window frame” to better anticipate photographic opportunities.
  3. The a7S sensor and Leica lenses play well together.

Additional notes:

  • The focus-peaking is quite accurate and very user-friendly.
  • The auto-ISO function, in combination with the exposure compensation dial, actually improves upon my set-up with the Leica M8/M9/M-E.
  • The silent shutter option makes me weep tears of joy — bravo Sony.
  • The advertised high ISO capabilities are not just marketing hyperbole.  This sensor was tailor made for dark Canadian winters.
  • This latest Sony still feels like a computer to me vs. a “real” camera.  But it’s undeniably a “real” camera and a formidable photographic tool.





34 thoughts on “Homework.

  1. Seems to be the one to get (for a digital camera)…. I see you decided to bite now and not hold out for the A7s… Regardless will be very interesting to see your results.

      1. While I loved the A7 for what it was, it wasn’t a great camera for wider M lenses (35 mm or wider), and neither will the A7II. It also has a shutter that may not permit the silent/electronic shutter, and I don’t see this on the spec sheet for the new A7II. Faced with a choice between the A7II and A7s, I’d still pick the A7s…now, when an A7sII arrives, that will be interesting, for sure…

  2. Beautiful photo. I would be curious to know your thoughts on the A7s vs the A7II (obviously you haven’t used the latter, but the fatter pixels of the A7s vs the built in IBIS on the forthcoming A7II). I recently picked up one of the old Canon 50mm f/0.95 lenses, and am looking to mount it and some other old lenses on one of the Sony A7 series – seems they each have some benefits and drawbacks, with the pluses on the A7s being the sensor and silent shutter (and drawback being the lower resolution and price).

    1. The IBIS on the upcoming A7II is of great interest to me, but ultimately I need a sensor that can work well with my M lenses. The A7S does this, and its high ISO capabilities help me offset camera/hand shake to a degree, but obviously I would welcome IBIS if they could magically add it on.

      1. I have the A7s as well as the A7 and have yet to find a Leica lens that doesn’t work equally well on both. However, the Voigtlander ultra-wides aren’t very good on the A7.
        The most problematic camera for adapted lenses was the A7r which unfortunately was the first Sony I had…it almost soured me on the whole line until the S came out and I revisited the camera store with my collection of leica glass. 🙂
        After some time with the S, I went back for the regular 7 as well because I needed the resolution and in normal daylight, the 7 is wonderful.

  3. You seem happy with the results… Is this an early sign that your fight for a new CCD-based Leica is over? Will you settle for an improved CMOS -based one (should performance be similar to the A7s)?

      1. I personally think that the A7s pairs well with an M8/M-E/M-9/MM….offers a different way of seeing, a slightly different look, but expanded capabilities thanks to ISO performance. Further the Voigtlander VM-E adapter suddenly adds close focus/Macro capabilities to the M lens repertoire, which can be a nice diversion and incredible fun!

      2. Peter – While I love my M9-P and M-Monochrom they both had to have sensor replacements because of the corrosion/delamination problems that can affect all the CCD M-models. Leica has announced a new policy on free sensor cleaning and warranty extension after sensor extension: these announcements are in a LUF thread first, somewhat problematically and cryptically in post # 137 here:


        …and then, after Leica management review, more broadly and clearly in post #327 here:


        The upshot is that badly done wet cleaning of the M9/M9-P/M-E/M-Monochorm sensors or exposure to humidity canl cause the corrosion/delamination problem; that Leica offers free sensor cleaning on these cameras; and that the warranty is extended for three years after each sensor replacement. (There is also an offer of a specially priced “upgrade” to the M240 — I’ve placed quotation marks around the word “upgrade” because I have no interest what I consider the retrograde color rendition of the M240.

        Now, the continuing problem is that Leica has no solution for the problem in that, as discussed in the LUF thread, any sensor replaced under this program can subsequently be subject to the same corrosion/delmanination from humidity. The problem also is that it can take months before the user gets his or her camera back after sending it in toLeica for sensor replacement. I was lucky in the my M9-P and M-Monochrom sensor replacement were done, respectively, within three and four weeks.

        In the context of these sensor corrosion/delamination problems your statement that the A7S files are the most CCD-like CMOS files is interesting, and yet I would prefer to shoot with the M9 and M-Monochrom…

  4. Congrats Peter. I thought this was “the Sony” to buy when it came out. Could just tell from the files it was going to be close to those CCD files. Hope you enjoy it for some time to come 😉 !

    Be interesting if you find your way back to the RF focusing over focus peaking, though to be honest nice to have both of those bodies in the bag!

  5. Haptics. Is the process of using the device satisfying? At a certain level (above mine, surely) so I understand, this is increasingly important. The form of the tool actually becomes critical in making meaning. Perhaps a variation on Mr. McLuhan’s assertion.

    Versus results. Every tool is limited and limiting. At what point does the limitation demand a switch to a different tool?

    How many compromises to the former will one tolerate in order to achieve a desired set of results or performance characteristics?

    Will one willingly carry and use a “collection” of tools in order to address otherwise incompatible concerns? If the tools have controls (haptics) that are markedly different, is the immersive sense of instinct lost or compromised by the need to be conscious of which tool is in hand with what operating system?

    The 7s (from what I read) probably requires fewer compromises and provides greater compensations than anything else you’ve tried in this ongoing search of yours, and with adapters keeps at least the lens part of the system mostly intact. It has, however, because of its EVF only system, one unavoidable difference that may be critical to one for whom the decisive moment is truly decisive.

    I wish you well with it. In the end, the art is in the artist, not the brush; so I’m pretty sure that if you commit to the tool, you will make it work for you.

    1. Well you hit upon all the salient points, Greg, with respect to the photographer-camera interface. The health of that relationship is more important than the specifications/features of a given camera.

      Operationally, there is a divide between a rangefinder and cameras like the A7S. Carrying both introduces more variables into the photographic process, and that is something I eschew. I like to keep things as simple as possible. Always.

      So, ultimately, one will have to go.

      For now, I will experiment heavily with the Sony.

      Thanks, as always, for your well-considered comments,


      1. A tip, if you may, Peter. Set the camera up as you wish so that it doesn’t get in the way. For me, I use a shutter speed of about 1/200 of a sec and auto ISO, and then just play with aperture for different looks in low light…. In brighter light, I set upon Aperture priority and allow shutter speed to move with aperture…. it makes life simple to think of the camera as basically ISO-less, meaning that it matters very little to IQ, and one can then focus on other parameters to achieve the look that is desired.

        1. That’s very interesting — I actually have set the camera up to shoot at 1/200 indoors (though the above shot was taken at 1/250). I wanted to remove any possibility of blur, and as you say, let the ISO fall where it may since it doesn’t seem to matter. I haven’t yet photographed outside with the camera, but I’ll try your suggested set-up when I do. Thanks Ashwin.

  6. Congrats, Peter, and we can only hope that the camera will inspire you. I found that it has certainly done that for me over several months of regular use. It’s got so much going for it: Discrete size, silent shutter (a huge deal, though watch out for fluorescent light recycling), the ability to use M lenses (the deal cinched for me, as I didn’t have to re-create my lens set), great build, and incredible ISO performance. Once you adjust to the way of seeing, you’ll also appreciate the ease by which one can focus, particularly ultra-fast glass, and lenses that may have been a challenge to focus suddenly are revealed for their splendor and consistency!

  7. I am excited for you, Peter, and I hope that you enjoy this new journey. While the A7s is not a rangefinder, it does so much else well, with the added benefit of using Leica M lenses, a factor that reduces and/or eliminates any need for lens duplication. This permits you to move to a RF if and when you wish, and the A7s becomes a practical companion as well. Looking forward to your journey with it.

    1. Thank you Ashwin!

      To be honest, it was your images that convinced me to try this camera. The A7S is the closest thing to an M9/M-E with respect to image rendering that is currently out there.

      [For those of you who are wondering whether I still support my Open Letter to Leica (http://photographsbypeter.com/2013/11/16/an-open-letter-to-leica/), notice I wrote “the closest thing to an M9/M-E”, so yes of course I still support Leica producing a future M with an updated CCD sensor. CCD has a quality to it, at base ISO, that is very special.]

      Thanks again Ashwin,


  8. Hi Peter

    Congrats on your A7s purchase and sincere best wishes of the season.

    If you have the time and feel inclined, would you be kind enough to share your thoughts on the df in contrast to the A7s in terms of file quality and functionality/useability. I am an M9 user pondering your journey (along with Ashwin’s and Steve Huff) and deliberating over these two cameras as a compliment to the Leica.

    I noticed that you commented positively on the df files but may not have warmed to the camera overall?

    Sincere thanks and appreciation.


    1. Both cameras have great sensors, but I’d give the A7S sensor the advantage.

      The Df feels and operates like a “real” camera, the A7S is still plagued by Sony’s computer-as-camera UI… it’s just too cluttered from an ergonomic and operational standpoint.

      The A7S (with proper adapters) allows for an infinite selection of legacy lenses and allows for easier manual focusing. With the Df, you are constrained to large F-mount lenses and manual focusing is less reliable.

      In the end, I parted with both of these cameras. For me, the M9 still easily wins, both from an ergonomic standpoint and a file quality standpoint.

      Hope that helps and thanks for the kind words Gary.


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