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Confessions of a defector to Sony


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Caveat:  What I say here is not intended to detract from Leica, the CL or the many photographers and friends on this forum who are happy to continue using their CL and take wonderful photos.  After all, I owned a CL system myself and probably would have continued if the CL2 had come along.  My needs are particular to me and have driven my choices, for my situation.

In March this year I packed up my entire CL outfit and sold it.  For the first time in 40 years there was no Leica in the house – a shock to me and even to my family, who wondered out loud if I was doing the right thing.  I promised to report back to friends on this forum re what happened next.  This is my report.

Before I sold the CL I had intended to stay with the L mount, perhaps a Panasonic S5, but when I investigated further, I decided on a complete change to Sony instead.  Sony has a history of compact, light digital cameras, it is in their DNA so to speak.  Their sales lagged Canon and Nikon until, around five years ago, their early adoption of mirrorless technology started to pay off.  Now Sony has caught up with and perhaps overtaken their Japanese rivals, and is arguably the mainstream camera system of choice in 2022.

Enclosed inside my Leica world, I had not realised these changes were taking place.  I thought of Sony as a purveyor of tired Minolta lenses that never made first rank and a flotilla of point-and-shoot cameras for the masses.  I was by no means ready to consider them a serious alternative.  Fast-forward to now: after a lot of research and persuasion I purchased a Sony A7R4 and a set of lenses.  It has been used for several thousand pictures taken during outings, events and overseas trips. 

Here are the key points from that experience:

The camera.  The A7R4 is relatively small and compact at 660gm – a little less than the S5 and considerably less than the SL range.  My CL + handgrip was slightly lighter at 550gm.  I love: the 61Mp BSI sensor, the 5.76Mp OLED viewfinder, IBIS, tilt screen, eye-detect autofocus.  The AF is in another league: remarkably fast and accurate, easy to adjust for specific focusing intentions and to combine with manual focusing.  (No more ‘wandering focus point’!)  All the features I wanted in a “CL2” and more.

The lenses.  I started with the Sony 24G/2.8 and the Sigma 45/2.8, at 183gm and 215gm respectively.  I chose the Sigma since it is popular with SL users and was well reviewed by Sean Reid, but have since replaced it with the Zeiss 55ZA/1.8 which is a better lens in every respect: sharp at full aperture, superior micro-contrast and better colour rendition.  This Zeiss lens weighs 280gm and is 70mm long.  It has been around for 10 years and is the sort of lens Leica should have been designing when they embarked on their SL primes.  In real life usage, its performance easily matches the SL50/2.0 Summicron which I have also owned and used extensively. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise is what an open standard the Sony E mount is.  There is a huge range of lenses from which to choose.  Sigma, Tamron, Voigtlander and others are all available in native E mount with the right electronic contacts for AF, IBIS and EXIF data.  Sony’s own lens designs have moved to the front of the pack.  I own the Sony 35GM/1.4 which is simply stunning from wide open onwards -- IMHO the best lens I have ever owned.

The buttons.  This was the part I dreaded.  There are indeed a lot of buttons and the menu system is unnecessarily confusing.  Nothing for it but to wrap a cold towel around my head and slog through the manual and videos for several difficult days.  That done, I now have the camera set up the way I want and don’t make any changes other than operational ones.  On the other hand, the lenses have physical aperture rings, which I like, a visible exposure compensation dial which I use all the time, and each control continues to do the same thing even when I change mode.  None of the buttons do double duty so the camera is not confusing when you are actually shooting.

The brand.  Sony is a consumer electronics company not a boutique luxury goods manufacturer, so there is no ‘white glove’ experience.  Styling is utilitarian but at least not offensive.  Products come in printed cardboard boxes and bubble wrap.  Not many will fetishise owning an A7 as a desirable object (although some do).  Prices, of course, are laughable for anyone who has lived in Leica land for 40 years.  My entire 5 lens set including a couple of premium objectives cost about the same as one Leica SL prime.

The results.  The ‘proof of the pudding’ is that the pictures variously please and amaze.  So much so that when editing it’s hard to choose the rejects.  The AF is a big factor in that.  No matter how good a lens, you only see its quality if the picture itself is in focus.  And every picture is sharp at the point of focus even in demanding conditions.

For holidays and outings, I can fit the camera and one or two lenses into the same camera bags I used for the CL and before that for the M240.  The weight difference is negligible.  I can crop any lens to 26Mp in APS-C and see the effect in the viewfinder, giving me four effective focal lengths with a two-prime day kit.  Or I can take my trusty Sigma 18-50 APS-C zoom which delivers excellent results, as many here already know. 

So I have my “CL2” with everything I wanted, and with full frame as a bonus.  Oh yes, and there is an A7R5 rumoured for release later this year, which we do expect Sony to deliver.

Edited by rob_w
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rob_w

Caveat:  What I say here is not intended to detract from Leica, the CL or the many photographers and friends on this forum who are happy to continue using their CL and take wonderful photos.  After all, I owned a CL system myself and probably would have continued if the CL2 had come along.  My needs are particular to me and have driven my choices, for my situation. In March this year I packed up my entire CL outfit and sold it.  For the first time in 40 years there was no Leica in the house

bags27

I don't mean to go all Karl Marx-alienation on everyone, but do you realize how unhappy this thread is? There's so little joy here. Very few make a living from photography. It's a hobby. It's fun. But when talking about gear, it becomes so serious, somber, anxiety-ridden. That's a huge reason why I returned full time to film. My M10 sits for 2+ years, I use my CL rarely to scan negatives, but that's mainly with my Fuji GFX-r. I laugh at my mistakes and prize the couple of decent photos I ta

pgk

I too feel that Leica is moving in a direction that doesn't realy interest me, and prices have moved upwards too far. I will keep my existing M system but I'm starting to struggle to see its absolute advantages given that I can get extremely good results, and certainly as good as I need, at much more affordable prices. I like my Ms but uprgading (even if I neede a camera of the M11's specification) is no longer going to make sense. I have other things to spend such money on. My SL has gone and s

Posted Images

I run a Sony A7 series system and whilst I have my reservations about some aspects (that menu system😒) it can certainly deliver in terms of the images. The lenses too can compete with any. I still have an M system and it will stay but I agree that Sony are now as good as, and sometimes better than, their competitors in terms of what they can deliver. They still need to learn about user interfaces though. I would hope that eventually there could be numerous interfaces and customisable menus to choose from. They are after all computers .....

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16 minutes ago, rob_w said:

Caveat:  What I say here is not intended to detract from Leica, the CL or the many photographers and friends on this forum who are happy to continue using their CL and take wonderful photos.  After all, I owned a CL system myself and probably would have continued if the CL2 had come along.  My needs are particular to me and have driven my choices, for my situation.

In March this year I packed up my entire CL outfit and sold it.  For the first time in 40 years there was no Leica in the house – a shock to me and even to my family, who wondered out loud if I was doing the right thing.  I promised to report back to friends on this forum re what happened next.  This is my report.

Before I sold the CL I had intended to stay with the L mount, perhaps a Panasonic S5, but when I investigated further, I decided on a complete change to Sony instead.  Sony has a history of compact, light digital cameras, it is in their DNA so to speak.  Their sales lagged Canon and Nikon until, around five years ago, their early adoption of mirrorless technology started to pay off.  Now Sony has caught up with and perhaps overtaken their Japanese rivals, and is arguably the mainstream camera system of choice in 2022.

Enclosed inside my Leica world, I had not realised these changes were taking place.  I thought of Sony as a purveyor of tired Minolta lenses that never made first rank and a flotilla of point-and-shoot cameras for the masses.  I was by no means ready to consider them a serious alternative.  Fast-forward to now: after a lot of research and persuasion I purchased a Sony A7R4 and a set of lenses.  It has been used for several thousand pictures taken during outings, events and overseas trips. 

Here are the key points from that experience:

The camera.  The A7R4 is relatively small and compact at 660gm – a little less than the S5 and considerably less than the SL range.  My CL + handgrip was slightly lighter 550gm.  I love: the 61Mp BSI sensor, the 5.76Mp OLED viewfinder, IBIS, tilt screen, eye-detect autofocus.  The AF is in another league: remarkably fast and accurate, easy to adjust for specific focusing intentions and to combine with manual focusing.  (No more ‘wandering focus point’!)  All the features I wanted in a “CL2” and more.

The lenses.  I started with the Sony 24G/2.8 and the Sigma 45/2.8, at 183gm and 215gm respectively.  I chose the Sigma since it is popular with SL users and was well reviewed by Sean Reid, but have since replaced it with the Zeiss 55ZA/1.8 which is a better lens in every respect: sharp at full aperture, superior micro-contrast and better colour rendition.  This Zeiss lens weighs 280gm and is 70mm long.  It has been around for 10 years and is the sort of lens Leica should have been designing when they embarked on their SL primes.  In real life usage, its performance easily matches the SL50/2.0 Summicron which I have also owned and used extensively. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise is what an open standard the Sony E mount is.  There is a huge range of lenses from which to choose.  Sigma, Tamron, Voigtlander and others are all available in native E mount with the right electronic contacts for AF, IBIS and EXIF data.  Sony’s own lens designs have moved to the front of the pack.  I own the Sony 35GM/1.4 which is simply stunning from wide open onwards -- IMHO the best lens I have ever owned.

The buttons.  This was the part I dreaded.  There are indeed a lot of buttons and the menu system is unnecessarily confusing.  Nothing for it but to wrap a cold towel around my head and slog through the manual and videos for several difficult days.  That done, I now have the camera set up the way I want and don’t make any changes other than operational ones.  On the other hand, the lenses have physical aperture rings, which I like, a visible exposure compensation dial which I use all the time, and each control continues to do the same thing even when I change mode.  None of the buttons do double duty so the camera is not confusing when you are actually shooting.

The brand.  Sony is a consumer electronics company not a boutique luxury goods manufacturer, so there is no ‘white glove’ experience.  Styling is utilitarian but at least not offensive.  Products come in printed cardboard boxes and bubble wrap.  Not many will fetishise owning an A7 as a desirable object (although some do).  Prices, of course, are laughable for anyone who has lived in Leica land for 40 years.  My entire 5 lens set including a couple of premium objectives cost about the same as one Leica SL prime.

The results.  The ‘proof of the pudding’ is that the pictures variously please and amaze.  So much so that when editing it’s hard to choose the rejects.  The AF is a big factor in that.  No matter how good a lens, you only see its quality if the picture itself is in focus.  And every picture is sharp at the point of focus even in demanding conditions.

For holidays and outings, I can fit the camera and one or two lenses into the same camera bags I used for the CL and before that for the M240.  The weight difference is negligible.  I can crop any lens to 26Mp in APS-C and see the effect in the viewfinder, giving me four effective focal lengths with a two-prime day kit.  Or I can take my trusty Sigma 18-50 APS-C zoom which delivers excellent results, as many here already know. 

So I have my “CL2” with everything I wanted, and with full frame as a bonus.  Oh yes, and there is an A7R5 rumoured for release later this year, which we do expect Sony to deliver.

You are giving me serious food for thought. This I did not expect.

It may be that I should consider a change ....

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Posted (edited)

I sold my whole Sony kit (I'd had one since 2016) earlier this year and picked up an SL2 to replace that part of my work. Namely, the part where I need AF and a little more versatility for some of my jobs, though my work now can mostly be done with an M, sometimes I still need a few other bells/whistles - not as much as I used to, thankfully. For awhile I ran my A7r2 next to my M10 and it illustrated so clearly how inferior the Leica sensor was (eventually I learned to work within its limits better), but in 2017 the difference in IQ was striking. Still is, given the price difference. 

I love how the SL2 works well with M glass, and I like the design of it. The rest of it, well, it's more than I need, but not better than Sony - in some cases a real step back (I just don't care about those cases). I'd take Sony (or Fuji) over a CL/TL kit any day though - esp if I was willing to shoot APS-C (I'm not), but I'm invested in Leica because of the M system - and now the L system only because I got sick of running more than one brand of kit at a time, and the sigma lenses are plenty good for when I need AF (no way I'm ever buying a Leica SL lens). But yea, from most perspectives Sony and Fuji smash Leica, so I don't blame you. In fact, the system being discontinued looked inevitable from the start (to me). Leica has precious few traits that you can cite to justify purchase if you squint hard enough - all connected to the M, none present in the CL/TL system. I do hope they keep the SL, because having a more up to date tool that complements an M is a big value IMO - and nothing I've used adapts that glass as seamlessly. 

I never totally got the gripes about the Sony menu - as with any camera, I spent some time learning to use it and to set it up for my way of working, and after that it was hardly a fuss. Maybe it took a little bit longer to get to know, but the thing with options is that you don't need to use them and if you make use of the camera efficiently you can actually just avoid most of them.

Edited by pgh
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Been using Kolari mod Sony A7s and A7r2 as alternatives to the SL that i found too bulky for my taste. Great cameras indeed but those are full frame cameras of course. Not sure what they have to do with  crop cameras like CL or TL2. Only common point is M lenses that can be used with both through adaptors but no Sony lens can be used on CL/TL2 cameras and no L lens can be used on Sony cameras either, unless i'm missing something...

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10 hours ago, pgh said:

I never totally got the gripes about the Sony menu - as with any camera, I spent some time learning to use it and to set it up for my way of working, and after that it was hardly a fuss. Maybe it took a little bit longer to get to know, but the thing with options is that you don't need to use them and if you make use of the camera efficiently you can actually just avoid most of them.

exactly

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I was using Minolta and then Sony A-mount for years before i owned a Leica, so the Sony cameras feel very normal to me. When Sony left A-mount, i moved across to E-mount, and it has done everything I’ve asked too. 

My principal Sony is the A1, although I still have my A9 and A7R4 - either for backup, or if honest, I’ve been too disorganised to put them up for sale.

Menu system doesn’t fuss me, either the old menu or the new menus of the A1. Mostly after I’ve set up the camera i don’t need to deep dive. I get more confused by Canon & Nikon menus because they are unfamiliar. 

The A1 does things i couldn’t dream about doing with the CL, but the CL is still the camera I reach for first. 

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58 minutes ago, AdHox said:

The A1 does things i couldn’t dream about doing with the CL, but the CL is still the camera I reach for first. 

The A1 looks lovely but I decided on the A7R4 as it was half the price and somewhat lighter.  Curious why you would reach for the CL first though -- what drives that choice?

In truth, I am a one-camera person anyway.  There have only been a few occasions when I owned more, and usually one of them was retired pretty soon.

Edited by rob_w
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17 hours ago, lct said:

Been using Kolari mod Sony A7s and A7r2 as alternatives to the SL that i found too bulky for my taste. Great cameras indeed but those are full frame cameras of course. Not sure what they have to do with  crop cameras like CL or TL2. Only common point is M lenses that can be used with both through adaptors but no Sony lens can be used on CL/TL2 cameras and no L lens can be used on Sony cameras either, unless i'm missing something...

I use a lens booster on my 6500 for my R lenses. BUT the Elmarit 15mm is not so very good on it. 

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1 minute ago, jankap said:

I use a lens booster on my 6500 for my R lenses. BUT the Elmarit 15mm is not so very good on it. 

The 6500 has a thick sensor stack perhaps? I have no experience with it sorry. My Sony's are full frame and have a sensor modded by Kolari vision.

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Posted (edited)

A lens booster is a complicated optical device. I don´t blame the developers. By the way there was a lens booster developed for Leica M to Sony APS. In Bavaria, for a asian company! A production was not started.

This thread? Tar and feathers? What do you think?

Edited by jankap
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6 minutes ago, jankap said:

A lens booster is complicated optical device. I don´t blame the developers. By the way there was a lens booster developed for Leica M to Sony APS. In Bavaria, for a asian company! A production was not started.

This thread? Tar and feathers? What do you think?

I guess so too. My wider R lens was the S-A 21/4 so i have no experience with either R 15/2.8 or 15/3.5. As for this thread, it would be interesting to see how the A7r4 behaves with Leica lenses but the OP preferred Sony lenses apparently. I have bought a couple of them with my Sony bodies, especially an excellent Zeiss 55/1.8, but i'm not sure i would choose a Leica forum to praise it. FWIW.

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On 7/19/2022 at 6:47 PM, rob_w said:

The A1 looks lovely but I decided on the A7R4 as it was half the price and somewhat lighter.  Curious why you would reach for the CL first though -- what drives that choice?

In truth, I am a one-camera person anyway.  There have only been a few occasions when I owned more, and usually one of them was retired pretty soon.

The CL is a better option for my carry everyday everywhere camera, being more compact with one or two small primes, and it’s also a joy to use.

The A1 is preferred when I need certain lenses, e.g., long tele lenses for birds & other wildlife, sports &c., and also when the forecast is for too much weather. Most of my E-mount lenses are on the bulky end of the scale. My 55/1.8 is a notable exception.

Now that travel is happening again, I’ll be curious as to which kit I pack on my next OS trip. 

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On 7/18/2022 at 4:42 PM, pgh said:

I do hope they keep the SL, because having a more up to date tool that complements an M is a big value IMO - and nothing I've used adapts that glass as seamlessly. 

Completely agree.  If I was still fast and accurate with manual focus I would have kept my M lenses and branched into an SL as you describe.  "The road not taken"

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2 hours ago, AdHox said:

The CL is a better option for my carry everyday everywhere camera, being more compact with one or two small primes, and it’s also a joy to use.

Absolutely get it.  If you are running two kits it makes a lot of sense.  I searched quite hard for lenses which would meet my needs while keeping the total weight light.  The A7 with any of  the 24, 45 or 55 lenses is basically the same carry everyday I used to do with the CL.

I doubt I do enough photography to justify owning two kits.  In the past, for example, I owned a Canon 30D outfit and a Leica M8 (this was acquired back when Leica doubted they could make a digital M).  Once I owned the M8 the Canon sat in the cupboard unused for months, before I sent it off to a new home.

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On 7/19/2022 at 2:31 AM, Mr.Prime said:

I was thinking about Fuji for my CL2 but now you have me thinking about Sony too. 

I do like the Fuji offerings and might have gone that way, but I thought they did not offer a big change in size/weight compared to full frame.  The compact nature of the A7 and many of the lenses took me by surprise, really.

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1 hour ago, rob_w said:

I do like the Fuji offerings and might have gone that way, but I thought they did not offer a big change in size/weight compared to full frame.  The compact nature of the A7 and many of the lenses took me by surprise, really.

I've had trouble putting my finger on the reason(s) why I can't pull the trigger on another Fuji. It might boil down to their over-use of physical adjustments (knobs/buttons). Ironic, because that initially drew me into them -- *not* having to deal with menus. But after some use, I learned to strongly prefer the CL's mixed bag of a few customizable knobs/buttons with the rest in nearby menus.

Beyond that, there's still something about Fuji that I can't get into. Maybe something as simple as its weight or balance in the hands.

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On 7/19/2022 at 1:36 PM, jankap said:

A lens booster is a complicated optical device. I don´t blame the developers. By the way there was a lens booster developed for Leica M to Sony APS. In Bavaria, for a asian company! A production was not started.

This thread? Tar and feathers? What do you think?

Hollow square and rip the buttons of his coat.

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On 7/19/2022 at 1:17 PM, lct said:

I have bought a couple of [Sony lenses] with my Sony bodies, especially an excellent Zeiss 55/1.8, but i'm not sure i would choose a Leica forum to praise it. FWIW.

We shouldn't really live in isolation and assuming that Leica lenses are 'better' than everything else, or should we? I like my Leica lenses but I'm not blind to the fact that Sony build some lenses that are as good as you can get too.

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