Recently I had the chance to play with a pre-production Sony A7R. I decided to couple a few of my beautiful MC Rokkors and the new Zeiss ZE 2.8/35mm and ZE 1.8/55mm.

The A7R itself is beautifully manufactured, feels solid and well built. Its user interface certainly is better than the one of the NEX-5/6/7 series, but not on par with professional DSLRs. Especially the front dial is not well placed, and certainly not easy to use. The whole set of buttons on the A7R is arranged completely different from the NEX series (again!!), and completely different from the professional Sony DSLRs as well. This certainly doesn't support the professional use of Sony Alpha equipment.

Apart from this, one major firmware glitch immediatly catched my eye: The Live View / Viewfinder zoom, so well suited for manual focusing, is NOT available when using vintage lenses without ROM! This may be a problem of the pre-production firmware, but due to similar issues with earlier Sony cameras we should keep an eye on it.


No let's come  to the lenses!

Camera: Sony A7R (36MP Full Frame, no AA-Filter)

Technical information: ISO 100, JPGs out of Camera, no additional sharpening, non correction of CAs. To avoid any vibration, the camera was placed directly on a massive stone wall, and triggered with 2s self timer

All images below are 100% crops from the JPGs directly "out-of-cam". As soon as decent RAW converters for the A7R are available, I will replace the JPGs with RAWs.

The images talen with vintage lenses had to be focused manually by "try and error" (WITHOUT the aid of Live View 100% view!). Therefore it might be that the actual performance of these vintage lenses is even better than shown here.

The Sony ZE 1.8/55mm was focused automatically, using contrast AF and the cental AF field.


Alpha7R MinMC 21mm f28

Minolta MC W Rokkor 21mm 1:2.8 (computed 1968, MC-X version shown here introduced 1973). The lens - probably the first retrofocus 20mm lens of any manufacturer - has an excellent reputation among those who have used it on film. The test with the 36MP A7R confirms that the lens has virtually the same resolution from f2.8 to f11 - indeed a remarkable fact for a 45 year old superwide! It remains to be seen how this lens compares to current state of the art superwides such as the Zeiss ZA 2.8/16-35mm or the Nikon 2.8/14-24mm - but probably it will nearly equal them.


Alpha7R MinMC 50mm f14

Minolta MC W Rokkor 50mm 1:1.4: This lens, introduced 1973 together with the professional Minolta XM, has a very good reputation. It is extremely well built, focusing is as smooth and precise as with Leica lenses, and its center resolution at as good the new Sony Zeiss ZE 1.8/55mm. Due to under-corrected spherical aberrations, the micro-contrast at f1.4 is quite low. At f2 (not shonw here) it's much better, virtually as good as at f2.8 - this might precisely be the reason why Sony has limited its new Zeiss ZE lens to 1:1.8.

Corner performance suffers a quite bit from field curvature, as shown by the two crops: The trees, further away than the lamps, are clearly out of focus. Only at f8 - f11 (not shown here) they are depicted with perfect clarity and highest detail resolution. 


Alpha7R MinMC 200mm f4

Minolta MC Tele Rokkor 200mm 1:4: This lens, introduced in 1975 together with the legendary MC/MD 2.8/135mm [4/4], obviously is an excellent performer. It probably performs better than the current Sony 2.8/70-200mm G zoom. It's detail resolution on 36 MP Full Frame is as outstanding as on the 16 MP NEX-5N (see here) and probably nearly as good as the Minolta AF 2.8/200mm APO!

I beg its price will raise quite a bit from its current 50 EUR / USD ...


Alpha7R SonyZE 55mm f18

Sony Zeiss ZE 1.8/55mm (2013): Certainly an outstanding performer, much better than any of Minoltas 1.4/50mm, 1.7/50mm and 2/50mm designs. Similar to the magnificient ZA 1.8/135mm lens, also the ZE 1.8/55mm performs nearly impeccable from f1.8 to f11. Its MTF figures are outstanding and as good as those of the exorbitantly expensive Leica APO Summicron 2/50mm.

I would expect that the Sony Zeiss ZE 1.8/55mm coupled with the 36MP Sony A7R delivers more detail than the APO Summicron 2/50mm on the Leica M240 - but of course this remains to be proved in a future test!