From the pits, crowds and stages
From the earliest days of the mirrorless movement, photographers have enjoyed the ability to adapt manual focus lenses made for various legacy camera mounts to their new systems. With their electronic viewfinders and focusing aids, mirrorless cameras are uniquely suited for the task of manual focusing older lenses. As one of those early adopters, I adapted every rangefinder or legacy SLR lens I could get my hands on.
The results were satisfying but manual focusing can be challenging for moving subjects or for those with poor eyesight. Thanks to the technology in the new Sony Alpha series mirrorless cameras – specifically those cameras with on-sensor phase detection autofocus – and the ingenuity of a small company in Hong Kong, we now have the ability to autofocus almost any manual focus lens manufactured over the past 75 years for the 35mm format.
This wizardry is delivered via a new smart adapter called the Techart Pro – I’m calling it TAP for short – for Sony’s latest generation of phase detect autofocus (PDAF) cameras: the a7RII, a7II and a6300. Don’t bother trying it with any previous Sony models but we might assume that future Sony PDAF cameras should be compatible. Out of the box, the adapter supports lenses made for Leica M mount, but due to the short flange distance of that platform, there is plenty of room for an additional adapter to stack on the TAP, thus increasing the mount compatibility to support: ALPA, Canon FD and EF, Contarex CRX, Contax/Yashica (C/Y), DKL, Exakta, Leica R, M42, Minolta MD, Nikon F, Olympus OM and Pentax K. These additional adapters can be purchased from Techart or perhaps more cheaply on eBay or Amazon. The TAP itself costs $349 and can be ordered directly from the manufacturer.
The manufacturer claims that TAP can focus a lens as large as 700g but for my purposes, I’m primarily looking at small and light rangefinder lenses as they maximize the compact potential of mirrorless. For this review I’m using the following selection of Zeiss ZM lenses:
- Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM
- Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 C Biogon T* ZM
- Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 C Sonnar T* ZM
- Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar T* ZM
- Zeiss 85mm f/4 Tele Tessar T* ZM
Thursday, July 14th marked another milestone show in the storied history of Antone’s in Austin, TX. Celebrating its 41st anniversary, the venue hosted a surprise family get together featuring Gary Clark Jr and Barbara Lynn, as well as Don Leady & his Rockin’ Revue, featuring Jack Montesinos. With Susan Antone in attendance and a sell out crowd lucky enough to share the intimate evening with TX music greats, the new space on E 5th felt just right. Half way through his set, after commenting on how damn hot it was, Gary Clark Jr. recognized the uniqueness of the night – both points agreed upon by all in attendance.
These are exciting times for fans of legacy film lenses. Since the advent of mirrorless technology, photographers have adapted their old rangefinder and manual focus SLR lenses, but there have remained some wonderful optics that were for the most part, off limits. During the 1990s, camera makers were producing high end film compacts for discriminating professionals and enthusiasts. Cameras like the Leica Minilux, Contax T3, Konica Hexar AF and the Ricoh GR fit in a jacket pocket but rival the quality of larger SLR or rangefinder systems. While they continue to be used today by film aficionados, it is a sad day when they suffer from an electronics failure that can no longer be repaired.
Being a fan of compact film cameras like the Contax T2, Ricoh GR and the Leica Minilux, I couldn’t pass up a chance to test out the new conversion kit from MGR Productions that repurposes the Summarit 40mm f/2.4 lens from a Leica Minilux into an M-mount for use on my Sony. Check back for a full breakdown of the conversion process and samples.
The upside to having an eleven-year-old that is plane crazy is that I get to relive my own childhood love of aviation. A couple weekends ago we headed out to a vintage car and airplane show in Georgetown, TX with cameras in tow. My son had a little Konica A4 loaded up with some Kodak ProImage 100 while I grabbed the RX1RII and the a7RII with Touit 12mm. Click through for a gallery of our good times.
When mirrorless first emerged on the market back in 2008 with the Panasonic DMC-G1 – not counting the earlier and more esoteric rangefinders from Epson and Leica – the concept of a smaller camera performing at the level of a dSLR was quite foreign to photographers and if we are fair, still a few years off. As Olympus, Fuji, Leica, Ricoh, Pentax, Sony and eventually even Canon and Nikon jumped into the nascent format, all the early systems were small, with lenses that matched the diminutive bodies. Those early systems like the Olympus Pen, the Sony NEX and the Ricoh GXR were a revelation to photographers sick of the ever expanding waistline of their dSLR kits.
In 1988, The Sugarcubes debut album “Life’s Too Good” was getting heavy rotation in my cd player and served as an introduction to the quirky band’s native Iceland. Over the years other Icelandic bands like Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men, continued to sonically and lyrically paint an enticing canvas of their native homeland, further cementing the small country on my bucket list of places to visit. So this fall, while friends planned their winter vacation to warmer climes, I pitched the family on an adventure in the land of Ice and Fire. My wife has come to accept my odd predilections and the kids were just happy to get passports so we booked the flights and began our planning.
These days Sony users are feeling the love from Zeiss with the company’s highly regarded Batis lenses and the smaller rangefinder style manual focus Loxia line. While the Batis and Loxia (Zeiss names their lens lines after bird species – due to their visual acuity) are excellent native options, the beauty of the Sony mirrorless system is that we can mount nearly every lens developed for a 35mm sensor. So when I was looking for a 21mm loaner from my friendly Zeiss rep at Precision Camera, he advised that I give the new Milvus 21/2.8 a try.