Eric L. Woods

First off I come in peace and do not intend to offend any Leica adherents. Just having fun with a camera that is proving to be as versatile as I had hoped it would be. The Sony A7c.

Sony A7c

Another camera that I really liked but fell short of being a keeper was the Leica Q.

Leica Q (Type 116)

I took some photos I really like with it. Owing to its excellent Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens it was great for environmental portrait and capturing wide images of day to day life.

Leica Q (Type 116)
Leica Q (Type 116)
Leica Q
Leica Q (Type 116)
Leica Q (Type 116)
Leica Q (Type 116)
Leica Q (Type 116)

I did not keep it because once the initial Summilux haze cleared I realized that it was a bit dear for a camera with such a relatively limited use case. I typically prefer more flexibility above a certain price point. That being said I did enjoy using it.

The idea

When the A7c was released I realized that, with retaining the versatility of an A7 series camera, I might also be able to recreate a bit of the Q experience with varied bits at a lower price point all in. Alright the bits:

Camera body

This was easy. There is only one AF compact interchangeable lens full frame camera with features like AF, IBIS, and a rangefinder-ish located EVF at any price. The camera that started this whole exercise. The Sony A7c.

Sony A7c

Lens

Currently there are only two native AF FE 28mm lenses available. Neither really suit my case here. Here is why.

  • Sony FE 28mm f/2
    • At f/2 it is a 1/2 stop slower than the Summilux f/1.7.
    • While definitely within the cost affordability constraints desired this lens does not feel “special”. While the inbuilt lens of the Leica Q has AF the lens itself has a rangefinder feel and look. This includes the image quality. The Sony 28mm:
      • Feel and Look: Constructed of some metal but plasticky and hollow feeling in hand. Horrible? Unacceptable? No. Just not what I am looking for here.
      • IQ: Uncorrected this lens has quite a bit of barrel distortion. Easily corrected by the camera or in Lightroom but I would rather a lens that did not require so much correction.
  • Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
    • This lens definitely qualifies as special but at a cost of size, weight, and price.
      • Size and weight. As one of the earlier FE Sigma lenses this lens amounts to a DSLR lens with an MC11 adapter fused to the backend. While effective this makes for a rather large and heavy lens which does not fit the bill here.
      • Price. At $1,399.99 it costs almost $1,000 more than the Sony option. While the lens is likely worth it combined with the size and weight it does not make sense for this application.

But there is another option. And I have the good fortune of already owning it. The <inhales> 7artisans Photoelectric 28mm f/1.4 FE-Plus M-Mount Lens for Sony E. Sure there is another like mount 28mm f/1.4 but it is a bit out of my price range. You may be thinking, “Hold on. Rangefinder lenses do not have AF.” I’ll get to that. But here are the pluses.

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary
  • 7artisans Photoelectric 28mm f/1.4 FE-Plus M-Mount Lens for Sony E
    • At f/1.4 it is a 1/2 stop faster than the lens in the Leica Q.
    • While I am sure the Leica of the same spec is a superior lens warranting the additional cost for some the 7Artisans variant performs more than just fine for my purposes. Well built and offers IQ as good as any lens I have encountered. Very sharp, great colors, and pleasing bokeh. In fact when I purchased this lens it numbered as one of the reasons why I felt comfortable letting go of the Leica Q.

Now back to the AF thing.

Autofocus

Techart PRO Leica M Mount Lens to Sony E-Mount Camera Autofocus Adapter

What allowed the 7Artisans to push the Leica Q out of my door was the TECHART AF adapter that provided autofocus for M Mount lenses on Sony A7 bodies.

So if I could use this on previous A7 models what is the big deal about the A7c? Simple. Form factor. The faux DSLR shaped A7 models were technically proficient but lacked something when it came to shooting rangefinder glass. Body style surely does not make for a better image but it does have an impact on the shooting experience for me personally. Your mileage may vary.

My test case

Simple. Same as I would do when I had the Leica Q. Bring it with for a couple of days and capture what appeared before me. How did it do? Great. Next are some sample images followed by similarities, minuses, and pluses as compared to the Leica Q.

Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Heavy Crop - Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Heavy crop.
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Uncropped.
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Heavy crop of the shot above.
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4

Similarities compared to the Leica Q

  • Form factor. While the A7c body is a bit smaller than the Leica Q the lens is a bit longer so it makes for a similar experience all around.
  • Focusing.
    • AF is as competent with the TECHART. The Sony does add Eye AF as well as always available Face Detect where the Q had Face Detect as a separate focusing mode and no Eye AF.
    • MF is the same focus peaking experience when using my helicoid adapter. The TECHART does not work with MF mode. Go figure.
  • Macro possible with both. The Leica Q has a dedicated macro switch and can focus quite closely. The 7artisans and TECHART allow for close focusing by focusing in further with the lens (usually set to infinity).
  • Full frame. I will agree that there are many great APS-C and even smaller sensors out there, but I really like to use vintage lenses so retaining the intended field of view is very important to me. Have tried speed boosters and they have been effective but I shoot far too many film mounts for that to make sense.
  • One card slot. The A7c, Q, and M all have one card slot. As a daily shooter and occasional main camera back up this is not an issue for me.
  • IBIS. Both have this and it is appreciated on both.
  • IQ. For me the 7Artisans and the A7c are such capable performers that they give up little if anything as compared to the Leica Q in my experience.

Minuses compared to the Leica Q

  • No Program mode option available. An unlinked lens aperture cannot be driven by the camera. No big loss for me since I almost always shoot aperture priority.
  • While solid feeling the A7c/TECHART/7Artisans will not match an all of one Leica. Bad? No. But the Leica pulls ahead in this regard.
  • Not a Leica. No matter how competent it is not a Leica camera. The pixie dust is real. As I always say if you want a Leica buy a Leica. I am fine with a Leica-ish experience myself. Personal preference.

Pluses compared to the Leica Q

  • Grip. Personal preference but I much prefer the grip of the A7c to the smooth grip-less build of the Q. An accessory grip or a case with a grip like I had is highly recommended.
  • A 1/2 stop more light at f/1.4 rather than f/1.7.
  • Battery life. The A7c is good for over 700 shots while the Leica Q was good for 300. Based on past experience I have run out of battery with the Q I had and this has yet to occur with the A7c.
  • Versatility. While the Q is 28mm only I can also use the A7c with my other M Mount glass. The Q offered “different focal length” simulations but this amounted to an in camera crop. Effectively useless since I shoot in RAW. The RAW files retained the full image of course so I could crop in post so I never used the in camera crop. Can do the same with with any camera.
  • Value. Left this one for last. A used Leica Q will still run you around $3,000. Used. A brand new A7c, TECHART adapter, and 7Artisans combined will run you a few hundred less. The only current path to a new Q is the Q2 which has many more features and also costs considerably more.

Do I recommend this setup to others? I have no idea. You are the only one that can decide that for yourself. My goal was to offer information to help others who may consider something like this.

Starting from scratch this may be a hard sell admittedly.

If you already have a Sony A7 body and you are alright with the form factor or if you were already considering an A7c this might make sense.

If you already have Leica M Mount glass this might make sense for you.

If you already have a TECHART adapter you may have already jumped down the rabbit hole so why not go a little further?

I will say this.

I personally enjoyed using this set up a great deal.

Sony A7c

As I always say.

Your mileage may vary.

If you want a Leica (I understand completely.)… buy a Leica.

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