I really liked was the Leica Q but it fell short of being a keeper.
I took some photos I really liked 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.
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.
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. For this post the bits have been updated courtesy a recent lens release:
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.
What made the A7c so special when compared to earlier full frame mirrorless Sony models? 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.
Back then there were only two native AF FE 28mm lenses available. Neither really suited my case. 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.
- This lens definitely qualifies as special but at a cost of size, weight, and price.
But there was another option. And I had 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.
- 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.
- This was my choice for the first post when combined with Techart PRO Leica M Mount Lens to Sony E-Mount Camera Autofocus Adapter.
This set up passed my test case. Bring it with for a couple of days and capture what appeared before me. How did it do? Great.
But since then a few new slightly wider 24mm lenses have been released.
- I am sure it is a fine lens, but it lacks weather sealing and is not as proven as the other brands.
- Also 50% heavier than the lightest of these three (Rokinon/Samyang) while lacking weather sealing.
- Not a considerable savings over another lens on this list that carries more features.
- Dedicated aperture ring is a nice touch.
- Top notch image performance to be sure. Built like the proverbial brick house.
- Almost twice as heavy as the Rokinon/Samyang.
- Almost 3x as much or $1,000 more than the other two 24mm lenses here.
- Viltrox I see your dedicated aperture ring and raise you an AF/MF switch, focus hold button, and weather sealing.
- According to reviews I have watched it has performance rivaling the best on the market including the Sony 24mm GM above.
- The lightest of the three by far while not giving up much of anything elsewhere.
- The second least expensive while more than competitive with both.
- Sony I see your dedicated aperture ring, Mode switch that can be used for MF or aperture, focus hold button, and weather sealing and raise you the helpful and not at all gimmicky ingenious Infinity on Demand with a confirmation light. More on that in this lens review post.
Sidebar: The very nice Sony 20mm f/1.8 was also considered but it is getting a bit too wide for my every day use at 20mm. Also it is $400 more than the Rokinon/Samyang with a similar aperture spec.
The choice was easy for me. The second most expensive lens with a feature set and performance that rivals the one that cost three times as much. More specifically the Rokinon/Samyang…
What of the faster f/1.4. My recent experience with Canon STM and Rokinon/Samyang lenses taught me that f/1.8 will do just fine. Additionally faster f/1.4 Rokinon/Samyang lenses I had in the past may not have been that much more expensive, but they brought with them a size and weight compromise with A7 bodies that made even less sense with the A7c.
Lens and Camera Combined
In that prior post I listed the similarities, minuses, and pluses between the A7c/7Artisans/TECHART set up and the Leica Q. I will do the same here. Will also add notes about the 7Artisans/TECHART combination where applicable.
- Form factor. While the A7c body is a bit smaller than the Leica Q body the lens is a bit longer so it makes for a similar experience all around. Same as last time around.
- Macro. While not sporting a macro mode like the Q the Rokinon/Samyang focuses closely enough for my purposes.
- Full frame.
- 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. While not sporting the Leica name I have zero complaints with the Rokinon/Samyang.
- The Leica was a bit faster at f/1.4.
- 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.
- That is about it.
- AF is as huge step up from the TECHART which is expected, but with Sony’s top of the class AF this set up surpasses the very competent Q as well. Adding a focus hold button is also an advantage over both.
- MF is as good or better with the Rokinon/Samyang also. It adds a switch than can be configured to engage MF. As an additional perk this camera’s Infinity on Demand feature bests both of the other focus by wire options by snapping to infinity anytime you wish with ease.
- 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.
- Battery life. The A7c is good for over 700 shots while the Leica Q was good for 300.
- Weather sealing. Unlike the Q the Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/1.8 is weather sealed when combined with the A7c. You have to step up to the newer and significantly more expensive Q2 if you want weather sealing.
- Fully articulating screen. This is great for low and high angle shots. Also allows you to swing the screen around for an EVF only experience.
- Versatility. While the Q is 28mm only the A7c is not limited. The Q offered “different focal length” simulations but this amounted to an in camera crop. Courtesy Rokinon/Samyang there are a whole line of f/1.8 lenses of similar size at different focal lengths that allow one to build a bootleg Q at a focal length of their liking.
While we are at it…
If you are listening how about an AF 135mm f/1.8? I would buy the mess of a Rokinon/Samyang 135mm f/1.8 if you made such a thing. You do not even need to make it tiny. Go for it.
Please. Thank you.
And back to our regularly scheduled program.
- Value. A definite win. A used Leica Q will run you… (GAS affliction. Just went to eBay to double check the current price. Was suggested a lens. Bought it. Lost track what I was doing. Watched a couple of lens review videos… Oh yeah. I was writing a post.) Yep. Still around $3,000 or so. Used mind you. A brand new A7c and Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/1.8 will cost you more than $1,000 less. The only current path to a new Q is the Q2 which has many more features and also costs considerably more.
I could not recommend the 7Artisans/TECHART set up outright. I instead stated that my goal was to offer information to help others who may consider something like this.
Do I recommend the A7c/Rokinon//Samyang 24mm f/1.8 setup?
Yes. Yes, I do.
As I always say.
Your mileage may vary.
But Leica Pixie dust (Which is very real.) aside after having shot with both I would recommend the A7c and Rokinon/Samyang lens. Earlier comparisons were largely value arguments where weaknesses did exist, but that is not the case here. That being said…
If you want a Leica (I understand completely.)… buy a Leica. Nothing else will do.
But if you are attracted to a Leica Q form and performance approximation for less spend with additional features here you go.
Here are some sample shots below to close out the post. Happy shooting.