One of the best features of mirrorless cameras is that due to their thin body design, it’s possible to mount a huge array of lenses on them using lens mount adapters.
I tested a wide array of lens mount adapters while writing my new book for Peachpit Press, ‘Sony A7/A7R: From Snapshots to Great Shots‘. For more about these cameras, be sure to check out my Sony A7R Field Test and Sony A7S Field Test.
Sony A-Mount to E-Mount Lens Adapters
Before we jump into a discussion of third-party lens mount adapters, I should first mention a pair of Sony lens mount adapters made for mounting Sony A-Mount or Minolta Maxxum lenses on Sony A7/A7R/A7S series cameras.
Sony LA-EA3 lens adapter transmits the lens data to the camera to control aperture and uses the A7/A7R/A7S focus system to provide AF on SSM lenses. The LA-EA3 is and ideal choice for landscapes or architecture or any application where fast lighting focus isn’t needed but you wish to capture the highest possible resolution. ($199 at Amazon | B&H)
Sony LA-EA4 lens adapter adds full-time continuous Phase Detection AF using Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology making this adapter well-suited for shooting fast moving action or when shooting with older screw-drive lenses. According to DxO, the light loss from the translucent mirror is only 1/3 stop.
($349 at Amazon | B&H)
PLEASE NOTE: While the Sony Adapters listed above come supplied with front and rear caps – most third-party adapters do not. My advice is that whenever purchasing a third-party adapter, you also purchase a Sony R1EM Rear Lens Cap and Body Cap for the lens mount you’re adapting.
Three third-party lens adapter manufacturers have worked closely with Sony. Novoflex is the priciest of the three, Metabones hits a sweet mid-point of price and quality and FotodioX offers an extremely wide range of adapters at a very good price.
Canon EOS to Sony E-Mount Lens Adapters
There are now several options that provide AF & AE with Canon EF and EF-S lenses. None are what I’d call “fast” AF so I wouldn’t suggest any of them to shoot sports – but they work fine for portraits and landscapes. They work in AF mode with all Canon SSM lenses made since 2006, but non-SSM lenses, like the original 85/1.2 and 50/1.0, operate with manual focus only. Due to their extremely wide apertures, focus really pops in and out of focus making them extremely easy to focus with focus peaking.
Metabones Canon EF to Sony E-Mount Smart Adapter IV ($400 at Amazon | B&H) the latest update of the original – and most popular – AF lens adapter for Canon EOS to Sony E-mount. It adds improved anti-reflective interior coatings and offers better performance with tilt/shift lenses than version III.
Techart Canon EF to Sony NEX AF Adapter III [Falcon] (eBay) is a mid-priced option. It has a built-in wireless firmware upgrade module to allow users easy future upgrades and manufacturer specs list it with 20% faster AF than previous version 2. ($250 at eBay)
Viltrox EF-NEX II Auto Focus Canon EF Lens to Sony NEX and Full-frame A7/A7R Cameras is the best of the budget priced options. It’s not quite up to the build quality of Metabones – yet better built than other adapters in it’s price range. ($140 at Amazon)
Shooting wide open at f/1.2 with Canon EOS 85 f1.2 lens using a Metabones Canon EF to Sony E-Mount Smart Adapter allows you to limit focus so that only the eyes pop out of an otherwise soft, dreamy image. Only the eyes pop out of an otherwise soft, dreamy image.
Activating Focus Peaking and Manual Focus Assist
Most of the following lens adapters are ‘passive’ adapters that don’t communicate lens data with the camera. Unless otherwise noted below, auto functions like automatic diaphragm, auto-focusing, or other electronic functions will not operate correctly while using lens adapters, however aperture priority or manual exposure modes work just fine. Make certain ‘Release without Lens’ is enabled. Press Menu > Custom Settings 2 > Release w/o Lens. Then press center of the Control wheel to set to Enable.
Focus Peaking is a great tool to quickly confirm focus with manual focus lenses. It takes bit of practice, but when focus peaking is enabled in manual focus mode, in-focus areas appear highlighted in red, yellow or white in your EVF or LCD. To activate focus peaking, press Menu > Custom Settings 2 > Peaking Level, and then select High, Mid, or Low. I find that the Mid setting works best.
Next, press Menu > Custom Settings 2 > Peaking Color, and then choose Red, Yellow, or White. This allows you to pick the peaking color that works best for a given scene. I use yellow in low light and red when shooting bright, high-key subjects.
To activate Manual Focus Assist, press Menu > Custom Settings 1 > MF Assist > On. Rotate the focus ring on the lens, and watch through the viewfinder as it magnifies the center of the scene. Use the top/bottom/right/left of the Control wheel to redirect the magnification. Keep turning the focusing ring until you what you want to focus on is in focus.
If you shoot a lot with manual focus lenses, you’ll find it really handy to program the AF/MF Button to magnify fine focus.
Menu > Custom Settings 6 > Custom Key Settings > AF/MF Button > Focus Magnifier
Then simply press the AF/MF Button with your thumb to zoom in to confirm focus.
Leica M to Sony E-Mount Lens Adapters
Since the debut of the original NEX-5, I’ve been using Leica M to Sony E adapters to use my Vintage Leica, Zeiss and Voghtlander M-mount glass on Sony mirrorless bodies. I’ve tried quite a few from the inexpensive Chinese ebay adapters to the top of the line Novoflex and they all work fine – though the cheaper ones need a bit more upkeep like occasional tightening of the mount. Metabones Leica M Mount Lens to Sony E-Mount Adapters ($90 Amazon | B&H) hit a sweet spot between price and quality.
However there is one Leica M to Sony E adapter that stands out from the rest. The biggest problem with rangefinder lenses is that they rarely focus as closely and SLR glass. It’s not unusual for a 50mm M-Mount lens to focus no closer than one meter. That’s where the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus M-Mount to Sony E-Mount Lens Adapter ($309 at Amazon | B&H) comes in handy. Its Helicoid focus extension allows you to rack out an additional 4mm focus extension to the nearest focus point the lens. That’s enough to go from half body to a tight face when shooting with a 50mmm.
Portraits shot with Sony A7R + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1 Nokton at it’s closest focus distance (left) and with 4mm extension using Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus M-Mount to Sony E-Mount Lens Adapter (right).
Please see Part 2 of this review for information about Leica R lens adapters.
Nikon to Sony E-Mount Lens Adapters
You can pick up fast manual focus Nikon AIS glass at a great price these days. Metabones Nikon F to Sony E-Mount Adapter II ($90 at Amazon | B&H) is a great choice to mount them on A7/A7R. I recently picked up a Nikkor 55 f/1.2 for $350 which combined with the Metabones adapter makes for a killer combo for available light that’s hard to beat for $450.
Metabones Nikon F to Sony E lens adapter with Nikkor 55 f/1.2
However, if you plan to use Nikon G lenses, which have no aperture ring, a better choice is to use the Novoflex Nikon to Sony E-Mount Adapter ($293 at Amazon | B&H), Metabones Nikon G to Sony E-Mount Adapter ($139 Amazon | B&H), Vello Nikon G Lens to Sony E-Mount Adapter ($60 B&H) or FotodioX Adapter for Nikon G to Sony E-Mount ($60 at Amazon | B&H) which allows you to control the aperture of Nikon G lenses. You can use Nikon F lenses on Nikon G adapters – but Nikon F adapters can’t control the aperture of Nikon G lenses.
Lensbaby Tilt Transformer for Nikon F to Sony NEX
One more quite interesting choice for Nikon lenses is the Lensbaby Sony NEX Tilt Transformer. This adapter allows you to turn any Nikon lens from 8mm to 800mm into a tilt lens.
This can come in handy for adjusting the focus plane when shooting landscapes or product photography. Since Nikon manual focus glass is available with fast apertures, this adapter works great for selective focus enabling users to to limit focus to just a small part of the frame.
This adapter can be found on Amazon for $349.
Pentax K to Sony E-Mount Lens Adapters
Pentax K users who’d like to bring their favorite glass like the 31mm f/1.8, 43mm f/1.9 or 77mm f/1.8 Limited lenses with them, have three good choices in lens mount adapters: the Voigtlander Pentax K to Sony E Lens Mount Adapter ($179 at B&H) and Novoflex Adapter for Pentax K Lens to Sony E-Mount ($292 at B&H) or Dot Line NEX Adapter for Pentax K Lenses ($50 at Amazon | B&H).
• Leica R to Sony E-Mount Lens Mount Adapters
• Canon FD to Sony E-Mount Lens Mount Adapters
• Contax G to Sony E-Mount Lens Mount Adapters
• Contax N to Sony E-Mount Lens Mount Adapters
• Contax/Yashica to Sony E-Mount Lens Mount Adapters
• Minolta MD to Sony E-Mount Lens Mount Adapters
• Hasselblad V to Sony E-Mount Lens Mount Adapters
• Mamiya 645/Phase One to Sony E-Mount Lens Mount Adapters
For more tips and tricks about getting the most out of your Sony A7 or A7R, check out my latest book from Peachpit Press, ‘Sony A7/A7R: From Snapshots to Great Shots‘. These ground-breaking compact full-frame cameras which combine the features and image quality of a top-end DSLR in a smaller camera at half the weight, quickly racked up an impressive list of accolades including Popular Photography’s and Photo District News ‘Camera of the Year’.
This book is your guide to getting the most out of Sony’s A7 and A7R cameras. While the camera manual explains what the camera can do, it doesn’t show how to use the camera to create great images!
That’s where ‘Sony A7/A7R: From Snapshots to Great Shots‘ comes in. Starting with the top ten things users need to know about the camera, it carefully guides you through the operating features and how to use them with practical advice on which settings to use when, great shooting tips, and assignments at the end of chapter.