Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 5 – Conclusions

I’ve long since sent back the Sony LA-EA5 adapter and the Sony A7R IV A camera to Lensrentals.com and I have begun to review all the photos I took for sharpness and other criteria but the information I gleaned from this test are not dependent on the very detailed examination of individual files.

The questions I was trying to answer were:

  • Does the LA-EA5 provide modern autofocus capability to the Minolta and Sony A-mount lenses that do not have motors built in?
  • Will these motorless lenses prove capable of capitalizing on the enhanced autofocus functionality in real world situations?
  • How does the A7R IV A camera compare to the A7 III with respect to tracking autofocus?

So, what did I find?

Well,

  • The LA-EA5 does allow for some of the modern autofocus modes to function with these a-mount lenses. You can run tracking autofocus and you can use eye autofocus and most of the modes that you can use with normal e-mount lenses.  One very disappointing exception is that the magnification setting that I like to use so much while making macro shots is disabled while in autofocus.  It is only available in manual focus.  And with this one exception the usefulness of the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens is greatly reduced for me.  I very often like to magnify the head of an insect to get perfect focus on the eye.  Well, forget that.  So, you can see that this first answer has been far less than a complete success.  The lenses will allow me to take advantage of much better autofocus than currently available with the LA-EA4 but a key function is unavailable.
  • So, for the autofocus functions that these lenses are provided with how do they perform in real world conditions? Well, once again, it’s a mixed bag.  For relatively static subjects like a hummingbird hovering around a flower bush the autofocus worked quite well.  With the flexible spot it actually stuck with the bird as it moved around the viewfinder.  It succeeded in maintaining sharp focus on the bird.  With dynamic subjects like bird in flight or, in my case, dog in run, it was a complete failure.  Even if the tracking autofocus kept up with the subject, the lens couldn’t focus and capture the subject successfully.  My keeper rate was zero.  This was not a completely unexpected situation.  I’m actually quite satisfied with the additional capability that the flexible spot and tracking modes provide for much less dynamic subjects.  But I can understand why this will be a disappointment to folks who were hoping to use the old lenses for sports or wildlife.  Of course, I’m sure that for those who possess much better technique in those photographic specialties than I possess there may be some methods of extracting better results than my abysmal record but I wouldn’t want to raise hopes too high about these types of applications.
  • With respect to the comparison of tracking capabilities between the Sony A7 III camera and the Sony A7R IV A, it’s the difference between night and day. Of course, that because the A7 III doesn’t really have tracking.  It has the flexible spot autofocus setting which does allow for the camera to try and follow the subject inside the viewfinder but as noted it’s quite limited to slow moving objects.  The A7R IV A actually does track objects.  From what I understand it’s quite rudimentary compared to cameras like the Sony A9 and Sony A1.  From what I’ve heard these cameras have keeper rates that approach 100% for birds in flight and other very challenging applications.  But the A7R IV A is still orders of magnitude better than my A7 III.  But the disadvantage of the A7R IV A is the much larger file size.  The 24-megapixel files of the A7 III are plenty big enough for most of my uses.  The 60-megapixel sensor in the A7R IV A is a bit much for my tastes.  Of course, your mileage may vary, especially if you specialize in landscape and sport.

So there you have it.  I am actually looking forward to having the LA-EA5 available to me on the next Sony camera I own which I hope will be the A7 IV.  Of course if Sony decides not to allow the A7 IV to autofocus motorless A-mount lenses with the LA-EA5 I will give up photography and take up Chinese calligraphy instead.  But that’s just me.

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on  Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 4 – The Verdict on Tracking

This will be a short post.  I just want to put this question behind us.  I’ll summarize my observations.

The tracking and eye tracking does work on the A-mount motor-less lenses.  But the autofocus on these lenses cannot keep up with an even moderately fast moving object.  Even a person walking toward the camera will have a very low keeper rate.  With a rapidly moving animal like a dog running it’s hopeless.  The software is doing its part but the mechanics of the autofocus system is just too slow to keep up.

Now I happen to want to use it for something much less demanding.  For butterflies, bees and hummingbirds the animal is hovering or flitting inside a very small area and this allows the lens to reacquire focus quickly enough to be useful.  But this is a much less demanding application of the tracking program.  It is sort of the exception to the failure of these lenses to track.

I’ll be performing more tests once the weather over here improves on hummingbirds and butterflies with the tracking program.  But I felt it was important enough to break this information out separately.

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on  Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 3 – Tracking

These are still just early results but I am happy to say that the tracking and eye autofocus does work with the motorless A-Mount lenses.  The limitations of these lenses is the speed of the autofocus.  In other words for a slow moving target like a walking human or a relatively slow moving target like a hummingbird moving in a small area around a food source like a feeder or a flower bush the camera will track the target quite well.

But when I had Camera Girl throw a ball to Larold across the lawn I couldn’t even come close to keeping him in the viewfinder.  That of course is my own fault.  I lack the tracking skill to keep the running dog in front of me.  He’s just too damn fast for me.

But I’ll think up some better scenario to test the tracking algorithm.  The other part of the test is to see whether the lens could autofocus fast enough to keep the target in focus.  This has yet to be answered.  I’ll look at the results today and see what I find.

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on  Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 2 – First Impressions

I took the camera out yesterday and played around with the 200mm macro.  The A7R IVA has a very nice viewfinder but what I doscovered was that A-mount lenses on the LA-EA5 are not considered eligible lenses to use a feature called “AF in Focus Mag.”  This feature allows you to autofocus while in a magnified view and it is a fantastic feature for doing macro work.  Not having this feature with the 200mm macro is a sore disappointment.  I didn’t anticipate this exclusion.  Damn you Sony!  But that being said, I am going to see if I can use animal eye AF to compensate for this.

With respect to general performance the autofocus speed is acceptable.  And in the short time I’ve tested it, the accuracy of the focus seems quite good.  The A7R IVA camera is relatively close to my A7 III in action and function so there aren’t too many things to get used to.  Today, if the weather holds out, I want to try a running dog focus tracking experiment.  Harry (or Larold as he’s been nicknamed by my oldest grandson) is our younger pointer and he is incredibly fast.  I’m going to try and track him as he sprints across the front lawn.  I think I read that tracking doesn’t work with Animal EYE AF.  This seems strane so I’ll try it both ways, animal and human eye AF.  But even if the tracking is just on his head I think it will be an interesting experiment.

I also want to try out eye AF on insects and hummingbirds.  Hummingbirds will especially benefit from the tracking function.  Losing focus on a hummingbird with a macro lens and its very long focus windup usually means a costly time delay in getting the set up again.  And believe it or not I’ve never used tracking on hummingbirds before with my normal lenses and camera even though they are available.  When you’re set in your ways you can miss a lot of useful opportunities.  I’ve been reminded of that recently but this one really got me thinking.  I have to go over the A7 III’s capabilities and see what else I’m missing out on.

 

Stay tuned.  Much work to do.

 

 

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on  Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 1 – The Eagle Has Landed

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

 

So the box with the camera and the adapter arrived.  I’m charging up the battery and figuring out what shots I’ll try today.  It’s cloudy day but there should be more than enough light for most outdoor work.  This should be fun.

 

Here are the camera and the adapter (Sony A7R IV Camera, Sony LA-EA5 Adapter)

 

 

Here is the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lens on the adapter and camera

 

 

And here is the Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lens on the adapter and camera

 

02AUG2021 – Photography – Sony A-Mount Lenses on the E-Mount A7 Cameras

I just put in my rental order to Lensrentals.com for the Sony LA-EA5 A-mount to E-mount adapter and the Sony A7R IVA camera.  I’ve been wanting to find out if using this adapter on the A7 cameras that are “allowed” to autofocus motorless A-mount lenses would be a valuable option for me or not.  I have two very high-quality A-mount lenses that currently can only be autofocused using the LA-EA4 adapter.  This adapter uses a translucent mirror that contains some rudimentary auto-focus points rather than the much more capable sensor based autofocus capability of the modern Sony mirrorless cameras.

This rental will allow me to test this new adapter to see if these old lenses can be returned to reasonable and productive use.  If they do perform satisfactorily, I’ll still have to purchase one of the cameras that have this capability with motorless A-mount lenses.  Currently only the A7R IV and the super expensive A1 have this capability for full frame shooters.  Neither are what I’d want to shoot.  But if the upcoming A7 IV camera will be given this capability then I’ll trade up my A7 III and get the LA-EA5 for the sake of using these old lenses.

The two lenses that I am primarily interested in using are the:

Both are extremely sharp optics that produce images I like.

How Do You Carry Around Your Camera Gear?

Anyone who has gotten the camera bug and doesn’t go the minimalist route via a smart phone or a point and shoot gets to the point where he has to figure out how to carry the cameras and lenses and tripods and monopods and filters and batteries and cleaning equipment and flashes and memory cards and, and, and, …, all the other crap that you think you might need on a particular day.

When I was still shooting a DSLR and I had a dozen lenses that I convinced myself I couldn’t be without I bought a tremendously large backpack, (Kata BP-502) which weighs about ten pounds empty and can fit every piece of photographic equipment I own and then some.

 

Suffice it to say this is the bag you take on an expedition to Madagascar.  I brought this thing to the Southwest once.  But because it would have to be checked at the airport, I mailed it ahead of time and we had a truck to haul it along with the camping gear we used.  Let’s just say this pack isn’t for the faint of heart.

Then I went the other way.  I bought a few slings.

The first one (Case Logic DSS-103 Luminosity Large Sling Backpack)

 

 

had a side entrance so I could sling it in front of me and do lens changes on top of it with having to put the bag on the ground.  This could be important if you happen to be in a swamp, I guess.  But it was still sort of bulky for short outings.

I bought some really small ones that fit a camera and a normal lens and some larger ones that were sized for a camera and a few lenses (Maxpedition Noatak Gearslinger, Maxpedition Remora Gearslinger)

but the problem with a sling is that it gives you a pain in the back because of the uneven weight distribution.  One of them had a strap that could be added to straighten out the load.  But I thought about it and said, “Well how about just getting a backpack?”

And that’s kind of where I ended up.  I have a coupl’a three backpacks that cover the gamut.

 

The smallest one (Lowepro LP36413-PWW Photo Traveler 150 Backpack) will fit a camera and a few lenses and it’s pretty small.  And that’s what I use most of the time.

For the larger bags there are inserts you can buy to allow you to customize the way your various equipment items are supported and separated.  These vary in cost and utility and are sort of a personal preference but in some situations they can be pretty useful in a larger pack.

But for just walking around the yard with the 90mm macro lens I usually take the monopod.  The reason being, the 90mm lens is kind of heavy and after an hour or so of trying to get very steady close ups my arm gets tired.  But the monopod takes the weight off of me.  Chances are if I know I might want to take a few landscape shots I might throw a 35mm and maybe the 10mm lenses in the small back pack and take it along just in case.  It’s light and comfortable and really only laziness should prevent me from bringing it but laziness is my forte so it’s really a crapshoot.

So that’s what I know about camera packs.

Auto-Focusing Motorless A-Mount Lenses on the Sony E-Mount Cameras – 10APR2021 Update

Up until last year the only way to auto-focus motorless A-mount lenses on the A7 and higher e-mount cameras was with the LA-EA4 adapter that Sony sold.  And it had a translucent mirror built into the adapter to provide autofocus points to control the autofocus of the lens on the camera.  This had several difficulties.  One was the translucent mirror itself which acts as a beam splitter and wastes 30% of the image light to the autofocus function.  And because it uses the adapter’s autofocus system instead of the camera’s, all the advances in autofocus that have accrued over the time that the E-mount cameras have evolved are unavailable when using the LA-EA4.  In other words the autofocus is very limited.

But in 2020 Sony launched the LA-EA5 adapter with the ability to autofocus motorless lenses through the camera’s autofocus system and without the beam-splitter in the light path.  This was a marvel when it was announced and there was great rejoicing among the owners of old but sharp Minolta and Sony A-mount glass.  But because it is Sony we’re talking about, they had to make it a tragedy.  They only programmed the adapter to provide this capability for three cameras, the A7R IV, the A1 and the APSC camera the A-6600.  I have since attempted several times to contact Sony to determine if they will update their firmware to let this adapter work for my camera, the A7 III.  Of course, they have completely ignored my requests.

But there is one other option.  If you have an LA-EA4 adapter you can purchase a third-party kit from China to replace the firmware on this old adapter, remove the translucent mirror and use it to auto-focus these motorless lenses with any of the Sony E-mount cameras.  Gary Friedman has been an E-mount expert user since the mount was invented and he writes how-to books about their cameras.  He has produced a couple of YouTube videos on this subject.  One demonstrates how to modify the LA-EA4 and install the Chinese autofocus firmwareThe other demonstrates the way both the LA-EA5 and the hacked LA-EA4 focus with various Minolta lenses.  It is valuable to know that even with the LA-EA5 and a compatible camera the speed of the autofocus is much slower than with E-mount lenses.  And the autofocus with the Chinese firmware on the LA-EA4 is very uneven.  It starts and stops several times to reach a focus point.

I have an LA-EA4 and after seeing the video I am considering doing the retrofit myself.  It costs about $200 which is about the cost of the adapter I think but I am intrigued with the thought of being able to autofocus my Minolta 200mm f4 macro and Sony 135 f1.8 A-mount lenses.  I guess that sort of makes me some kind of a fanatic but Sony leaves me no choice.  When I buy and install the firmware, I’ll do some tests and post them for the curious.

19FEB2021 – Comments on Sony’s Latest Full Frame Interchangeable Lens Cameras (ILC)

Looking back on my older photography posts I discover that in April I will have had my Sony A7 III camera for three years.  I think this is a good time to review what I think about the recent progress that Sony has made and where the A7 III and my photographic needs stand.

First off, the A7 III is a wonderful camera.  It produces images that I never could have imagined possible ten years ago when I started using the Sony mirrorless cameras.  When I moved from my Sony A-850 DSLR to the NEX mirrorless cameras it was incredibly disappointing.  The autofocus didn’t deserve the name.  It was manual focus or nothing.  The battery life was laughable and the viewfinder was pretty sad.  I could get some good results from it, even results indoors that I might not be able to get with my DSLR but frustration was a constant part of the Sony photographic experience.    If I knew then how long it would take Sony to reach the A7 III level of capability I probably would have bitten the bullet and moved on to Canon or Nikon.  But I didn’t and now finally I am truly pleased with the system.  Sure, there are still some quibbles, I wish the LAEA5 adapter would allow me to autofocus my mechanical autofocus A-mount lenses with the A7 III but that is just that, a quibble.  If I wanted, I could buy an A7R IV or an A9 and get that functionality but that would be kind of crazy from my point of view.  So here I am with a very good digital camera and a chance to compare it to the newer Sony models.  After all, the A7 III is a generation before the IV series and a notch down from the professional A9’s and two notches down from the flagship A1.  So here are my thoughts.

Back when the Sony A9 first came out I was curious to see what the advantages of such a camera would be.  I rented it and gave it a tryout.  What I found was that it was a sports camera and the A7 III was not.  I know that was what it was touted as but it wasn’t apparent until I had it in hand just how inadequate the A7 III was for things like tracking autofocus or just how inadequate the file buffer was.  The A9 was light years ahead of my camera.  And even the autofocus I typically used for macro shots of insects and birds was more precise and faster and had additional capability that my camera lacked.  For instance, the A7 III can stay in magnified view when focusing repeatedly on a subject that I’m getting ready to capture.  But once the shot is taken it returns to unmagnified view.  The A9 can stay in magnified view indefinitely for shot after shot.  That is a great advantage.

So, the A9 has capability that I do wish I had.  But image-wise I think the A7 III files are at least as good as the A9 files.  There has been an A9 II update a few years back.  I haven’t tried it out.  From what I’ve read the improvements are part of the autofocus upgrades and allow for even better sports and wildlife action shooting.  I’m sure it’s very capable but once again the sensor hasn’t progressed in terms of high ISO capability.  In fact, based on the DXOMARK testing the A7 III still has the highest ISO rating of any full frame camera on the market.

Recently Sony came out with a $6,500 flagship camera, the A-1.  From what I understand it is an even more miraculous sports camera than the A9 series.  It has a ridiculously large writing buffer and can take thirty shots per second or something obscene like that.  But its sensor is not rated to a higher ISO rating.  It does have a 50-megapixel sensor.  But that also means you get 50+ megabyte file sizes which is starting to get cumbersome.  Maybe someday I’ll try it out just for laughs but that price tag is outrageous.

So here I am.  Other than my camera not being able to autofocus my two favorite a-mount lenses, the Sony 135mm f1.8 lens and the Minolta 200mm f4 Macro, I really don’t need any of the new cameras.  Even the new Sony A7S III really doesn’t interest me.  I’m not a videographer and its high ISO numbers surprisingly still don’t match the A7 III.  This was a bit of a shocker for me.  The A7S series is supposed to have the best low light sensitivity of all the A7 line.  But apparently the video improvements are what drove the new model and high ISO was left as is.

If I were a sports and wildlife photographer then the A1 or at least the A9 II would be the cameras I wanted.  If I was a purely landscape guy then the A1 or the A7R IV would provide me with the resolution I crave.  If I was a videographer and I didn’t want a full-blown video camera I’d be looking at the A7S III.  But I’m just a general-purpose photographer that does some landscape and some macro and a little bit of wildlife and no video.  So, all of those other cameras are overkill and sometimes inferior for my needs.

For yourself this review might help point you in the direction of which Sony full frame ILC is right for you.

Photography – Sony – Sony Launches the LAEA5 A-Mount to E-Mount Adapter

There is a small community of photographers who were Minolta and Sony SLR users that still have some very good a-mount glass that they currently cannot use satisfactorily with their E-mount Sony cameras.  These are the lenses that use the old-style screwdriver autofocus connection.  These lenses lack any internal motor of their own.  Currently the only way to use these lenses is with the LA-EA4 adapter that does not use the camera autofocus but has a limited number of autofocus points in the adapter.  Not only that, this adapter uses a beam splitter called a translucent mirror that throws away a third of the light that goes through the lens.

 

I have been waiting forever for Sony to come up with this adapter.  When I was told about the launch of the LA-EA5 it felt like Christmas coming early.  I have been dying to use the Sony 135mm f\1.8 and Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lenses with the autofocus of the A7 III but didn’t think Sony would do this great thing.  But as with all things in life there is always a catch.

If you read the fine print you discover that the lenses without motors only have this autofocus capability on two cameras.  The A7R IV and the A6600 are the latest full frame and half frame cameras in the Sony line up (excluding the professional A9 cameras) and I guess Sony figured it would be easier starting with those cameras.  What I am hoping is Sony will come up with a firmware update for my A7 III to allow me to take advantage of this marvelous present for A-mount lens owners.

I plan to rent the LA=EA5 and the A7R IV and try out the combination with my 135mm and 200mm A-mount lenses to see how good the autofocus is.  If this works out it will be an exciting move by Sony.  After all supporting these old lenses is a low return investment from the point of view of finance but it does demonstrate a smart public relations move for a camera maker attempting to win over the public.

So for any of you A-mount lens owners out there, keep the faith a little longer.  To be continued.