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

 

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.

Sony A7 III – A Camera Review – Part 2

Two years ago, almost to the day, I did a review of my brand new Sony A7 III camera.  I was extremely enthusiastic about the capabilities of the camera and described how the autofocus and some of the other features compared to great advantage versus my previous camera, the Sony A7S.  Well, two years is definitely enough time to finish my review and provide my perspective on it.

First of all, for those who are unfamiliar with the saga of Sony buying Minolta, inheriting their digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera project and then almost immediately switching to a mirrorless system it is a tale of woe and of course I was at ground zero for the event.  In 2008 I was shooting with a Pentax DSLR.  It was a pretty good camera and fulfilled my modest needs.  But I read the reviews and knew that out there were new sensors that provided higher resolution and lower noise levels than I could achieve.  Also, I coveted the performance of the Canon and Nikon full frame professional cameras with their remarkable low light capability and the associated ecosystem of fabulous full frame lenses.  But their $8,000 price tags horrified me since at the time I was driving a car that cost me $2,000.  But then an amazing thing happened.  Sony came out with the A-850 DSLR and for $2,000 I could have a camera which had the same sensor as the Nikon D3X which cost over $7,000.  I jumped at the chance and bought it.  And it was a truly great camera.  It produced wonderful images and had a number of Minolta lenses and new Sony lenses that opened avenues for the kind of photography I was interested in.  Plus, Sony was a powerful electronics corporation that produced the best camera sensors and they promised that in the future the advances in low light capability and dynamic range would surpass what was possible with digital imaging and in fact would also surpass what film cameras could do.  At that time, it was still possible to say that the resolution for a film camera was higher than what a DSLR could produce.  This meant that when next year’s model exceeded the performance of my A-850 I could sell it and for a small premium buy the newer model.  All photographers know that over the long haul it’s the cost of the lens system that you acquire that anchors you to a camera brand.  And I went right to work buying very expensive lenses and accessories like a really good flash system.  I was happy in the knowledge that I was investing in a long-term relationship with the Sony full-frame DSLR system.  So, all was right with the world.

And then Sony pulled the rug out from under me.  They announced that they had made their last full frame DSLR and in fact they were preparing to end all DSLR models and move into a mirrorless market with a completely new lens mount and, by the way, no full frame option was on the horizon for the foreseeable future.  The horror, the horror.

After that point I considered switching over to Nikon or Canon.  But my A-850 was a glorious camera and I loved some of the lenses my system included.  So, I figured I’d wait and see.  After that the story is a long and painful affair that meanders through Sony introducing the hybrid DSLT (digital single lens translucent) technology which split the image through a translucent film and thereby losing at least a half stop of light.  And the NEX cameras with their abysmal autofocus which essentially turned me into a manual focus shooter.  All through this I held onto the A-850 because it was still a pleasure to us.  But as time went on the technology of digital imaging was leaving it in the dust.  Even my NEX camera could far surpass the A-850 in low light shooting.  And so, after flirting with some of the earlier A7 cameras I started using the A7S as my main camera and saved the A-850 for occasions when good autofocus was indispensable.  And that brings us up to the A7 III.  When I started using it, I was able to finally say I had a camera that exceeded the A-850 in every way.  And so, I finally sold off the A7S and the A-850 and some of the parts of the A-mount that I wouldn’t need any more and the rest is history.  But that was a solid decade of frustration from Sony.  Job ain’t got nothing on me.

So here is my report on the A7 III.

The Sony A7 III is a remarkable photographic tool.  It is a quantum leap over the A7 I and A7 II cameras in almost every way.  The biggest improvement over those earlier cameras is the autofocus.  All of the earlier iterations of the A7 cameras had seriously deficient autofocus.  One of the worst offenders was my A7S camera.  It was so bad that manual focus was really the only alternative if a critically sharp file was needed.  Some of the earlier A7 and A7R cameras were better than the A7S but none of them had truly competent autofocus.  The Sony A7 III autofocus gives you sharp pictures quickly and reliably.  The A9 professional camera has even better autofocus and I can only imagine that the A9 II must be even more fantastic.  But I don’t usually shoot sports or birds in flight so tracking autofocus isn’t something I use all the time and know how to rate easily.  Suffice it to say I no longer have the experience of looking at photos I took and finding that the pictures are out of focus.  One very useful feature that I believe Sony pioneered is “eye autofocus.”  When this mode is turned on the camera looks for a face and then focuses on the eyes.  For occasions and portraits that’s as good as it gets.

The next notable improvement of the A7 III over the earlier iterations is the larger battery.  The A9 and the A7 III series cameras got a bigger battery and it is night and day over the A7S.  With this earlier camera I bought three batteries just to make sure I wouldn’t get caught with an empty battery but even still I did run into trouble when I needed to take a lot of photos.  The new battery solves that problem completely.  I have gotten well over a thousand photos on one battery and it still had plenty of charge left.

In addition to these selling points the cameras has all the other features that a photographer hopes and expects to find in a modern enthusiast level stills camera.  It has a 24-megapixel sensor with low light capability that even exceeded the A7S for the ISO level at which it could produce a noise free image.  It has two memory slots. It has all kinds of customizable features to take advantage of effects of dynamic range and bracketing and various creative features plus a plethora of programming and tethering options to allow the camera to be controlled via a smart phone or laptop.  I have even managed to use remote control and a custom hack to allow the camera to perform focus stacking.

Okay, I’ve raved enough.  It’s a great camera.  It does everything I need it to do.  I don’t even want the A9 or the A9 II.  Even though I know they are even more advanced and contain even more in the way of customizable features, I don’t desire these cameras as an upgrade.  And this is the first time I could honestly say that about the Sony camera line in the last ten years of owning them.  And that goes for the A7 IV if it comes out any time soon.  I simply don’t need it or even want it.  Sure, I’m saying that sight unseen and maybe they can trigger my gear lust with some feature that I don’t currently have.  One thing that I would be interested in would be an in-camera focus stacking option like Olympus currently has.  That would save me from having to bring along a tethered laptop every time I want to do an outdoor focus stack.  But I’d almost expect if something like that is added to a later camera that Sony might retrofit the older cameras with it as a firmware update.

So, there it is.  The Sony A7 III is a great mirrorless camera with plenty of features and a very nice lens line up available from Sony and increasingly from the third-party lens makers like Zeiss and Sigma.  If you really need a completely pro version then upgrade to the A9 series with even more capability for sports.  But otherwise the A7 III is a great camera.  If you do happen to need more megapixels than the 24 in the A7 III then go with the A7R III or A7R IV.

A Sony Fan-Lost-Boy Finally Arrives in the Promised Land

This post is only for the long suffering Sony A-mount users.  You know who you are.  You bought the A900 or the A850 and you were looking forward to Sony re-issuing all those great Minolta lenses and competing head to head with the Nikon D3S.  You saw nothing but upside from a technology powerhouse like Sony improving the DSLR.  And then they pulled the rug out from under you. Translucent mirrors that lost a half stop of light.  LED viewfinders that lagged by a second or two when you triggered the shutter.  And then the true mirrorless camera with contrast detect autofocus that didn’t focus.  The NEX series that was unbelievably small but suffering from all these problems.  And then the A7 cameras.  Series one then series two.  Painstaking progress.  Slowly the potential of the mirrorless becoming real but always something still missing.  And then the A9 the camera that had all the pieces!  And a $4,500 price tag!

But now, the A7 III.  Oh my brothers I just must joyously exclaim.  It is a real camera made by Sony.  Hallelujah, hallelujah, halleleujah. The joy of picking a point in the viewfinder, half-pressing

Sony A7 III with Sony 55mm F\1.8

the shutter and seeing the autofocus work instantly and precisely.  I could barely see the result through my tears of joy.  Huzzah, huzzah.  Never again would I focus, then magnify, then manually refocus to save the shot.  Now I go through the pictures afterward and every shot is perfectly focused.  And ISO 800 and 1600 and 3200 are perfectly usable and even ISO 6400 is often fine!  And if I want to do a macro shot with a non macro lens I use magnify to get precise focus on the exact spot I want and the 24 megapixels give me plenty of room to crop.

Nirvana, Valhalla, Heaven, Elysium, Paradise.  I’m home.  I don’t need to wait or hope or give up and change systems.  It’s done.  I’m there.

Sony you are finally forgiven for keeping me out in the wilderness all these years.

 

 

My Butterfly Chasing Rig – My Descent into the Maelstrom of Long Macro Madness

Anyone who has been following my various macro lens posts knows that I am still fiddling around with available lenses to construct a long macro rig to photograph butterflies with the A7 cameras.  Another problem I’m investigating is finding a tripod head that would provide quick release on the monopod but also could hold the weight of a 200mm lens.  Previously I used the Manfrotto 327RC2 light duty grip ball head with Quick Release but the weight of the Minolta 200 macro caused it to flop over.  I recently bought the Vanguard Alta GH-300T Grip Head.  It differs from the Manfrotto which had a spring loaded trigger.  The Vanguard has a friction toggle switch that you engage with your thumb.  So far it’s working excellently.  The test will be to see if the friction element is long lasting.  Now I’ll have to determine if the Minolta 200mm f\4 macro and the LA-EA4 adapter is better on the Sony A7 III than the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 A-mount on the LA-EA3.

 

 

Macro Rig – Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro & Vanguard Alta GH-300T Grip Head & Primos 65802 Tall Monopod Trigger Stick, 33-65″

 

Vanguard Alta GH-300T Grip Head

 

 

Manfrotto 327RC2 light duty grip ball head with Quick Release