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?
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.