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.
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.
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.
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.