Three months and 1 week after i ordered my TechArt Pro Autofocus adapter it arrived at work. I knew there was going to be a wait for this adapter when i ordered it, but due to take up in this mechanical marvel it ended up being much later than originally anticipated, but was it worth the wait?
If you’ve looked at my equipment list of read any Manual Focus reviews, you’ll know that i developed an interest in using vintage lenses on the Sony A7. Part of this curiosity was actually to do with the manual nature of vintage lenses when setting aperture and focusing so i guess buying this adapter is somewhat counter intuitive. But its also interesting and more economic to try out old glass on the Sony than buy some of their stellar AF lenses – so could this adapter could be the poor mans alternative?
I’ve now had the adapter for a little under a week and tested a number of lenses with it – A Leica-R Sumicron 50mm f2, a Leica-R Elmarit 90mm, Minolta f3.5 35-70 zoom, and Minolta 58mm f1.2
The adapter snaps in where you would normally put the “manual” lens to mirrorless adapter. The standard adapters are a lot thicker and need to cover more depth to make up the difference between mirrorless and standard 35mm bodies). The TechArt comes in Leica-M mount as standard and as such you need to use another adapter to convert other lenses. In my case i purchased 1 additional Leica R-M and a Minolta to Leica M adapter. These are priced at $80 (£55) including delivery and here is my first problem with the concept. With all my MF lenses I’ve been purchasing a £10 adapter to put on each so that it makes it near impossible to find yourself out and about with a selection of lenses but no adapter to fit to the camera – i guess if you were shooting only one brand of vintage lenses this problem lessens, but the cost of the smaller, niche (but still dumb) TechArt Leica-M conversion adapters is still high.
Techart make two claims on their website Fast and Accurate. In most circumstances the TechArt Pro is accurate, but i wouldn’t call it speedy. In low light and with big apertures it becomes clumsy and seems to hunt quite a bit. That said i’d compare the experience to putting a Canon EF lens like the 70-200L f2.8 mk2 or 24-70f2.8 mk2 on the Sony A7 – in good light the Sony A7 with firmware upgrade and phase detect focusing is pretty nippy and i’d have to agree that all of the above lenses are as quick at focusing as putting a non-native Canon on. However just like the Canon’s once you see some light drop off, focusing becomes pretty clumsy.
Another “feature” of some of the lenses i tested is that focusing becomes a bit “semi-automatic” – that is to say setting the lens to close focus prevents infinity, setting to infinity prevents close focus and setting to the middle gave neither close or infinity. Indeed in some cases i found myself not getting a focus lock, thinking it was the light and then having to manually put the lens into a focus range that was approximate before it would “accurately” focus on my target. This in some cases is still faster than trying to manually focus a tiny depth of field
A further complication of problem of using the adapter is that switching to manual focus doesn’t always have the desired result – i think you would want the adapter to extend to its full amount so that the distance from lens rear glass to sensor replicates that of a manual adapter. In test so far this has been a little random, leaving you without the ability to shoot manual at close range / infinity. This is amplified if say you are using a lens with a macro mode where manual focus is more important. The adapter couldn’t Auto focus the 35-70 in macro at all – but when switching to manual it left the lens in a position that left the focal range far too away from the subject. I think this could be fixed in a firmware upgrade of maybe with an App
Firmware upgrade – my adapter shipped with the early firmware and i immediately upgraded it to the latest version (2.0 at time of writing) the upgrade was pretty painless and achieved by downloading a mobile phone App (available for Android and IOS – sorry Windows phone users you may be screwed) and Bluetooth to the adapter by setting it to f90 on the camera
My Minolta adapter fitted my MD lenses perfectly, but gets jammed on my Rokkor 58mm f1.2 and 50mm f1.2 and requires screwdriver persuasion to remove it – something i’ve let TechArt know about – but a little disappointing for £55 (especially when there is no need for the adapter to cost more than £10).
Battery Life – I’m not sure how much this adapter impacts on battery life, it didn’t seem to drain much more than using lenses as MF only. The Sony A7ii is still pretty poor with battery life and i’m used to carrying 2-3 spares at all times.
Feedback on lenses i tested – I will try and do some more scientific test soon!
Leica-R Sumicron 50mm f2 – I felt this lens worked the best with minimal adjustments needed to focus
Leica-R Elmarit 90mm – This lens requires a really huge amount of turning to focus manually – it required a little adjustment on the camera – but the AF made it easier to pocus at speed then using MF
Minolta f3.5 35-70 zoom – Worked quite well, the lens didn’t suffer from focus breathing so you could zoom and focus pretty accurately
Minolta 58mm f1.2 – I felt this was the worst performer especially wide open and focus hunted even in good light
Example Shot – Leica 50mm Sumicron f2 in relatively dark environment – the focus on this was speedy and very accurate
The two shots below show AF accuracy taken in a poorly lit room on the Sony A7ii at 400ISO on the Elmarit 90mm. I’ve performed similar test on my Canon AF gear and not got such good results which is incredible for a lens that was never designed to be auto focused and testament to both the adapter and the camera’s built in stability.
Overall i think this adapter is a keeper and a good addition for people that like to use vintage lenses. It has some positives and is better than manual focusing in some applications. If i was solely shooting Landscapes on the Sony A7 i dont think i’d bother trying to add auto-focus, likewise i don’t think it will ever be that good for Sports or reluctant toddlers that refuse to stand still. I did find the adapter useful for street photography (so long as you don’t mind the noise) and it gives a new dimension and life to some MF lenses.