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Achieving A7 Series Vision: Small Lens Kit with High IQ


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After over two years of experimenting with many, many lenses (first on the A7R and then on the A7RII as soon as it came out), below is where I have landed in terms of a small lens kit producing very high IQ.  It would be great to hear from others on their experience.


A couple notes before I get into my small lens kit:


(1)  I own the 24-70mm G Master and am waiting on my 70-200mm G Master; these lenses are incredible and have their place if money / bulk / weight is no issue; but the focus in this post is small.  Lenses small enough to fit in a pocket so you can walk around without even a camera bag but still have great IQ.


(2)  The three primary lenses discussed below are all manual focus and require the Novoflex Leica M mount to E mount adapter or some other M to E mount adapter.  However, the Techart adapter works flawlessly with each of the lenses to achieve autofocus (I was a doubter at first, but with the current version of the adapter / firmware and 3 months of use the Techart adapter amazes me). 



Minolta M-Rokkor 28mm f/2.8.  Most famous for the dreaded "white spots" syndrome that develops with many if not most copies of this lens, get one of these in good condition without the white spots and you will not be disappointed. Its retro focus design minimizes the well-documented corner smearing and color cast issues common to using most Leica M mount wide angles on Sony full frame E mount. Lots of reports out there to the effect that design and construction of this lens was shared with version 2 of the Leica M 28mm 2.8, and that this latter lens is also a solid performer on Sony full frame E mount, but I have not tested the Leica M 28mm f/2.8 so I can't verify this. 


Great wide angle alternatives that are also relatively compact include the native Sony FE 28mm f/2, the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8, and the Olympus OM 24mm f/2.8 (the latter being legacy 35mm glass, but it is tiny so even with the adapter its still pretty compact).  I favor the M-Rokkor because even with the Techart adapter its the smallest.  The Loxia is fantastic but 21mm is too wide for me if I am sticking with a just 3 lens kit.  (The harder decision for me will be if and when Zeiss comes out with a Loxia 28mm.)



Leica 50mm Summicron f/2.  Don't need to say much here, other than the native Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8, Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2 and the Loxia f/2 are great alternatives here.  And if I could just carry one compact lens, it might just be the Loxia (or the Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8); but the 50mm Summicron is very compact, and with the Techart it both enables autofocus and preserves f/2. 



Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4.  Very compact for an 85mm, yet it might be the best performer of all.  Ridiculously sharp, oozes quality and, like the Leica 50mm Summicron, can still be purchased new today.  If your needs require more reach than 85mm, there are some great choices at 135mm that are bigger but still relatively compact, including the Leica M 135mm f/3.4 or one of the recent f/4 versions, or the Olympus OM 135mm f/3.5. 


There you have it.  Let's hear some other small kit, high IQ suggestions!

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Ancient T-mount 135/3.5. High IQ ? Avoid f/3.5    

and avoid provoking flair. Physical size similar  

to the classic Leica 90/4.0 [has 46mm filter rim].

Available in several brand names, all alike.   


Vivitar 24/2.0. Very tiny [52mm filter] as if it was 

an Olympus OM lens. High IQ ? Avoid f/2.0, but 

f/2.0 is useful for "available darkness" work as it 

facilitates accurate manual focus, and it has a 

mild dose of veiling glare which nicely fills dark 

shadows as in stage lighting etc. BTW, veiling 

is only at f/2.0, and disappears quite abruptly at 

f/2.8. The effect in the finder is actually startling ! 


Nikkor "E-style" 50/1.8. NOT the actual E-series 

but the very compact "real Nikkor" version which 

has much better coatings. Again high IQ requires 

f/2.8 or smaller ... but so what, it's a pancake :-)   




Thaz a good kit of 3 lenses. Not a "matched set" 

but all three for under $100 total. Two lenses are 

excellent from f/2.8 and the tele is very good from 

f/4.5 ... admittedly never terrific but dirt cheap and 

more than good enuf at f/4.5 ... and reeeally small. 


If you can carry a slightly bigger tele for sake of 

better IQ, I've enjoyed the very small and light 

Nikon E-series 100/2.8. It's an actual E-series so 

it has old school coating, which means you need 

to avoid provoking flair, but it's not an ultra wide 

nor a super speed normal, so it's really not very 

prone to flair anywho. 


Another tidy-sized, but not truly tiny, lens is the 

20/4.0 Nikkor [52mm filter]. It gets mixed reviews 

but that doesn't affect the pictures. It's about the 

same size as most average sized film-era 50mm

SLR lenses ... smaller than the bulkier 50s, such

as older f/1.4s, which were often 55 or 58mm FL. 




My "ready bag" of a compact trio for personal

shooting contains three of the above: 


20/4.0 Nikkor  

50/1.8 Nikkor "E-style" non-E Nikkor 

105/2.5 Nikkor   


The 105 doesn't quite qualify for a "very compact" 

rating, but for it being damned close to qualifying,   

and for its legendary IQ, the slight extra cargo is 

worth every gram and centimeter vs any smaller 

lens in its range. I have on hand 45 year's worth of

accumulated optics, and I just keep gravitating to

the 20-50-105 trio on an a7-II ... it's the same trio 

that was "married" to my Nikon FM2 and FE2 as a 

top shelf compact rig, and I even feel that my a7-II 

is like a direct descendant of the FE2 ... not by its 

internal technology, but by its size and functional 

"minimum frills" purpose in my basic-but-flexible

grab-and-go compact kit. FWIW, the retro design 

Nikon d-F appears to be aimed at those of us who 

pine for our old Nikon FE2 or FM2, but I now much

prefer a live view system over the SLR system. I 

have zero FE mount lenses for my a7-II. It's just my 

my "digital FE2" for all my ancient film-era F-mount 

lenses [and also semi-ancient A-mount lenses]. 

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I'd suggest to go with one line of lenses to match color and general character. If you want Zeiss quality, the slower Contax C/Y lenses are really good. There is the 28mm f2.8, the 50mm f1.7 (sharper than the f1.4) and the 85mm f2.8.


If you don't want to spend as much, the following Minolta SR lenses would be good: 28mm f 2.8 (there's a f2.0 as well, but bigger and heavier), 50mm f1.4 (the PG is the sharpest) or 45mm f2.0 (nearly a pancake) and 85mm f2.0 (tiny and sharp). Matching colors, great mechanics and pretty good IQ.

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...or you could keep the "kids" together, without tearing the family apart. ;)


The 28/2.8, 40/2 and 90/4 Minolta M-Rokkor are all three great performers (especially for lifestyle, street etc.)


I use them on the original A7r, and beside sometimes having to correct a bit of magenta cast with the 28 (I use a FlatField Lightroom profile, so this literally takes a couple seconds) they are all quite great.


If you want to go wider, as long as you're correcting for magenta cast or shooting in black and white, and don't have anything critical in the corners, the first generation Voigtlander 15/4.5 Heliar is a puny little gem, IMO.


Another great and fairly compact set, beside the Contax one already mentioned, is the Minolta MC: 24/2.8, 35/1.8 (a tad big, but a stellar performer), 100/2.5. And you can get all three of them for the price of the 28 M-Rokkor alone!

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Yes, the M-Rokkor 40/2 is a stellar performer (its sitting on my camera right now), and its good to hear that the 90/4 is a great performer as well. If I could tear myself away from the Zeiss ZM 85/4 I'd pick up the M-Rokkor 90/4 and be able to keep the family together as suggested!  With about 100 snaps under my belt with the 28/2.8, I have yet to detect any magenta or other casting on the A7Rii. 

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I thought *all* the 28 M-Rokkors had that white spots issue?



Nope, mine is clean as a whistle...


Besides, my first sample, that I bought years ago and then sold (pre-mirrorless era, when using it on digital would have meant a 7000€ Leica M9), was completely full of spots, but it was super sharp and super contrasty all the same.


So, if I had to guess, I'd say the spots could maybe have a bit of impact on flare resistance, but that's all.

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  • 1 year later...

My suggestion is:

1-wideangle lens between 20 & 24mm - 24mm Nikkors, Olympuses, Minoltas and Konicas are great

2-standard lens between 35 & 50mm   - a fast 35/2 Nikkor or 50/1,7 Pentax M will do the job

3-telephoto lens between 85 & 100mm - whatever you chose in this range will be of very good quality

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My suggestion is:

1-wideangle lens between 20 & 24mm - 24mm Nikkors, Olympuses, Minoltas and Konicas are great

2-standard lens between 35 & 50mm   - a fast 35/2 Nikkor or 50/1,7 Pentax M will do the job

3-telephoto lens between 85 & 100mm - whatever you chose in this range will be of very good quality

Obviously a newcomer!  The OP and subsequent posts are over a year old...easy to be fooled, the original date of posting is reasonably obscure.

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Guest Jaf-Photo

Many good lens tips above. Vintage lenses are great for infusing photos with character. For that reason, I would suggest studying a lot of sample photos to pick out the lenses that have a character that suits you.


Another issue is that you won't get a small rig using adapted SLR lenses. The adapters are about an inch in depth, which really extends the lenses and unbalance the camera. So, It's really more an issue of character and getting quality optics at a reduced cost compared to native lenses.

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  • 3 years later...

Being a Takumar guy for the most part, as far as Legacy Lenses go, my 3 would be as follows (all of which I own & use regularly):

Wide - Pentax Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 35mm 3.5 (EyE know, not wide enough, but I just love this lens)

Standard - Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 (8 Element Version) or Super-Multi-Coated 55mm f1.8

Telephoto - Pentax Super-Multi-Coated 85mm f1.8


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