I recently had the pleasure of trying out the new Techart adapter for the Sony E-mount cameras for a while. This is an adapter that lets you autofocus with manual lenses. Now if you’re not familiar with this I can already hear you thinking ‘uhh what?!’ and that’s exactly what I thought when I heard about it some months back. Interested as I am in new technology, I checked the adapter out at Photokina. I was surprised how well it worked, although it was far from perfect. Now, a couple of months later, I had the chance to try a later version of this product. Now as you all know I am mainly a landscape photographer. This means I use a lot of manual-focus and do not care about autofocus that much. However, I was asked to just bring the adapter along with a ZEISS Distagon 1.4/35 ZM just to try it out for a while and report my findings. And after trying it for a couple of weeks I just have to say that I am extremely impressed with the results. In fact, I love it! Let’s get to some details:
- The adapter works as any other adapter on the Sony E-mount bodies. Just screw it on, and screw another lens on it.
- The adapter is E-mount to Leica-M mount standard. If you want to put other manual lenses on it you can buy additional converters for about 70 dollars each. Techart has done succesfull AF-tests with the Leica R, ZEISS Contax/Yashica and Minolta MD lenses.
- Only compatible with Sony bodies that have support for 3rd party PDAF, which means the Sony A7II, Sony A7RII, Sony A6300 and 6500.
- Improved close-up focusing. For example, with a Leica M 50mm you can almost get focus around 35cm instead of 70mm with AF. If you put the focus ring on 70mm the close-up focusing distance will be even less.
- Supports AF-S and AF-C mode.
- Face detection works great.
- Image stabilisation still works.
- Obviously no EXIF data is being given to the body because there is no electronic connection in the old lenses.
- No glass elements in the adapter so you maintain maximum quality of the lens you put on it.
- Weighs 133g.
So how does this work? Basically the adapter moves the lens back and forth to move the focus point. You set the lens to infinity. This means your closest focus distance becomes a bit more. If you want to focus up really close you have to put the focus to less than infinity, but in most cases this is totally unnecessary (unless you want to shoot objects extremely close). And I have to say it: It works great! I was very impressed on how well this worked. The speed and accuracy in normal light is crazy good. I was shooting with the 35mm ZEISS Distagon 1.4/35 ZM (which is a beautiful lens by the way, very nice rendering characteristics) and was using it wide open at f/1.4 90% of the time. It focused at the same speed as most of my other lenses. And even in low light it held up very well. Nothing to complain about here. Now I do have to say that I only tried the ZEISS Distagon 1.4/35 ZM. I didn’t try any other lens so I can’t comment on that. When using the adapter with the lens I used AF-S with Flexible Spot (M) all the time which was spot on.
I took the lens for a day to Amsterdam, took it to a Christmas market for some low light photography and took it for a day to Cologne where I had a meeting with some other photographers. I was basically just shooting random people and things to try out the speed and accuracy of the system. I used it on my Sony A7II all the time. The whole package of the Sony A7II + adapter + ZEISS Distagon 1.4/35 ZM was very light and nice to handle. It was still so much lighter and smaller than the modern 35mm f/1.4 lenses (mainly because of the AF-motor I’d say). It was a pleasure to bring this little kit everywhere and it proved to be perfect for street photography and portraits (that are admittedly not my specialty). I had great fun shooting with this system and would definitely recommend the Techart adapter to people who have good old lenses lying around.
Here are a bunch of sample shots. 90% of these were taken wide open at f/1.4. No manual focus was used on any of them.