Adapting Manual Lenses to the Sony A7: End of the Road

When I switched to the Sony FE system, specifically the A7II, I used exclusively adapted lenses. The lenses I favored were M mount due to their compact size. While the Leica lenses were out of my price range I had Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses. Now I have one remaining adapted lens, the Carl Zeiss ZM 25mm f/2.8 Biogon. The build quality is fantastic, the size is perfect (that is to say it is compact), and I have produced some of my favorite images to date with it but it is currently listed on eBay along with my Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter.

The decision to sell this lens has me conflicted; on one hand I do not like some of the performance issues I encounter with the 25mm Biogon, and on the other hand I do not particularly like my alternatives that are available in native FE mount. The main points of dissatisfaction with the Biogon are the lack of a profile for distortion correction in Lightroom, which becomes a major issue when stitching together panoramas (and for that matter, the lack of metadata), some softness in the corners (which is often an issue with wide angle adapted lenses on full frame Sony cameras), and to a lesser extent the lack of autofocus and the mediocre maximum aperture for a prime. (I still love my Loxia 50mm and that is manual focus and has manual aperture control). Overall, I could live with some of the pitfalls of using a full manual adapted lens, but when combined together it is just too much for how I shoot.

To be fair, in addition to shooting panoramas where profile corrections become all but essential, I often use ND filters. Specifically, I like to use 10 stop ND filters, and sometimes even stack a 10 stop with a 3 stop and a CPL if I want a multi-minute exposure during the day. This is where the manual aperture control becomes and issue and adds an extra step to my workflow. In order to “see” so that focusing and composing are even possible, I need to open my aperture all the way, focus, and then stop down once again. If I were not using filters so often with my wide shots, I would probably be keeping this lens, as keeping the size of my system small is important to me.

Price, size, and versatility are my factors in determining which direction I will go in. I have determined that 25mm is wide enough for most of my shooting needs, I previously had the Canon EF 17-40mm when I was shooting with the full frame 6d and did go wider from time to time. My number one choice is the Carl Zeiss Batis 25m f/2. This lens has a faster maximum aperture, it’s the lightest of my considerations, DXO says it’s the sharpest, has a short minimum focus distance allowing for some creative compositions, has a weather sealing gasket, and carries the highest price tag. My next two choices are either the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 or 16-35 f/4. Both these lenses can be found used at great prices in comparison to the Batis (especially the 24-70) and offer greater flexibility being zooms. However, both are also two full stops slower, weigh more, sacrifice sharpness…enough about my indecision; it’s good to have choices. 

Who knows, if it does not sell for the my asking price I just might keep it. The small size and the Zeiss optics still make the ZM 25mm f/2.8 Biogon a very attractive option.