A Case for Rangefinder Lenses on NEX (this is long, I was bored) One of the major reasons I decided to purchase a NEX camera was to lighten my load. Literally lighten it. For many years I have used Pentax DSLR cameras with the battery grip and a range of fast autofocus zoom lenses. I was quite happy with how this equipment performed except for one thing-- it was heavy. Heavy to carry, heavy to hold, and heavy on my wallet as well. Initially this was a burden that I carried without thought or complaint. However I suffered two motorcycle crashes and a nearly fatal illness in the space of 23 months. Recovering from these incidents was long, and still isn't complete three years later. As a result, my ability to carry hefty camera loads in the field was/is severely hampered. So I started looking for a camera that I could use that was lighter than my Pentax gear, and was equal in image quality. My search brought me to the Sony NEX series of camera bodies. I selected the 5N model with the SEL1855, the SEL16F28, and the SEL55210. I subsequently picked up the FDA-EV1S electronic viewfinder because the LCD really doesn't work for me much of the time. Once I started to use the 5N I discovered that it was indeed the equal of my K20D for image quality. I also discovered that I could use my PK mount lenses on the 5N. How cool was that? Use the K20 for those things the 5N doesn't do as well as the K20 and the 5N for everything else. What's not to like? Over time I came to realize that the SEL16F28 and I were never going to bond as picture taking partners. I'm not entirely sure why, it just wasn't happening. No real complaints about image quality except for some smeared corners occasionally. The weird part was the corners weren't consistently smeared. Sometimes they were ok, sometimes not. Having decided that we were not destined to ride of into the photographic sunset, I started looking for a replacement. It became apparent that it was either the 16 or a legacy manual focus (MF) lens. The 16 was out so I started looking at legacy lenses. There really aren't that many ultra wide angle (UWA) legacy lenses out there. My search brought me to the Cosina Voigtlander (CV) 12 and 15mm lenses. The CV lenses come in two basic flavors- Leica thread mount (LTM) aka L39, and Leica M mount. The LTM line is smaller than the M mount line, so in keeping with the small form factor of the 5N, I decided on the LTM CV15. Now, these are modern rangefinder lenses with all the modern lens coatings etc. that one would expect of any modern camera lens. They are also expensive compared to legacy SLR lenses. They are comparable to autofocus lenses in price. They do have one huge advantage over legacy SLR lenses though- they are relatively tiny in comparison. This size difference is compounded by the size difference of the adapters needed to mount non-E mount lenses on a NEX body. Each camera has a lens registration distance. This is the distance between the face of the lens mount and the recording media (film or digital sensor). The vast majority of SLR cameras have a lens registration distance between 40 and 50mm with the most common falling around 45mm. The NEX series has a registration distance of 18mm. The Leica lens registration distance is 27.95mm for M mount and 28.8mm for the LTM. So, using 45mm average registration distance for SLR lenses, and 28mm registration distance for Leica mount lenses the difference in the registration distance averages 17mm greater for the SLR lenses than the Leica lenses. So, given a SLR lens and a rangefinder lens of equal size (rarely happens), mounting them on a NEX body results in a smaller lens package with the rangefinder lens. Since one of the initial reasons for purchasing a NEX body was smaller/lighter, using rangefinder lenses made real sense. Add the fact that using manual focus lenses on the NEX bodies is a snap because of focus peaking and you have a match made in heaven- small, light, very well built metal bodied lenses and a modern camera system that is incredibly inexpensive for what it is. I really had no intention to purchase a whole line of MF lenses. I figured the CV15 and maybe the CV12 later would handle the wide shots, and the Sony E-mount zooms would handle the rest. Then something funny happened. I discovered just how unsatisfying focus-by-wire really is. The Sony lenses have no true manual focus mechanism like a real manual focus lens has. This results in a horrid lack of "feel" when trying to focus the lens. There also are no stops at the closest focus point or at infinity focus. You can turn the focus ring either direction al day long if you like. I'm not picking on Sony here, it's the nature of focus-by-wire. So, I picked up a m42 adapter and put my Takumar SMC 55/1.8 lens on the 5N and WOW! What a difference. Totally smooth focus, easily accomplished via focus peaking. Heaven! It was like using an older manual focus film camera, only better. Then there was that size thing again. The Tak55 isn't a huge lens. Added to the adapter though it isn't particularly small. I really was liking that real manual focus thing, but I wasn't liking the size and heft of legacy SLR lenses. So even though I have some stunning MF SLR lenses, I decided that rangefinder lenses could give me everything I wanted from the 5N- small size, light weight, stellar build and great image quality. It wasn't a quick decision. I used various SLR lenses for over 9 months before deciding that I wanted to shoot MF lenses the majority of the time. Having decided that, I further decided that rangefinder lenses were going to be my mechanism for doing so. So, after 5+ months of using the rangefinder lenses are they perfect? Nope. But nothing ever is. So what are the drawbacks? The really small form factor rangefinder lenses are slow optically. The fastest one I have is only f/2.5 which isn't going to set the world on fire. But since I try to shoot off a tripod whenever I'm shooting anything other than snapshots they work for me. And, if I wanted to spend the money (lots of money) I could have fast rangefinder lenses. Fortunately for my ever dwindling bank account I haven't yet felt the need. So, I'm happy with my decision to use rangefinder lenses for my manual focus needs. I have most of the focal lengths covered up to 90mm, for anything over that I'll use the SEL55210. Now if I could just find a black CV28/3.5 I'd be set. I can't believe I typed this whole diatribe on my iPad. I must be nutz!