Sony Zeiss Distagon FE ZA 35mm f/1.4 and Leica Summilux M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE Compared on Sony A7 II

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by Amin Sabet, Aug 2, 2015.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    As someone who shoots both Leica M gear and Sony E-mount gear, I've been reading with interest some of the posts and articles written about compatibility issues when shooting certain Leica M mount lenses on current Sony E-mount cameras.

    The bottom line seems to be that existing Sony E-mount cameras, due to their use of a relatively thick sensor stack, exhibit some edge/corner blurring when used with certain Leica M mount lenses, particularly some of the wide angle lenses. I did some early testing with M lenses on the Sony A7R and concluded that it wasn't a great match.

    Today I set out to try again, this time focusing on just two of my very favorite lenses, the Sony Zeiss Distagon FE ZA 35mm f/1.4 (recently reviewed here) and the Leica Summilux M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE. I shot them both on my Sony A7 II using an adapter for the Leica lens.

    A few things to note about this comparison:
    • I was looking for test subjects that would show lens sharpness/character, not trying to make good photos (art).
    • Although I used a tripod/self-timer and tried to focus carefully, depth of field at f/1.4 is very thin, so minor misfocus may contribute to some of the differences in sharpness you see at 100%.
    • Lighting was not constant, and I was unable to perfectly match exposures, so one cannot draw valid conclusions about lens contrast, color, or transmission from these samples.
    • I did most of the photos at f/1.4 or f/8 since f/1.4 is where the bokeh rendering differs most, and f/8 is a good setting for corner sharpness without getting too far into diffraction territory (judgement call).

    Suggested method for viewing comparison photos: Click the photo of interest to open the full-resolution version on a new browser tab. Then toggle between tabs to compare full-resolution shots.

    Sony f/8:


    Leica f/8:


    Sony f/1.4:


    Leica f/1.4:


    Sony f/1.4:


    Leica f/1.4:


    Sony f/1.4:


    Leica f/1.4:


    Sony f/8:


    Leica f/8:


    Sony f/1.4:


    Leica f/1.4:


    Sony f/8:


    Leica f/8:


    Sony f/1.4:


    Leica f/1.4:


    Sony f/2:


    Leica f/2:


    Sony f/2.8:


    Leica f/2.8:


    My takeaways:
    • The Sony shoots slightly wider than the Leica
    • The Sony has smoother bokeh than the Leica
    • Both lenses are very sharp wide open
    • Overall I'd say the Leica is the sharper lens
    • The Leica has very slightly less corner sharpness at f/8 but did much better than I thought it would do. No major concerns with smearing at that setting
    • I wouldn't (won't) hesitate to use either of these lenses on the Sony A7 II

    Link to download all RAW files from this comparison: 35mm Distagon
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
    • Like Like x 3
    • Informative Informative x 3
  2. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    Excellent comparison! Some lenses work better then other, usually 35mm is the border line. Also A7/A7 II might be better then A7R with less MP. However, we need to test the A7r II also:) 

    For interested there is a conversion company who replaces the sensor cover for A7/A7R/A7S. I saw that they are testing the A7 II modification also. Here is their website:

    & A7 II tests:
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  3. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    One of the things I was thinking about while writing this up is that, for me, the smoothest bokeh isn't always the best bokeh. Sometimes "harsh" bokeh can be a good look too (again IMO, YMMV). I imagine that there will come a day sooner than later when people have cell phones with multiple lens-sensor units that allow them to pick the DOF after the fact and simulate perfect, Gaussian bokeh (round, bright core, soft falloff). I like a little coma, swirl, cat's eye, edginess - things that distinguish one lens from the next so they don't all look the same...
    • Agree Agree x 2
  4. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Here's a fellow who is testing the A7II version. He's written a lot of posts. You'll need to browse to find them all.
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  5. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    I'm surprised anyone would pay that kind of money to make M lenses work with a Sony, but it's cool that there is an option!
  6. christilou

    christilou TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 26, 2012
    Surrey, UK
    I've got to say that I prefer the Sony Zeiss from these samples. I really don't like the octagonal bokeh that the Summilux gives at certain f stops. I may even sell my 50mm Summilux as I mostly use the Zeiss ZM 50 1.5 sonnar. I find that when using the Leica lenses on the A7R, it's the Leica M240 that gives a certain rich, plump feel to it's images when using the same lenses. I like to have the choice though :) 
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    @christilou@christilou - I love my 50mm Summilux and can't bring myself to sell it, but I prefer the Sony Zeiss FE 55/1.8. Sony and Zeiss are making some amazing lenses.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2015
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. cvt01

    cvt01 TalkEmount Regular

    Jan 3, 2015
    I agree, the swirly bokeh the Leica produced in the statue shot got my attention immediately, and that supposed to be a lens flaw. :)  The zeiss shows a little bit of it too but the Leica swirlyness is more pronounced and I love it. That being said the Leica is out of my reach...
  9. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    Link to download all RAWs has been added to the end of the OP.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  10. Mus Aziz

    Mus Aziz TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 3, 2015
    Thanks for the review and comparison pics Amin. Zeiss FE35 for me then....and not needing to save the money for the Leica glass, which could have taken a couple of years of scrimping on other things!

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.