We summarize our experience with all the native E-mount and a few legacy lenses in the 85-135mm bracket for the Sony a7 series to give you a compact and independent resource for choosing the best portrait lens for your needs.
Unlike most other review sites we have no association with any lens manufacturer apart from occasionally loaning a lens for a review. No fancy trips and meals.
Before any short introduction we tell you how long we have used a lens and if we have borrowed it from a manufacturer. But in most cases we have bought the lenses new from retail stores or on the used market. If you want to support our independent reviews please consider using one of the affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything and helps us a lot.
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This is a short comparative review that is technical in nature with no sample images. There is a tremendous amount of overlap between the 75 and 80 Lux. Read my 75 Lux review here. The major differentiators I examine in this post.
I have never seen any rigorous testing of the 75 versus 80 Lux. I have owned them both at separate times, always feeling the 80 Lux was a little softer, less corrected and with more character. I’ve spoken with several shooters who have experienced both lenses and voiced a similar opinion–descriptions like more “vintage,” “magical” and “gentler” come up. After writing the 75 Lux review and trying to save some money, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up an 80 Lux to potentially sell my 75 Lux.
After shooting the 75 Lux for nearly 2 years solid, I was surprised when viewing my first batch of 80 Lux files. The signature is quite similar, but the distinctions are definitely there, and without pixel peeping. More than I recalled or anticipated. It was noticeable enough that I’ve decided to make this post for those curious. I figured there was a strong chance the renderings were so similar I wouldn’t bother.
The Leica 75 Summilux (75 Lux) is legendary. It’s a compact, fast, short telephoto rangefinder lens designed for portrait and shallow depth-of-field photography.Prices and praise for the 75 Lux haven’t lessened over the years, and it’s said to be one of Walter Mandler’s favorites works. You’ll be hard pressed to find a clean copy for under 3.5k. Let’s dig deeper.
Click here to see all 75 Lux review photos and others at larger resolution on my flickr album.
Note 1: Throughout the review, FE or Sony 85 means the 85 f1.8, GM 85 refers to the GM 85 f1.4, and the Samyang is the manual focus version unless specified.
Note 2: For a more extensive look at the finer distinctions between the 75 and 80 Summilux, read this.
Okay, everybody is talking about how manual lenses work so well on the Sony a7 series but how does it actually work? And which results can you expect? Read on if you want to know.
Manual Lenses on the Sony a7/a7II/a7III
Why should I use manual lenses?
They can be very cheap, you can get a great 1.4/50 lens for $50. For most applications such a lens will give you 90% of the performance of a $1000 Zeiss 1.8/55 FE. For the $1000 you would have to pay for that Zeiss you can buy an excellent set of five lenses from 20 to 300mm.
You have a huge choice between thousands of lenses ranging from exotic ones with lots of “character” to some of the very best lenses available.
There are 30-year-old primes with better image quality than many modern lenses. Of course progress has happened in recent years but still affordable primes are often sharper than very expensive modern zooms.
Old lenses are usually beautifully built from nothing but metal and glass which makes it a joy to handle them. They can last a lot longer than modern lenses which are full of electronics and very complex designs, both of which make them more likely to fail.
They also hold their value much better than modern lenses. With some patience you can sell most manual lenses without a loss but with new lenses you can expect to lose 30% in the first year.
Manual focusing can be very enjoyable. This certainly depends on application but personally I enjoy working with fully manual lenses a lot more than with any AF lens and I would choose a good manual focus lens over an AF lens (almost) any time. Check out our manual photographers series to read other photographers stories who feel similar about this.