Sony A7 with manual lenses: Learn to focus reliably in five minutes

Posted on by Mike Evans

Whenever I write about using manual lenses, usually Leica lenses, on a non-Leica camera the article goes to the top of the charts. There is tremendous interest out there, particularly among users of mirrorless cameras such as the Fuji X and Sony A7 ranges. I am currently reviewing one lens, the fabulous and expensive 50mm Leica Apo-Summicron-M ASPH on three vastly different cameras, the Sony A7II, the Fuji X-T1 and, of course, the Leica M. The lens is the constant, but the method and ease of achieving perfect focus differs on these three cameras. Some are easier and more rewarding than others.

Manual focus, as demonstrated here with a 90mm f/2.5 Tokina AT-X Macro, can be a rewarding experience. It is simply more involving than autofocus and is easily learned. And you don't have to use expensive Leica glass: There is a vast range of cheaper prime optics out there to choose from (Photo Phil Reeve)

It's interesting, then, to get a different take on using manual lenses with one of these cameras, the A7.  Phil Reeve of has done an excellent run-down of what you need to know if you'd like to try out your stock of legacy primes on the Sony. They don't have to be Leicas, of course: There are hundreds of cheap primes that can be used on the Sony with the aid of compatible adapters. 

Learning the art of manual focus is not that difficult. As Phil says:

It is in fact very easy to learn manual focusing.  Over time your focusing will become a little bit faster so that you can react faster and focus on people and other objects which are moving slowly. But it won’t take you more than 5 minutes to learn the basics needed to focus on a static object. I also find that my results are more reliable than when I use AF and it feels better because it is me who is focusing, not the camera guessing were I want to focus.

It's worth spending that five minutes, and I agree with Phil that that's all it takes. As he says, your focus techniques will improve with practice and, if you are using any of the four Sony A7 models, this guide will set you on the right road