This autofocus adapter gives your vintage manual glass some of that sweet, sweet Sony autofocus.
Once a niche market, lens adapters are now a must-have for your toolkit. From simple mount conversions to focal reducers, modern adapters can do everything. Internal NDs? You Bet. Converting smart connections between motorized lenses of different brands? Check. Autofocus for vintage lenses?
Wait, you can do that?
Thanks to Techart, a lens adapter manufacturer, creatives can use the autofocus features of their Sony, Fuji GFX, Nikon Z series, and even Hasselblad X1D with manual vintage glass. And they're not the only ones making this kind of tech.
But how? That feels like forbidden magic. Well, it gets better. Techart just released an updated version of its popular Leica-M to Sony E mount autofocus adapter. Scuttlebutt has it you can even use any SLR lens ever made. Let’s dive in to see how all of this works.
Tiny Motor, Big Belly
Techart released its first iteration of the Leica-M to Sony E mount autofocus adapter about five years ago. It was a chunky guy with a servo motor tucked into its underbelly that physically moved the entire lens to achieve focus.
While it delivered what it said on the tin, there were some quirks. This included wobbling, loose screws, and connection issues. Not to mention a battle with Fotodiox Pro over some possible IP infringement, as the latter's Pronto adapter looks awfully similar. You can read more about all that here.
More Motors, More Autofocus
After that adventure, Techart has now released Ver.2 of the Leica-M to Sony E mount autofocus. Not only is it smaller and without the belly to hide its motor, Techart claims it’s more accurate, faster, and can hold heavier lenses. It relies on Sony’s phase detection autofocus system to make all of the internals work, which moves an extender by 4.5mm to move the entire lens to achieve focus. This also works in AF-S and AF-C mode, as well as with eye and face detection.
Instead of a single motor, Ver.2 includes four radially positioned servo motors inside the adapter itself. With this additional support, creatives should see faster focus and compatibility with heavier lenses. Techart claims its adapter can focus lenses up to 500g. But this could be a theoretical limit.
According to users on this forum, Ver.1 of the adapter initially stated a max weight of 700g until it was changed to 300g. However, this is all hearsay. Even so, we still recommend you play it safe.
Compatibility-wise, the adapter is said to work with all the latest Sony camera models. This includes the Sony A7R IV, 7R, A1, A9II, A7C, A6600, and ZV-E10 to name a few. It also supports the in-camera 3-axis image stabilization, which is a nice feature to have in manual lenses. But, how it works on old-school glass remains to be seen.
The coolest thing, though? If you can adapt a lens to the Leica M-mount, Techart claims that those lenses will also be supported. And because the M-mount flange distance is super short, you can pretty much adapt any SLR-style lens.
Old Nikon glass? Yup. How about some Canon FDs? Just as long as they meet the weight requirements, they should work without any issues. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to give my old Nikon 50mm E-series some autofocus.
The Elephant in the Room
As cool as this adapter is, it's not a magic bullet. It will never be as good as a dedicated autofocus lens with internal motors. Techart even says so on its site. This is because dedicated AF glass just moves a few elements inside the lens, while the Techart autofocus adapter moves the entire lens. So you’re never going to get the same performance. It’s just physics.
Also, Techart states that it doesn’t get support from Sony to make its firmware. Everything the adapter maker develops is reverse engineered. While its team says they’ll keep studying the protocols of the cameras they support to improve performance, the timetable for updates is all over the place. This ranges from overnight to never gonna happen. But let me wax poetic for a moment.
Vintage vs. Modern
Modern lenses are great. Even the cheaper ones from the likes of Voigtländer, IRIX, and Meike can hold their own against lenses double their price. But when it comes to vintage glass, modern lenses just can’t reproduce the look of something that’s been weathered by time.
Even if you get two copies of the same vintage lens, they will produce slightly different images. While those differences may be imperceptible, in the right hands, those lenses can produce incredible images.
Sometimes, you just need that vintage aesthetic. Now imagine if your Sony camera can give those lenses autofocus capabilities. For solo shooters, that's a massive leg up, especially if they already have a bag of old glass just lying around.