Ladies and Gentlemen, there are three 35mm Full Frame resolution monsters available for purchase at the moment and they are the Nikon D810, the Leica Monochrom (or ‘MM’) and the Sony A7R. I’ve shot neither the Nikon D800, D800E or D810, but I own both the Monochrom and the A7R, but until now they have not been together in the same country. They now are, so I figured putting them head to head in a ‘Sony vs Leica Resolution contest’ would be of interest to quite a few readers. After all, the 36MP D810 is very much current, the A7R is likely to be replaced soon by an A7R II and so the question ‘does an 18 megapixel monochrome CCD camera come close to the highest resolving full-frame color cameras’ is still relevant and current. Besides, the outcome is also likely to maintain relevance when the next crop of 50MP cameras hit the market, in the form of the Canon 5DS (and 5DS R) and the rumored Sony 50+MP offering. The reason why is simple: lenses.
By way of background, there has not really been a consensus on how the Monochrom stacks up against the competition, simply because there are few out there and few head to heads have been conducted. Ming Thein compared the MM with the D800E for resolution, but some cried foul because the MM sported a Leica 50mm APO Summicron and the Nikon a 45mm f2.8 pancake, which some suggested would be unable to compete even at middle apertures. I thought this argument weak, because quality standard lenses are all but equal at f8 (yes, even pancakes like my Canon 40mm f2.8 which is razor sharp), but many readers did feel the 50mm APO gave the Leica an unfair advantage.
I understand Lloyd Chambers did a similar comparison and concluded that the Nikon was visibly superior, which questioned Ming’s findings (or vice versa). Well, today I took a Monchrom, 35mm Summarit-M, 50mm Zeiss ZM Planar, Sony A7R, Zeiss 35mm f2.8 FE Sonnar and 50mm f1.8 FE Sonnar to the woods to see for myself. I shot a simple middle distance ‘scenic’ that would relate to typical travel or landscape usage, with everything locked down on a tripod, with self-timer applied. Only a madman would claim that the 55mm Sonnar is not a good enough lens for such a comparison and most Sony FE users also recognise that good copies of the 35mm Sonnar are very good indeed. Some may say that the Leica 35mm Summarit-M (f2.5 version) is not a top Leica optic, but they would be horribly mistaken. At f5.6-8 it is exceedingly good and due to lack of focus shift often outperforms the 35mm Summicron ASPH at this aperture. I deliberately chose to shoot at up to f11 and used a 3-D scene, because we don’t shoot test charts do we, so with sensor, lens and oddities like field curvature thrown into the mix, what was the outcome? Well, I’ll be back in the next day or two to tell you 😉
I have now conducted the Sony A7R vs Leica M Monochrom resolution comparison.