Is this better than a Leica?

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

I was doing some editing over the weekend, and came to some images I shot with my Sony NEX-5n fitted with a Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron m-mount lens. I had looked at them, posted a few and been pretty impressed. Looking at more of the shots I took that day and processing them for picture library upload, I began to get VERY impressed. So yesterday I went out with that camera and lens plus my Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar.

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron  
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

A while ago I did some tests with the Voigtlander 28mm fitted to a Sony NEX-C3 and compared it with the 18-55mm kit zoom. /soundimageplus/2011/09/kit-lenses-are-they-any-good-part-4.html The conclusion I came to was that there wasn't that much difference. However it seems the NEX-5n is capable of demonstrating more of a difference. 

There seems to be somewhat of a conflict of opinion as to whether the C3 and 5n have a different, or basically the same, sensor. My opinion from using them both, and from tests I've carried out, is that my 5n sensor produces sharper results and has less noise than the C3 I had. Indeed I would go as far as to say that, all round, the sensor in the Sony NEX-5n I have is the best digital sensor I've ever used.

The results yesterday from the 5n / Voigtlander 28mm combination were just wonderful. Very sharp indeed, great colour and virtually no CA or fringing. The 75mm was just as good for sharpness and colour but there is some CA / fringing visible. The files at 100% reminded me very much of what I was getting from my Leica M9.

I shot some multi image "stitches" and created some huge 100MB files.

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar  
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar  
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

At full size these were a delight to view. Incredibly high resolution, and sharp with no noise whatsoever. By then downsizing them by around 50% to take account of the IQ "loss" from the stitching procedure, I ended up with files around 50MB. I discovered that I seem finally to have found a way to create images that are just as sharp as my Leica M9 files. In addition to this these 5n / Voigtlander files are free of moire and have a wider dynamic range than the M9. They are also (so far) free of dust spots. 

I checked back with the very best of my M9 images to see if this wasn't just wishing it to be so and found that it was actually the case. Pretty remarkable considering the Sony sensor has an AA filter, the camera is 1/10th of the price and looks like a "bar of soap" and its an APS-C sensor rather than 35mm / FF. 

True, its a somewhat complicated way of doing it, shooting multi-images, stitching them together and then downsizing by 50%, but when I sold my M9, I was quite prepared to concede that I wouldn't be able to get that wonderful sharpness and Leica colour depth from any camera that I currently possess, or any other in the foreseeable future. However, while acknowledging that I was shooting in bright clear light at ISO 100, and using the lenses at their optimum apertures, it seems that isn't the case. This both surprised and pleased me.

I've been pretty "fanboyish" about the 5n (Though this is restricted to the IQ and certainly not about its "looks"!) and you may think that this is just one more instance of that. However, I know what I'm seeing, and I also know what pleasure shooting with this camera is giving me.  

So the original question - Is this (the Sony NEX-5n) better than a Leica, as far as I am concerned?

My answer as far as the M8 goes is an unequivocal yes.

As far as the M9 is concerned, my answer is also yes.

Does it (The 5n) have equal single shot sharpness? No, but with the right lens it is very close indeed.

Does it have equal colour depth? Again with the right lens, yes I think it does. 

Is it easier to use MF lenses on? For me it is.

Is it a more versatile camera overall? Well I think few would argue against that.

Does it produce "cleaner" images? Yes it does.

Is it better at high ISO's? Again I don't think anyone would argue against that.

Do I like using it more than the M9? Well yes I do. Its easier to get the images I want, with the quality I want. It allows me more choices, more options and more possibilities. As you will realise from what I wrote about the M9, I was never in love with the "rangefinder experience". I learnt to cope with it and get the best I could out of it, but it could be frustrating at times. I was certainly never in love with the dust spots or the moire I had to continually remove. I was also not impressed by the restricted dynamic range nor the restricted range of focal lengths I was able to use. Certainly the thought of going out with either the Voigtlander 28mm or 35mm lenses I have as my main shooting tool, and tucking my e-mount 55-20mm in my bag for when I need a telephoto lens is very appealing.

From what I read, the NEX-7 isn't probably going to give me quite the quality I'm getting from the 5n, and there certainly seem to be problems with wide angle m-mount lenses. But I'll deal with that when I finally get the camera. In the meantime the 5n is certainly impressing the hell out of me, and continues to rise in my estimation almost every time I use it. Oh and it fits into my E-P2 case as well, if you were wondering what that was.

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 75mm f/2.5 Heliar