Sony's proprietary LA-EA1 and LA-EA2 adapters connect Sony Alpha and Konica Minolta lenses to its NEX cameras, providing AF and exposure control, as Tim Coleman explains

When Sony announced the launch of its NEX compact system camera range, it was quick to draw on its heritage by launching the LA-EA1 adapter (see left, top) to connect its A-mount and Minolta lenses to the new E-mount NEX cameras. While third-party adapters can be bought for as little as £20, this £180 adapter has an aperture mechanism and electronic contacts to support auto exposure, and also enables the use of AF where possible.

A second adapter, the LA-EA2 (see left, bottom), followed when Sony announced its NEX-7 camera. This adapter offers all the benefits of the first unit, but also includes a phase-detection AF module and translucent mirror technology (pellicle mirror) set-up, as found in the firm’s latest Alpha cameras, such as the Alpha 77.

Both adapters are compatible with all NEX cameras.

In use

When compared to a fully manual adapter, both Sony adapters are much more useful thanks to the included electronics. Auto exposure, including control over shutter speed and aperture, can be selected in-camera as if the lens were directly mounted to the camera. The real benefit, however, is that AF is possible.

To use AF with the LA-EA1 adapter, a lens with a built-in AF motor is required. In Alpha lenses this is indicated by the SAM or SSM suffixes. It may also be necessary to perform a firmware upgrade for the camera and adapter before AF will work. Once in use, however, AF via the LA-EA1 adapter is not as rapid or even as successful as one might hope, with the adapter’s focus hunting back and forth for a subject. The hit rate is increased by selecting spot AF rather than multi-segment AF. Overall, though, those who are used to the AF speed on their Sony NEX camera will be frustrated. I found myself opting for manual focus more often than I would like.

The same cannot be said for the LA-EA2 adapter. With this adapter attached, AF speed is dramatically improved. In fact, there is little difference in speed between an E-mount lens mounted directly on the camera and an A-mount lens attached via the adapter. The adapter is actually often quicker, making the most of the technology used in the Sony Alpha models.

The LA-EA2 adapter is bulky and one of the most expensive around, but for those who already own Konica Minolta and Sony Alpha glass, it could mean a huge saving over buying new E-mount lenses. Furthermore, the selection of A-mount and Minolta lenses is much greater than that which is currently available for the E mount.

LA-EA1 Around £150 LA-EA2 Around £300