Leverage Multiple Camera Platforms with Adapters
Recently, I completed a shoot for an article written by our own Alex Huff for 500px’s ISO blog. For it, I returned to my trusty old 5D Mark II and an even older lens: a Nikon 100mm f/2.8 AiS lens that’s at least 30 years old.
For me, the results were well past what I’d expected from the setup.
To marry that Nikon lens to my 5D Mark II, I used this Nikon G lens to Canon adapter. I added a lens hood I own to the setup to avoid some glare I was getting off an overhead light and this is what it looked like:
As I said, the results were well past what I’d expected. Turns out, that lens was superb on my 5D and the shot of model Xela Gaerlan (below) that ended up on the blog is one of my favorites.
Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve used a Nikon lens on my 5D. In fact, I wrote about this a couple of years ago. Moreover, I’ve also written in the past about using multiple lens types on Micro 4/3 cameras too. When I looked at my shooting kit now, however, I felt like it was time to visit the topic once more, especially given how much the adapter market has evolved.
I own a 5D Mark II and a Sony a7S. When it comes to lenses, however, I own one Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (which I never use) and five Nikon-mount lenses. I had a Canon 24–70 at some point, but it’s lying at the bottom of the San Francisco Bay near the Ferry Building (feel free to dredge for it).
I also don’t own or rent any Sony lenses. Not because they’re bad; there are some excellent Sony-made optics out there. No, it’s because I’ve slowly gravitated towards platforms that allow me to use interchangeable pieces, especially when it comes to lenses.
In fact, a recent influx of adapters from companies like Metabones has made it incredibly easy to take lenses from one platform and put them on another. This means that if you want to try and shoot with two cameras from two different manufacturers, you no longer have to duplicate your setup for each platform.
This is kind of a big deal, especially if you’re looking to jump ship from one camera system to another. Canon shooters, for example, can shoot with Sony and Panasonic cameras without having to reinvest in a ton of lenses specific to the new platform.
With that in mind, I thought I’d lay out some of the options available to our customers and how that might affect some gear choices for you when you’re browsing for gear on BorrowLenses.com.
The Most Flexible Camera Platforms
Micro Four Thirds
If you’re looking to go with a camera that can take just about any type lens we carry (well, almost), you can’t go wrong with something that has a Micro Four Thirds mount, like the Panasonic GH4. Not too long ago, I shot some footage with a GH4 using a Nikon-mount Sigma lens and a Metabones adapter. The Micro Four Thirds platform can take Canon, Nikon, and Leica lenses with adapters.
Moreover, given that there are cameras from Blackmagic that have slightly different mount structures that still adhere to the Micro Four Thirds standards, Metabones has actually created some special mounts for them.
This table gives you a decent idea of the various adapters that are available for Micro Four Thirds cameras. As you can see, there are a LOT of them.
|Blackmagic Cinema Camera M4/3
|Metabones Nikon G Lens to Blackmagic Cinema Camera with Micro 4/3 Speed Booster
|Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
|Metabones Nikon G Lens to Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Speed Booster
|Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
|Metabones Canon EF to Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Speed Booster
|Micro Four Thirds (all)
|Metabones Canon EF Lens to Micro Four Thirds Speed Booster “S” Version
|Micro Four Thirds (all)
|Bower Micro 4/3 Camera to Canon EOS Lens Adapter with Aperture
|Micro Four Thirds (all)
|Leica Mount to Micro 4/3 Lens Adapter
Sony ILC Cameras
Sony’s line of Interchangeable Lens Compacts include two different platforms: the NEX series of compacts and the a7 line of full frame compact mirrorless cameras. I love my a7S and frequently use it with Canon and Nikon mount lenses and since I’ve written about expanding on the NEX series before, I’ll focus on the “FE” (E mount for full frame) mount adapters in this piece.
The full frame a7 series from Sony takes Nikon and Canon lenses really well. There are a couple of Canon adapters we carry at the moment but if you’re using a Canon-mount lens with no dedicated aperture ring you’ll want the Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony NEX Camera Smart Adapter IV.
Of course, if you’re using a lens like a Rokinon Cine or Zeiss or Canon compact prime, the version 3 or even the version 2 of the adapter should work just as well since there’s no electronic control of the aperture for those lenses anyway.
On the Nikon side of things, we have the Metabones Nikon G Lens to Sony NEX Camera Adapter, which I’ve used with just about everything from the aforementioned thirty-plus-year-old Nikon AiS lens to a modern Sigma 35mm f/1.4 art lens.
There are a series of newer adapters with “Speed Boosters” as well; the Metabones Canon EF to Sony NEX Speed Booster ULTRA, for example, can be used with the a7 series but only when shooting in “crop” mode. Otherwise, you end up with some ugly vignetting in the shot.
Fuji has some outstanding lenses, but that hasn’t stopped this venerable upstart (a contradiction of a sort, I know) from making their own Leica adapter so users can mount M mount lenses to their Fujis.
I did this a while back and found that I absolutely loved the Leica lenses on a Fuji camera.
Metabones also has an excellent “Speed Booster” adapter for Nikon lenses that lets me use one of my favorite portrait lenses, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8, on the Fuji X-Pro1, leading to this portrait of our own Jo DeGuzman.
I put Canon in this category because it only takes lenses from one other platform other than its own. You can, as I’ve mentioned at the start of this article, put Nikon lenses on a Canon camera, and the results really can be awesome. Filmmakers shooting with Canon DSLRs have been doing it for a while now and I like using them in combination with the Live View feature on my 5D Mark II.
There’re basically a couple of adapters you can use with the Canon cameras:
The Nikon G Lens to Canon Camera Adapter lets you use Nikon-mount “G” lenses and change their aperture — though not in precise increments — with the manual aperture lever.
The standard Nikon Lens to Canon Camera Adapter will let you mount Nikon D and older lenses that have their own dedicated aperture ring. This is the one I actually prefer, as I like using lenses with manual aperture controls.
The “Didn’t Stand a Chance”
As much as I’ve extolled the virtues of Nikon lenses, Nikon cameras can’t take any lenses but their own. The flanges (distance between the lens mount and the sensor plane) is too long already on Nikon’s cameras, and lenses won’t focus properly even if you did mount them.
That’s what makes the ILC cameras like Sony, Fuji, and Panasonic so adaptable; they have short enough distances (no mirrors!) and can therefore take on any lenses that will cover the image circle of the sensor.
Despite not having a camera that can take lenses from other platforms, Nikon does, I think, make the most flexible lenses on the market. This has everything to do with Aperture control; even the “G” type lenses that have no external aperture rings do have a small lever that the Metabones adapters can manipulate to change aperture.
Contrast this with Canon “L” lenses that have to have their apertures manipulated electronically. This causes the adapters to take a long time to develop, are prone to issues with some lenses, and are much costlier. Still, they do exist and work reasonably well in many circumstances, including on at least one production shoot of mine. Plus, Canon, Zeiss, and Rokinon make some cine lenses that have the first external aperture rings on Canon-mount lenses since they stopped making FD-mount lenses, I believe.
What about you folks? Do you have a favorite camera/lens combo, or a favorite adapter? Sound off in the comments, let us know!