The look, the feel, the features and the price
Click on any image to see a larger version
The above trio of Metabones lens adapters are the latest additions to my varied set of 9 ways for coupling a Nikon F-mount lens to a Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E1 camera. It started with the ‘regular’ F-to-X adapter (shown left) as I very much liked the idea of its compact tripod mount. Then, the remarkable Speed Booster (at right) was announced: it incorporates optical components reducing the focal length of the attached lens by 0.71x, and increasing its maximum aperture by one full stop. Obviously, I could not resist finding out for myself whether or not this optical marvel lives up to such bold claims. And finally, just two weeks ago, Metabones announced another purely mechanical G-to-X adapter (the middle one) equipped with the same aperture control ring as the Speed Booster, thus making it fit for use with lenses that have no aperture ring (like all AF-S and DX models).
Metabones is a supplier of high-quality camera adapters and related camera accessories, with a design team based in Japan and Hong Kong, and its own production line in China. All of its products are available directly from the company’s web store (operating out of Hong Kong as Global Boom International Limited), and through selected resellers internationally.
Metabones currently makes lens adapters for use with Fuji X, Sony NEX and various Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras, and to a lesser extent for Leica M and S systems. Supported lens mounts include Nikon F, Canon EF, Leica M and R, Alpa, Contarex, Contax G and Contax Yashica. Not all combinations of course all available (or even technically possible).
DISCLAIMER: I do not have any business or other relationship with Metabones. I have purchased each of my lens adapters for my own purposes as a ‘regular’ customer at full price.
Product distribution and pricing
In or around Belgium (where I live) the availability of distribution of Metabones products from retail channels is very rare to non-existent. A few AV/video specialists carry (or at least list) some models in Sony NEX or Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mounts only – which makes sense from a video perspective. No trace whatsoever of Fuji X-mount versions…
I therefore ordered my products on-line from the Metabones site, and had them shipped from Hong Kong by FedEx International Economy. Each time I have been very pleased with the quality of service and speed of delivery (5-8 working days). Obviously, you should expect the usual VAT, import duties and other ‘administrative fees’ added to your bill. I also threw a few follow-up questions by e-mail to Metabones’ after-sales support team, and received prompt answers (though not always the exact information I was looking for).
The Metabones adapters are more expensive than the comparable models from Kipon, but the full cost of the G-version is comparable to its less-featured Novoflex counterpart. The Speed Booster, of course, is quite expensive due to its comprehensive optics (and, no doubt, by its small-lot production setup and its unique position in the market).
Packaging and physical characteristics
Metabones clearly believes that more expensive products require bigger boxes. In the case of the Speed Booster, that results in a lot of foam rubber inside (the other two boxes have no padding). None of the products have user instructions or any other documentation included in the box.
The Speed Booster comes with a few accessories:
- A plastic front (F-mount) and back (X-mount) cap, very useful to protect the optical elements that –especially at the back – come very close to the end of the bayonet;
- A larger allen hex key to remove the tripod foot, and two small plastic caps to seal the resulting screw holes (we will come back to these later);
- A smaller allen key fitting the screws on the front and back bayonet rings.
I am not aware of any (good) reason why a customer would want to remove the bayonet rings, and my inquiry at after-sales support did not provide an answer either (just a confirmation that this was the intention for supplying the smaller key).
As for front and read caps, an eBay reseller happily provided me for just a couple of euros with a dozen each of Nikon-style body caps and Fuji X rear lens caps, so all my adapters are now nicely protected against dust and other FOD when floating in my camera bag.
The Metabones lens adapters are beautifully executed. The aluminum barrel has a black satin surface finish with engraved white markings. Both camera-side and lens-side mounts are precision-machined brass with chromium plating. The front side mount features a leaf-spring structure to ensure proper alignment and tightening of the lens. The inside of the barrels got a rough matte-black treatment, to minimize internal reflections.
The adapters snap easily onto the camera, just like any other X-mount lens. There is no significant play here, just the familiar little wiggle that is equally there with native XF-lenses (and a bit more so on my X-E1 compared to my X-Pro1). At the lens side, all three of my copies initially felt rather (and almost too) tight; they loosened up after a little bit after usage, however without starting to feel less ‘solid’. The lens release lever is nicely done, and the unlocking mechanism works fine. In summary: I am very comfortable with the mechanical fit and operation of these adapters.
All three adapters come with a tripod mount for use with Arca-Swiss compatible quick release clamps, and also offer the classic ¼ inch thread. The Arca plate matches perfectly with the ball head on my light but sturdy Benro carbon travel tripod. The foot extends some 9mm below the base of an attached X-Pro1 or X-E1. That is not very much, and I guess there might be a risk for obstruction if a tripod head has a larger top plate. With the original Fuji hand grip mounted on either camera model, the bottoms of the grip and of the adapter foot end up about flush.
The mounting foot is absolutely great when working with longer and heavier lenses, like an AF-D 180mm f/2.8 or an AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8: it takes away the stress from the camera mount and results in a better balance on the head. When the lens has its own tripod attachment, of course it is best to use that one.
The mount does not rotate for shooting in vertical orientation, something that is possible (but not always practical) with the optional and expensive tripod mount for the Novoflex adapter.
Metabones states that the tripod foot is detachable. Well, it is in the sense that it just takes a (2.5mm) allen key or wrench to remove the two holding screws and release the mounting piece.
With the F-to-X and G-to-X adapter however, that leaves you with two gaping holes that will let light into the system (unless gaffer tape comes to the rescue once again).
The Speed Booster is the exception: it ships not only with the required allen key but also with two small plastic plugs to cover the screw holes (as mentioned above). It seems to be a small effort for Metabones to fix this inconvenience and add at least the two caps to each package, but I expect that most people – including myself – will simply leave the tripod foot in place.
Features and operation
The Metabones F-to-X adapter accepts virtually any lens with a Nikon F-mount, including pre-AI, AI, AI-S, AF and AF-D lenses. G-type lenses do not have an aperture ring on the lens and can be mounted but will remain set to their smallest aperture setting (highest f-stop number) making them virtually useless. The G-lens group includes all AF-S and all DX lenses. I have not yet found any non-G lens that did not work on this adapter; the oldest one I tried is a pre-1970 Nikkor H 50mm f/2.0.
The Metabones G-to-X adapter and the Nikon-to-Fuji Speed Booster are equipped with an aperture control ring on the adapter, which makes them compatible with G-type lenses as well. We will discuss the operation of this control ring later in great detail.
- Focus is always fully manual;
- Exposure modes are limited to A (aperture priority) and M (manual);
- Viewing and metering will be at the effective aperture set either on the lens or via the adapter’s ring;
- VR is not available;
- No lens data will be passed on to the camera, so the EXIF data in the recorded image will at best be incomplete.
Make sure that SHOOTING MENU > SHOOT WITHOUT LENS is set to ON, otherwise no pictures can be taken. To pass on the focal length of the mounted lens to the EXIF data, select one of the six settings in SHOOTING MENU > MOUNT ADAPTER SETTINGS (remember that you can modify the last two settings at will).
OVF framing is possible on the X-Pro1 with lenses from 18mm to 60mm (provided that the focal length information is entered correctly). Focusing will usually rely on using either the EVF or back LCD in combination with the 3x/10x magnification and/or focus peaking capabilities. Older lenses usually have a smooth manual focus ring with a generous control range; many also have a depth-of-field scale making focus presetting or zone focusing feasible.
Viewing and focusing at the effective shooting aperture has the advantage to give a realistic depth-of-field preview, but requires boosting the EVF/LCD gain for an enhanced image, thereby increasing viewfinder lag. Opening the lens aperture to its maximum for composing and focusing clearly increases the viewing comfort and focusing precision, but don’t forget to return to the working aperture afterwards!
Finally, remember that the information from the live histogram is not reliable in M mode, and also not with a dark subject image (or a lens manually set to a narrow aperture).
NEXT: the wonders of the Speed Booster optics
Click on any image to see a larger version