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Metabones lens adaptor guide - part 1

19 June 2017

Metabones lens adaptor guide - part 1


The Metabones range of lens adaptors is one of the most popular choices for photographers and filmmakers alike. In addition to ‘regular' adaptors, the Metabones Speed Booster has carved out a niche. In this the first of two parts, we will explain the three main varieties of Metabones lens adaptor available. In part two we will focus on the Metabones Speed Booster in use and take a look at the image quality of the Metabones Speed Booster for photos and video.  


Why use a Metabones adaptor? 

The main purpose of a Metabones adaptor is pairing a DSLR or rangefinder lens with a compact system camera (CSC). Lens mounts available include Nikon F, Canon EF and the Leica M mount. Popular combinations include a Canon EF mount lens with Micro Four Thirds CSC like the Panasonic Lumix DSC-GH4, or a Nikon F-mount lens with a Sony NEX camera. Without doubt, Metabones’ champion product is the Speed Booster, which is really popular among video makers, though a Speed Booster is really effective for photography too.  

CSCs like the GH4 offer many plus sides over DSLRs - they are smaller, lighter and usually offer more advanced video recording functions with responsive liveview autofocus and image stabilisation. However, getting good lenses for video with CSCs can be tricky and quite pricey, especially fast wide angle lenses. This is where the Speed Booster comes in. 

Many photographers already have wide angle, fast DSLR lens in their kit bag, such as the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens. A comparable CSC version might not be available. Metabones adaptors are one of many lens adaptors available to pair these otherwise incompatible cameras and lens combinations. But Metabones adaptors are not cheap knock offs and promise top drawer quality. There are three main types of Metabones lens adaptors: Speed Booster, Smart Adaptor and Adaptor. Before we go hands on with the Metabones Speed Booster, let’s briefly look at the three Metabones lens adaptor types. 


Metabones Adaptor

A Metabones adaptor connects a camera to a lens that has an aperture ring on it - these are usually older manual focus lenses. Modern autofocus lenses that do not have an aperture ring and require aperture changes to be made in-camera are not compatible with a Metabones regular adaptor. There is a workaround, but it is far from ideal. Some cameras allow you to shoot under a lens ‘off’ option, so you can use a modern lens with no aperture ring, but only in its most closed aperture and without autofocus. For example, you can use the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G autofocus lens with a Metabones Adaptor, but only at f/16 and in manual focus.  


Metabones Smart Adaptor

The Metabones Smart Adaptor features electronic contacts and can, therefore, be used with modern autofocus lenses that do not feature an aperture ring, in addition to the older, manual focus lenses. Consequently, Metabones Smart Adaptors are significantly more expensive. In use, the camera can be set to any of its auto and manual exposure (PASM) modes, autofocus is functional, EXIF data (focal length, aperture) is recorded and in-lens image stabilisation is usually supported too. 


Metabones Speed Booster

A Metabones Speed Booster is an altogether different beast. It is essentially the opposite of a teleconverter. With a Speedbooster attached between camera and lens, the lens focal length magnification is in the region of 0.7x, meaning the angle of view is widened. In addition, the aperture is faster/ wider usually by +1EV, meaning you gain light. Hence the name Speed Booster. Through a Metabones Speed Booster, apertures of f/1.0 and f/1.2 are readily available - more on this in part two.  

Conversely, a teleconverter extends the focal length, meaning you gain reach, but the aperture is slower/ narrower, meaning you lose light. The folk at Metabones go as far as claiming that a Speed Booster actually improves the sharpness (aka MTF) of a lens. There is a Speed Booster ‘Ultra’ version. The main difference is that the Ultra features a built-in aperture ring.  

Before selecting a Metabones adaptor, it is vital to check the camera and lens compatibility with the adaptor. Some camera functions may be available in certain pairings and not in others.  If in doubt, give us a call on 01435 873028 and we’ll help you find the adapter you need.