Saturday, 13 July 2013

Metabones Nikon to Micro Four Thirds Speed Booster Review

I have been waiting for the Nikon to Micro Four Thirds Speed Booster from Metabones for a little while now. It was announced back in January and now, 6 months later the Nikon to MFT version has hit the scene. Within a couple day or two of the announcement, I checked my bank balance and placed my order. Around 3 days later, a little parcel arrives at my work desk in Sydney all the way from Hong Kong. I have to say I am impressed at how quickly it got to me.

The build quality is very good. The body is metal; the aperture control has engraved markings and is indented for half-stops. The 4-element lens unit is a solid looking piece and it all seems to be put together well.

What's in the box?

The Speed Booster comes well packed but there is no pouch to store the adapter in. It comes with front and rear caps. One being their version of Nikon body cap, the other being their version of a Panasonic rear lens cap. Unlike the body of the Speed Booster, neither are well made but do work.  I tried using a Nikon body cap but the fit is too loose.

Also in the box, you get a couple of hex keys in a plastic bag to remove the tripod adapter. There are no instructions or guide on how to use the unit.

The elements of the Speed Booster are a little exposed at the MFT end and I wouldn't recommend using an Olympus cap - it seems as though it would be very close to the lens element. The Panasonic style cap would be a better choice and get over the slight nastiness of the supplied cap.

Putting Camera, Speed Booster and Lens Together

Attaching the Speed Booster is fairly easy. While it doesn't mount as smoothly as say an Olympus lens on my OM-D and likewise, Nikon lenses feel that great when rotating them, I have had worse. This was a little surprising considering the apparent high build quality. On the Metabones web site it says to rotate the Speed Booster ring to 8 before mounting the lens. I don't think failing to do so would damage your lens or the Speed Booster, but it may make it more difficult to lock the lens should you not when the aperture tab on the lens is pushed up against the Metabones aperture control link.

There is a compact tripod mount on the unit and this is threaded for a quick release plate, or you can use it directly in a Arca Swiss style tripod clamp. It looks very short for the latter but works well for any lens that does not have its own tripod clamping ring and gives good balance with a standard zoom and with the relatively light weight of MFT cameras, just right for these lenses. Obviously, if using something like a Sigma 150-500mm zoom you would use the lenses tripod mounting ring.

Well how does it work?

Well I must say I am pleasantly surprised. In a word - excellent!!!! I was expecting the sort of degradation you get when you when you use a teleconverter. It seems excellent from fully open with the lenses I have used.

So far I have had a play with an ancient Nikon AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8. This is a pre-D lens and not one of Nikon's best. When mounted, it becomes a 35mm equivalent at f/2. This lens suffers from flare and it seems no worse for the Speed Booster despite adding 4 lens elements into the equation. As a full-frame lens, there is no light fall-off and sharpness does not suffer. Not an excessively large combination and easy enough to use. I wouldn't say it is a substitute for something like the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 which remains on my wish list.

Next play was with the Tamron 60mm f/2 macro. This is a DX format lens and it becomes the equivalent of an 85mm f/1.4 (sort of). I don't consider this lens a true f/2 as it is only f/2 at around 3m and longer. As an internal focusing macro lens, the focal length increases the closer you focus and the aperture falls. It is around a f/2.5 at closest focus. Still, the extra speed makes a nice bright viewfinder and the generous focus ring rotation of the lens makes it easy to focus. The Tamron 60mm is ultra-sharp on my Nikon and just as sharp on the Olympus.

OK, now for the real test. My Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom is probably my most used Nikon lens. With the Speed Booster on my Olympus OM-D this becomes an equivalent to a 14.2-34mm f/2.5-3.2. This is a lot faster (1 2/3 stops) than my Olympus 9-18mm (18-36mm equivalent) f/4-5.6 zoom goes substantially wider and almost as long. First impressions indoors I noticed quite a bit of vignetting. In the field, this does not seem to be an issue, probably due to the longer focus distance slightly increasing the focal length - who knows. It gives a fair bit more in field of view than the Olympus wide zoom and again very sharp. One disadvantage of the 10-24mm lens is the relatively short focus scale but the wider focal length afforded by the Speed Booster seems to overcome any issues here and the 14x screen magnification available for the Olympus OM-D makes focusing not ultra-critical.

The results show in the photos.

Tamron 60mm macro - a tiny flower at closet focus and stopped down quite a bit.

Nikon Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm

From the same spot - Nikon Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 at 10mm

Nikon Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 at around 18mm


The Speed Booster is not cheap and costs about the same as a mid-priced consumer level fixed focal length lens or one of the cheaper non-kit zooms. If you have a couple of lenses sitting in your kit bag for a Nikon camera, it can be a bargain. There seems to be no real image quality issues with using the Speed Booster and for low-light work - a real treat. With DX lenses and the 0.71x magnification of the Speed Booster, you have a lot more wide options for the Olympus system.

Friday, 5 April 2013

SLR Magic Hyperprime 12mm Cine T1.6 Lens Review

OK, let's start off the review of a series of long-exposure, low light photos taken with the SLR Magic Hyperprime 12mm Cine T1.6

This series of sunrise photos taken at Cronulla this morning with the SLR Magic Hyperprime 12mm using my Olympus OM-D E-M5.






About the only area where you could criticise the performance of this lens is shooting into the sun or a bright source of light where lens flare and internal reflections are a problem. That said - it is no worse than a complex zoom lens, say for example the Olympus 12-50mm zoom. Vignetting is also high but easy to fix in post processing. Fringing is about average and distortion fairly low.

Build quality is excellent. The focus ring is firm and while well damped, not as smooth as say a Voigtlander focus ring and there is a tiny little bit of play in it when you change direction. Still well above average in and vastly superiour to the manual focus rings you get on AF lenses. There are a few exposed but recessed screw heads and the lens mount is not separate, i.e. it is integrated into the housing.

The lens feels very heavy when not mounted on a camera but is nicely balanced on the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

The optional lens hood step-up ring is a rip off. It it little more than a slightly dished step-up ring and is certainly not optimised for the angle of view of the lens. I think a much cheaper 58mm to 77mm stepping ring would be fine along with a 58mm wide angle lens hood (probably a bit difficult to source a 77mm one that is not a bayonet fitting).

Overall, this is a great little lens. Works well in early morning landscape and seascape photography. Good value for money if you don't need auto focus.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Olympus 15mm Lens Cap Lens - mini review

When I bought my Olympus OM-D E-M5, Olympus Australia had a promotion where you got a small bundle of goodies by redemption. The goodies included a lens cap lens, leather camera strap and a camera wrap. The 15mm lens cap lens is the subject of this review.

Lens Cap Lens is a good description and it is a fun little thing that is little more than the depth of a standard lens cap. It is made of 100% plastic and I believe it is a simple 3-element lens.

I like the lens on the E-P3 - the combination is truly pocketable - even in a shirt pocket - but I would be very caution of putting it into a shirt pocket. I don't like the feel of the lens on the OM-D as it doesn't feel right as the OM-D camera design provides a less positive grip compared to the standard screw-on grip of the E-P3.

Coming from the SLR world, it feels a little strange not having a lens barrel as part of the means of holding the camera but you soon get use to it - holding the camera like a point and shoot device.

The only control on the lens is a slider that reveals the lens and provides a simple focus adjustment. Other than closed, focus adjustment has 3-stops - infinity, a mark for the hyper-focal distance, and 0.3m. The control itself is fairly sloppy and too light. There are indents for the hyper-focal distance which is reasonably secure enough, and an exceedingly light one for infinity. You just slide the control all the way to the 0.3m end for the close focus.

Checking a depth of field calculator, the hyper-focal distance at f/8 (the only aperture you get for this lens) is approximately 2 metres. Everything from around 0.9 metres should be in focus.

Sharpness ins't strong at the hyper-focal distance and I often find infinity is a better option. This should have everything from around 1.4 metres should be in focus.

The close focus setting should have a depth of field of about 90 mm.

The lens works but expectations should not be high. The small aperture of f/8 makes focusing difficult - even when magnified on the screen so distance guesstamation is best. The lens has all the sharpness of a 'toy' lens and on the Olympus OM-D or E-P3 makes a very expensive way of getting pictures that are not particularly sharp but then this will never perform like a proper lens. Overall - the images are fine for posting on the internet or even viewing at reasonable sizes on a computer screen. I expect they would look fair enough printed out to 6x4 size but forget about doing an A2 poster print.

I got the lens for free and it is a lot of fun - especially when used with the Olympus ART filters. The focus lever needs to be more firm and the infinity indent more positive.

The lens sells for around USD49 in the US (less than $48 dollars in Oz currency) but $99 in Australia. What is it with Olympus in Australia? There is no excuse for the more than doubling of the price. At $49 it would be a good buy but questionable at $99.

Here are some pictures done in grainy black and white...