Metabones Canon EF to Sony FZ
CINE Smart Adapter
I’ll be honest, I’m an early adopter, and it’s a habit I can’t kick. I do enjoy mastering new kit and I don’t think I’m alone either. Many cameramen I know seem to have a similar attitude to gadgets. However, I don’t mind admitting that my habit also causes problems. Firstly, it can get expensive, very expensive… especially when it comes to professional camera equipment. Secondly, you often end up choosing the gear no one else wants, a bit like picking Betamax when everyone else buys VHS… but doing it way too often!
My early Sony PMW-F3 is a good example. A great camera and one of the first affordable large sensor video cameras around (if you ignore the ugly Panasonic AF-101). Trouble is, it felt like a re-engineered EX3 and more than a little rushed by Sony. In not much more than a year, it was superseded by the PMW-F5/55, which as we all know became the camera body of choice for many discerning cameramen.
One thing did survive though… the Sony FZ lens mount. It looks like the E-mount seen on the popular FS7, but is larger and significantly stronger. Thankfully, Sony have always provided a good PL mount adapter with FZ cameras, and the combination feels tough enough for professional use, even with heavy lenses. However, there can’t be many F5/55 owners that don’t look on enviously at all the affordable lens choices available to FS7 (and now FS5) owners with their much more adaptable E-mount.
If like me, you’ve got a good collection of Canon EF lenses, but a camera with an FZ mount (F5/55), your choice of adapters that can control the iris of these electronic lenses has been limited to basically two. I won’t mention any names, but as an early F series adopter, I went for the ugly one with a separate box on a fragile flying lead for the aperture control. It had a nice shiny blue knob but unfortunately, never really felt as though it understood Canon protocols. Sometimes it simply wouldn’t work, or much more surprisingly, would jump to wide open in the middle of a shot. It eats batteries and mine will shortly be appearing on eBay! The other option was a much neater solution with a nice red stripe. I thought I wanted one until I tried using it on a live broadcast. It has tiny up/down buttons for aperture control and frankly flaky firmware, which, with my sausage fingers, left me totally unsure if I could rely on it to work. Sometimes it did… and sometimes it didn’t.
Then, in 2014, hidden away at IBC, I caught a glimpse of a prototype FZ to EF adapter from Metabones. They’ve made a good name for themselves with the fantastic Speed Boosters, one of which I own for my GH4. This FZ to EF prototype didn’t get much publicity, but it looked rather special with a large aperture ring around the whole circumference, a bit like operating a real lens… whatever will they think of next! Since then, I’ve been nagging Metabones to launch this adapter for us forgotten F5/55 owners. For a year I heard nothing. I’d almost given up hope, when suddenly, they offered to send me one to test. So the big question is… has all this development time been worth it?
For anyone who’s purchased a Speed Booster, the Metabones box will be familiar… but larger. It’s clear from the weight that this is a substantial piece of engineering. The actual adapter weighs 717 grams but you wouldn’t really notice that when using Canon EF lenses. It certainly feels solid and professional, in the same chunky way that those with an FZ mount will be used to. As well as the firm but smooth moving aperture ring, which is clearly marked with f/stops, there are two small function buttons and a three way switch labeled Auto-Lock-Manual. There is also a micro-USB socket, which I presume is for firmware updates in the same manner as Metabones Speed Boosters, but I couldn’t help wondering if there might be a way to connect an electronic follow-focus sometime in the future? Until then, the aperture ring usefully features 0.8 pitch gearing, which could allow the iris of EF lenses to be changed with a wireless follow-focus type set-up if you choose.
The adapter locks onto the FZ mount with the usual Sony lens ring, and unusually, the EF lenses also lock on to the adapter with a similar PL style locking ring… so there’s no lens play or slip once it’s firmly attached. This is a very good solution but I do hope Metabones make the red and white marker dots a little more prominent. You need to see these in order to line up EF or EFS lenses correctly before tightening and it could be a little fiddly in the dark. Once everything was attached, I turned on the camera, leaving the cameras lens interface option on ‘C’ (where mine usually lives) and the adapter switch to manual. I was surprised to see everything just worked. No initialise sequence or complicated button press to recognise each lens… it simply worked as you’d expect – which is a very good start.
The aperture ring has hard end-stops and is visibly marked from 1 to 32. All the lens metadata is also correctly displayed in the camera viewfinder. This includes not just aperture but focus distance and zoom position on a scale of 0-99. Obviously, although the aperture ring is well damped and moves extremely smoothly, EF lenses are not stepless. This is a function of lenses designed for stills and even Canon have to work with the limitation on their own cameras. When testing, all of my lenses appear to step at 1/8th stops, so this is certainly fine enough to be nicely usable. As you open a lens beyond its maximum aperture, the wheel will continue to turn all the way to 1 but the viewfinder display remains correct. When you then close down, the wheel automatically picks up at the correct point so that the lens and aperture marks remain in sync. This is a very clever solution and one I didn’t even believe could be possible with EF lenses. It gives great tactile feedback to electronic lenses and shows the Metabones mastery of Canon lens control. I’ve made a short video demonstrating exactly how this works.
This is a great convenience when operating EF lenses. I’m probably old school, but there’s also a certain satisfaction to simply moving an iris ring to the marked aperture and accurately knowing what your EF lens is doing. If you move the wheel fast, you definitely know it’s doing something because you can hear the lens iris stepping. It is quite loud, but no noisier than the same lens on any other camera. Everything is powered from the Sony camera mount and for lenses with image stabilisation, this also works well. I didn’t notice any change to the running time of my normal V-Lock batteries.
Back on the adapter, moving the three position switch to ‘Lock’ was pretty self explanatory – the lens iris is locked and moving the aperture wheel does nothing. One more click along to ‘Auto’ brought a big surprise – this Metabones adapter supports full auto iris and it communicates perfectly with the Sony cameras firmware for ramp, speed and level etc. I’ve also included a quick demonstration of this in the video above. Now obviously, real cameramen don’t need auto-iris… but even the best operators sometimes need a little help, especially if the camera is hanging somewhere inaccessible. It’s a nice touch and quite usable.
However, Canon lenses won’t auto-focus on the F5/55… but that’s not really surprising as even Sony didn’t manage to get their own SCL-Z18X140 lens operational for auto-focus on the F5/55, despite originally claiming it would in early marketing. I suspect that it’s an impossible task on these cameras…not that real cameramen actually need auto-focus anyway!
So, to answer the original question… Yes, this Metabones adapter certainly was worth waiting for! If you want to operate your Sony F5/55’s with Canon EF lenses, I don’t believe there’s anything else that comes close to controlling them as professionally or efficiently as the Metabones Canon EF to Sony FZ CINE Smart Adapter.
Which for an early adopter like me, leads to an obvious second question… will there be a Metabones Speed Booster version of this adapter coming shortly? Just to give my F5 that full-frame DSLR look and another stop for my lenses! Apparently not… I’m told by Metabones that “due to the limited space of SONY FZ cameras, no Speed Booster version can be made”.
But I’m more than happy… going back to my favourite Canon lenses for a series of broadcast interviews was a real pleasure. They work so well with my F5 and this Metabones adaptor. There’s a lovely mixture of warmth and sharpness I simply wasn’t getting with my overly expensive PL glass. It’s like re-visiting old friends.
After just one week, I’m already re-assessing my lens options for a couple of red carpet ‘run-n-gun’ type fashion shoots. And yes, I’m going to be first in the queue to buy the Metabones Canon EF to Sony FZ CINE… obviously not because I’m an early adopter, I just need this smart adapter!
Metabones Canon EF to Sony FZ CINE Smart Adapter
Available: October 2015
Update 8th October:
I’ve just heard from Metabones that they have indeed improved the markings on the adaptor prior to production. Much easier to line-up and lock your Canon lenses quickly. Great.
(Now, about that electronic follow-focus as an optional extra!)
Yet another update 20th October:
I’ve been working this week at the back of a conference with a borrowed Sigma 50-500mm lens on the Metabones adaptor. Something I hadn’t realised when writing the original review, was how the manual iris would work with zoom lenses that don’t have a constant aperture throughout their range. It’s actually great news so long as you’re not operating wide open at the wide end…
As an example, if you obtain a good exposure at the tight end, when you zoom out the lens will maintain the correct aperture as displayed on the side of the adaptor. This means your image will not get brighter, but in effect, work as a constant aperture lens! : ie if it says f/5.6 it’ll stay at f/5.6
Updated list 5th January 2016:
I tested the Metabones Canon EF to Sony FZ CINE Smart adapter with the following lenses and everything worked exactly as expected on all combinations:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM Lens
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L MKII USM Lens
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Lens
Canon EF 70-210mm f/4 Lens
Canon EF 2x II Extender
Macro Tubes with lens communication
- The closest thing to a proper marked aperture ring you’re likely to get for your EF or EF/S mount lenses.
- 0.8 pitch gearing
- Secure PL style lens locking
- Auto-Iris – interface with camera
- Working Image Stabilisation
- Lens Metadata displayed in viewfinder (zoom position, focus distance, aperture)
- Powered through cameras FZ mount
Paul Ream – October 2015