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New Gear: The Metabones Nikon to Fuji Speedbooster

Gear Talk

Not too long ago, following the release of Fuji’s most recent firmware update for its X lineup of cameras, I posted an article about extending the Fuji system with Leica lenses using the Fuji X mount to Leica M mount adapter. Indeed, this adapter, along with the Leica 90mm Summarit f/2.5 lens, is my standard portrait setup today.

Recently, however, we got in yet another adapter for the Fuji X-mount, and this one’s a total doozy.

 

Metabones Nikon G lens to Fuji X-mount adapter

Metabones Nikon G lens to Fuji X-mount adapter

The Metabones Nikon to Fuji Speedbooster does for Nikon lenses (including the “G” lenses, which don’t have a manual aperture ring) what the M to X-mount adapter does for Leica lenses – it lets you put them onto Fuji’s X-series cameras, including the X-Pro1, which we rent.

Now, if that’s all it did, I’d be pretty pleased as punch that we had added it to our inventory. But adapting the lens is only part of the equation here.

First, the adapter works for a much wider variety of lenses. Traditionally, Nikon’s “D” series lenses have been the most easily adapted lenses for other systems, as they have a manual aperture ring and therefore can be used in aperture-priority mode on almost all the mirrorless cameras out there, with adapters. The “G” lenses, however, don’t have aperture rings, so they’re not as easy to adapt. The Metabones adapter gets around this limitation by offering its own aperture ring that maneuvers the tiny iris lever inside the G lens to change the aperture.

The Fuji X-Pro1 with Nikon 85mm f/1.8 lens

The Fuji X-Pro1 with Nikon 85mm f/1.8 lens

The aperture ring has an 8-f-stop range ring, with half-stop markings. I have to wonder how accurate this is; what if you put a lens on with a range less than 8 stops, such as one that goes from f/2.8 to f/22 – a 7-stop range? I’m glad the markings are there, but I wouldn’t count on them being 100% accurate for every lens.

That said, it hardly matters; the fact that you can indeed turn that aperture ring on a Nikon G lens at all is a bonus. Plus, with the new focus peaking features added to the X lineup, you can get a pretty decent idea of your depth of field when you focus with these lenses. With the electronic viewfinder, when you stop the iris down, you actually see the effect of the change in your focus plane, live as it happens.

The second thing that the Metabones adapter does is make the lens wider and faster. Now, stay with me here.

A Nikon 85mm f/1.8 lens on a crop-sensor body like a D7100 or an X-Pro1 is about a 127.5mm lens. What this adapter does is, with the help of a custom glass element, it widens that lens out by a factor of 0.71x. That means that your 85mm lens, which had become, effectively, a 127.5mm lens, is now a 90.525mm lens.

Jo Deguzman, shot with a Nikon 85mm f/1.8 and Fuji X-Pro1, wide open.

Jo Deguzman, shot with a Nikon 85mm f/1.8 and Fuji X-Pro1, wide open.

That is, perhaps, simplifying the physics of the optics quite a bit, but that is, in effect, what you get. Which is pretty awesome when you consider that your truly wide-angle lenses, like a 14mm, are now much closer to that labelled focal length.

And there’s another benefit. Somehow, the adapter also bumps your lens’ f-stop value to give you an extra stop of light. So, an f/1.8 lens is now an f/1.2 lens. Which, needless to say, is pretty freaking awesome.

Finally, the third thing the adapter does is — supposedly — increase the sharpness of your lens. Now, not having our Imatest lab setup complete yet, we’ve no way of testing this, but in casual field tests, the one thing I can vouch for is that the adapter doesn’t seem to have compromised the sharpness of the lens or camera in question.

I’m used to seeing razor-sharp images coming out of the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G; it is, after all, one of the sharpest optics in Nikon’s lineup. Similarly, thanks to Fuji awesome sensor technology, I am used to seeing some pretty sharp images out of the X-Pro1 as well. I’m happy to see that optically, I’m not losing out on anything. Any gains, to me, are gravy.

100% crop of the obligatory brick wall shot. Taken with a Sigma 35mm f/1.4, stopped down about halfway.

100% crop of the obligatory brick wall shot. Taken with a Sigma 35mm f/1.4, stopped down about halfway.

Physically, the adapter is solidly built. There’s almost no play between it and the camera, and the lens fits on the adapter with little or no play as well. That’s a welcome thing, as my own Nikon to Fuji adapter feels like it’s got at least 2-4mm of play between the lens and the body, cumulatively.

The aperture ring, which has to be set to “8” when you put a lens on, is “stepless”, which means there are no “clicks” for each stop. It also moves freely, so you need to keep an eye on it when taking the camera out of the bag.

As you can see from the images above, having that 85mm f/1.8 lens turned into a ~90mm f/1.2 lens is pretty darn awesome. The depth of field is pretty shallow when the lens is wide open, and the focus peaking in the camera definitely helps nail focus. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how accurately I was able to nail focus each time; I have a tiny bit more trouble with the Leica sometimes.

Of course, the lenses are kinda heavy when compared to the Leica and Fuji lenses, so that does take some getting used to. Once you’ve worked with it for an hour or so, you should get the hang of it; it’s not too bad unless you’re planing to mount a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens on it.

Bottom-line: this is a wonderful piece of gear that expands the capability of the Fuji lineup even more. Get in and rent it now, as our inventory is limited…

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. You can find his portfolio on his website at sohail.me as well as on 500px and Flickr.

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Comments

  • Sean Molin says:

    From a depth of field perspective really not much changes.

    You lose a stop of perceived depth of field by going from full frame to APS-C (crop). So, this effectively gives you that depth of field back.

    So nice, it essentially gives you the look of full frame on a crop sensor camera.

  • John Foote says:

    Now I’m a little mad….I had just convinced myself NOT to keep looking at the X1-pro because of my dedication (read $$) to the Nikon system…this with a 35 f/1.4 would turn into a great street shooter…or landscape

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