Panasonic G6 - Metabones Speed Booster - Focus Peaking - Part 1

I've left discussing the Panasonic G6 and Focus Peaking until now. I've been trying for a while to get a Metabones Nikon G > m4/3 Speed Booster / Adapter and it finally arrived today. If you don't know what this remarkable piece of kit does, it does four things:-

  • Provides an adapter for using legacy / manual focus / non-brand lenses on mirrorless cameras.
  • Gives a 0.71 magnification to those lenses.
  • Provides an aperture ring for lenses that don't have them (i.e. in this case Nikon G)
  • Gives an extra stop of light gathering (i.e. an f/1.8 lens has the light gathering properties of an f/1.2)

So quite a lot. But does it work? Or is it just another of those cheap wide-angle adapters? Well yes it does work, but with some provisos.

  • The adapter for m4/3 works with 35mm lenses. On APS-C lenses there is some serious vignetting.
  • There is some added distortion.
  • Corners are not quite so sharp and any CA / fringing in the lens is somewhat exaggerated.

However having just run a whole series of tests, my initial impression is that this is a very impressive adapter. The 'widening' of lenses works very well on the two Nikon G 35mm lenses I still have (28mm and 50mm f/1.8 G lenses,) and it certainly does give that extra stop of light. Below are some examples of what it does. All shot at ISO 160 and wide open (an equivalent of f/1.2 on the Nikons and f/1 on the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 I have) The ones with the obvious vignetting are from the Sigma. (The bottom four)

There are different adapters for different lenses on different cameras, and there are some differences in how they work. There are Canon ones for example that link to the camera and provide exif info. on the aperture used and even give some primitive AF if its a Canon lens on a Canon adapter. However the Nikon > m4/3 one I have doesn't do any of that and works in the same way as a 'normal' adapter. i.e. manual focusing only and no focal length exif info.

However, there is more to the story. The Panasonic G6 is the first Panasonic m4/3 camera to have focus peaking. The second is the GX7. In the case of the G6 its a light blue shimmering around edges showing whats in focus and what the depth of focus is in the picture. On the G6 you can set up the camera so that a touch on the thumbwheel at the back of the camera brings up a magnified box in the middle of the screen which shows the peaking effect. So a combined focus peaking, quasi rangefinder and magnification screen all in one.

This is in practice the best system for using MF lenses on mirrorless cameras I've yet used. The peaking is very similar to that on NEX cameras, and I have to say easier to see than the Fuji X system recently introduced to those cameras via a firmware update. Its very accurate, and also pretty quick. I certainly had no problems with it and found it easy to use without having to press a load of buttons or get my fingers into awkward positions. The thumbwheel on the G6 falls nicely to hand and just tapping the shutter button clears the magnification so I can take the picture.

The advantages of this are by using the 28mm f/1.8G and 50mm f/1.8 Nikkors I have, I get approximate 35mm equivalents of 40mm f/1.2 and 70mm f/1.2 lenses. Manual focus of course but pretty fast lenses. Now I do dislike this 'equivalent' stuff and I'm not going to go near all the depth of field and what is it arguments, but I can't think of a better way to describe what I'm getting. Thats why I posted the pictures above. I'm particularly impressed by the performance of my Nikon f/1.8G lens, which has produced some really nice bokeh. I also found it has very little CA / fringing wide open, and what it does have is removed by ticking a box in Adobe Camera Raw.

Now I'm going to going into this in far greater detail over the next few days and show some samples, with and without the adapter so you can see what it does. I will at some point also upload some raw files so that you can check out the quality of the adapter. I will say however, that even just this brief look I've had shows me that its going to be very useful for both stills and video and goes quite a long way to addressing the issues of the poor performance of the G6 sensor at high ISO's. Take a reasonably fast prime lens, add another stop of light gathering and you have a tool for taking pictures in low light and still keeping the ISO setting down, thus avoiding the increase in noise. I can see already that this brings m4/3 in line with lots of other cameras that have better high ISO performance and just by shooting around the house in some dark corners, I doubt that any indoor shooting situation I might encounter would mean using anything higher than ISO 800, assuming of course that I was happy with the very limited depth of field the wide apertures will give. Add in the fact that the focus peaking (why don't all mirrorless cameras have it!!) works very well indeed and it is possible to say that under these circumstances m4/3 can compete with larger sensors.

Now all of this is good news, since the Metabones Speed Boosters aren't cheap. Nor are they liable to get cheaper in the near future since they are selling out everywhere they are on sale. Mine was in fact the last one at my suppliers and they didn't know when they would get the next batch. As I said there will be more on this in future posts, but I thought it worthwhile to make the point that I will be examining the whole adapter / peaking topic from a positive point of view. I did wonder if the Speed Booster would turn out to be a glorified photographic toy that I would use rarely, but its certainly not that. It is a very useful piece of kit and I can already think of lots of uses I can put it too.

See other posts on these topics:-

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