Thursday, January 23, 2014

Metabones Nikon G to Sony E-Mount Review

A lot has been made of the fact that the Sony A7 and A7r cameras are essentially the everyday equivalent of "digital backs," but the truth is, the Sony NEX lineup (and for that matter the Micro Four Thirds cameras) have always been great "universal receivers" of non-native lenses. The short distance between the lens mount and the sensor means that there is plenty of room to slip an adapter in between the camera body and almost whatever lens of your choosing. There are many adapter choices, but the simplest out there to reduce camera operation to an all-manual affair; manual focusing and exposure control. The Metabones G to E-Mount adapter overcomes the lack of an aperture ring on G-type Nikon lenses by adding a mechanical aperture control ring on the adapter itself; there is a cam on the inside of the adapter barrel that articulates with the aperture control lever on a Nikon lens.

The aperture control is limited, however, and only supports use from wide-open to f/8. The aperture markings are in half-stops. Newer versions of the adapter have a "click-less" aperture ring for smooth video operation. The Nikon F to Sony E-Mount adapter is similar, but a much more simple affair as it does not need the additional aperture control ring. Just as a reminder, the E-Mount includes the A7 and A7r cameras, so this adapter can be used to mate FX Nikon lenses onto the full frame Sony bodies.

Note the aperture articulating cam on the right side of the inner surface.

The bottom of the adapter also surfaces as a tripod collar (Arca-Swiss style), making tripod mounting more feasible than using the screw attachment on the camera body. Here's what a Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G looks like when mounted on the Sony NEX-6. Before you can start, you have to make sure that the menu settings allow for the shutter release to operate without a (Sony) lens.

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G mounted on Sony NEX-6

Basically with this configuration, you get to use the Nikon 50mm as a "fast" portrait lens on the NEX-6. As with all adapters, it's not going to be as good as using a dedicated native lens, but the issues are largely to do with alignment; there is nothing impending the light in between the lens and the sensor. With this setting, you can use the camera in aperture priority mode. Even though the lens isn't passing on aperture information to the camera electronically, the NEX-6 will be able to meter the exposure accordingly and adjust the shutter speed as needed.

On the NEX-6, shooting with the adapted lens works surprisingly well in a low-key kind of a way. Not being able to stop down past f/8 is a problem outdoors, but otherwise, a modest and deliberate shooting pace is achievable with the setup because the the aperture ring is very intuitive to use and because of the help of focus peaking during manual exposure. The adapter adds to the overall size of the camera, but isn't overly intrusive and fits (at least on the tested unit) snugly between the camera body and the lens. The same is more or less true if you use the same adapter and the same lens on a Sony A7:

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G mounted on SonyA7

Basically, in this configuration, you get the optical qualities of the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 with the image rendering characteristics of the Sony JPEG engine:

Ultimately, for an owner of both cameras systems, the cost of the adapter (approximately $130 USD) is not an unreasonable amount  for the utility that it has to offer. In the case of the Sony A7, it's a small price to pay considering how few native lenses were made available at it's launch.

With thanks to Broadway Camera.

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