Who doesn’t fantasy shop? I certainly do, and while I have done a really good job over the years of tempering my cravings to buy a newer full frame camera, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been interested in the Sony Alpha 7 series. Much like the NEX series (or “Axxxx”, or whatever it’s called now) I’ve always felt that Sony has spent their time and effort on camera bodies and sensor development, while largely ignoring the need to round out their optical offerings for either the APS-C or Full Frame mirrorless systems. To be fair, and as a seeming act of nose thumbing in my direction, Sony released 4 brand new FE mount lenses a couple weeks ago. This new set of lenses is certainly a step in the right direction as they’ve finally released more lenses than cameras for the FE mount.
Sony seems to be focused on leading the charge in sensor tech while slowly bringing new lenses to market, and other companies and systems have benefited from this sensor based model, namely Nikon and Olympus. While researching my options in the world of Canon full frame land (I also shoot a Canon 5D2), I kept tabs on the A7 series, and when the A7II was announced with IBIS, and all the other bells and whistles for the same price as the aging 6D, I decided to dig deeper.
I’ve been looking to update my 5D2 for a little while. It still does most of what I need it to, but I’ve been walking on thin ice after having sold and traded off my other Canon DSLR bodies leaving me with no backup.
Most of the work I do with the Canon is in interior work, so I never saw it as a huge liability seeing that I could, in a pinch, shoot with my micro 4/3 setup to cover me.
Now, the Metabones adapters are well documented, and with the new mark 4, has seemingly remedied most of the gripes I’ve read about, namely the internal surface reflections by way of a series of matte bezels inside the adapter. One problem I’d come across is that it was hard to find good info with use on this new A7II. Well, here are my initial thoughts…
The very first thing I wanted to know, was how does the AF operation with native EF mount Canon lenses work? In a word? Slow. Painfully slow actually, and to be entirely fair, Metabones states on their website that this is the case. I haven’t found specific information to back this up, but I believe that the hybrid on sensor PDAF, used in the A7II does not work with adapted lenses, or at least Canon lenses via this Metabones adapter which if true, is too bad. If it does in fact work, I’ve not been able to engage it via the menus, and I hope that what I’ve seen as far as AF performance isn’t the result of the best the hybrid system can offer for adapted optics.
That we get any AF performance is pretty interesting, but I can safely say that from my experience the AF operation is unusable for me when shooting anything that moves, or breathes, and even with static subjects often times the AF is inaccurate. If you’re expecting to slap your 70-200 L lens on a Sony A7 series camera and shoot motor sports with the expectation that you’ll get quick and accurate tracking AF, you will not be happy, period. See a quick and dirty video of the AF performance while shooting with the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM lens below:
While remarkably slow, if and when it hits, it does well. See below for 100% crops from those shots captured on the video.
I expected the slow AF, and going into buying the A7II, I was more curious to see how the sensor performed. That is a subject for a different article which will come in due time, but to put some fears at ease here, what I do find remarkable is how well integrated the MF assist features are in these cameras by way of the focus peaking, MF assist magnification, real time exposure display and IBIS (via the A7II) all adding up to a pretty streamlined MF experience in my opinion. If you’re okay with manually focusing, I’ve not used a better camera for this task, (although the Panasonic GX7 comes close) I’d imagine that you’d be happy. I know I am.
I cannot speak to the previous Alpha Full Frame E-mount cameras documented issues with the “weak” lens mount on the camera. I’ve heard that the weight of larger lenses (either native or adapted) could possibly deform the light weight mount on the A7 series cameras, but the A7II has evidently remedied that by providing a more robust mount. This has nothing to do directly with the Metabones adapters, but something that may be discussed and heard about.
The Metabones adapter itself is very solid. I have a few EF mount, third party lenses that are a very tight fit when fixing them onto the adapter. Getting them on and off is a bit tough, and I hope to see this start to relax a little bit, but I’d rather them be too tight than loose. The native Canon EF lenses are all snug and secure, and are not overly tight to get on and off.
I will say that the lens release button on the Metabones feels weak, and doesn’t quite fit in with the overall quality of the construction otherwise. It is the outlier on an otherwise solidly built adapter. Will it prove to be a problem at all? Time will tell, but it is the only criticism I can offer of an otherwise quality feeling adapter.
Also, be warned that while this adapter states (via Metabones) that it works with Arca Swiss style quick release system, the dovetail “AS” style plate attached on mine is too small to be gripped properly by my AS style mount on my Oben tripod head. (It does however, properly grip on my compact Sirui head). Luckily for me I had the ball head slightly facing downward as it caught the camera as this included piece on the adapter slipped through the grip as it was tightened as much as it could. The dovetail piece on the adapter is removable, but I like that it adds a little support when laying the camera on a flat surface. Just be aware, as depending on your AS style head, it may not properly grip it as it didn’t on one of mine.
EXIF and Lens Support
The Metabones v.4 EF>E mount Smart Adapter transmits all EXIF data, supports Canon’s lens based IS (certainly handy for non A7II cameras in the Alpha lineup) and while severely hindered, it will support AF on most Canon EF lenses from my experience. If your EF mount lens transmits EXIF data to your Canon camera, it should do the same through this adapter. If you have a third party lens that does not support electronic EXIF data transmission to a Canon EOS body, then it will operate the same way via this adapter. The adapter allows for USB connection to update it’s internal firmware which is handy, and hopefully evidence that any shortcomings in operation, or lens support may be addressed as time goes on.
These are the lenses I’ve used, and can confirm are fully supported via this smart adapter:
- EF 17-40 f/4 L USM (slow AF, full EXIF)
- EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM (slow AF, full EXIF)
- Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 (manual focus lens, full EXIF)
- EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM (very slow AF, full EXIF and IS)
- Extender EF 1.4x II teleconverter (w/70-200)
- EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro L IS USM (very slow AF, full EXIF and IS)
I also use a modified FD 55mm f/1.2 lens and a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 EF mount lens via this adapter. The lenses do not have any electronic connection to begin with, and are entirely manual, but the adapter works just as well as any other non “smart” adapter I’ve used when adapting these lenses to other mirrorless cameras.
To use the adapted, third party Canon EF mount lenses (or any adapted lenses that aren’t supported electronically), you need to set the “Release w/o Lens” in the Gear Menu (submenu 4) to “Enable” so that the camera will allow you to shoot with lenses that don’t provide proper electronic connection via this or any other adapter, and you’ll need to shoot in either Aperture Priority (which for non electronic lenses will meter based on whatever aperture you have your lens adjusted to) or in Manual which will allow you to adjust any exposure compensation by way of your shutter speed.
I have shot these adapted lenses while using Aperture Priority, 99% of the time and all has worked wonderfully.
For the native EF mount Canon lenses, and those third party EF mount lenses that are supported electronically via a Canon body, you can shoot them in any mode on the A7II as you would an EF mount lens on a Canon body, or an FE mount Sony lens on a Sony body (P A S M or auto modes, etc). The Metabones smart adapter does all the translation for you.
Overall, I’m very happy regarding the adapter so far. Do I wish that it would enable better auto focus results? Yes, sure I do, but I knew coming into this what to expect, and hopefully you do too now, if you’re looking to start using Canon EF or EF-s Lenses via this adapter. The move from a native Canon body to an adapted Sony A7 series (or Sony APS-C mirrorless body) will certainly not make sense for those requiring quick and accurate AF operation when using EF lenses via this smart adapter. For those looking to the Sony cameras for landscape, posed portraiture or studio work, interior or static subject photography applications or any video work when using Canon EF mount lenses, this Metabones adapter works as advertised, and I’m loving getting to use my nice Canon glass on a new, feature rich Sony camera.
Utilizing the wonderful features in the Sony A7II, like focus peaking and manual focus assist magnification, it has shown me just how unnecessary AF is for much of my day to day shooting too. Even chasing my kids around while getting used to this new setup has proven to be very usable with manual focus along with focus peaking. I’d even go so far to say that I have defaulted to manually focusing for most everything as it is quicker, easier and more reliable from my experience the last few weeks.
You can find the Metabones EF-E mount mark 4 Smart Adapter via B&H HERE or Adorama HERE. Currently running $399.00, it isn’t cheap, but it’s cheaper than reinvesting in all new lenses if the siren song of the Alpha 7 series cameras are calling, and of course your needs can handle very slow AF operation. If you shoot with manual focus EF mount lenses for still or video shooting, and see the value in using focus peaking, IBIS, zebra stripes and all that, the Metabones Smart adapter provides a very compelling option.
Canon is going to have to do some work to get me back into their camp and I feel there are quite a few shooters like me that are seeing the value in the full frame Alpha lineup as well.
If you’re on the fence, as I was, looking at the pricing of the aging Canon Full Frame cameras like the 6D or 5D3 still well north of the Sony A7II + Metabones adapter (the 6D is coming down to be fair), all I can say is that I am personally happy that I chose this route. The new features, the tilting LCD, IBIS, the weather sealing, WiFi, solid sensor, and smaller form factor at what should be seen as a reasonable price, especially compared to other Full Frame options currently, it shows what can be offered. People may rightly point to the soon to be 5DS/5DSr, but for the price of that, you could buy an A7II and I’m sure an A7rII (coming soon) if you want the extra resolution. I’m just seeing more value in what Sony’s bringing to the table for me personally from a camera body angle, and that I have the choice as someone who has a decent amount of money invested in EF lenses to use these cameras via an adapter like the Metabones is pretty cool.
Stay tuned for articles showing how this adapter translates to results with these lenses on the Sony A7II camera by checking back soon, or adding your email address above to get alerts when articles post. You can read my user review on the a7II HERE if interested, and I have a lens by lens review in the works as well as an IBIS comparison that will be posted soon.
You can connect with me on the socials via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or Instagram. I will be going through and posting examples with every EF mount lens on this Sony A7II that I have at my disposal to show how well the combination of Canon lenses, this Metabones adapter and the Sony body do together. I’m really enjoying it.
Thanks for the read and happy shooting,