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Speed Booster or Native MFT Lenses?
  • I have a GH2. I primarily do video. I have three native MFT lenses: Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, 14mm f/2.5, and 14-140mm f/4.0-5.6. I have done a lot of searching about the Metabones Speed Booster but want some confirmation if I should go ahead and get one. I really like Nikkor AIS lenses and am wondering if it would be wise to invest in a set of AIS lenses (and possibly some others) and a Speed Booster rather than more native MFT glass.

    The reasons I want the Speed Booster are pretty obvious: extra stop of light, wider viewing angle... But I want to know if it's really worth it. Will it actually make my lenses look better? I really want to know what the downsides are. Are there GH2/3 shooters who use the Speed Booster exclusively?

    I'd really appreciate any pointers or discussion on this.

  • 36 Replies sorted by
  • We have big topic about SB -

    And similar topics about competition.

    At first you must ask yourself if you need manual lenses at all. And that are actual things that will bring you money requiring such lenses and speeds.

  • The downside is: no optical stabilization as with your 14-140mm, and much heavier lenses (especially with combination Speebooster + lens) creating top-heaviness. Apart from that, the Speedbooster + Nikkor solution is - IMHO - in every way superior to a native MFT lens set:

    • The optics of the Nikkors are simply better. They don't rely on software correction and therefore create a more pleasant, less harsh/artifically looking image (while still being sharp). Color rendering of most Nikkors is also better than of MFT system lenses.
    • Handling is superior with real focus and aperture rings, however those rings turn the other way than normally.
    • The Nikkors are more versatile and future-proof because they can be adapted to almost any camera system including Sony NEX and Canon EOS.
  • @cantsin

    Sounds cool. Yet. If you are beginner (and shooting alone) that not dump money but try to setup viable business shooting real things to real client caring about your time and such - worst thing that you can do is to start spending big money into big amount of old glass. You can calculate and try few not so expensive lenses to understand that will be real results.

  • Thanks guys, that's really helpful! I appreciate your wisdom Vitaliy and that's why I still want to keep my MFT glass with autofocus and such. I'll check out that SB topic.

    @cantsin could you recommend some good Nikon mount glass? What's a good wide angle solution?

  • @Kokav

    Nikon/Nikkor glass has been an incredible investment for me. Bought into the system back in the days of the HVX+35mm Adapters and I've been able to use my glass on every subsequent camera I have used. Whether it's been a Canon 60D, Panasonic GH1, Nikon D600 or RED Epic, I've been able to adapt the glass to the camera. You're not going to have that universal future proofing with MFT lenses.

    I recently purchased a cheaper ($100) Speed Booster alternative and so far I'm happy with the results. It does everything it claims to do with no downside that I've noticed thus far. Wider FOV, additional stop of light, perfect argument against the MFT naysayers.

    I personally own and would recommend the Nikkor 24mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 85mm f1.8 and the 80-200mm f2.8.

  • I rather like my 35mm f/1.4 Nikkor, 105mm f/2.5 and 24mm f/2 as well. Like you, I started buying Nikkor glass for a 35mm adapter and a DVX.

  • I rather like my 14-140 with OIS,14-45 with OIS, 45-200 with OIS, 14mm f2.5 prime (with Pany wide angle adapter DMW-GWC1), 20mm 1.7, Oly 45 1.8, but I shoot mostly outdoor events and sports, no tripods, I need good ND's not speedboosters. I guess it depends on what you're shooting, weight is also a consideration, Pany lenses are low mass.

  • @Xenocide38 Do you find yourself ever needing an extra stop on the 24mm f/2.8? I'm debating between that and the f/2. It seems like the 2.8 is selling for a lot cheaper on eBay.

  • The Rokinon/Samyang cine lenses are pretty good bang for buck as well.

  • @kokav I'm typically shooting at f2.8 or f4 so don't really need the super fast apertures but it's nice to know they are there.

    Most of my work I'm using lights and with modern sensors it doesn't take a lot of light to get a good exposure at 1/50th shutter and ISO 200. F2.8 ends up being pretty perfect for shallow depth of field look without EVERYTHING out of focus.

    The situations where I'd NEED to shoot at f2 or f1.4 there probably wouldn't be enough light anyway and I'd be boosting ISO and getting a noisier image. Those larger apertures are better suited for photography where you want your shutter up around 1/400 or higher. For video at 1/50th there's usually plenty of light, at least for my style of shooting.

  • I have a mixed Nikon/Rokinon set and RJ turbo thingy, but I've got to say I find myself using the 12-35 and 35-100mm Panasonics an awful lot these days.

  • I use both:

    Where visual style isn't the 1st priority (ex: doc or events, with hand held/run & gun): Electronic MFT lenses.

    Where it a priority (Interviews, Narrative, Music video, Commercials, etc.): The widest, fastest lenses (Usually Nikkor AIS, I invested long, long ago in the analog era) I can get. I haven't invested in the MB SB yet.

    I also own some C mount lenses (ditto on the investment side) , some cover MFT, and provide an interesting look.

    Note: With manual glass wide open you really, really, need focus confirmation. peaking in camera, on a monitor or the GH2 magnification feature (which doesn't work while recording). This is the single biggest reason I am looking to upgrade from the GH2.

  • @Xenocide38 Which speedbooster are you using?

    Anyone know the approximate ebay pricing for the older 24mm Nikon 2.8?

  • @Xenocide38 @CFreak Thanks, that's helpful to know.

    @brianl They seem to sell somewhere in the $125-200 range, used. I'm trying to find one for under $150.

  • I prefer Nikon lenses, I have the 20mm 1.7 and the 14mm 2.5, I really dont care for these lenses. IMO they are to small and actually have a lot of distortion that the GH2 corrects. The other problem is if you need to rack focus at specific points with a follow focus! good luck with that... I will probably end up selling both lenses and purchase the Sigma 18-35 1.8. I already have a Tokina 28-70 2.6 and a Nikkor 80-200 2.8. So this should cover me with the zoom lenses. I dont use this camera for stills only for video, so if you take stills with the GH2 then the Panasonic lenses make sense. Other wise my vote is 100% Nikon lenses.

  • Sorry guys, but for the most part those old Nikon lenses are NOT as good optically as the better Panasonic lenses. In fact they are quite inferior even after the Panny lenses are corrected for distortion. The Nikon lenses may look more "natural" or "cinematic" simply because they aren't as sharp and have lower contrast. Most of those older lenses are lousy wide open and have subpar coatings relative to Lumix or Olympus MFT lenses.

    Of course a true manual focus lens has one major advantages for video over any by-wire lens ... unless you want AF....

  • @AdamT I've only been using an old Nikkor-O 35mm f2. Contrast is good image quality is nice and filmic. I don't spend time shooting bushes, streams, an rez charts. In real world shooting, the aesthetic of the glass is excellent. I feel similarly about my SMC Pentax 50mm 1.4. I'm less crazy about Canon FD glass and plan to dump mine since I don't use it. The pocketcam is a filmmaking camera, that demands manual focus. Period. I've got Panny and Oly electronic glass as well, but we're talking about a filmmaking camera here.

  • Woah..I'll take your Canon glass :-)....FDs are hands down my favourite glass I've ever used.

  • @AdamT clinical sharpness isn't an attractive feature to folks who like their Nikons. The Pany glass, while sharp, is flavorless. Its aim is to pass light through as if passing through air. It's a noble effort of engineering I guess but the best glass sees better than how your own eye sees the same light and not because it's sharper.

    This reminds me of a recent vid posted by Shane Hurlbut comparing Leica Summilux C to Cooke S4. Nothing wrong with the Leica at all...until you see the same scene and the same light with the softer Cooke lenses. "The Cooke Look" is obvious even through the Youtube filter and this is kinda how I look at Pany lenses versus my Nikkor. They're sharp, they're convenient, but they're flat.

  • @BurnetRhaodes Great video, fascinating that even at the highest levels of Hollywood they still experiment and find out surprising things with their gear. Btw, I'm thinking of bidding on this, anyone know if it covers the Pocketcam sensor? ;)

  • @BurnetRhoades Great video and great thoughts. I've seen some really nice footage from people using Panny glass but it only works when the context is specifically modern. If a film is going for classical narrative/emotional themes, you need glass that has that personality/emotional character built into how it renders images.

    Now I need to go back and watch Citizen Kane and see whats happening with deep focus that works with narrative. Never enough time, but that's a good thing.

  • @AdamT

    My copy of the Tokina AT-X PRO AF 28-70mm 1:2.6-2.8 Angenieux optical formula (Pro I with screw on hood) WIDE OPEN is really sharp. The first copy of Tokina AT-X PRO that I purchased was not of the Angenieux pedigree (Pro I with screw on hood) and sucked ass so I sold it right after I bought it. This is actually a good point for other lenses as well because sometimes the copy of the lens itself is shitty and I speak from experience from purchasing the same exact lens. I am anal as all get out when it comes to lens quality.

    I have an old Nikkor 70-210 F/4 that cost me a measly $175.00 bones that is sharp as fuck WIDE OPEN throughout the whole zoom range with almost no distortion. I really like this lens because it is small and compact and does not weigh a ton like my 80-200 F/2.8. I have also had and sold many other Nikon lenses such as the Nikkor AIS 105 F2/5, Nikkor 85mm F/2 AIS, Nikon 50mm 1.8 AIS, etc etc. I have personally tested each of these lenses on a full frame cameras and they were all excellent even wide open.

    Do you own a Nikon film camera or Nikon full frame camera? Did you get a chance to shoot with any of these lenses on a Nikon full frame camera or Panasonic GH2? I have and let me tell you they are excellent lenses and in my opinion are better then the Panasonic lenses for video for several different reasons.

    1. Build quality: Most of the older Nikon lenses are built with precision and do not have any electronics that will eventually fail on you.

    2. Manual focus: Nikon wins hands down providing you get a good copy of the lens with a smooth focus action.

    3. Versatility: Nikon lenses will fit on many different cameras some of which are Canon, Sony, Panasonic etc. Panasonic and Olympus M/43 lenses will only work on the M/43 cameras.

    4. Resale-ability: Nikon/Nikkor lenses have a broader demographic due to the flexibility of the mount itself and also due to the reputation of the Nikon/Nikkor brand of lenses which is outstanding.

    I do agree with you though that the Panasonic lenses are really super sharp wide open and have better coatings then the older Nikon lenses. I also think that the Panasonic 12-35 and 35-100 are great lenses due to the OIS and super sharp resolution, but other then those 2 lenses I would not invest in any other M4/3 lenses. Here is a quick video that I shot to illustrate how sharp the Tokina 28-70 is wide open in comparison to the Panny 20mm, keep in mind that the Tokina was attached to a cheap Mitakon speed booster and it is still really sharp in the center.

  • @brianl I'm using a cheap knockoff speedbooster I bought on Amazon. Albinar was the "brand" name but I suspect it's the same as the other generic ones.

    I wrote up a quick hands-on article on my blog along with sample images. if you're looking for some more info and examples

  • @Xenocide38 I read your blog and I'm surprised at how well that cheap speed booster performs. I wonder if its all that worth it to go for the 'real' speed booster...

  • @matt_gh2 the other thing to keep in mind, besides the modern look, is mixing modern with vintage, like they were at least thinking would be the way to go on that project Hurlbut was testing for. It's funny how the director was on board with that until seeing what was planned for the "period" segments and deciding, no, that's how I want the movie to look. Maybe they'll just put a panty over the Cookes for the "period" sections now to differentiate it, hah!

    Inter-cutting though, that just won't work.

    I shot a proof-of-concept western piece that's not finished post yet. I ended up using nothing but Pany on it because my AC volunteer hadn't ever done film before and though they were a good stills photographer in their own right I knew we weren't going to really be in sync on a one-day crazy schedule with everything we were having to get, indoors and out, stunts, plates, etc. so I removed swapping between Nikkor primes and re-configuring the FF all the time. Having the LUMIX in the bag kept us on schedule (well, it meant my department wasn't going to sink us). I can just see it when I look at the footage though, I wish I'd used the Nikkors.