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I have been begging for Metabones to make a fully AF compatible focal reducer-speed booster for EOS EF to EOS EF-M. The annoying thing is that making it would require little engineering that Metabones hasn’t already done. Metabones makes an EOS EF to Sony E already. The flange distance on the EOS-M is identical to Sony E and the mount diameter is very similar as well. A simple mount bayonet and pass through electronics are all that is needed both of which have been in the third-party market for years. The Sony adapter required Metabones to make complex software translation hardware so that the Canon EF lens could “talk to” the Sony body. None of that is needed going EF to EF-M. So what is the deal Metabones?

Well Viltrox has done it. They launched an adapter in late October that allows the use of an EOS EF lens on the EOS M series cameras with full electronic communication. I bought it the second I could. I am here to say it works brilliantly and there are no optical issues I have found at all. This is my second EOS-EF to EF-M focal reducer I bought. The first was a cheap unit that had no electronics at all. I used that with several manual focus SLR lenses that I had converted to EF mount. That low-budget unit worked very well except it has a tendency to induced some weird flare in certain lighting situations. This Viltrox unit suffers no such issues.

Rather than repeat I will simply refer to an article I wrote on how focal reducers and tele-converters work a few months ago, check it out here. That out-of-the-way I can go into the specifics of this Viltrox unit and how it performs. I find that there is no loss of focusing performance at all with this unit. EOS M users already know that the EF lenses on the EOS M are a little slower focusing than the native lenses. EOS M cameras have not been noted for having blazing fast AF. The M5 does have Canon’s amazing dual pixel AF and the low light performance is clearly better when using this Viltrox unit since more light is always better for AF than less and we get twice as much light with this adapter 🙂

Optically the unit appears to show no signs of image impairment. Physically the unit is slightly smaller than the standard EF-EF-M adapter although the glass makes it a tad heavier. The optics allow for a more compact design than a simple flange adjustment adapter. Although the size difference is nominal, it is quite noticeable on a real small camera like the M series bodies.

The focal reducer is not necessarily a replacement for the standard EF-EF-M adapter. In fact is makes a great companion item. The photo above shows the Viltrox adapter mated to a Canon USM 50/1.4 on the M5. That combination produces a 36mm F/1.0. When taking the crop factor of Canon’s APS/C sensor that shoots like a 57mm F/1.0. 57mm is still in that classic “normal” range and the extra stop is awesome. But using that same lens with the standard adapter produces an effective 80mm F/1.4 which is a wonderful portrait setup. Likewise on lenses like my 135/L I can shoot that lens as an effective 216mm F/2.0 or as a 153mm F/1.4. This combination is basically the opposite of using a 1.4x tele converter setup but yields in reverse the same thing.

I am rather surprised that Canon doesn’t make their own “speed booster” focal reducer. I don’t think they are that tough to make and Canon would be able to sell theirs for a premium price. I’d buy it 🙂 But the Viltrox unit works well and I am rather pleased with the results. It isn’t just about making fast primes even faster. I own the Canon EF 24-105 L and that is a nice solid lens. It has a max opening of F/4 and features Canon’s famous image stabilization. That lens mounted to the M5 is an unwieldy beast. Even on my new EOS-R that DSLR lens is bulky. Using the Viltrox with that lens on the M5 only adds a bit to the gargantuan out of proportion feel of the lens, but it turns it into a 17-168mm F/2.8. That shoots like a 27-120mm F/2.8 on a full frame camera. That is a usable range and very high-speed with IS to boot!

This unit is rather effective at making mundane kit lenses from the 1990s feel like professional grade glass. I bought a 1990s film lens 28-105mm USM that is F/3.5 at the wide end to F/4.5 at the tele end. It’s a decent lens that is very small and compact and I use it as a knock around general purpose lens on the EOS-R. It is about half the size and weight of my 24-105 L. On the M5 with the Viltrox it is effectively a 32-120mm F/2.5-3.2. That is some L lens speed and still a usable focal range. Although the lens is still double the size and weight of the EF-M 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS lens it has substantially more range and speed, 20-75/2.5-3.2; but focuses slower and has no IS. The 28-105 USM is widely available at camera shows like the PhotoFair or on Ebay for well under a hundred dollars. It can also turn a slow tele into a fast pro style lens without the traditional bulk of an L series lens. The 70-300 USM IS lens is an F/4-5.6 it becomes a 50-213mm F/2.8-4 and with the crop factor of APS/C it shoots like a 112-341mm F/2.8-4.

The Viltrox adapter does send all the electronic data to the image file. It also converts the F/stop so the properly corrected F value shows up in the view finder or screen of the camera. The image at right shows the EOS M5 display on the screen when using the 50/1.4 USM and the Viltrox adapter, wide open it is reading at F/1.0.

A couple of important notes about these adapters. The EOS M5 is not programmed to read out F/stops faster than F/1.0. When using a 1.2 lens such as the Canon 85/1.2 L the Viltrox create a 60mm F/0.9 lens. The wide open F/stop will read out as 1.0 due to the limitation of the camera. It will however meter the scene as an F/0.9. Additionally the smallest opening is also wider. So the aforementioned 85 L which has a minimum stop of F/16 now has a minimum of F/11. That’s a very minor concession on a digital camera, but worth noting anyhow.

Below I have some images made with the EOS-M5 and the Viltrox focal reducer. Viltrox does have a USA storefront on Amazon and offers a limited warranty for the products. I will be launching a video review on youtube as well in the next couple of weeks.

EOS M5, Canon USM 50/1.4 and Viltrox FR @F/1.0 400 ISO

EOS M5, Canon 135/2.0 L with Viltrox FR @F/1.4 ISO 800

EOS M5, Canon 28-105 USM with Viltrox @105 F/3.2 ISO 400

EOS M5, Canon USM 50/1.4 with Viltrox FR @F/1.0 3200 ISO

EOS M5, Canon 135/2 L with Viltrox @F/1.4

EOS M5, Canon USM 28-105 with Viltrox @28mm F/2.5 ISO 400

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I have had quite a month gather up goodies. Last month I wrote about new full frame mirrorless cameras from both Nikon and Canon. I decided I needed a full frame mirrorless body and as I have Canon EF lenses up the wazoo, why not just dive into an all new camera system like the EOS-R? I decided to sell off my 5D Mk III at the PhotoFair on Saturday and then proceeded to buy an 85mm 1.2 L and a Leitz Summicron C 40mm to use on both the new EOS R and my M5 mirrorless bodies.

I’ll write-up the EOS-R another time though. Today I want to touch on the EF 85mm f/1.2 L. I wrote an article right here on this blog back some time ago about the 85mm 1.8 USM lens. It was a rather glowing review, click here. Today I want to talk about the amazing 85mm f/1.2 L. I owned the FD version of this lens back in the 1980s up until I switched to the EOS system in the mid 90s. I was always a bit put off by both the price and size of this lens, both of which are nothing short of enormous. As the 90s marched on I had begun to move away from the type of photography that really favored a lens like the 85 L.

A few years ago I started taking a lot of portraits and people a such again and bought the EF 85/1.8 USM. I stand by that article I referenced above, that is a great lens. A funny story about the 85/1.2 I bought at PhotoFair. I was actually interested in another lens, the EF 50/1.2 L. While I hemmed and hawed about buying, some one else did. Yes I’m conjuring up the phrase, “you snooze, you lose” in my mind, it’s a real thing! But there was that monster, that bokeh beast, that delicious 85/1.2L MK II just sitting there on the table… waiting.

I could tell a gripping tale of the harrowing battle that raged as I wrestled the beast into submission, but that was me and my wallet, not the lens. So I bought it and now I’ve shot it and what a wonderful lens it is.

The first thing one should know about this lens is that it is a bit of a unicorn. The lens is razor-sharp wide open, but there are lots of 85mm lenses that are also razor-sharp wide open. This is one of those lenses that Canon makes just to remind the world who’s the boss in auto focus photography. Frankly the little brother, EF 85/1.8 USM is perfect for most people for the thing that the bulk of 85mm lenses need to do. Which is take great portraits. This lens will do that as well, but it is ridiculously sharp right out to the corners and wide open. You really don’t need corner sharpness for most portraits unless you are shooting a real tight shot, but then you are probably using a longer lens for that. This 85/1.2 L could be a specialty lens for an astronomical photographer to use on the night sky where corner sharpness is critical and the fast aperture can reduce the exposure time by minutes rather than fractions of s second. But what it really does that few if any other lenses can is produce amazing soft bokeh where the background is an unrecognizable swirl of fuzzy color.

Showing a picture of the lens next to its smaller sibling is not enough to convey the size difference. The lens is like attaching a small sedan to front of your camera. It is massively large and heavy. It is two and a half times heavier than the 1.8 which is 425g vs 1025g! But I want to tell you about why I like it and why you may not want it.

The EF 85mm f/1.8 USM will focus faster and closer, is just as sharp in the center of the image, weighs a fraction as much, is much more compact, and has a better feel to the manual focus. All of that and a street price brand new about $350. The EF 85mm f/1.2 L is definitely better built, is genuinely impressive to look at, is actually a full stop faster, and delivers some of the creamiest and most delicious bokeh you will ever see. But it will cost around $1100-$1300 used for the Mk II and nearly two grand new. You can see the dilemma.

Before I move on, a note about the Mark I and II versions of the 85/1.2L. One of the major complaints about the Mk I lens which was introduced very early in the EOS system back in 1989, was its slow auto focus. Canon had already set the bar for AF speed and by 1989 they were the gold standard. The Mk I 85/1.2L however was pokey slow compared to other Canon lenses. This was largely due to the design of the lens using a front focusing system. The lens was originally designed for fashion and the bokeh effect was a big part of the design. The Mark II lens was introduced in 2006 and features the same optics. Canon did improve the lens coatings and most importantly, they upgraded the CPU and AF system to nearly double the focus speed. It is still one of the slowest focusing lenses in the Canon line. I would not recommend buying a Mk I unless you get it pretty cheap say less than $800 as the Mk II is definitely worth a few hundred more.

So for those prepared to dole out the hard-core cash for this 85/1.2L you have another decision to make. What? Yes in the summer of 2017 Canon launched the 85/1.4 L IS. Yes IS stands for “image stabilizer.” You give up about a half stop but gain IS. The price new is still a few hundred LESS than the 1.2. You are not saving much weight and the IS lens is nearly a inch LONGER. The optical design however is clinically sharp and probably better than 1.2L lens. I would love to have that new lens, but I haven’t seen them used yet and they are still fetching $1600 new.

There are also a number of excellent third-party lenses to consider once you have decided to reach this deep into your pockets for a lens. Sigma makes the beautiful 85mm f/1.4 ART that runs about $1200 new and Tamron has a 1.8 Lens that is image stabilized for around $700. For Nikon user the Nikkor AF 85/1.4 is optically fantastic.

For the type of shooting I do, the 85/1.4 L IS would be better suited as I shoot hand-held available light most of the time. But my minty 1.2L was acquired for much less cash than the cost of that new lens, and it is a truly legendary optic. There is something very cool about owning something as iconic as the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L.

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