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Blackmagic Cameras and Adapting Lenses To Fit

Nikon, Leica, & More

Do you have a bunch of Nikon glass in your house, and you want to use them on your Blackmagic Camera?  Or, did your Dad have a little bit of Leica Love when he was younger and those old R mount lenses are still in his closet?  Well, you can use those lenses on your Blackmagic Cameras.

THREE CAMERAS/TWO OPTIONS

You have two lens mount options found on the Blackmagic cameras: The Cinema Camera = EF and a Passive MFT, The Pocket Camera = MFT, and The 4K Production Camera = EF mount only.  Doesn't really seem like much when you think about it.  A bit of back story here; when the Cinema Camera was first introduced Blackmagic was targeting those who were looking for a step-up from their DSLR.  Since Canon had dominated the DSLR world it made sense for Blackmagic to release a camera with the Canon EF mount.  For people like me, it meant using my existing canon lenses on my new camera.  No longer would someone have to sell their camera and all their lenses to move to a different system.  What happens if your a Nikon shooter and you want to shoot with the 4K Blackmagic Production Camera?  Thankfully, lens adapters have been a go to method of mounting different manufacturer's lenses on the camera you want to use, but this isn't necessarily a full proof plan.

OPTIONS

What other lenses are Blackmagic Camera users able to use?  It really depends on which camera you're shooting.  I shoot on a BMCC with an EF mount so I'll start there.  My girlfriend, who's a die-hard Nikon shooter, opened my eyes to Nikon lenses and showed me the difference between a G mount and F mount.  Not to start a Nikon VS Canon war here, but I feel like both manufacturers make great lenses.  I mean, just like the Chevy VS Ford argument, the Nikon VS Canon battle has been a war waged for years.  Photographers championing one specific system over another.  Alliances were made, battle lines were drawn, and the war has been on-going… and with these type of debates… no one system is really better than the other.  

For me, I am open to using any system that gets the job done well and makes it easy to shoot great footage.  Fortunately for me, my girlfriend has just about every Nikon zoom made and she lets me use them… occasionally, which was enough to get me thinking. 

NIKON F-MOUNT

Here are the benefits I saw:

1. Aperture Ring on the Lens

2. A used F Mount a bit less expensive than a used L Series

3. The slight Yellow tone it gives my footage

4. I can use them on my girlfriend's D700s

5. Nikon still sells fully manual AIS lenses

To me these lenses were every bit as solid as a Canon manufactured around the same time.  I mean a 2013 16-35mm L series lens is going to out perform a 2005 17-35mm Nikon.  That is eight years difference in age.  The aperture ring on the lens is a favorite for me because I shot on an ENG camera for about 12 years.  I'm just used to reaching for the aperture on the lens and not on camera.  

NIKON G-MOUNT

Now these are the newer lenses from Nikon and like Canon they've done away with the aperture ring because the camera controls the aperture electronically.  There is a way around this though.  There are adapters with an aperture tab sticking out.  You can move the tab up and down to adjust the G-mount aperture manually, but I've found this to be a little less than ideal.  The problem is the adapter ring tab moves too short a distance making it difficult for a shooter to nail the exposure.  Plus, you're fighting friction from the pressure between the camera mount and the lens mount. 

LEICA, CONTAX & ZEISS ZF

There are, of course, other lenses that can be adapted for use on the BMCC EF Mount camera.  Leica R-Mount lenses are a favorite of mine and the prime lenses make for a great option.  The Ziess ZF still has an aperture ring and is a lens often adapted to an EF mount.  I hear the Contax lenses work as well, but I have not tried them myself. 

ADAPTERS

What I found with adapters for any lens is this: you get what you pay for.  Some will mount the lens to your camera but you won't be able to get infinity focus.  Others, the adapter is so slight it will not last too long until the weight of the lens causes it to fail. Then there are the adapters that feel like they've always been attached to the lens.  

Step in the Leitax Adapter

This adapter is solid.  I have a Leica 35-70 with one of these on it making it feel like the lens has always been an EF mount.  It is about as sturdy of an adapter as you're going to find.  You screw this adapter on top of the original mount of your lens.  Don't worry, they have instructions and they are easy to follow.  The thing with a Leitax adapter is it can be on the expensive side, but they offer the most value.  The best part about Leitax is they have just about every adapter for any mount out there.  This is my go-to website to find out if a lens will fit on my camera or not.  If it is not listed then I can pretty much be sure no one makes what you're looking for.  You can find Leitax's website here: http://leitax.com/

METABONES ADAPTERS

Here is another option if you have a MFT lens mount.  Now, I haven't used these, but that is not for want.  If I had the MFT mount Blackmagic Cinema Camera one of these adapters would be my next purchase.  First off, they also make a speed booster that can change the huge crop factor on the Cinema Camera into something closer to S35.  Secondly, this adapter also focuses more of the light coming through a lens onto the sensor.  This focusing of light makes it brighter… making your camera a bit more sensitive to light.  Metabones also makes adapters that allow you to use the newer Nikon G-mount lenses.  If you're a Sony shooter then you will definitely want to take a look at Metabones.  You can find the Metabones website here: http://www.metabones.com/

WHY ADAPT?

For me it opens up lens options for different reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is the ability to de-click that aperture ring.  On a cinema lens, or a B4 lens found on ENG cameras, the aperture ring has smooth transitions from one f-stop to another.  Still photography lenses do not.  I cannot afford a Canon Cinema Zoom, Angienuex DP Rogue, or Ziess Cinema Zoom so I have to make still photography primes and zoom lenses work for me. De-clicking an aperture is one of those ways.

WHO DE-CLICKS?

DUCLOS LENSES.  They are the go-to lens shop for still photography lens de-clicking.  They will also bring the still lens up in status with their cine-mod.  What they do is take that Leica Summicron 50mm F/2 de-click the aperture, add a focus gear, and add a 80mm front ring and cap.  The 80mm front ring is to bring all your lenses up to the same matte box opening size and round filter size.  This makes shooting/switching lenses easier and faster.  Plus, you don't have to carry around a filter pack with a whole bunch of odd sized filters that do the same thing.  I mean, I don't want to buy 5 different IRNDs just to be able to use IRND on all my lenses.  I want to buy one that can fit on all my lenses.  To check out Duclos Lenses here is their website:  http://www.ducloslenses.com/  

CINE LENSES

Then there are still photography lenses that manufacturer's have adapted themselves, step in the Rokinon Cine Lenses.  These are fully manual lenses that offer great optics with de-clicked apertures and geared focus and iris wheels.  Branded under the Rokinon name and manufactured by Samyang.  I've used these lenses and quickly loved them.  They are easy to use and are inexpensive.  The de-clicked aperture is a must for video shooters, and if the long focus throw was more exact I'd feel a whole lot better about pulling focus with these.  I will say, it's not too often that I have a need to pull critical focus.  The 24mm is killer and easily my favorite to shoot on the BMCC.  Now, these aren't going to need to be adapted at all.  Just like an EF Lens these are EF  Mount and ready to go.  Thanks to dominicb003 for suggesting I include these in this article.  

RESEARCH

It just takes a little bit of research to make those lenses work for you.  That's what I did and it is definitely something you can do.  Of course, there are exceptions. If you're trying to put a Minolta lens on your EF mount you will find it very difficult.  I've found an adapter.  It does not come highly recommended, but that's only on an EF mount.  Read the reviews, ask the manufacturer questions, and talk to other shooters.   I hope this all helps.

Twitter: @hallettbrian

Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/hallettbrian


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Brian Hallett, is an award winning cameraman, editor, and producer. He has shot everything from Network broadcast news, promotional image campaigns, music videos, short films, and documentaries. Check out his reel at hallett-brian.com
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