Over the past month I've been hard at work testing the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema (BMPCC) camera in a variety of situations for an Fstoppers review (since they updated the firmware, it's like an entirely new camera). While that review is still in progress as of today, I did want to talk to you guys about one piece of equipment that made shooting with it a great experience: the Metabones EF to Micro Four Thirds Adapter for the BMPCC.
The purpose of the Metabones adapter is simple: mount Canon EF glass to the BMPCC. This adapter is made specifically and only for the BMPCC, so avoid it for other micro four thirds camera bodies because the way they built the optics will cause it to hit your sensor on anything other than the BMPCC. So with that out of the way, let's talk about the build quality.
This adapter, like all of Metabones' gear, is built solidly and beautifully. It doesn't feel like an adapter, but more like how you would expect a high-end teleconverter to feel. It snaps smoothly onto the body of the BMPCC and adds a new mounting collar to help relieve stress on the BMPCC's collar. As far as construction is concerned, I have absolutely no complaints.
The 0.58x Speed Booster reduces the crop factor of the BMPCC from 3.02x to 1.75x and produces the largest aperture optics currently available, with a maximum output aperture of f/0.74. All of that is awesome, and made shooting with my favorite lens, the Sigma 24-105 f/4, even more amazing. I was able to get shots in much darker atmospheres than I was used to on either the BMPCC or the Sigma lens.
The clutch benefit of the Metabones Speed Booster, which is the case for all their popular adapters, is the ability to completley digitally control the lens through the camera. The integration is seamless and worked flawlessly. I tested the Speed Booster with lenses that Metabones did not specifically state they tested and approved: Sigma 24-105mm f/4, Sigma 35mm f/1.4, Sigma 8mm f/3.5 and the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. Each lens worked without issue. In addition, my Tamron is having some issues with the contacts and isn't functioning at all on any of my Canon bodies (Error 01), making it utterly useless... except when I put it on the Speed Booster. The Tamron appears to not be totally fried, and using the Speed Booster let me get some use out of it even though it was a bit spotty. I'm not sure if this is because of the Speed Booster or the BMPCC software, but I like to think it's a combination of the two.
Also of note, don't use lenses as wide as the 8mm with this adapter. Though it works great on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF, the added wideness added by the Speed Booster in addition to the extra stuff in front of the sensor made a ring show on the outside of the frame, which is normally ok for certain looks in stills but not great in video (my opinion). If you don't mind an outer ring to the shot, then I can attest that as far as controlling the lens is concerned, the adapter worked great.
The optics in the Speed Booster are really going to be the guts of this since we want to know if it affects the performance of great lenses at all. My shoots with the 24-105mm have always been outstandingly sharp, so I have a pretty good barometer of how I expected it to perform before I put it on the Metabones adapter. Below is a frame taken from an interview I did and you can see how crisp it is, even though it's just a screen grab from an mov file.
To better illustrate how great it worked, check out the frame below which I took using the BMPCC's raw capture functionality. This we know to be completely still and fully tack sharp since I was tripoded and the car did not move:
Clearly the optics, designed by Caldwell Photographic, work outstandingly well. For those curious, the build of the actual lens in the Speed Booster is 6 elements in 4 groups. The Sigma was this sharp directly on the camera, and I'm happy to say using the Speed Booster had no ill effects on the quality of the footage whatsoever.
One thing to bear in mind is that the battery life of the BMPCC is already not great, but tack on the Speed Booster and it gets even worse. Since the Speed Booster runs on the power of the body, it drains frustratingly quickly. You would be lucky to get 15 minutes out of the internal battery before having to recharge or swap to a fresh battery. This was not a huge problem for me because I always carry around battery power in the form of a Vagabond, but it's still not ideal. This might not be entirely Metabones' problem though, as the BMPCC just isn't great on battery life to begin with.
Since it works so well I guess you can rationalize the price point of the Metabones Speed Booster, but I still think it's rather high at $660. That's really the only thing I can complalin about here, but when there are so few options that work this well and allow full digital control of the lens, it's a complaint that doesn't get me very far. Metabones can charge whatever they want for the adapter and because it works so darn well, I have to admit that I would purchase it if I was going with the BMPCC full time.
What I liked:
- Digital control of EF lenses through the BMPCC
- Excellent build quality
- No ill effects from the additional optics
- Increased max aperture by 1 and 2/3 stops
- Makes lenses 0.58x wider
- Additional tripod foot
What could use improvement
- Power draw
- High price
The Metabones Speed Booster for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera worked better than I expected, and I was already expecting great performance. It's well built, does not detract from the quality of already great EF optics, is small and light weight and has some added benefits like increasing max aperture and making lenses wider on the small BMPCC sensor. The only drawbacks are pretty minimal, such as the power draw on the BMPCC and the fact that it's priced so high. But in a market that is devoid of better options, if you use the BMPCC regularly and have a bunch of EF glass, you'll want to pick this up. It rocks.