Will Amazing New Metabones Speed Booster XL 0.64x Turn GH4s into Killer Super35 Movie Cameras?

by Karin Gottschalk3 Comments

When Metabones recently announced its Canon EF Lens to Micro Four Thirds T Speed Booster XL 0.64x – what a mouthful – my  excitement was almost palpable. Would this be the Metabones lens adapter that would turn me back towards a lens system I had pretty much abandoned, the EF lenses made by Canon and others?

Would I start looking closer at those Canon and Sigma EF lens discount emails that flood my inbox almost every week now? I have seen some low prices for great, fast EF glass lately but have pretty much ignored the siren’s call.  Might Metabones’ latest and greatest turn my mind away from native Micro Four Thirds optics towards older lens designs that may have suddenly found a new lease of life?

For me the proof is always the pudding, or rather, in actually trying the thing out in real life. Press release and products pages, no matter how detailed and well-written, fall short of the experience of seeing, touching and most importantly, trying.

And as a current non-owner of any Metabones Speed Booster – currently I only have their excellent Canon EF to Micro Four Thirds Smart Adapter – I hesitate at guessing the benefits of any Speed Booster, older or new.

Better to leave that to the experts. But if Metabones’ claims of 4K Super35 for the Panasonic GH4 ring true then this is a wonderful development, especially when coupled with the (hopefully) coming addition of V-Log L to a future GH4 firmware update.

Add 10bit 4:2:2 ProRes HQ into the mix via a recorder/monitor and you may have something truly remarkable and still reasonably portable.

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Meanwhile, here are some insights from a far more hands-on expert than I, Dan Chung of News Shooter:

As Mr Chung states in that review, his initial tests of the new Speed Booster XL are somewhat unscientific and I welcome the further testing he says is to come especially under low light. I look forward to the XL falling into the hands of other expert reviewers soon too.

Meanwhile Ogy Stoilov at 4K Shooters has produced a good though not hands-on overview of the XL:

As he rightfully reminds us, “Canon EF lenses have been one of the most popular choices for video shooters using a GH4 or a Sony A7s”. And I might add that, locally at least, Canon EF lenses are widely available for rent. Adding a Speed Booster XL to my Smart Adapter gives me plenty of options when renting is a necessity.

Will amazing new Metabones Speed Booster XL 0.64x turn GH4s into killer Super35 movie cameras? Click To Tweet

Metabones Speed Booster XL 0.64x Press Release

Via Metabones:

Petersburg, VA, USA, Jun 05, 2015: Caldwell Photographic Inc. and Metabones® are pleased to announce the Speed Booster XL 0.64x, a new Micro-4/3 mount Speed Booster® adapter designed exclusively for the Panasonic GH4 and other selected Micro Four Thirds cameras, with a magnification of 0.64x. The Speed Booster XL 0.64x uses an advanced 6-element optical design to achieve extraordinary optical performance at apertures up to an incredible f/0.80, a new record for Micro Four Thirds format.

The new Speed Booster XL 0.64x reduces the full-frame crop factor of the Panasonic GH4 from 2.0x to 1.28x, thus effectively transforming these cameras into APS-H format. When the GH4 is used in Cinema 4k video mode the horizontal full frame crop factor is reduced from 2.34x to 1.50x, thus effectively transforming the GH4 into a super-35 format 4k cine camera. In addition, the speed of any attached lens is increased by 11/3 stops, with a maximum output aperture of f/0.80 when an f/1.2 lens is used. For example, a 50mm f/1.2 becomes a 32mm f/0.80, which is the fastest aperture available for full size Micro Four Thirds format.

Perhaps most exciting of all, in addition to increasing lens speed and field of view, the Speed Booster XL 0.64x offers amazingly high image quality even at extremely large apertures. Figures 2 through 4 below show MTF at 10, 20, and 40 lp/mm as a function of image height for output apertures of f/0.8, f/1.1, and f/1.81. At f/0.80 (i.e., with an f/1.2 master lens) the sharpness and contrast are extraordinary out to an image height of 8.7 mm, which is the limiting image height in the GH4’s Cinema 4k video mode. Beyond 8.7 mm the performance drops gracefully, but remains very good even in the extreme corner of the full Micro Four Thirds format. Note that as the master lens aperture is reduced to f/1.8 and then f/2.8 (corresponding to output apertures of f/1.1 and f/1.8, respectively) the performance improves everywhere, especially in the extreme corners.

And other aspects of optical performance haven’t been sacrificed in order to obtain high MTF, either. Figure 5 shows that there is only about 1 stop of corner illumination falloff even at f/0.8. There is no vignetting at all after the output aperture reaches f/3.42. Figure 6 shows that rectilinear distortion added by the Speed Booster XL 0.64x is negligible at less than 0.8%.

Read Full Press Here.

Canon EF Lens to Micro Four Thirds T Speed Booster XL 0.64x

Metabones Speed Booster XL 0.64x image 1

Via Metabones:

Speed Booster XL 0.64x

A new Micro-4/3 mount Speed Booster® adapter designed exclusively for the Panasonic GH4 and other selected Micro Four Thirds cameras (refer to the below camera compatbility table), with a magnification of 0.64x. The Speed Booster XL 0.64x uses an advanced 6-element optical design to achieve extraordinary optical performance at apertures up to an incredible f/0.80, a new record for Micro Four Thirds format.

The new Speed Booster XL 0.64x reduces the full-frame crop factor of the Panasonic GH4 from 2.0x to 1.28x, thus effectively transforming these cameras into APS-H format. When the GH4 is used in Cinema 4k video mode the horizontal full frame crop factor is reduced from 2.34x to 1.50x, thus effectively transforming the GH4 into a super-35 format 4k cine camera. In addition, the speed of any attached lens is increased by 11/3 stops, with a maximum output aperture of f/0.80 when an f/1.2 lens is used. For example, a 50mm f/1.2 becomes a 32mm f/0.80, which is the fastest aperture available for full size Micro Four Thirds format. (More information can be found in the press release here )

Metabones Speed Booster XL 0.64x image 2
Key Features

  • Increase maximum aperture by 11/3 stops
  • Increase MTF.
  • Makes lens 0.64x wider.
  • Build-in electronics to control lens aperture.
  • The lens aperture is set by the controls on the camera body.
  • Powered by camera body. no external power source required.
  • High performance 32-bit processor and efficient switched-mode power supply.
  • The interior is painted with flocking coating to further reduce the internal reflection.
  • The tripod foot is detachable and compatible with Arca Swiss, Markins and Photo Clam ball heads.
  • Support Panasonic GH4, GH3, G3, G5, G6, G10, GF3, GF5, GF6, GX1, Olympus E-PL7, Blackmagic Cinema Camera with Micro Four Thirds mount**, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera***

Optics designed by Caldwell Photographic in the USA (patent pending).

Description

Compatibility
The Speed Booster XL 0.64x is similar to the Blackmagic-specific 0.64x BMCC Speed Booster (MB_SPEF-BMCC-BM1), but has been completely re-designed to meet the following requirements:

  • The working distance has increased by 1mm to permit use on the Panasonic GH4 and a number of other Micro Four Thirds cameras without touching the flexible outer cover of the camera’s shutter mechanism.
  • The optics are optimized for a standard Micro Four Thirds filter stack thickness of 4mm rather than the 2.4mm found in Blackmagic cameras.
  • The image circle diameter has been increased to 21.63mm so that the full 17.3mm x 13mm Four Thirds format is covered. This has been achieved while maintaining unusually high image quality over the 17.4mm image circle used by the Panasonic GH4 in its Cinema 4k video mode.

Although the Speed Booster XL 0.64x has extra clearance compared to the 0.64x BMCC Speed Booster, there are still a number of Micro Four Thirds cameras that are not supported due to mechanical clearance issues. This is summarized in the table below, which is color-coded so that Green means the camera is supported and Red means the camera is not supported.
Note that many of the Red-coded cameras actually do function, but there is a minor interference with the protective shutter cover. Although slight contact with the shutter cover appears to have no effect on the functioning or cosmetics of either the camera or the Speed Booster we cannot support these combinations due to possible risk of damage.

Compatibility-XL

*Not yet tested

Metabones Speed Booster XL 0.64x Specifications:

  • Magnification: 0.64x
  • Crop Factor for Full Micro Four Thirds format: 1.28x
  • Crop Factor with GH4 in Cinema 4k (4096 x 2160) Video Mode: 1.5x
  • Maximum Output Aperture: f/0.80 (with f/1.2 lens attached)
  • Rectilinear Distortion: < 0.8%
  • Lens Elements/Groups: 6/4
  • Length Reduction: 6.2 mm
  • Camera Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Image Format: 17.3 mm x 13.0 mm (full Micro Four Thirds format)

Metabones Speed Booster XL 0.64x

Note:
1. Requires lenses supporting distance information.
2. A third party zoom lens may need to be registered with the Speed Booster/Smart Adapter first in order to detect its maximum aperture.
3. This Smart Adapter is designed to cover an 17.3mm x 13mm sensor.
4. Some improperly-made M42 screw mount adapters may short the electronic contacts of the Smart Adapter and cause damage to the Smart Adapter and/or camera body.
5. Many manual focus lenses (e.g. OM 28/2.8, OM 50/1.8, Leica R 15/3.5) have rear protrusions (spikes, levers, other appendages) which would damage the optics and/or housing of Smart Adapter. They need to be modified before they can be safely used on Smart Adapter. Check and make sure there are no rear protrusions from the adapter/lens combination before using on Smart Adapter. Scratches and damages caused by rear protrusions on Smart Adapter are not covered by warranty.
6. For those passive (without electronic pin or without power supply from the camcorder) MFT camcorders, this Speed Booster Adapter can also be powered by external third-party 5 Volt MicroUSB power supply*.
* ) third-party 5 Volt MicroUSB power supply is not provided in the box. The compatibility of 3rd party power supply can't be guaranteed.
7. For use with fast lenses (faster than f/1.8), the pre-boost apertures will be displayed in the camera.

Slow lenses will report boosted apertures to the camera body but fast lenses will report pre-boost apertures. We won't show f/0.8(Speed Booster XL Max. limit) with a f/1.2 lens attached, but show f/1.2 instead.

Example:
a) EF 85/1.2L attached, camera display = f/1.2, physical aperture (lens + Speed Booster combined) = f/0.8 (Speed Booster XL Max. limit).
b) Sigma 18-35/1.8 attached, camera display = f/1.0, physical aperture (lens + Speed Booster combined) = f/1.0.

Read more about Metabones Speed Booster XL 0.64x Here.

(cover photo credit: snap from Metabones)

Karin Gottschalk

Karin Gottschalk

Karin is a documentary moviemaker, journalist, photographer and teacher who conceived and cofounded an influential, globally-read, Australian magazine of contemporary art, culture and photography. While based in Europe, contributing to the magazine and working in advertising, she visualised a future telling the same sorts of stories with a movie camera and audio recorder. Now back in her home base in Sydney, Karin is pursuing her goal of becoming an independent, one-person, backpack multimedia journalist and documentary moviemaker. Mentorless and un-filmschooled, she is constantly learning and sharpening up her skill set.
Karin Gottschalk

Comments

  1. Ms Gottschalk, if you can’t figure out how to test this device, to see whether it meets its claims of increasing lens speed, then you shouldn’t be writing about it. You say you don’t even own (or have possession of) one, so what exactly is the point of this posting?
    You haven’t told us anything not in the manufacturer’s literature. Some of which strikes me as bilge, written by a person who doesn’t understand math or optics.
    > “Increase maximum aperture by 11/3 stops”  I think that should be 1 1/3 stops, which seems about right. (0.64 magnification translates to 2.5 times as much light per unit area.)
    > “Increase MTF”  Yes, but… The image from a smaller sensor requires greater magnification, all things being equal.
    >  “Makes lens 0.64x wider.”  Hell, no. The writer has no grasp of trigonometry. Or math in general.

  2. I tested this adapter with gh2 because I own gh2 and gh4 , This is very amazing adapter.On gh2 there is no problem with canon lenses and rokinon lenses for canon mount. On the metabones website site they have mentioned that it is not going to work with gh2 , I tried any ways the shutter is not coming in between in photo or video mode. works fine.

  3. Adding an additional piece of glass between the lens and the sensor has to reduce the quality of the image, as no glass is perfect. I would expect to see a comparison of the image sharpness and the resolution and fringing issues as well as any other distortion. I do not know anything about the company making the glass in these speed boosters… I would be surprised if they had suddenly, coming from nowhere, managed to reach the quality levels achieved by Canon (for example) over decades of development. On this point, I have already seen several reports of the speed boosters being on new versions which claim “better glass” in this version, suggesting that the preceding version must have been quite a disappointment to be replaced in less than a year.

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