The Joy of adaptable lenses, and a journey to L-mount

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I started my adapted lens journey with the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera system around Year 2009.  Being an early mirrorless system user, I learnt about a pandora range of lens adaptors and their possibilities. Given the short flange focal distance between lens mount and image sensor, almost all lens mounts area adaptable to the MFT system, with limitation only on very small format not covering the MFT sensor.  Live-view operation allows through the lens focusing, metering to bridge the gap between analog and digital photography

Secondary hand camera gear markets and online auction sites become my hunting ground for the exotic and old gem, with low entry price.  Most of the film era 35/50mm lenses were dirt cheap, and perform wonderfully on the MFT camera for an equivalent of 70/100mm portrait lenses.  They were good because:

  1. Economical;
  2. Easy to find;
  3. Crop sensor use only the best part of the lenses;
  4. Vintage rendering produce unique looks.
Panasonic GM1 + Leitz Elmar 35 screw mount

As Olympus and later Panasonic integrated In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) into their camera sensors, not just system lenses, but adapted lenses are stabilised for both still and video, and made the use of vintage lenses even more attractive.

As focus peaking function get embed into liveview for still and videos, manual focus become easy and it is what I enjoy most.

During those early days, I adapted my film M42 screw mount lenses. I got into c-mount 16mm cine lenses.  Tried out some Nikon F mount lenses. But more importantly, understand the philosophy of small, light and high quality Leica/Canon/Nikon/Voigtlander/Zeiss screw and M-mount lenses. 

M-mount and M39 screw mount lenses

The passion for these lenses got me onto the digital Leica M train.  I do a lot of ultra wide angle shots for my architectural photos, Leica M sensor is better designed than Sony A7 series for pairing with wide angle rangefinder lenses.  I enjoys the simplicity of the rangefinder focus operations on decade of lenses, as well as liveview use of adapted lenses. Leica M share similar short flange focal distance as MFT, it is truly the original mirrorless camera system from the start.  All my full frame lenses can be used via appropriate adaptors.  It also shows me the edges on those lenses and see the full fingerprint of the lens in full compares to the cropped view on my MFT cameras.  The only thing missing is the IBIS.

photo showing M Monochrom with Summicron50
Summicron 50mm Screw Mount on Leica M Monochrom

When L-mount Alliance was launched last year, I understand Leica/Panasonic and Sigma is starting something great. It is to me a merge of my love of MFT and M mount system on what Leica already doing with the T/CL into an all-rounder system.  It is backward compatible with M/R mount lenses with specially designed adaptors.  Sigma brings MC-21 Canon AF lenses compatible, and also more affordable autofocus lenses to this new system.  IBIS is also available on Panasonic S and Leica SL2.

photo showing Leica SL2 + Leica M Adaptor-L + Summicron 50 first version
Leica SL2 + Leica M Adaptor-L + Summicron 50 Screw Mount

As L-mount flange distance is even shorter then M mount, through the Leica M-adapter L (T), all my collection of full frame vintage lenses are compatible via my M adaptors.  Now I have a stable platform to work with most of my lens collection.

Obviously there is a lot more adaptors out there, but these are some that I use for my collection.

The following photo shows how my Nikon F, Leica R, M42 screw, Leica screw mount (including Visoflex) get adapted to an L-mount alliance camera.

L-mount camera working with adaptors stack for various lenses.

The M-adaptor-L is pricey, but it bring 6-bit coding to the camera directly, so M-mount lens profile can be loaded directly on the file.

Off-market M to L adaptors has built-in helicoid that allow for more close up focus, and as I stack other adaptors on it, it brings close focusing to all my adapted lenses. This take full advantage of the short flange distance of the L-mount.

I had a generic Leica R to M adaptor so my 90 Summicron-R can be adapted.

Nikon F has such history, F to M adaptor is really useful.

M42 screw to M adaptor allow me to bring a wide range of screw mount lenses between the 50s-70s

Image sample of adapted lenses on L-mount cameras

Leica SL2 allow you to automatically or manually select leica M or R lens profiles with shading and distortion compensation, IBIS is locked to the closest selection of the Leica lens types.

Panasonic is better for non-Leica lens that the S series allow you to enter focal length for IBIS similar to the M43 method, that is not coupled with specific lens profile.  If you are using lots on non-leica lenses with other focal lengths, Panasonic may be better.

Sigma fp on the other hand has no sensor base IBIS, but you can customise colour cast compensation in camera by shoting through lens to define the colour and shading cast, and you can save I believe up to 8 lens profiles with custom names. Very handy for voigtlander/Laowa/7artisan lenses in my experience. Given the small size camera, the clean high ISO output with electronic shutter, I like the fp a lot.

I am currently working on Leica M10, Leica SL2 and Sigma fp regularly. Hope to post more of my experience soon.

L-mount Alliance official site