Friday, March 7, 2014

Metabones.....are we friends or not?

I did a blog post about the Metabones adapter awhile ago.  It worked great, and allowed
me to use Canon lenses on my Sony cinema cameras (Sony FS100, Sony FS700 and
Sony VG20). Everything was cool......until it wasn't.  Now I don't know exactly what is
going on.  But here is a cautionary tale.

Now I'm a one person shop....which means I have to be smart about what I spend money
on.  I started my video business with a PD150, and an Apple Powerbook (yeah, the black
G4 400mhz one with a copy of FCP 2).  And I stayed with that camera for about 8 years.
When I finally had enough clients who wanted HD, I a FS100.  Yup,
the Sony FS100 was out before I upgraded to HD.  In a way, it was kind of neat, because
I skipped right over all the small sensor HDV cameras and never spent money on them.
But when I got the FS100, all I got with it was the kit lens.  As my business continued, I
bought some faster lenses.  A 'B-Stock' Sigma 50-150 F2.8 (an absolutely fantastic lens!)
A 17-50 Tamron F2.8.  A Tamron 28-105 F2.8.  A Sigma 10-20 F4.5.  And recently a
Sigma 18-35 F1.8.  I also have some vintage FD mount primes, but for this blog post I
want to talk about the third party Canon mount zooms.

After using them for awhile, I realized that although the Tamron lenses worked just great
there were issues with the Sigma lenses.  I would randomly lose contact with the lens.
The Fstop reading would read '--' and I could not change it with the dial on the camera.

Sometimes, disconnecting the lens and reconnecting it would get it to work.  Sometimes disconnecting the Metabones and reconnecting it would work.  Sometimes, turning the 
camera off would work.  Sometimes, none of the above would work.  Very frustrating.  
Now I have an early Metabones Smart Adapter Mark II.  I emailed Metabones and they 
had me send the adapter back to them (I paid $25 for shipping) and they updated the firmware.  
Got it back and it worked perfectly with the Sigma's.  I was happy, my old friend was back....or 
so I thought.  Soon I noticed it started doing with the Tamron's what it had been doing with the Sigma's.  Losing contact with the the dreaded '--' in the Fstop column.  Again, disconnecting and reconnecting the lens or the adapter would fix it sometimes....but then 
there was a sign this was different.  When disconnecting didn't work, I powered the camera 
down.  And I noticed something a little funny.

If you look closely, you can see.....the switch is turned off.....but the camera
literally refuses to shut down!  The Sony symbol stayed up, even though the
camera was powered down!!!  I literally had to pull the battery out to get the
camera to turn off.  Soon afterwards, the Tamron lenses quit working entirely
with the Metabones adapter.  I get the dreaded F-- every time I use the Tamron
lenses.  The lenses will also no longer work with any still camera, somehow the
iris control has been literally broken inside the lenses.  The good news is, they
are stuck wide open, so with use of my built in ND filters (I now have the Sony FS700)
I can almost always make them work.  But still....uncool.  More good news, the Sigmas
continue to work just great with the Metabones adapters.  So here is some of my assumptions.

Assumption 1) The Metabones is made to work with Canon lenses.....less so with
third party 'Canon mount' lenses.

Assumption 2) Tamron and Sigma have some kind of different protocols and
somehow the Metabones could only work with one or the other.

Now realize, that I had my Metabones adapter for a year and a half before
issues started.  Also realize to this day, it works flawlessly with the Sigma
lenses after the firmware update.  I'm not knocking Metabones and in fact
the adapter is a crucial part of my kit.  And there are new versions out that
may deal with this issue much better.  But I've heard too many stories out there
from people having similar issues.  So I wanted to get this story out there.
You must realize, translating one type of lenses 'electrical signals' into
a competing cameras 'language' is not easy.  And despite the raves
Metabones has rightfully earned......there ARE issues with certain
third party lenses.  Also, I didn't like having to return my adapter, and
be without it, not to mention paying for the shipping for a firmware update.
I felt like that should be something an end user should be allowed to do at
their home computer.  From what I hear, with the newer Metabones adapters,
this may be possible.

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema

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