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First Impressions: Using Legacy Manual Focus lenses on the GF-1
Jul 12, 2010, 09:48
Post: #1
First Impressions: Using Legacy Manual Focus lenses on the GF-1
This weekend, I had the opportunity to play around with my Nikon lenses on the GF-1. Perhaps , my expectations were unrealistically high due to the glowing reports from Kombi on the legacy lens option. Perhaps, I should have paid more attention to Matthew's somewhat more guarded recommendations. Anyway, I won't be pixel peeping in this thread - this is about usability.

1. Using large zooms on the GF-1 like I feature in the Fashion Show thread is an exercise in the ridiculous. I didn't feel that any of the Nikon 12-24, the Nikon 18-200 or the Nikon 24-85 were really usable in the field. They were large and unbalanced on the GF-1 - and manually setting exposure, focus, and zoom level for every shot was unbelievably cumbersome. The only things missing were a black cloth over my head, a tray of flash powder held high in the air, and models in period costumes sitting stiffly in high backed chairs. I haven't tested the 80-200 yet - but as it is exclusively a tripod option, perhaps it will not suffer as badly as the others in comparison. Frankly, I can see no compelling reason why I would use any of these zooms on the GF-1 while I still own a perfectly serviceable D200. Portability is the GF-1's milieu - and all of these zooms negate that completely. Having said that - it is nice that the option to use them exists if it is required for some unknown reason.

2. So what about small primes? I only own one prime - the Tamron 90 F2.8 - which I have not yet tested (but which is not particularly small). That is the next step, and I will let you know what I think. Using a prime will reduce some of the messing around (zooming at least), and I can also see that using small, fast primes like a 35, 50, or 85 might be rewarding. This is where Kombi's lens set has a significant advantage over mine. A friend has a Nikon 50mm F1.8 that I am keen to try out. It is a sharp, fast, $140 lens that might yet be a viable option.

3. Camera bag: As you all know, I am a camera bag tramp - and I own many of them (mostly Kata). I had to move to a much larger bag to accommodate carrying any of of the zooms - strike 2 against portability.

4. Discretion and Invisibility: One of the things that I like best about the GF-1 is how invisible I become on the street. Unlike the guarded, suspicious looks that I get from people in public when I point a DSLR in their direction, people only smile indulgently when they see me with the GF-1 - particularly when I use the LCD to compose. It just doesn't look threatening or privacy-invading. That goes away completely when I fiddle with a larger zoom lens. Suddenly, I am painfully visible again.

5. The jinfinance Nikon G adapter is adequate - but not great. It fits nicely to the GF-1, but the lenses feel a bit sloppy and wiggly when mounted. Maybe this is what you get by spending $45 on an adapter rather than $290 for the Voigtlander adapter. Based on my appreciation of using legacy lenses so far - I am seriously glad that I saved some money on this experiment. Jinfinance Nikon G adapter rating: C+

6. Call me new-fashioned if you like - but I find that I don't really care much for manual focus any more. I like having the option to do it - for macro work or for special situations - but in the real world, I never looked back once I got an auto-focus camera. My rapidly aging eyesight doesn't help either.

Bottom line: I plan to give the Tamron 90 and the Nikon 50 primes a fair test - but my gut feeling is that the adapter is going to live in the drawer with my Cokin filter set. Sure glad that I didn't spend $300 on it.
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Jul 12, 2010, 18:38
Post: #2
First Impressions: Using Legacy Manual Focus lenses on the GF-1
Thanks for the writeup - I really appreciate hearing how other people like and use gear, especially as I've occasionally been known for having unreasonably absolutist opinions. It's certainly 'food for thought', if you'll excuse a tired cliché.


Toad Wrote:1. Using large zooms on the GF-1 like I feature in the Fashion Show thread is an exercise in the ridiculous. […] I haven't tested the 80-200 yet - but as it is exclusively a tripod option, perhaps it will not suffer as badly as the others in comparison.
I suspect that you'll be right about the 80-200 – putting the lens on a tripod is a hassle with any camera, so it should be proportionately less hassle for the MF+stop-down acrobatics with the GF1. Telephoto lenses might be an unusual end-point for such small cameras, but it is one big advantage to the smaller sensor, and there's no IS so it needs a tripod anyway. Otherwise, while I've played with about twenty different lenses on the micro cameras, I only actually own and use primes so I've never actually tried for a zoom under field conditions.

Toad Wrote:2. So what about small primes? I only own one prime - the Tamron 90 F2.8 - which I have not yet tested (but which is not particularly small). That is the next step, and I will let you know what I think. Using a prime will reduce some of the messing around (zooming at least), and I can also see that using small, fast primes like a 35, 50, or 85 might be rewarding.
When I used the GH1 with a Nikon lens out in the big bad world, it's always been either the 50/1.8, 85/1.8, or 35/2.8-Shift. (I also have the 35/2.0, but that stays on my F100 - but that's another story.) Even the 85 is getting a bit front-heavy, but it's such a nice lens that it's worth it. I'm still nowhere near fast and comfortable with it, and since I barely take the Panasonic 20/1.7 off of the camera these days, my adapter hasn't seen that much use recently.

Toad Wrote:3. Camera bag: As you all know, I am a camera bag tramp - and I own many of them (mostly Kata). I had to move to a much larger bag to accommodate carrying any of of the zooms - strike 2 against portability.
The one time that I would absolutely carry the F-mount adapter is if I'm carrying two systems. A micro camera with the 20/1.7 coupled with a full-frame body and its lenses becomes a very versatile combination. Not a walking-around-town combination, certainly – it's for dedicated sessions where the heavy iron and versatility can come in handy. I'm not sure if there's enough difference in the physical format and image quality of the D200 and GF1 to have this approach make sense, but second-hand Nikon film bodies can be had fairly cheaply these days…

Toad Wrote:4. Discretion and Invisibility: One of the things that I like best about the GF-1 is how invisible I become on the street. Unlike the guarded, suspicious looks that I get from people in public when I point a DSLR in their direction, people only smile indulgently when they see me with the GF-1 - particularly when I use the LCD to compose. It just doesn't look threatening or privacy-invading. That goes away completely when I fiddle with a larger zoom lens. Suddenly, I am painfully visible again.
That sounds similar to the 'invisibility' of rangefinder cameras in the old days – only now it's the point and shoot factor. Lol

Toad Wrote:5. Based on my appreciation of using legacy lenses so far - I am seriously glad that I saved some money on this experiment. Jinfinance Nikon G adapter rating: C+
I've been happy with my non-G-compatible Voigtländer adapter ($190), but haven't used it as much as I expected. However, when I have the GH1 hanging from the back of my Sigma 180 Macro, I do appreciate that it's very solid and simple. I did recently buy a cheap-ish no-name adapter for M-mount lenses, which will be helpful when my Ikon finally shows up. (arriving Real Soon Now™.) But I'll be able to compare it side-by-side with the Panasonic-built adapter, which is three times the price, before the return period expires. Adapters seem to be a battle between Diminishing Returns and TANSTAAFL; I'm glad that you don't go too far to either side with yours.

Toad Wrote:6. Call me new-fashioned if you like - but I find that I don't really care much for manual focus any more. I like having the option to do it - for macro work or for special situations - but in the real world, I never looked back once I got an auto-focus camera. My rapidly aging eyesight doesn't help either.
I'm with you on this 100%, and I do find the button-pushing for the magnified focus assist an annoyance when I'm hand-holding the camera. (This is the big advantage for the 4/3-m4/3 adapter that lets me put my Olympus 50/2 macro on the Panasonic body: electronic coupling to automatically magnify the viewfinder when I focus, and aperture priority works from the camera body.) I'm worried that this will be enough to leave me uninterested in using M-mount lenses on my GH1, because I'd love to pair the GH1 with 20/1.7 and 7-14 with the Ikon and its 35 and 50mm lenses as an ultimate travel kit. If that concept works out, I'll be selling the 14-140, which would give me enough for a ZM 85 f/4 telephoto. Ah, the way my mind works.

Toad Wrote:Bottom line: I plan to give the Tamron 90 and the Nikon 50 primes a fair test - but my gut feeling is that the adapter is going to live in the drawer with my Cokin filter set. Sure glad that I didn't spend $300 on it.
I think those may be the two perfect lenses to use with the adapter. The 90 is probably sharp enough to feed the GF1's demanding sensor, making a really strong macro combination. The 50/1.8 is small and light, and while it's not that great wide open, it does have a nice look to it. And if the adapter only comes out for special moods, it will still serve its purpose.
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Jul 12, 2010, 22:11 (This post was last modified: Jul 12, 2010 22:14 by paskelius.)
Post: #3
First Impressions: Using Legacy Manual Focus lenses on the GF-1
matthew Wrote:...but second-hand Nikon film bodies can be had fairly cheaply these days…
I already own an F-100 body - so this isn't a problem. Thanks for the extensive comments. One blasts off these long missives - and never quite knows if anyone reads them or not.

matthew Wrote:If that concept works out, I'll be selling the 14-140
Drop me a line if you decide to do that - I might be interested.

Best
Rob
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Jul 13, 2010, 10:10
Post: #4
First Impressions: Using Legacy Manual Focus lenses on the GF-1
This is great; fascinating stuff...and having the combo of both your inputs makes this an especially interesting thread.
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Jul 13, 2010, 19:56
Post: #5
First Impressions: Using Legacy Manual Focus lenses on the GF-1
That's a real shame you haven't yet got the same buzz out of using legacy lenses as I have Toad. But I hope you don't give up just yet.

When I think about it, your experience shouldn't surprise me.
The way you describe your feeling about using your Nikon glass on the GF1 is exactly how I feel about using my Canon EOS lenses. They just don't feel right. The camera loses all the stealthiness and agility of the GF1, and there just isn't much point when you've got a perfectly good DSLR you could be using instead that will support all the features of the lens (such as AF, IS). I've barely touched my EOS lens adapter.

But I get a totally different feeling as soon as I mount old Canon FD lenses (small, fast, normal primes anyway). Everything changes. The camera is no longer a wannabe-DSLR... it retains its rangefinder-like character and the nimbleness that it has with the 20mm mounted and gains a sense of experimentation and fun that comes from combining two things that were never designed with each other in mind and a good feeling about breathing new life into things deemed obsolete and forgotten. There's a real buzz when using these lenses which influences my mood and whole approach to the photos I'm taking. I don't get that from mounting EOS lenses, and it seems you didn't get it mounting your Nikon lenses.

Good luck with your Tamron 90mm and Nikon 50mm primes. I suspect the Tamron might be a little disappointing simply because of it's physical size, but you might begin to get the buzz with the 50mm f/1.8 mounted.
I also should say that there are a number of FD lenses which don't do anything for me. The 70-210mm is just too big with poor IQ, and I have a 135mm f/2.8 which I had great hopes for but is just a bit too bulky to be useful.
But having small, fast 35mm, 50mm and 85mm primes to compliment the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 makes for a perfect kit IMHO. And FD's fit the bill and are dirt cheap on eBay.

Of course FD mount isn't the only option for this kind of stuff (C-mount is another popular format, and Leica-mount stuff too)... but I think it's telling that most of the people experimenting with different mounts are using older smaller, lenses rather than the newer, larger ones (which I'm sure most of them own as well).

Adrian Broughton
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Jul 13, 2010, 22:11
Post: #6
First Impressions: Using Legacy Manual Focus lenses on the GF-1
That's very encouraging, Kombi. The Nikon zooms were a bust - but the primes may be a different story. I still thin that 50mm FD that you have looks great - and no reason that I should not get one - an adapter is an adapter. Let's see how the primes work out. I plan to give them a run tomorrow evening. Thanks for the comments - this has been a good thread,content-wise.
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