Using M Lenses on Fujifilm X Cameras

Last updated on June 9, 2014

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Fujifilm X-T1
  3. Fujifilm M Mount Adapter
  4. Kipon L/M-FX/M Adapter
  5. Manual Focusing
  6. Shooting Experience
  7. Performance
  8. Sample Images
  9. Flickr Pool Images
  10. Where to Buy

Introduction

In our first Fujifilm related review, Fujifilm X-T1 vs. the Leica T - we touched on using various M lenses from Leica, Voigtländer, Zeiss and others on this camera. In this article, we'll be expanding on this greatly, covering Fujifilm X series cameras in general, the various adapter options available and their use as well as looking at the performance and general results of using M lenses on these cameras.

We'll be using the Fujifilm X-T1 camera for this article, along with M lenses from the top three manufacturers. Everything from the Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH to the Voigtländer Color Skopar LTM and Zeiss ZM lenses.

Why are we talking about Fujifilm cameras? Well, much to Leica Camera's chagrin, it's a capable platform that appeals to many with a cost and feature set that's hard to ignore. And while we're a Leica oriented website - we're not a Leica owned website. We're unbiased here, and free to discuss any and all things relating to Leica, even mixing brands interchangeably. Remember, we're about photography here, not brand loyalty. So it it fits into the ecosystem somehow, we're cool with it.

When it comes to adapters, there are two ways to go about using M lenses on Fujifilm X cameras. The official way, with the Fujifilm M Mount Adapter - or the third-party way. Every adapter does the same, essential thing - converting the M lens bayonet at the rear of the lens to the X mount bayonet. The Fujifilm option stands out as the only electronic solution, which is good and bad, having some compatibility issues. Third-party adapters come in two flavors, both of which are non-electronic. The first is a basic adapter; nothing fancy and nothing beyond adapting mounts. These are the cheapest (ranging from $10 to nearly $300) and offer the widest "compatibility" as far as lenses. The second type offer an additional feature, a "macro focusing helicoid" which lets you focus closer than the lens normally allows. Finally, there are also adapters available for LTM and R mount lenses, as well as many others...

We'll look at the various methods of adapting and using these lenses, primarily with two adapters. The first being the official Fujifilm M Mount Adapter and the second, a popular, high-quality third party adapter representative of what's available (from Kipon). Details on these adapters - and much more - down below. First, a brief introduction to our test platform.

The Fujifilm X-T1

A little foreword on the camera we'll be using, the Fujifilm X-T1. It was officially launched on January 28, 2014 and has been brimming with "buzz" ever since. Until recently, it's actually been a little hard to get a hold of as it seems everybody wants one. We got one here at La Vida Leica to see just how viable it is as an alternative to shooting M lenses with. To be honest, we feel a little guilty as to just how much we enjoy shooting this diminutive (but very capable) camera. It's been a tremendous amount of fun to shoot with and is returning some very respectable results.


What this camera does is represent the Fujifilm X series of cameras featuring interchangeable lenses, especially those based on the latest X Trans II CMOS sensor, namely the X-E2 and X-T1. However, sensor specs haven't changed from the first version that would affect results discussed and illustrated here. It could therefore easily apply to all X series cameras. We're merely using the X-T1 as an example and specifics will vary depending on your exact model.

Anyway, this isn't a review of the X-T1 (but we'll post one soon) and we're not here to tell you which is a "better" camera. That's a highly personal decision, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Onward...

Fujifilm M Mount Adapter

The Fujifilm M Mount Adapter lists for $199 USD. It broadly supports most M (and adapted LTM) lenses. We say broadly because while it doesn't do in-camera corrections for specific M lenses per se, the adapter/camera offers four preset focal lengths (21mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm) and can store two additional focal lengths - which can be individually tuned for distortion, color shading and vignetting correction. The focal length is reported to the camera (and thus EXIF) but will not report the aperture as you might be used to on the M (which really just uses a separate sensor on the body to guesstimate).

It's best to consult the Fujifilm M Mount Adapter compatibility list before purchase.



Besides a lens release button, the Fujifilm M Mount Adapter has a second (function) button which will bring up a menu on the camera to select your lens/settings. Admittedly this is an additional step over coded M lenses on an M body, but only when first mounting a lens. It therefore does not rely on lenses being coded, which is both a positive and a negative. On the plus side, you can mount any lens that's compatible and tweak the corrections for them individually to your heart's content... But the negative is that you're limited to six lenses at one time - four preset focal lengths and two that you can customize (though corrections can be customized for all six). If you have a lot of different lenses and/or focal lengths, this can be somewhat limiting. We might suggest using this functionality only for EXIF focal length tagging, shooting RAW and leaving corrections for the post-processing phase. Fujifilm has set up an extensive M Mount Adapter microsite with more info.



As to why there's a need for a compatibility list - in order to provide the ten electrical contacts for the function button, the internal throat diameter/depth is reduced... Thus, not all lenses will mount.

There are both more expensive (Novoflex FUX/LEM) and cheaper adapters on the market. While the build quality of the Novoflex is without reproach, the cost is silly - it's $269 USD. The cheaper options out there (less than $70-90) are no bargain. You'll notice by their cost, some as low as $10 USD - that they can't possibly be any good... And you'd be right. Far too much variability in what should be a very strict specification (depth) with poor, if any, quality control. You spent good money on your lenses - don't buy a crappy adapter. So let's take a look at a decent alternative to the Fujifilm one.

Kipon L/M-FX/M Adapter

The third-party option we're testing is the Kipon L/M-FX/M "Helicoid" adapter, and runs for about $155 USD. We chose this one because it's well-regarded and representative of third-party adapters in general, as it does not include a function button - and therefore no electronic contacts to the body. While this makes selecting the lens focal length a fair bit more tedious (as you have to go menu diving), it also eliminates most compatibility issues that the Fujifilm adapter has. The throat is larger and the depth not so limited. Ordered on the 'bay from China, it took about a week to arrive. It came well-packed in a Tupperware sort of plastic box with decals. Better than a plain cardboard box, at any rate. No instructions - though really, do you need any? It mounted onto the camera perfectly, as did a lens to it. Off to the races!

The adapter worked with the Fujifilm-incompatible Voigtländer 35mm f/1.2 Nokton perfectly - which is fantastic news, as other than Fuji's own XF35mmF1.4 R lens, this is probably the best valued "50mm" M lens you can attach to your X camera. While it doesn't have autofocus, it does offer slightly more speed at f/1.2. If you already have the Nokton and are determined to not buy more lenses, especially if you want a good standard lens - this is reason enough to buy this adapter (or similar).

But it gets better. As alluded to in the name, this adapter has an extra helicoid built-in, which lets you focus 50-80% closer than your M lens normally could. And by closer, we mean a lot closer. Think of it as a variable length extension tube for any lens attached. There's an extra ring on the adapter that when dialed down, works just like a focus ring - set your lens to MFD and keep going with the adapter. Like any extension tube, magnification increases the shorter your focal length (e.g. a 35mm lens will have more than a 50mm lens). It goes without saying that the closer the MFD of your M lens, the closer the MFD will be with the adapter (and thus also the magnification). Granted, most M lenses (especially Leica) only go to .7m at best, but some go to .5m - namely some Voigtländer and Zeiss lenses.

Just to give you an idea of how much closer this adapter lets you get, here's a quick sample using the Voigtländer 35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens. This is not indicative of performance (and why there are no larger versions available - so as not to mislead). Merely the lens' normal MFD compared to with the adapter:

In practice, it worked very well! The helicoid is easy to operate and smooth. Because it's a ring, it's hard to move unintentionally (though it could happen in theory). At its shortest, "normal" setting - it seems to hold just a little firmer than the rest of the range. But there are two things to be aware of. Unlike the Fuji M Mount Adapter, there's no function button - so you'll need to set the lens' focal length in the camera menu. Not a big deal unless you change focal lengths often.

The other thing we noticed is that any time the helicoid is turned for close-focusing (from its "normal" position) there is some very slight radial play in the helicoid. This means the lens wobbles ever so slightly. A bit disappointing, but not a show-stopper and it didn't affect the images at all. Attempting to tighten the screws on the adapter did not help; it's clearly within the helicoid, not the adapter assembly itself. We'd suggest cradling the camera properly and focusing as normal, then for the fine-tuning, move your head/camera back and forth slightly as needed - taking care not to put pressure on the lens and thereby moving it. This way the movement can't possibly affect your image. Though as we noted, it's a very slight movement and really shouldn't be an issue at all.

If you're paranoid, and don't need the close-focusing capability, save yourself half the price and go with the regular adapter. Either way, the adapters are built nicely with a good finish, quality materials and look great on the camera. The outer diameter is slightly larger than the Fujifilm. At $155 USD it's up there in the price range of adapters. Only the Fujifilm, Hawk's Factory and Novoflex are more expensive.

Manual Focusing

When it comes to using manual focus M lenses on the Fujifilm X-T1 specifically, you might just get spoiled. It offers normal (like a large ground glass screen), focus peaking (with the option of three colors in two intensities each) as well as split image (like a rangefinder) focusing aids. With the latter two, you see a regular image for composition to the left while seeing your magnified, focusing aid enhanced view to the right. But wait, there's more! When you switch to a portrait orientation, the viewfinder switches as well, so your shooting parameters are still easily readable. There are also other viewing options; "full" which utilizes as much of the display as possible to present your image or "normal" which shrinks it down a bit - which is great if you're shooting while wearing glasses. Speaking of glasses, the X-T1 has a very respectable 23mm eyepoint. If you prefer to do without, you can adjust the diopter of the EVF with a dial to the side (which offers click detents and ranges from -4 to +2). Did we mention the EVF is probably the best currently available? It's huge, bright, essentially lag-free and delightful. This is where it's truly at on this camera - it doesn't suck. Let's take a closer look.





In the above two videos, you can see the digital split image mode; the top in a full/normal screen mode and the bottom in dual view mode. The latter lets you compose with the image on the left and focus via a magnified view on the right. In practice, the split image mode does work - but we're not convinced it will win over ardent rangefinder shooters. It's not as clear and obvious as we're used to. At times, the details can get a little muddied, making it hard to focus. Other times it works very well. It depends on light levels and detail structure more so than a normal OVF.



In this video you can see what is probably the stand-out method of manual focusing; focus peaking. You can clearly see not only what's in focus but also get a clear, obvious sense of your DoF. You can use this aid in full, normal or dual screen modes as well. Furthermore, you can select any of three colors (red, blue or white) in two intensities (high and low) to tweak it to your liking.

It's worth noting that all of these modes and focus aids are available in the EVF and/or rear LCD. The EVF of the X-T1 and X-E2 with their high resolution - and the large size and magnification of the X-T1 especially, make this really quick and easy to use.

Finally, you can choose not to use the aforementioned focus aids and just use "standard" which is basically like a digital ground glass viewfinder. Just focus until your subject appears sharpest.

Shooting Experience

Regardless of which adapter you chose, how is it in practice? Relatively pain-free, we must say. Even more so if you don't change your lenses/focal lengths that often as it becomes a one-time, set and forget operation. As we talked about earlier, manual focusing on the X-T1 (and other Fujifilm X cameras, depending) is very nice. Why not get native Fujifilm XF/XC lenses? You certainly can - and we highly recommend the zooms. But this is about M lenses and using the X cameras as a second/alternative body. Plus, if you're carrying both bodies - this way you'll only need one set of lenses.

Some lenses seem to fit the camera especially well; for example, the Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH or Elmarit-M 90mm f/2.8. The former becomes a 75mm f/1.4 lens and the latter a 135mm f/2.8. Great for shooting portraits or head and shoulder shots. As a wider option, the Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (FLE) or Voigtländer 35mm f/1.2 Nokton (requiring a third-party adapter) make fantastic high speed "50mm" options. Wider still, the Voigtländer 21mm f/1.8 Ultron makes for a fast, well-performing 32mm equivalent. These are all well-built, dense lenses that exude quality.

If you're a Zeiss fan and prefer lighter lenses, the ZM lenses are great options. They tend to be much lighter than lenses from Leica and Voigtländer. We do have some reservations over their build quality, but optically they're fantastic. They do tend to be a bit larger than similar Leica lenses (who prefer more compact designs). The Zeiss Biogon 2/35 ZM makes for a capable 53mm lens for example, the Planar 2/50 ZM a stellar 75mm.

Two lenses make interesting choices, perhaps for obvious reasons. The Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH simply because it allows you to have ultra-thin DoF unlike very few other options, especially on an APS-C sensor (lenses from Mitakon and SLR Magic notwithstanding). Secondly, the Voigtländer 35mm f/1.2 Nokton (Mark I or II) lenses because it makes such a natural high-speed "50mm" lenses on the X cameras. Sadly, the latter is not compatible with the Fujifilm adapter as we've mentioned. But when paired with the Kipon adapter - you solve the compatibility problem and gain valuable close-focusing capability to boot! If it's your main shooting lens, the loss of focal length setting via the function button is not a major concern either. Both perform very well.

Performance

How do adapted M lenses perform on the Fujifilm cameras, and X-T1 specifically? We tested one lens after the other from all three manufacturers and have been very pleasantly surprised. Unlike full frame Sony A7/A7R/A7S cameras which have all manner of colored edge issues, we saw none of that with the X-T1. Sharpness is also outstanding... But depends a great deal on the quality of your adapter (and obviously, lens). Remember, cheap adapters are no bargain. You'll end up with uneven performance or worse. Using the Fujifilm M Mount Adapter as a benchmark, we were rather impressed at not only how seamless the experience was - but the performance as well.

That's not to say that every lens is perfect, but of those we tested, we had no complaints. As is typical, stopping down improves things further in almost all cases - up to the diffraction limit. We'd suggest staying at or below f/11 on the APS-C sensored X cameras (on the full frame Ms you can go up to f/13 or so). Below are a full host of sample images, shot with different manufacturer's lenses, with different focal lengths and apertures as well as different subject matter. This should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. Here's a more technical test of the Zeiss Planar 2/50 ZM, which is known to be blisteringly sharp from wide open on M cameras. On the X-T1 it did not disappoint. In fact, only the corners were slightly soft and stopping down sharpened them up quickly. The center was good to excellent throughout the range:

So is everything just great, then? Well, not exactly. At focal lengths of 35mm or longer, yes. So we won't bore you with performance testing of these; honestly, it's a little boring. It's more a statement of lens quality than how well it works on the X cameras. If it's a good M lens, then it's a good adapted lens as well. Where things get a little shadier is at shorter focal lengths. Even using the Fujifilm M Mount Adapter as we have, to rule out any third-party adapter quality issues - there is "corner smearing" with some lenses (not all). So let's focus on how well a typical offender looks; the Zeiss Biogon 2,8/25 ZM lens. By rights, this lens is an absolute performer on M cameras. Its quality from wide open, corner to corner, even wide open - is essentially without reproach. However, on our test rig this turned out not to be the case, which is most unfortunate. The camera was mounted on a tripod, leveled, focus set and WB locked. The self timer was used at 10s. The only variable in these tests is the aperture, which progressed from wide open at f/2.8 to the narrowest at f/22 in whole stops. Pay special attention to the corner crops, in the bottom series. You can click on an image in each series to browse them side-by-side easily:

Overall Image
Center Crop, 100%
Corner Crop, 100%, lower left

What causes the corner smearing? Surely this shouldn't be an issue with "full frame lenses" on an APS-C sensor which should be cropping these areas anyway, right? Well, actually several things cause the smearing, and it's a combination of all of these, save for perhaps the last:

  • Lenses with oblique light rays exiting the rear element (especially prevalent on wide angles)
  • Sensor cover glass/IR filter refraction (Leica uses 0.7-0.8mm glass, Fujifilm uses 2.5mm)
  • Microlens arrangement on sensor (Leica angles them more towards edges/corners)
  • Poor quality adapter with loose tolerances, shoddy assembly or quality control

Is this corner smearing going to be an issue? Well, if you're shooting brick walls wide open - definitely. If you're shooting real world scenes it's far less likely to matter, as the corners and edges will typically be out of focus anyway - and stopping down clears it up, as you would in landscape photos, for example. Check the sample images below; you'll see. No, Fujifilm X cameras are not a perfect solution... Stick to your M cameras if the ultimate quality is necessary (or use the outstanding native Fujifilm XF/XC lenses). However, all things considered, and especially for the money - and not having to carry another system's lenses around - this is a very viable alternative. Certainly better than the Sony A7/A7R/A7S cameras, which add color issues to the mix.

Sample Images

Below is a random sample of different images taken with M lenses on the Fujifilm X-T1. For a more complete and ongoing set of samples, see the thread in our forum called Sample Photos - M Lenses on Fuji X Cameras which already has many samples - and will only grow. Click on the images for a larger version with details such as the lens used and camera settings:

Flickr Pool Images

Where to Buy

If your interest is piqued, you can pick up the Fujifilm X-T1 (as well as lenses and accessories) from many vendors and camera shops. Here are a few suggestions...