First off, let’s get the big question out of the way first: Is it worth paying $400 for a Speed Booster when you can get a Lens Turbo for only $130? As one who has both adapters, in my opinion, absolutely. If you are in the market for one of these wide converters, save up and get the Metabones. When used with faster lenses, the Speed Booster is significantly sharper on the edges of the frame, and frankly anywhere outside the center 20% of the frame. Field curvature also doesn’t seem to be nearly as big a problem as it is with the Lens Turbo.
So now let’s get on to specifics with the Speed Booster.
Metabones promises increased MTF on lenses when used with the Speed Booster. This turns out to be both true and false. In the central part of the image, this claim is certainly true, with images being surprisingly sharp in the center, and indeed sharper than the bare lens with a standard adapter. Towards the edges, it’s not quite as true, as there is some softening of detail and contrast as you get to the edges of the frame. Luckily, with the Speed Booster, this softening isn’t particularly severe. Images from the fast lenses I tested are usable across the vast majority of the frame even wide open. There is some variation on performance based on a specific lens, however.
I tried the Speed Booster on the Canon new FD 50mm f/1.4, the Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 SSC and the Canon FL 55mm f/1.2. All of these lenses are fast normal focal length lenses, and all three are quite sharp across the frame by themselves. While the two 50mm lenses performed near identically, the FL 55mm f/1.2 performs notably better across the frame. While there is a visible dip in resolution on the 50mm lenses about a quarter of the way into the frame from the long edge, the 55mm retains good sharpness until you get to the corners. This is not to say the 50mm lenses performed poorly. They are still quite decent, but that sharpness dropoff is visible if you pixel peep. I also noticed edge resolution loss on the FD 35mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.8, though the FD 135mm f/2, like the 55mm f/1.2, seemed largely immune to this.
One thing that is consistent with all lenses, though, is that the sharpness profile is slightly wavy…very sharp in the center, then going a little softer as you near the edges, then sharpness increases again as you get to the very edge of the frame. The extreme corners, however, go to complete mush with all lenses. Luckily, this is only the last 2-3% of the corner and is almost never an issue unless you are using the Speed Booster for critical landscape work stopped down on a tripod.
Using these lenses stopped down to optimal aperture yields sharp images across the frame (excepting the extreme corners). While you still may notice some of that wavy sharpness profile if you look very closely with some lenses, overall, the lenses perform very well stopped down.
On the whole I was very impressed with the sharpness that the Speed Booster was able to maintain. Even those that don’t work quite as well are still quite usable. Compared to the Lens Turbo, it’s not even a contest: The Speed Booster is much better with faster aperture lenses.
Thankfully, the Speed Booster appears to have no major effect on the bokeh characteristics of a lens. At least, no detrimental effect. It’s hard to say if it affects the edge bokeh, as I can’t mount FD lenses to a modern full frame DSLR to test this. If I get my hands on a Sony A7 for review, I’ll try to test this to see how full frame corner bokeh looks with and without the Speed Booster.
In any case, bokeh from the lenses appears to be well in line with the lens’ native look. As one of the main reasons for getting the Speed Booster is to obtain full-frame shallow depth of field capability on an APS-C camera, this is very good news.
In contrast with the Lens Turbo, the Speed Booster did not seem to have any major effect on chromatic aberration. There may be a very slight increase in lateral CA, but for all intents and purposes, it’s nothing to worry about.
There is a notable increase in barrel distortion with certain lenses, especially at close focus distances. This is lens dependent, however, and seemed more dependent on focal length than anything else. Wider and normal lenses showed more distortion, while longer lenses showed virtually none.
Additionally, partly because of the use of the full image circle and partly because of the limited optical size of the Speed Booster, there is visible corner shading or vignetting with the Speed Booster. For portrait considerations, I actually view this as a positive, as I quite like some natural lens vignetting or shading in my portraits. It is flattering to the subject and the photo in most situations. In other situations, it’s not so good. I found that I could correct natural lens vignetting via the vignetting slider in Lightroom, though sometimes it took maxing out the slider to correct it. However, caution must be taken when shooting with telephoto lenses with deeply recessed rear elements with the Speed Booster. These lenses can actually mechanically vignette, causing a hard black edge to the corners that can’t really be corrected. Of all my FD glass, only my FD 50-300mm f/4.5L suffered from this, but it was visible at all focal lengths.
One important thing to note is the Speed Booster does not seem to generally affect how a lens draws. If you like a certain lens for the way it handles tonal transitions, or depth of field rolloff, or the contrast of the lens, these things are all preserved with the Speed Booster.
Note: This is not a flaw with the Speed Booster, but rather a limitation of digital cameras as they currently exist. It is important to note that the ‘extra stop of light’ you get with the Speed Booster breaks down when you start dealing with extremely fast lenses. While the optical effect is always there, the exposure benefit hits a wall around f/1.1 due to an effect called Pixel Shading.
What this means is that due to the depth of the microlenses and pixel wells in the sensor, there is only so much light that can be gathered by the lens and transmitted to these wells. The limit comes around f/1.1 or so. You can see this in the f/0.95 lenses for Micro 4/3: While they certainly exhibit shallower depth of field and the blurrier backgrounds associated with its f/0.95 aperture, it only exposes about a half a stop faster than an f/1.4 lens.
Similarly, using an f/1.2 lens on the speed booster results in a combination with an insane aperture of f/0.9! It would nominally be an f/0.85 lens, though the Speed Booster is limited to f/0.9 due to the size of the optics. Again, the optical considerations and rendering are fully consistent with this f/0.9 aperture, but you’ll notice that the shutter speed you get with the lens at f/0.9 is only fractionally faster than what you get with the lens without the Speed Booster. Since I am mostly after the optical characteristics, this is not a big deal, but it is worth noting that you will hit a wall with the Speed Booster in terms of exposure when you start dealing with ultra-fast lenses.
56 thoughts on “Review: Metabones Speed Booster (Canon FD to Fuji X)”
Excellent article. I just received my FD to m4/3 version. What are the two blue blob in the ” thumbing it” frame ? Led point sources ?
They’re the blue LED indicators on my satellite receiver.
as an owner of the NF to X mount speedbooster , i find all your opinions to be valid …. thanks for an excellent review , and for clairifying the pixel well issue … the images with the speedbooster are truly full frame character and oof degree on apsc , a small miracle , i hope your excellent review will sway the incredulous leading to more
acceptance of this wonderful device, and more companies producing them
You wrote “the Speed Booster allows you to take full frame SLR lenses and use them on an APS-C camera with the optical properties of using them on a full-frame camera”.
Does this only apply to full frame SLR lenses or does it also expand APS-C lenses to apparent full frame?
It only works for full frame lenses because the Speed Booster condenses the full frame image circle into an APS-C sized image circle, so putting an APS-C lens on it will yield an image circle smaller than the sensor:result, big black edges.
Micro 4/3 users can potentially use APS-C lenses, though.
this is actually not entirely true – at least some APS-C lenses can and have been used successfully through MB speed booster. One of such was Canon’s EF-S 10-22 1.6x crop zoom. At about 12mm image circle is already wide enough, although with some slight vignetting; but from 14mm even vignette is mostly gone:
excellent reviews here 😀
Have you ever considered a write up concerning the substantial advantages that APS-C setup has over FF for wildlife/sports/fast action shooters:
– foremost 1.5x reach advantage in securing the same FOV, as esp. in wildlife shooting every inch of working distance to one’s target counts;
– faster, usually much faster frame rates, as high FPS coupled with shorter min. shutter speeds are much harder to attain on FF platform – except at the top tier pro FF bodies they do struggle to offer 2-3 FPS, whereas APS-C flies with 8-12 FPS, and the newest Samusung N1even climbed to15 FPS;
– much quicker and sustainable AF’ing speed and continuous tracking at high FPS;
Very nice piece, Jordan. I need to adjust mine (FD) because none of my lenses reach infinity. Also, the ring that engages the aperture mechanisms is virtually identical to the “preset” rings found on many old lenses from the era of stopped-down metering. This allows one to preset the aperture, open the aperture to focus, then quickly return it for the shot.
Thank you for this excellent piece! Your review provided all of the information I’ve needed to make a decision about the Speed Booster. I’m going to purchase it for use with a 50mm F/1.4 MD ROKKOR-X on my Sony NEX-7. Once I’ve had some experience with it, I’ll share anything relevant and useful here.
In the UK via ebay, the Lens Turbo is available for £78 ($125) whilst the Speed Booster is £478 ($763). Given the speed booster is 7x the price of the Lens Turbo, how would that affect your opinion (if you had to pay UK prices)?
Wow, really? As I said in my Lens Turbo review, it’s worth the $125. It’s just not worth any more than that because fast lenses do experience some fairly significant optical compromises with the Lens Turbo.
The Speed Booster is, in my opinion, also worth it’s price (well, the US price). Hard to say if it’s goinging to be worth the price for you.
The big difference for me is that I can see myself using the SB with my 55/1.2 and 35/2 for serious photographic work as a somewhat daily carry. I see the Lens Turbo as a device that can give you a certain look when you absolutely need it, but the optical degradation outside of the center on fast lenses would keep it squarely in the ‘special use’ category.
That said, if you are adapting slowish telephoto lenses, the Lens Turbo works pretty well. My MD 135/2.8 works very well with it.
Hi Jordan, whe you say that ” While the two 50mm lenses performed near identically” you mean identically to what? to the standard adapter? I have only 50mm fd lenses and if so it would make much sense a speed booster for me…
To each other. The new FD 50mm f/1.4 and the FD 50mm f/1.4 SSC worked well, and essentially identical to each other (though the new FD had slightly more blur, oddly enough). The 55/1.2 worked the best of the three, and is really excellent on the speed booster.
Thank you Jordan for replying. But still a bit confused here: just wondering if this (expensive) Speed Booster gives a real improvement to Canon FD lenses (especially 50mm f1.4 s.s.c.) compared to same lenses mounted via standard cheap adapter.
It’ll be sharper in the center and a little softer on the edges.
The reason to use the speed booster is not to improve the MTF in my opinion. It’s to get similar FOV and depth if field as the lens on a full frame camera. If you have no need for that, the I wouldn’t spend the money. If you do have that need, it works quite well.
And you also get one stop light, isn’t it? Thank you very much though, I got it pretty clear now.
Yes, but remember that ultra-fast lenses won’t show that stop in transmission due to pixel shading. Optically, you’ll be that stop faster, but the camera maxes out in exposure at about f/1.1 or so, so don’t expect a full stop of light with an f/1.4 or f/1.2 lens on the Speed Booster.
Fuji XF 35mm f.4 vs Canon FD 50mm f1.4 + speed booster, which one do you prefer (their price is not that much different) ? Thanks!
I use them for different purposes. I pretty much use the FD when I want that super shallow DOF look, which isn’t all that often. If I could only take one, it’d be the Fuji 35…AF makes it more versatile and it’s very good from 1.4. Stopped down its a little better on the extreme edges too.
Thank you so much for your reply, I am getting the Fuji 35mm 🙂 .
My husband has a Canon FD 24mm f2.0 Lens (in a very good condition), do you think it will work well with the speed booster? Or speed booster is a better fit with tele-lenses? Thanks!
It’s very lens dependent. I wouldn’t say telephotos work better or worse than wides. My FD 35mm f/2 works brilliantly on it. If it’s a good lens, it should at least be decent on the speed booster. Some lenses may even be better.
So when you use this what type of settings do you set the Fuji X-E2 into? I get that it is manual focus, which is great, but do you have to tell the camera what aperature setting it is and it can decide the shutter speed approriately? Just curious about the general settings used when using this speed adapter. Thanks! Great shots by the way and this makes me want to get my X-E2 sooner rather than later so I can use my Canon FD glass from my father’s Canon AE-1 setup he has had since the late 1970s!
The camera is metering in real time. When you stop down, the sensor receives less light and adjusts the shutter speed accordingly. The camera does not need to know what aperture the lens is at, it just meters based on the amount of light reaching the sensor.
When using a manual lens, just set the AF to manual mode on the camera. If you want to shoot in aperture priority mode, just set aperture on the lens as you desire, the shutter speed to auto and away you go.
is there really no stopped down picture you could show us to illustrate how bad the edges turn out to be?
I guess the bench picture is not representative because it is already OOF.
Thanks for the review by the way!
Hi. I hadn’t taken a ton of photos stopped down with the Speed Booster when I wrote the review. I took several test shots with several lenses stopped down to check sharpness and aberrations so I could ensure it worked well at those apertures, but none that I would view as worthy of presentation. I have since added a shot in the sample images at f/8 (f/11 on the lens) with the 55/1.2 on the Speed Booster.
Hi, I was wondering if you did any tests with any ultra wide lens like the 17mm f/4 FD? Similarly if you would consider doing a shot with the 55mm 1.2 with and speed booster and then replicated with a plain adapter (such as possible with the different crop) to see the effect of the bokeh.
Also I notice it does not seem possible to actually buy one of these at the moment, any insights on availability?
I was also wondering how it will turn out with WA/UWA lenses – I am planning on using a Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 (Nikon Mount), besides the usual 50mm and 85mm, on the Fuji X-E2 and am wondering if I must expect any severe compromises?!
It is hard for me to tell you. Performance varies with each lens. I did not have the opportunity to test with an ultra wide, as I don’t have any UWA FD lenses.
A canon FD 55mm + speed turbo mounted on a FUJIFILM X PRO / X-E1 is absolutely not turned into a 39mm.
all the information you provide are mistaken.
a canon FD 55mm + speed turbo on a FUJI APS-C is = 55 x 1.52 x 0.72 = 60mm.
No, kind sir, it is you who are mistaken.
You are mistakenly thinking that the crop factor does anything to the focal length, which it most assuredly does not. The magnification factor of the Speed Booster is 0.71x. 55×0.71 = 39mm. That is the focal length of the combination. Period. The crop factor of the camera body does not change the focal length one iota. The focal length is a property of the lens and the lens ONLY.
Now, it has the field of view of a 58mm lens on a full frame camera (1.5x39mm = 58.5mm), but the focal length of the combination is 39mm. The camera crop factor is only a reference for field of view for shooters who are accustomed to using the 135 format and know what a certain focal length looks like on that format…nothing more.
I understand you are providing info on the true lens focal lengths, but I still feel that the article is somewhat confusing – as Hughes perhaps did.
For most, when you say (for example) a FF 50mm lens on a crop factor body like the Fuji-X (1.5 x crop APS-C) using a SB becomes a 35mm – they assume they will get greater coverage. My understanding is that they will not, they will get a 53.25mm focal length equivalent (50mm x .071 x 1.5, same as using a Fuji-XF 35mm – 35mm x 1.5 = 52.5mm). I would suggest that everyone who uses an APS-C system already thinks in terms of crop, and considering the SB only works on crop body cameras, then why even bring a FF equivalent measurement into the discussion?
Here’s a good article which also starts to explain well, but for me becomes more complex as it goes on. http://www.slrlounge.com/near-full-frame-in-a-micro-43-camera-the-metabones-speedbooster-nikon-adapter-review
Anyway, I enjoyed your review, and the sample images – thanks! B
They do get greater coverage. They move from a 50mm lens to a 35mm lens. That’s wider coverage. And it’s wider coverage by a factor similar to the lesser coverage of the smaller sensor. The speed booster turns a 50mm f/1.4 into a 35mm f/1.0. That’s what it does.
I frankly hate how ‘crop factor’ was originally explained to shooters. It has caused so much confusion by people being sloppy with terminology, saying things like “on this camera, your 50mm lens becomes an 80mm lens.” No…no it doesn’t.
Most APS-C shooters don’t even have a full frame reference point, so why should they even compare at all?
Anyway, I have revised the text slightly to hopefully reduce the confusion.
I get that what you’re saying is technically correct, but we aren’t physicists, we’re photographers. The focal technical focal length of a lens (0.71x. 55×0.71 = 39mm) has little relation to the actual user experience and application of the lens. If you’re trying to help people by writing this article, all you’ve done is further convolute the issue.
Lenses are universally discussed in terms of their 135-equivalent field of view – be it APS-C, micro 4/3, or medium format. It’s what we all relate these back to to gain an understanding of a lenses application.
If you’re trying to make the issue easier to understand, please consider using field of view as a reference. As it is, you’re only further confusing everyone through this technical, pedant math.
One of the best reviews I’ve ever seen. Bravo!
I am very disappointed to read about this “Pixel Shading” that I was not aware of. When I bought the Metabones Speed Booster there was no mention about this limitation; I expected one full stop boost without any limits as their website implies. Is this Pixel Shading addressed in any of the Metabones documents? I may have not bought it since the main attraction for me was my Minolta 58mm/F1.2 becoming a fast F0.85; now your review implies that F1.1 is the best it does.
It’s nothing to do with the optics. Your lens would become an f/0.85 lens, and will show all optical properties from that aperture, such as depth of field. However, there is a SENSOR limitation with regards to ultra fast aperture. On the Fuji X cameras, it appears to be around f/1.1, where faster than that doesn’t result in faster shutter speeds for the same exposure.
The pixel shading is basically the limit where the aperture is maxed out by the effective aperture of the actual micro lenses over each pixel in the sensor. When these are the limiting factor, you effectively hit the aperture limit for the sensor.
There’s a much more technical explanation here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_sensor_format#Sensor_size_and_shading_effects
Thanks for your reply. I take it this is true for any lens on any digital camera based on the pixel size? Do the fast 0.95 micro-four-third lenses suffer from this too?
I just bought canon fd Fuji x speed booster.
When it’s arrived the back is protruding way inside. So even could not be attached to Fuji x pro 1 body.
That’s why I adjust the infinity.
I used it on canon FL 55/1.2 and FD 135/2
On FL 55/1.2 I adjust the infinity, even until the speed booster optic element meet with the lens back element, it still can’t reach infinity.
When I use the regular adapter this lens work well.
I could not achieve infinity on 135/2 also with 55/1.2 setting.
But actually I could adjust more on 135/2 since the back of the lens is deeper.
Since you also using the same lenses, do you achieve infinity especially for 55/1.2 ?
Do you have any ideas how to resolve my case?
Thanks a lot Jordan
Seems I turn it wrong. I turn counter clock wise and now it could reach focus further.
But yet not until infinity. I could turn it further but then it could not be mounted
Hey Jordan! Thank you for the great review! It got me really interested in the Speed Booster!
Just a quick question: when manual focusing on the X-Pro1 with the Speed Booster, are you limited to Electronic VF only, or does the camera show up the focus squares in green once focus is achieved with the Optical VF?
Wow, thanks for the great explanation, Jordan. I kept hearing about Speed Booster but always skip it b/c I did not actually know what exactly it does (or got good explanation) and skeptical about the IQ degration caused by any adapter. However, your sample images did say it all. I am portrait shooter who loves bokeh and shallow DOF and thats’ why I still hesitate to make a move to Fuji. This will definitely provide a great alternative although Manual focus proves to be difficult when shooting young children who constantly move around.
Btw, I’m also software developer and I really admire your photography knowledge. Keep it up, thanks!
This is brilliant option for portrait shooter like you and I who dearly misses shallow DOF. Your knowledge and the photos speak for themselves, great job. I’m thinking of moving to Fuji system in a year and would love to play with this option. Can you share your experience on how you set aperture and speed manually when shooting with these FD lenses? I find it difficult to shoot young kids like mine who constantly move around so even with AF, it’s already challenging. I gradually learn to “set and anticipate” but would be great to hear from your experience.
Also, do you think the Canon 80-200 f4 L lens is worth it?
Great review that I’ve referred back to several times. I have the same Metabones speedbooster Fuji X to Canon FD. I’ve done my own informal tests using the following FDn lenses: 24mm f2.8, 28mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 100mm f2.8, including the Fuji X 35mm f1.4 for comparison. All tests used printed patterns placed in center and at the edge of frame, shot at f2.8 and f8 at varying distances to make the sizes of the test patterns virtually the same… tripod, cable release, ISO 200 with studio lights, several takes to get the best focus.. basically due diligence.
Surprising results actually. Like with your findings, IQ in the center of all lenses is brilliant. The 24 and 28 seem to suffer terribly from the edge until about 1/3 of the way into the frame. The 50mm as well, but to a lesser extent, but I suspect on a full frame it was never a stellar performer on the frame edge (based on http://erphotoreview.com/). Even at f8 the 24/28 are still fairly weak on that 1/3 edge which was disappointing as I don’t feel great using these for landscape work now. The 50mm sharpens up quiet well corner to corner by f8. The real surprise was the 100mm f2.8, which was brilliant corner to corner even at f2.8. My experience with the 100mm seems to line up with your comments on the 135mm and 55mm, as the IQ seemed unaffected by the adapter.
Comparing against the Fuji X 35mm, I found the Fuji a hair sharper than the 50mm in the center at f2.8 and enormously better on the frame edge. By f8 both the Fuji and Canon are fairly close, with perhaps the Fuji a hair sharper, but it was really a toss up by f8. What floored me was the Canon FDn 100mm f2.8. It was definitely a hair or two sharper than the Fuji X 35mm, both at f2.8 and f8, corner to corner. I’m not sure how that’s possible given the reputation of the Fuji 35mm, but I saw it for myself, so I’m a believer.
For my part, I’m very curious to see how the Canon FDn 35mm f2.8 performs corner to corner as a walk around lens, and compare the 50mm 1.4 against the 1.8… something for another day.
Again, thanks for your review.
Stephen,,,, have you published those test charts online anywhere?
Great review, thanks!
Just have one question: If I use the Metabone adapter and a Canon lens with no aperture ring on a Fuji, can I set the aperture manually within the camera?
Could you please be more specific about “that full-frame look”? It appears that apart from shatter speed and return to the actual focal length (50mm will be 50mm again) “that full-frame look” is the only advantage we get vs. barrel distortion and corner resolution.
A few things. First, the focal length doesn’t ‘return to the actual focal length’. It’s a common misconception, but the focal length is a property of the lens and doesn’t change with format. What the Speed Booster does is act as a wide-angle converter that is roughly equivalent to the crop factor. So a 50mm f/1.4 lens will actively change focal length and effective aperture when mounted on the Speed Booster (as a combo) to a 35mm f/1.0 lens. Then, with the crop factor, you’ll have the same field of view as a 52mm lens would on full-frame.
The ‘full-frame look’ I’m referring to is the shallow depth of field capabilities that are hard to come by on smaller sensors. Because you need a 35mm f/1.0 on APS-C to get the same depth of field and angle of view as a 50mm f/1.4, and there are very few 35mm f/1.0 lenses, it’s hard to achieve the look of a 50/1.4 on the smaller sensor. The Speed Booster takes that 50/1.4 and turns it into the 35mm f/1.0 that is needed to provide the same depth of field. Effectively, it means the lens acts similarly to how it would on a full frame sensor.
And yes, the advantage is some extra speed for shutter speed and shallower depth of field. If you don’t have a need for either, then the Speed Booster doesn’t make a ton of sense, especially as APS-C mirrorless offerings have excellent native glass to fill all the field of view needs.
first of all thank you very much for finding time to answer!
About a SB:
I purchased it a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the construction of the SB will not allow it to hit infinity. Yes, you can FOCUS on infinity, but if you set your lens (any Canon FD, I tried 6 of them) on infinity mark, it will be out of focus. It means you will pass infinity. Correspondingly if you set your lens on 3 feet – it will focus from about 4.5 inches more. It means for the actual camera position in focus 40.5 inches from the target the lens will show 36 inches.
Yes, I tried to move SB optics the way it is provided. To achieve appropriate lens-distance setting one will need optical block to the position it will hit the lens back.
It is quite obvious to me that SB designer decided to sacrifice correspondence of infinity focus to lens markings to ability to actually make this SB.
I find it in a hard way. After using SB for a few weeks I realized it scratched a circular scratch on the coating of my Canon FD 85/1.2. Infinity was ALMOST on. When I moved optical block of the SB from the lens back the passing infinity effect appeared.
Conclusion: if you don’t care to loose a few inches on the closest focusing distance and having past infinity, and is OK with a strong barrel distortion – the SB is working “as it should”.
That addessers several of my concerns actually.
How’s things?, on occasion I get a 500 website error when I view this webpage. Just a heads up, cheers
Hi Jordan. Thanks for sharing. I have a FD 15mm f/2.8 SSD full frame fisheye. What are you thoughts on this with the booster? Thanks.