New Life for EF Lenses

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April 2023

35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art 012
1/200th @ f/1.4
ISO 500
Lumix DC-S5

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New Life for EF Lenses
Not only does the AF system on the LUMIX S5II deliver amazing results for native L-mount lenses, but the performance of EF lenses is exceptional to the point of giving Canon owners a legitimate upgrade path at an affordable price.

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An old lens is like a good friend, you’re always happy to see them again. I’ve been lucky enough to share a lot of journeys with my old EF mount gear in decades past and they have served me very well. Most of the lenses I have for EF mount are just a little bit unique – I never bought cheap gear. The 50mm f/1.2 is a big favie of mine, but also the Zeiss 50mm f/2 macro. You can never have too many 50mm lenses!

I moved over to the L-Mount system quite some time ago however, and most of my EF lenses have been sitting on the shelf since then. I use a few for studio work, to save me packing down a rig each time I head off for a travel shoot. In the studio we mainly shoot manual focus anyway, so the limitation of older lenses attached with an adaptor were never an issue.

With the release of the new LUMIX S5II however, there is new life for my old lenses. It turns out that many of my EF lenses work equally well on this new LUMIX than they did on my old DSLR gear. That’s quite a result, especially given the sheer number of Sigma EF f/1.4 primes we bought during those years! My trusty old Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 MkII performed nicely on the LUMIX S5II, but undeniably with a touch of lag when compared to the native LUMIX S PRO 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. The 50mm f/1.2 performed pretty much the same on the LUMIX S5II as the 5DSR, and likewise when I tested the more recent 50mm f/1.8 STM by Canon.

Not all my Sigma lenses felt as good on the LUMIX S5II however, with some slow performance when testing the limits of close range on the 35mm f/1.4 EF... until I switched the AF setup to use "Pinpoint - 1 Area" (Read the postscript below with a comment from Panasonic Australia). Mind you, we’ve had plenty of issues with getting focus at the limits of the lens on the DSLR too. The caveat here is that after many years of shooting with native L-mount lenses, I really see the difference in DSLR versus mirrorless AF response. It feels so slow to my brain, watching these older lenses bobble through the focal range in search of a target.

On some level I had hoped the new camera would elevate these older lenses to something closer to the native L-mount experience, but that just isn’t the case. It feels like I’m shooting with a DSLR again, which is not necessarily what I'm aiming for but not entirely unexpected either. It seems my affection for these old lenses is filtered through rose-coloured glasses. While my 50mm f/1.2mm was never a snappy lens for AF, the experience of shooting with the LUMIX S5II does make the lens that much more enjoyable and the combination is definitely something I plan to make use of in future.

The other caveat here is which adaptor you’re using. I own three different models, from Sigma, Fotodiox and Viltrox. I had issues initially with the Fotodiox on the S5II until I realised there was a firmware update some months ago to support the new focus system on the S5II. The Sigma MC21 was trouble free, and so was the Viltrox EF-L Pro. None of these adaptors sent through metadata on the lens model itself, although the focal length and f-stop was evident in the file. The Viltrox EF-L Pro for some reason would only go to f/1.3 instead of f/1.2 on my fancy 50mm.

Keep in mind also that AF performance for stills is a very different challenge than for video. I use my LUMIX gear a lot for video work and typically I want responsive but smooth focus. For stills I want laser speed lock on so there's no delay in the shutter firing. The EF lenses for video are great performers and deliver great results in most situations. For stills the gap between native L-mount and EF is far more obvious.

For anyone who already owns a set of Canon full-frame lenses and is looking to upgrade, I recommend they take a look at the LUMIX S5II. Obviously my opinion here is biased, given my relationship with Panasonic, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong :) The S5II is absolutely worth a closer look, and there’s never been a better time to make the switch.

As an aside, I do think people overthink the technical aspects of cameras. There are no bad cameras out there, and most cameras will do what you need to do. I always recommend people buy the camera that feels good in their hands, or the one they prefer the menu system, or whatever it is about the camera that gets them excited. If you love your camera you’ll love your photography.

I certainly loved my old 5D gear back in the day, but it turns out I love the LUMIX S5 a lot more. Moving from DSLR to mirrorless was a mixed bag for me at first, which is one reason I waited so long. The S5 made that step super easy for me, and now we have the S5II that delivers even more. It gives me 6K video in 10-bit VLOG, it gives me amazing stabilisation in camera, it gives me a battery that lasts for days on the road, and gives me a tonne of features that I could never have imaged on the DSLR. And now it gives me full use of my lovely EF lenses. Huge win.

If you own a bunch of Canon EF lenses and are looking to dabble in other camera systems, this is your moment. You can dip your toe in the water and decide if you like it or not, without having to buy a bunch of native L-mount lenses. You will have to buy an adaptor for around AU$300, but for that price you get full access to every EF lens you really love and then get to spend a little more time with your favourite old friends. Quality time at that!

– Ewen

PS, I reached out to Panasonic Australia to get a little clarification on how the S5II manages to support EF lenses, and the differences between employing contrast detect versus phase detect in video and still modes. The video is just amazingly smooth and practical to use, but stills photography typically demands a more snappy response style that shows up the benefits of mirrorless over DSLR. A few people on forums had mentioned to me that AFC might employ better focus on the EF lenses than AFS for example. Here's the reply I got from Panasonic, noting that "Pinpoint - 1 Area Mode" is important in this context. I took their advice and suddenly that Sigma 35mm f/1.4 EF lens became a lot more useful!...

“The new Phase Hybrid AF system featured on our S5II and S5IIX provides impressive auto focus performance for both stills & video shooting. While our system is optimised for the more than 60 native L-mount lenses available, users can still get impressive performance from their legacy lenses with adapters such as the Sigma MC-21. When utilising adapted lenses, we’ve found the best focus performance is gained by utilising the AFC mode, or if AFS is required, by utilising the Pinpoint – 1 area mode.”

If you would like a copy of my configuration for the LUMIX S5II that is geared towards stills more than video, and has a special custom setting loaded into C3-9 specifically for EF lenses, follow this link and scroll down to the bottom of my article on "LUMIX S5II Custom Settings"...

Read about the Viltrox EF-L Pro adaptor:

Read about the Fotodiox EF-L adaptor:

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