The Panasonic AG-AF100 was the first large-sensor camcorder to hit the market, and because of its ability to capture full 1920×1080 HD to SD cards, 4⁄3-inch image sensor and relatively low price point ($4,995), the camera quickly became popular with indie filmmakers. Now that the video industry has shifted toward large CMOS sensors in hopes of luring back some of those DSLR filmmakers, one of the big issues for Canon DSLR users is figuring out what to do with their EF lenses, since both Panasonic and Sony use different lens mounts. Another issue that potential AF100 buyers have to think about before buying into the micro 4/3s system is lenses. Although there are a number of micro 4/3s lenses from Olympic and Panasonic, the number of zooms and primes are far fewer than Canon’s EF line, and are typically slower (variable ƒ/3.5-5.6). But there’s good news for AF100 owners, and you can make good use of your excellent EF glass. Cinema accessory manufacturer Redrock Micro has recently released the LiveLens MFT (Micro Four Thirds), a unique lens adapter that allows you to use Canon EF lenses with any micro 4/3s-mount cameras, including the AF100, the Panasonic GH1/2 and the Olympus PEN cameras.
Besides the lens mount, another important distinction between the AF100 and Canon DSLRs is the sensor. The AF100 contains a 4/3s sensor, while Canon DSLRs contain either an APS-C sensor (7D, 60D) or a full-frame sensor (5D Mark II). Because of the micro 4/3s’ smaller sensor, the crop factor compared to a full-frame sensor is 2x and 1.5x for APS-C sensors. This has an effect when shooting with a wide-angle lens because the 2x crop factor makes it more difficult to find a true wide-angle lens. (A 24mm wide-angle lens becomes more like a 50mm portrait lens.)
One of the drawbacks of EF lenses is that you can’t adjust the aperture directly on the lens; it can only be changed electronically through a Canon EOS camera body. What makes the LiveLens MFT valuable is that the adapter allows you to communicate with the lens directly. Once the adapter is attached and power is connected, you’re able to control your exposure by 1⁄3-stop increments by pushing two buttons on the side of the adapter, one to open the lens up and one to stop down. A tiny digital screen on the adapter indicates your exposure. When I first attached my Zeiss 35mm ZF prime lens and then the battery pack, I was confused because I wasn’t receiving an image. After getting word from Redrock Micro to turn off the Lens Check setting in the Other Functions menu section, the LiveLens worked like a charm.
What makes the LiveLens MFT valuable is that the adapter allows you to communicate with the lens directly.
An issue DSLR filmmakers deal with are the numerous add-ons and cables to make the camera more cinema-friendly. One negative I found to the LiveLens is that you need a separate power source in order to use it. Redrock Micro includes a 9-volt battery pack that attaches to the LiveLens via a short cable and powers it for approximately 20 hours. You’ll have to Velcro® the battery pack somewhere on the camera, with most users attaching it to the bottom of the AF100’s handle. It would be great if you could power the LiveLens from the camera’s battery source, but that would entail a significantly higher price point. Birger Engineering plans to release an EF-to-micro 4/3s mount that’s powered by the camera, but the MSRP is $700 compared to the LiveLens’ price of $495.
The Redrock Micro LiveLens MFT is a solid accessory, and if you’re looking for an affordable solution to make use of your EF lenses, it’s an essential piece of gear.
Contact: Redrock Micro, (888) 214-3903, www.redrockmicro.com.