Novoflex Canon EOS EF lens to Leica SL (Typ 601) AF adapter review

The Novoflex Canon EOS EF lens to Leica SL (Typ 601) AF adapter (released in May 2016) is reviewed by David Taylor Hughes (Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram): 

Novoflex, a German photo and film accessory company have come up with a Canon EOS EF lens to Leica SL (Typ 601) adapter that enables autofocus. Since I have an SL and several Canon lenses, I bought one. This was primarily to add some lens choices since the SL system currently has only two. I’ve tried both Leica zooms, the 24-90mm and 90-280mm and they are both astonishingly and surprisingly heavy. The 90-280mm is pretty much the heaviest lens I’ve ever tried to pickup. As a full-time landscape stock photographer who walks a lot these are obviously out of the question. I’ve been using some Leica R and Nikon lenses on my SL via Novoflex adapters and they have worked very well with the excellent MF capabilities of the camera, but the chance to use AF with my Canon lenses was very tempting, so I parted with £400+ to get the adapter.

These are the Canon lenses I used-

FULL FRAME:

  • 17-40mm f/4 zoom
  • 28-135mm zoom
  • 40mm f/2.8 pancake
  • 85mm f1.8

APS-C

  • 24mm f/2.8 pancake

THE AF

I’m sure that people reading this are primarily interested in how the AF works. Well it does (mostly) but in terms of speed and 100% reliability it’s not good news. Older Canon lenses, like the 28-135mm works intermittently. It tries, but it’s completely unpredictable. The other lenses are better but it often takes me a couple of presses on the shutter to get that accurate lock and I tend to keep the focus peaking on to make sure I’m in sharp focus. Speed is not too bad, not great, but will handle most uses apart from when you need fast instant focus lock. Oddly enough the fastest and most reliable AF results I’ve got are from the APS-C 24mm f/2.8 pancake.

So, if you are looking for an adapter that gives Canon DSLR AF performance or something like the SL with it’s native lenses, then from my experience, you will be disappointed. If you work in a leisurely way, as I do, shooting landscapes, buildings and nature subjects then it may well be good enough, but you need to be aware that if that once in a lifetime shot presents itself, you may well miss it if you are relying on the AF from this adapter.

Novoflex have indicated that since they a relationship with Leica, improvements may come with firmware updates from Leica for the SL. Whether this will improve things, who knows and Metabones never really got AF up to required levels with their adapters via firmware and had to release new adapters. However, as I indicated Novoflex do work with Leica on this so there may be hope.

MANUAL FOCUSING

This of course works very well. And the adapter communicates with the lenses and the camera and gives full exif readout. It is also possible to change the aperture from the camera, which is a good job since with Canon EF lenses, there is no other way to do it. However, the magnification function which is triggered by pressing the joystick isn’t available. Pressing it focuses the lens. I can find no way to get this to change. However pressing the bottom left camera button magnifies the image, though this isn’t quite so comfortable.

The question remains, is this useful for you? Certainly Canon have a huge lens range, bigger than Leicas and that is liable to be the case for a long time to come, because Leica will never equal it in terms of their native lenses. So, with the adapter you have access to an extensive lens range to take advantage of the SL. And yes, I hear you say, that’s OK but these are Canon DSLR lenses right, hardly Leica quality.

IMAGE QUALITY

Well, in answer to the above question, if that’s what you think, you may well be wrong. Now I have to say that I found this surprising, but these Canon lenses are super sharp on my SL. The 17-40mm zoom, which gave me only  average results on my Canon 5Ds and soft corners on my Sony A7rII is incredibly sharp on the SL. And so are the others, including the 18 yr.old designed 28-135mm. Of particular mention is the 85mm f/1.8, which is spectacularly sharp across the frame. The brilliant little 40mm f/2.8 FF pancake is also very good indeed. As I indicated, I wasn’t expecting this, but Leica’s commitment to non-AA filtered sensors shows it’s benefits here. I’m quite happy to admit that I’ve not been that complementary about Canon EOS EF lenses, but on the evidence of this they are a lot better than I thought. Once you get rid of that AA filter softness that is.

Now I can’t really speculate why the Sony A7rII and Metabones AF adapter I used the 17-40mm lens f/4 with was so poor, but it was. Very soft corners and poor overall sharpness. Using the same lens with the Novoflex adapter on the SL has shown me that there is nothing wrong with it, in fact quite the reverse. These are focal lengths I use a lot, so I was pleased to see the results with this lens.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

This adapter only works with the SL. It doesn’t work with the Leica T (Typ 701) I tried it on mine and just got a blank screen.

When I press the shutter button there is a very distinct double click.

As indicated above the adapter changes the joystick from magnifying the image to an AF button.

The adapter is beautifully made. If you don’t know Novoflex then be assured they are the best in terms of adapter quality of construction. Something that is reflected in the price they charge for them.

I(‘ve) own(ed) Leica M8 (x2), M9, T (x2), Q and the SL, as well as some of the rebadged Panasonic cameras and in terms of image quality this Canon / SL combination yields some of the best image quality I’ve ever seen. I will say again, I was VERY surprised by this and was expecting something less. As I’ve indicated above, my way of making a living will be enhanced by this adapter, but that may well not be the case for other Leica SL users (actual or potential). Leica M rangefinder users won’t be phased by the slower AF, or indeed the need to use MF, but those used to DSLR (or advanced mirrorless) AF speed will either need to be patient with (or ignore completely) this Novoflex adapter. It’s certainly not as good as a Sony A7 / Metabones in terms of AF speed, though as I’ve indicated the Novoflex and Canon lens combination may well have a distinct edge in terms of image quality.

I could well write that it would be a good idea to try this out, but I honestly can’t advise as to how you would do this. For example, there is only one supplier at the moment in the UK where you can get this from, though they did inform me that they are getting some trade enquiries about the adapter. Like me, you may be prepared to take the risk but there is no way that I’m going to give anybody any false hope that their whizz bang super fast Canon lens will work like a dream on the SL with this adapter, because it won’t.

And finally, if anyone from Novoflex is reading this, you really need to indicate which lenses work with this adapter and which don’t and make that information accessible.

DAVID TAYLOR-HUGHES

I am a photographer, photographic blogger, writer, videographer and musician producing commercial, educational, social and stock photography, video, music and web resources from a location in the English Midlands. Clients include:- British Airways, Armani, Virgin, Conde Nast, Thomas Cook, Eurotunnel, Visa, Roche plus all UK national newspapers and television channels. I have also participated in several international advertising campaigns including Glenmorangie whisky and Neuwald footwear. I have worked as the house photographer for a model agency, run my own portrait studio and together with my nephew Ben Stockwin owned and ran Taylor-Stockwin, a company specialising in Wedding, Event, Commercial, Educational and Scientific Photography.

I currently specialise in providing media and educational resources for clients as well as supplying 16 world wide stock photography websites. I have been a Stock Photographer for over 25 years. I currently sell between 15-20,00 images per year and my total sales of stock images are in excess of $1,000,000.

I use Leica Cameras exclusively and currently own the SL (Type 601), 2 x Leica T (Typ 701), Leica Q (Typ 116) and a Leica V Lux (Typ 114) In addition to the Canon lenses I use 4 Leica R lenses, 3 Nikon lenses on the SL via Novoflex adapters in MF mode. I also use the Leica T APS-C AF lenses, mainly for 4K video.

Additional information on the Novoflex SL-EOS adapter can be found here. Check US pricing and availability at Amazon, AdoramaPopFlash and B&H.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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  • Very interesting review! Hope we can find a Nikon shooter to see how the Nikon adapter does. It would have been nice to see some images taken with the various Canon lenses and the adapter.

    Have you tried the Leica T lenses with the SL and 4K video? How have they done in your experience?

    • soundimageplus

      There are a couple of posts with some image samples (100% blowups) If you click my website link at the top of the post.

      The T lenses are great for 4K video, since Super 35 (The SL 4K crop) and APS-C aren’t that different. For example the 11-23mm zoom gives a genuine wide-angle view on the SL, only slightly cropped from how it performs on the T.

  • TomV

    Does IS work?

    • soundimageplus

      No it doesn’t.

  • TW

    Good review, but the AF experience is different with the 35 1.4L and 50 1.2L- focusing is much accurate and sure, speed is good point and shoot speed.

    • soundimageplus

      Doesn’t surprise me. I also found the newer lenses seem to work better than the older designs.

      I’m interested to discover whether the fast Sigma ART lenses work with the adapter. I’ve read conflicting reports. I may risk an Amazon ‘trial’. (i.e. return the lens if it doesn’t work) to check this out.

    • johnny

      On sensor AF is the best for accuracy. Mirror box sucks.

  • Hubertus Bigend

    The same lens sharper on the SL than on an A7RII or a 5Ds? I wonder, if it’s true, how much of it can be attributed to the fact that the SL only has about half the amount of pixels compared to those cameras and thereby challenges a lens’ optical resolution significantly less…

    • soundimageplus

      I may have had a poor metabones adapter, though it was fine with other lenses. It may have something to do with Sony’s problem with W/A M-mount lenses. The centre of the images I shot with the 17-40mm on the A7II were pin sharp, but this fell away significantly until the corners looked almost out of focus, even shooting a flat plane.

    • Les

      The thinner Leica sensor glass probably has a lot to do with this, along with Leica’s extensive experience building vibration-free focal-plane cameras.

      I wouldn’t be surprised either if the Novoflex adapter was better aligned than the Metabones adapter. A difference of a fraction of a millimetre in parallelism between the front and back mount can make a visible difference. An adapter that is slightly off-spec will never be able to get the centre and all four corners in focus at the same time.

      It doesn’t take much to negate the theoretical 25% (1.7x linear divided by √2) sharpness advantage of an A7R2 over an SL.

  • ZMWT

    “Lenses are sharp”.. is that all? Sharpness — it all ends there? That is what a pure amateur would say as a conclusion. His 15,000+ images / year taught him nothing.

    • soundimageplus

      Sure earns me a hell of lot of money though.

      • ZMWT

        And little wisdom too.

    • Zos Xavius

      Did you not read that he was a landscaper. In landscaping sharpness is very, very important as you are generally trying to make files that you can print as large as possible. Ansel Adams was obsessed with sharpness and used some of the best equipment available at the time. If you are just shooting people, street, or other things, sharpness really isn’t so critical, but still an important aspect. People prefer sharp images that are properly in focus. If you have clients paying you good money, they deserve competent images that are not soft.

    • Tim

      as much as I want to agree with you on overrating of sharpness: if you ever shot for stock you will understand, that only sharpness and correct exposure counts(if the content is ok)

  • Zos Xavius

    Hmmm.. Isn’t the SL only 24mp? It would stand then that lenses would perform better on it that don’t do as well on the 5DSR and the A7Rmkii. The leica probably has better microlenses in the edges as well to deal with rangefinder glass which is why the corners on some of the lenses might not do as well on the A7. I know in aps-c going from 16mp with no AA filter to 24mp also without a filter, lenses that did really pretty well on the 16mp did not really do as well on the 24mp. Now all things equal if we take images from both cameras and print them to the same size the higher resolution camera will still probably look better and probably have the same falloff in sharpness at the corners. You are just seeing the flaws magnified more at 100% than anything.

  • Tim

    I tested it too, and ended up buying SL glass. Don’t waste your time on the adapter, unless for Zeiss ZF glass maybe. There are some issues with automatic stop down thought, it was always flickering.www.valentino-photography.com

  • Andrew Gemmell

    Bodes well for the next M as well I assume?

  • lobotomisedjournalist

    Unfortunately, Novoflex is yet another arrogant German company that believes it has a right to take your money and provide what it wants to give you in return. It does not surprise me in the least that they can’t be bothered to supply the buyer with information about which Canon lenses work well and which do not. That the autofocus is slow and unreliable is also no surprise; as with Leica, they are happy to foist beta products on their customers at very high prices and let you suffer the consequences of unreliability. Maybe, if we are very lucky, they will get around to making the thing work as it should one day. Buyer beware!

  • Here is some additional feedback from a reader:

    I tested the EF to SL adapter on four EF mount lenses two weeks ago. Here is what I found: Canon 100-400 L lens – autofocus erratic and unusable, EXIF file identified lens incorrectly. Canon 200-400 L lens – autofocus erratic and unsusable, EXIF lens identifier incorrect. Focal length was correct for both lenses even though the lens was not properly identified. Canon 16-35 L lens – autofocus correct, but quite slow ( about 1 to 2 seconds ), EXIF data correct. Schneider 50 PC TS EF lens – inoperative live view because no electrical connection to adapter. I returned the adapter .

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