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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