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Which is the better option for running an ENG lens on your large sensor camera, a B4 to m4/3 adapter or the Abel Cine HDx2 B4 to PL optical adapter?

In a recent post I spoke with DP Sean Simmons about his experience with the Abel Cine - IB/E Optics HDx2 B4/PL optical adapter which allows him to use his Canon HJ11 x 4.7-52mm F1.9 HD ENG lens with with his AF100. The HDx2 is an optical doubler that expand the image projected by the 2/3” lens to cover a larger sensor, like the one found in the AF100. Since then, I heard from DPs Chris Li and Robert (Sully) Sullivan, who have been getting some great results by pairing their AF100 with a Canon YJ12 x 6.5 F2.0 SD ENG lens via the MTF Services B4 to m4/3 adapter and using the doubler in the lens to expand the image to cover the 4/3 sensor. We all thought it would be interesting to take a look a these two setups side by side.

Sean, Chris and Sully, met a Chris house and set up a simple outdoor scene for a “real world” type test. With the two rigs side by side and all the camera setting matched, they filmed two young volunteers cleaning golf balls. (Somebody has to do it.)

There were two basic test. The first compared the HDx2 with Canon HD lens to the B4 to m4/3 adapter with a Canon SD lens (using the doubler in the lens to expand the image to cover the m4/3 sensor). In the second test, the lenses were swapped to help level the playing field of the comparison.

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a significant difference between the two setups. Now this was a casual, real world test - I’m sure res charts would more clearly exemplify the differences, but very little difference was visible on the Panasonic 17” monitor. Sully noted that in both test, the resolution and edge sharpness of each setup looked very close. In fact, during the test, it was easy to confuse which shot was from which rig. Everyone thought that the two camera setups could easily be cut together. Of course your mileage my vary a bit. The Canon YJ12 x 6.5 F2.0 SD ENG lens, used in this comparison, is a very high quality piece of SD glass. I’m pretty confident that you wouldn’t get the same results every SD ENG lens. When the HD lens was mounted on the B4 - m4/3 rig, the system continued to impress. Neither setup showed any objectionable chromatic aberration (though, this was not the best test of that).

If you have the dough, its probably a good idea to invest in the HDx2 (or HDx35 for sony F3, Alexa and Red camera). HDx2 does more than just expand the image circle to cover the larger sensor. ENG lens are designed to project an image onto a prism which splits the red, green and blue values onto the three respective CCDs. Since large sensor cameras only use a single sensor, the HDx2 corrects for this, which improves any chromatic aberration artifacts. The doubler optics in the HDx2 are of a very high quality and only cost you about 2 stops. This new breed of camera preforms so well in low light, the 2 stop loss is not much of an issue. On the other hand, internal lens doublers can sometimes be a bit lack luster. I’m sure many of you have experienced mushy, low contrast image that some internal doublers can produce. So beware

Now, based on our very non scientific testing, it seems clear that if you have have a very high quality ENG lens and budget is an issues, you can get some very good results pairing that lens with an affordable B4 to M4/3 adapter. It’s important that you do some testing with your particular lens before you commit to the system. I’d suggest you try to get you hands on a good resolution chart to determine if your lens is up to the task.

There are a few accessories that you’ll need to make either of these systems useable. To enable the servo zoom, you’ll need get power to the lens. Upon request, Abel Cine will build you an ENG to AF100 Y cable. One end connects to the lens control cable. The other two ends connect the S/S (start/stop) port on the camera and via Power Tap to and external 12v power source. (I’m pretty sure there must be Sony F3, Alexa and Red versions also available) So that means your rig will need V-mount or Anton Bauer battery plate and probably Power Tap Multi Port adapter to power other accessories.

A big thanks you to Sean, Chris and Sully for taking the time to do this test and to Max and Emma for patiently performing in front of the cameras.

Useful Links

AbelCine by IB/E Optics HDx2 B4/PL Optical Adapter
HDx35 B4/PL Optical Adapter
MTF Services B4 to m4/3 Adapter
Lens Resolution Charts
Power Tap Multi Port Adapter
ENG to AF100 Y cable (contact Abel Cine Sales)
Camera Settings

operation type: film camera
rec format: PH 1080 / 30p
vfr mode: off
detail level: 0
v detail level: +2
detail coring: +5
chroma level: 0
chroma phase: 0
color temp ach: 0
color temp bch: 0
master ped: 0
a. iris level: 0
drs: off
gamma: high
knee: mid
matrix: cine-like
skin tone dtl: off
b/w mode: off

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