It’s the lunar new year here in Korea, so I’d like to wish you all 새해복많이받으세요 (best wishes for the new year)! I’m at my in-laws’ place for the holidays so I thought I’d do a bit of blogging between the food, drinks, and karaoke :D.
Using manual lenses with the Fujifilm X system is a great option to experiment and expand your camera system. Third-party lens manufacturers such as Samyang produce very high quality and relatively affordable manual focus lenses. Moreover, numerous adapters on the market open the doors to endless possibilities that span multiple brands and decades worth of lenses. From Canon to Nikon, M42 to Leica, the rabbit hole goes very deep for using adapters and lenses for your Fuji X. Yes, you lose autofocus functionality, but the manual focus assist options provided by mirrorless cameras has made manual lenses very easy to use.
Personally, I went for a combination of modern third-party and classic M42 screw mount lenses. Here is my manual focus Fuji X kit:
1. Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS – this was actually the reason I got an interchangeable Fuji camera in the first place. I had heard so many great things about this lens and I ended up buying it even before I had a camera to use it with. At around $300 USD brand new, this lens is sharp, fast and gives a lot of bang for the buck! Plus Samyang makes them in the native Fuji X mount, so no adapters necessary. I got my Fuji X-E1 soon after, and it this combination has put more photos into my portfolio than any camera I’d ever used before. It still continues to do so to this day. In the above photo, you’ll see a Cokin P series filter holder attached to the lens. I use filters a lot on this lens, so I just leave the filter holder on and use the square Cokin lens cap to protect it while in the bag.
2. Helios 44-2 58mm f/2.0 + M42-FX adapter – this Russian lens is famous for its center sharpness and swirly bokeh. It’s also very cheap. I got mine in great condition for $33 USD on eBay. Add $7 for the adapter and you’ve got a killer portrait lens for $40 (plus a few more bucks for shipping).
3. Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5 + M42-FX adapter – I got this lens for a bit more reach. There is a faster f/2.5 version but it’s bigger and more expensive. This lens is sharp (especially when stopped down a bit), small, built like a tank, and cheap! I got mine with case and metal hood for $31 USD, shipped straight from Japan. This gives me an equivalent reach of 200mm in a small, travel-friendly package. Not bad for $37 including adapter (plus shipping).
There is a wide range of adapters available on the market. Again, I will focus mainly on M42 lenses, which I have the most experience with. You can search Google for other kinds of lens adapters. Some I commonly see around are Fotasy (cheapest), K & F Concept, Fotodiox, Kipon (mid-range), and the more specialized (and expensive) Zhongyi Lens Turbo and Metabones Speed Booster. The latter two adapters mentioned have special optics inside that effectively make your camera perform like a full frame camera. The rest of them do pretty much the same thing. There are also some special adapters that can do tilt and shift, but we won’t discuss those. The more expensive adapters seem to have better build quality and I’m guessing more precise engineering, while the cheapest ones simply get the job done. Since this was just a fun experiment for me, I went for the cheapest one I could find. Since M42 lenses are screw-type, the lettering on the lenses may not always align properly. Fortunately, even the cheapest adapter comes with a hex key adjustment so you can adjust the lens alignment. Most of the adapters will allow the camera to focus to infinity and this is usually indicated in the product description. One thing I noticed about the cheaper adapters, however, is the focus scale is a bit off. For example, on my adapters, if you set the lens to infinity, you are actually a bit PAST infinity. I imagine the more expensive models will be more accurate, but I don’t have first hand experience. But since I rely mostly on the focus peaking, I don’t really look at the focus scale on the lens. If you want to do zone focusing or anything that will rely on the focus scale being 100% accurate, you might want to look into the more expensive adapters. Otherwise, the cheaper adapters will do the job just fine.
Note: This article focuses mainly on lenses that have manual aperture control rings. Current Canon EF or Nikon G lenses do not have manual aperture control rings. If you want to use these lenses, best go with an adapter that has built-in iris control.
Again, Samyang/Rokinon and various other 3rd party lens manufacturers make lenses in the native Fuji X-mount, so no adapters are necessary to use those.
I use these manual focus lenses with a Fujifilm X-E1 and an X-T1. If you want the most bang for your buck, I’d recommend getting an X-E1 used or refurbished. The X-E1 is currently the cheapest Fuji X body with an electronic viewfinder, and you can get one on the used/refurb market nowadays for $200-$300. It provides focus peaking, as well as the standard zoom-in type of manual focus assist. The X-Pro 1 is also quite cheap now, and will provide a similar experience, though I’m not sure how the optical viewfinder will function with them (leave a comment below if you have any info on this).
For a bit more money, you can get a phase-detect enabled body such as an X-E2(S), X-T1, or X-Pro 2. The good thing about newer phase-detect bodies is the additional split-image option for MF assist, as well as different focus peaking colors. Aside from these two options, the newer cameras don’t provide many more advantages in speed and handling for manual focus lenses. That’s why the X-E1 is still my favorite body for manual focus lenses.
When using manual focus lenses on Fuji X bodies, don’t forget the following settings:
1. SHOOT WITHOUT LENS. The camera will not trigger if this is not enabled. It can be found under SHOOTING MENU 3.
2. MOUNT ADAPTOR SETTING. This tells the camera what focal length your lens is, and will record it in your EXIF data. There are several preset focal lengths and two programmable ones. This can also be found under SHOOTING MENU 3.
3. MF ASSIST. Found under SHOOTING MENU 4. There are a few options to help you focus better with manual lenses.
-Standard: This basically zooms into the image real time and helps you check focus at pixel level.
-Digital Split Image (*not available on X-E1 and X-Pro 1): This shows you a split image rectangle. When the two halves of the image are aligned, you are in focus. This is similar to split image viewfinders on manual film SLR cameras.
-Focus Peak Highlight: This mode highlights the areas of the image that are in focus. In newer cameras, you can choose several highlight colors. In the older bodies, you can choose between high and low settings. This is my preferred method of MF assist.
I got my manual focus lenses with slower types of photography in mind. I shoot mainly landscapes with the Samyang 12mm and the Takumar 135mm, while the Helios is mainly a portrait lens. For faster-paced shoots, I use autofocus lenses. I know that some people are really good (and fast) with manual focus lenses, particularly for street shooting using the zone focus method. Personally, I use the manual focus lenses when I can take it slow.
Another thing that should be mentioned is that the adapters do make the lens a bit bigger. I don’t really mind, but it may be a turn-off for some.
As I mentioned before, using manual focus lenses on your Fuji X (or any mirrorless system) can be a fun and relatively inexpensive experience (unless you go for Leica lenses, which of course are quite the opposite of inexpensive). Modern lenses from third-party manufacturers like Samyang are awesome, and classic lenses can give you some unique looks to your images. With a bit of Googling, you can find a wealth of information on the best lenses in any price range. If you have any experiences to share in using manual focus lenses with your Fuji, leave a comment below. Thanks for reading and I hope this article proves to be helpful.
Finally, here are some sample images I have made using manual focus lenses on my Fujifilm X system.
The amazing Samyang 12mm + Fuji X-E1:
The bokehlicious Helios 44-2 58mm f/2.0 + X-T1:
The long and strong Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5 + X-T1:
Want to read more about manual lenses on Fuji X and watch them in action? Check out my new article and YouTube video about my M42 lenses and Fuji here!
Again, I have used some Amazon affiliate links in this article to show you more information about the products mentioned here. Clicking and purchasing will, of course, help me out at no extra cost to you.