Is L-Mount in Your Photography Future? Thoughts on Being Locked-In to a Camera System (Sigma MC-21 Mount Converter)
The L-mount consortium is like having Micro Four Thirds in full frame, but with three high profile partners (Panasonic, Sigma, Leica) offering three lens lines and three camera lines. More on the implications of that below.
Sigma is calling out a relatively low price for adapting Canon EF and Sigma SA lenses to the new L-Mount platform. While $249 for the Sigma MC-21 adapter for Canon EF might seem high, it is actually an aggressively low price for a high quality fully-supported all-electronic lens adapter. Sigma’s adapter works for Canon-brand Canon EF lenses also, AFAIK In effect this makes savvy Canon DSLR lens uses at least sit up and take notice of L-mount—brilliant marketing that cannot be matched by Nikon or Canon or Sony.
In the medium/long term, compatibility of DSLR lenses is a no-op: we can expect more and better native-mount lenses. But realistically that’s a multi-year process that could be costly for some lenses.
No Sigma adapter for F-mount lenses
Absent is a Sigma Nikon F-mount adapter, a bummer for owners of Sigma F-mount lenses. Since Sigma offers a conversion service for its Sigma DG HSM Art lenses, there is a transition path, albeit a relatively expensive and incompatible one (once converted, no more use on Nikon unless converted back). While F-mount might be harder to accomplish for technical reasons, it really does leave Sigma lens owners in F-mount left hung out to dry compared to Sigma for Canon EF users.
Novoflex offers a “dumb” Nikon F-mount to Leica SL adapter, the Novoflex Nikon F Lens to Leica SL/T Camera Body Lens Adapter.
Novoflex also offers the Novoflex Nikon F Lens to Leica L-Mount Camera Electronic Adapter at US$830, but it supports only E-type lenses and does not support continuous AF or image stabilization. I am unsure if “E-type lenses” means only lenses with the "E" suffix such as the Nikon 105mm f/1.4E ED.
Lock yourself in to a platform?
Since the history of 35mm DSLR photography, users have been for the most part locked-in to the brand’s mount. In recent years lens adapters have bypassed that limitation, at least for some combinations of lenses and cameras, though sometimes with limitations (loss/reduced functionality)and/or poor performance (e.g., Leica M and Zeiss ZM on Sony mirrorless). The L-mount consortium maintains a lock-in, but expands the brand choices from one to three (it would be slick if Sony and Nikon and Canon would join, but that seems doubtful).
Canon and Nikon both are looking buyers into their new mounts (Canon RF and Nikon NIKKOR Z). I say that because neither company contemplates their lenses being used on any other brand camera—there is no Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L for anything but Canon RF. Nikon cannot offer compatibility because the flange focal distance of both Nikon F-mount (46.5mm) and Nikon NIKKOR Z (16mm) is shorter than competitors—there is no physical space for a lens adapter.
By comparison, the L-mount consortium should by year end have not just two, but three full-frame camera brands in L-Mount (at least 4 cameras): the (aging) Leica SL, the Panasonic S1R and S1 and some sort of new Sigma Foveon full-frame camera. More will surely follow. Each of those companies will be working hard to distinguish its offerings from the others. Would you prefer one design-approach from one brand, or three choices from three brands? For example, what if high-megapixel camera is the goal: the Panasonic S1R, the Leica SL_TBD, and the Sigma Foveon TBD with a true-color sensor. Versus the Nikon Z7 or the Canon TBD-not-yet or the Sony A7R III successor (or whatever).
Of course, if you’re already locked into Sony mirrorless, it might be painful to cross over. But those still using DSLRs have some thinking to do.
James K writes:
It seems to me that Sony is THE platform to be locked into. Sony is the sensor and video codec power house and will be the game changer for some tine to come. Sigma will design new Sony E mount specked optics. I expect Sony to drop a sensor bomb this fall and make the E mount the place to be.
DIGLLOYD: on the assumption that Sony will deny the best sensor designs to competitors, perhaps this is so. It would be a major show of confidence for Sony to join the L-mount consortium, but I deem the odds of that very low.
Sigma Announces Pricing & Availability for Sigma Mount Converter MC-21
Available in April 2019, the new accessory ensures compatibility of the Sigma lenses in EF and SA mounts with the L-Mount camera systems
Ronkonkoma, NY – March 29, 2019 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading still photo and cinema lens, camera, flash and accessory manufacturer, today announced pricing and availability for the new Sigma Mount Converter MC-21, offering photographers a wider range of lens options for L-Mount cameras from Sigma, Leica and Panasonic. The Sigma MC-21 will start shipping in April 2019 and will be priced at $169.00 USD for Sigma SA-L mount and $249.00 USD for Canon EF-L mount.
Features The Sigma Mount Converter MC-21 allows for Sigma’s SA mount and Canon EF mount lenses to be used on L-Mount camera bodies. By attaching MC-21 to a Sigma SA mount or Sigma Canon EF mount lens, it becomes compatible with the L-Mount camera system without compromising usability and image quality. The development of Sigma MC-21 increases the number of interchangeable lenses manufactured by Sigma to be used with the L-Mount systems by 29, offering a total of 40 lens choices, including 11 DG Art primes with native L-mount. The addition of MC-21 to the Sigma accessory lineup will increase the accessibility of the L-Mount system and further Sigma’s role in the strategic L-Mount Alliance alongside Leica and Panasonic. The full list of compatible lenses and technical specifications can be accessed here and product imagery can be downloaded here.
The lower price for the Sigma MC-21 in Sigma SA-L mount reflects the company’s appreciation for the loyal Sigma camera users as the MC-21 in Sigma SA-L mount allows for Sigma SA mount lenses to be used on any L-Mount camera body. Eventually, Sigma will aim to replace its SA mount lenses with the native L-mount versions, but until then, Foveon shooters can rely on the existing offering of Sigma MC-21 at a lower price point to ease the transition to the new system.
The L-Mount was developed by Leica Camera under the proviso of providing customers with a future-proof, flexible, robust and precise bayonet mount that would fulfill even the most demanding photographic needs. Since its initial appearance in 2014 within the Leica T, development of the L-Mount was continued by Leica as well as by its strategic partners, which led to significant improvements and therefore an effectively new and more polished L- Mount technology.
To ensure maximum product diversity, the diameter of 51.6 millimeters was chosen to make the L-Mount suitable for use not only with full-frame cameras, but also on cameras with APS- C sensors. The short register of only 20 millimeters [diglloyd: flange focal distance = 20mm, same as Canon RF] enables a short distance between the lens and the sensor, which in turn enables considerably more compact construction – which is particularly helpful for developments in the wide-angle lens segment. To ensure resistance to even the most extreme stresses, and to guarantee customers maximum reliability in many years in intensive use, the camera bayonets are manufactured from wear-resistant stainless steel and with four flange segments that prevent canting and ensure particularly secure and precisely positioned lens attachment. The standardized L-Mount contact strip ensures trouble- free communication between the electronic components of the lens and the camera – including the possibility of installing future firmware updates for lenses to react to technological advances and exploit the full performance potentials of the lens.
The lens mount is currently used in the Leica SL full-frame camera system and the Leica CL, TL2 and TL APS-C camera models, as well as Panasonic LUMIX S1 and Panasonic LUMIX S1R camera models. All lenses made for the various different systems can be used on all cameras without adapters and without any functional limitations – this illustrates only one of the numerous benefits the common bayonet brings for customers.
About Sigma Corporation
Craftsmanship. Precision. Dedication. Since 1961, Sigma has been devoted the pursuit of advancing photographic technology. Unique to the industry, the family-owned business produces its high-quality, award-winning still photo and cinema camera lenses, DSLR and mirrorless cameras, flashes, filters and accessories from its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility located in Aizu, Japan.
In 2012, the company introduced the Sigma Global Vision with three distinct lens lines: Art, Contemporary and Sport. Designed for industry camera mount systems including Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Sony, Sigma and L-Mount Alliance, each lens is handcrafted and tested in Japan to ensure a high-performance, premium product that is purpose-built to last. In 2016, Sigma entered into the world of cinematography lens production. Embodying the core optical DNA that has defined the Sigma benchmark of excellence, the cine lenses meet the needs of advanced 6k and 8k cinema production.
Sigma continues its tradition of imaging excellence with the mirrorless sd Quattro, sd Quattro H and the compact dp Quattro camera line. Leveraging the ultra-high resolution Foveon sensor, the Sigma Quattro cameras are designed to produce the highest quality image with every shot.