More Lens Options for the Panasonic S Series

Sigma’s new MC-21 Mount Converter and ART lenses open a new world of lenses to the Panasonic S1 and S1R
By Nirupam Nigam
Sigma’s new MC-21 Mount Converter and ART lenses open a new world of lenses to the Panasonic S1 and S1R
Nirupam Nigam

It would seem that the L Mount lens alliance between Sigma, Leica, and Panasonic has already made bigger strides than competing manufactures, less than a year after their initial announcement. For anyone eyeing Panasonic’s flagship full-frame mirrorless S series – the S1 and the S1R – it might just be time to take the leap. Sigma’s introduction of the MC-21 converters for Sigma SA mount and Canon EF mount lenses to L mount bodies introduces dozens of additional lenses that can be used with L-mount cameras. In addition to the converter, Sigma has recently introduced 11 enticing L-mount DG ART prime lenses. What does this mean for underwater photographers? For now, we can only sit and wonder until all these cool new gadgets are shipped for the first time in April 19, 2019.

 

 

MC-21 Converters

Retail Price: $249

The Sigma MC-21 converters come in two forms – a converter for Sigma SA-mount lenses to be mounted to L-mount camera bodies, and a converter for Sigma EF-mount lenses to be mounted to L-mount camera bodies. Although this opens up dozens of new options to use Sigma lenses with the Panasonic S Series, the converters are slightly limited in ability. The converters have been lauded to allow for “full lens performance,” this isn’t entirely true. With the converters autofocus works in AF-S mode, and autoexposure, in-camera correction, and image stabilization work in-full. However, autofocus in AF-C (autofocus continuous) mode does not work. This can be a major issue for quick action shooters and videographers. One interesting goodie that comes with the adapter is pre-uploaded data that supports chromatic aberration correction, peripheral illumination correction, and distortion correction. 

 

Implications for Underwater Photography

Initially, the MC-21 converter might seem like a godsend to Canon EF mount users. But it’s not. It only has full compatibility with Sigma EF-mount lenses. However, there might be limited compatibility (if any) with Canon EF-mount lenses. So it’s not an encouraging converter for anyone looking to switch from Canon to Panasonic. Initial reports also suggest slow AF and a few other issues with some lenses. 

Continuous Autofocus

A lack of continuous autofocus with the MC-21 is not good news for underwater videographers that frequently rely on continuous autofocus. In fact, for underwater videography, I would recommend using native lenses with the Panasonic S1 and S1R. It will also be an issue for photographers that need continuous AF to shoot quick pelagic animals. However, for traditional macro and reefscape photographers, this may not be an issue. I, for one, stick to AF-S for the most part, as do many underwater photographers I know. 

Verdict?

The MC-21 converter is a great purchase if you want to use Sigma EF and SA mount glass on your Panasonic S1 and S1R camera. Is it perfect? Probably not. But it does open up a wide range of existing opportunity for underwater photographers to shoot with the Panasonic S1 and S1R. 

 

Sigma’s 11 New DG ART Prime Lenses

In conjunction with the MC-21 converter, Sigma announced eleven additional DG ART prime L-mount lenses. These are high-quality native lenses that can all be used with the Panasonic S1 and S1R. Here is a list of the eleven: 

  • 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art ($1,599): The first full-frame F/1.8 Ultra-Wide-Angle
  • 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($899)
  • 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($849
  • 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($1,399)
  • 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($899
  • 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($1,399)
  • 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($949)
  • 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art ($569): First Macro L-Mount ART lens
  • 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($1,199)
  • 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($1,599)
  • 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art ($1,399)

 

 

Implications

Two of these lenses stand out to me for underwater photography – the 14mm f/1.8 DS HSM Art and the 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art. Yup, that’s right – wide angle and macro! Native wide-angle and native macro. For the Panasonic S1 and S1R this is a really exciting development. 

The 14mm f/1.8 lens is the first of its kind for full-frame cameras. It promises excellent low-light performance and bokeh. And though bokeh is unusually in wide angle imagery, it could prove quite interesting in close-focus wide-angle underwater photography. Though it’s not a fisheye, it’s an ultra-wide lens, yielding excellent potential for wide angle underwater photography. There is one issue: the lens hood appears to be non-removable, and thus likely will not be compatible with most ports.

The 70 mm f/2.8 lens sounds like an excellent choice for macro photographers. At f/2.8, it’s a fast lens, and sounds like it will have a lot of capability. Promising slightly more working distance than a 60mm macro, it could be a great choice for middle ground macro photography of subjects that are somewhat spooked, but not as bad as something like a mandarin fish. 

Verdict? 

I think the introduction of these ART L-mount prime lenses is actually more exciting than the MC-21 converters. There are some real contenders for underwater photography here. However, there is no telling which lenses will be useful until port compatibility comes out for these lenses and housings that house the Panasonic S1 and S1R. 

 

Conclusion

If you thought the Panasonic S Series looked like a good choice because of the L-mount alliance – this is a first demonstration of the partnership. Although the MC-21 converter has its limitations, it already makes the Panasonic S1 and S1R competitive in the full-frame mirrorless playing field. The Sigma Art prime lenses could be even more exciting for underwater photographers depending on compatibility with future housings and ports. Time will tell if the Panasonic S-Series is ready for underwater use, but for now, it seems like it just might be.

 

Additional Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. Now he works as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. When he is not at sea, he is traveling with his fiancee and taking photos. Check out more of his photography at www.photosfromthesea.com!

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