2012 has been a banner year for the Mirrorless Camera market. The NEX-7 from Sony is finally readily available and in people’s hands and both Fuji and Olympus have stepped up with the X1-Pro and OM-5 respectively. Many, many choices.
One of the greatest appeals of the mirrorless camera is its ability to seamlessly use legacy, manual-focus lenses with the use of an appropriate adapter. One of the largest manufacturers of such adapters is Fotodiox (www.fotodiox.com). Thanks to Jeff Holland (in-house photographer and head of support) at Fotodiox, we were able to spend some time at their Illinois facilities and learn more about the company and its products, which covers A LOT more than just lens adapters (though they are currently their best-selling product segment).
Since Jeff was so generous with his time, we were able to cover quite a lot, more than I could cover in a single piece, so I will be splitting this article in to two parts. First, let’s talk to Jeff and cover who Fotodiox is, and what they do.
Peter Sills: Jeff, thanks for making the time for us. I understand things are quite busy.
Jeff Holland: No problem. Things are always busy, but I’m happy to take the time.
PS: So tell us first how Fotodiox got started.
JH: Well, we literally started in a garage, though it may have been a basement, selling smaller photographic bits on eBay. You know, lens caps, hoods, small accessories, etc. This was about 2002. Things went very well, andwe incorporated in 2004. Since then we have grown quite a bit and with our rapid expansion we are now on our third location in this huge warehouse you see us in today. In fact, things have moved so fast we haven’t even had a chance to unpack everything from our last location.
PS: So after starting with the simple accessories, what are your biggest sellers today?
JH: Clearly our lens adapters. Our #1 best-seller is our Nikon lens to EOS camera adapter. Since many Nikon lenses still have aperture control rings, they can be easily adapted to work on Canon’s EOS line of cameras. Many people love the advanced video capabilities of cameras such as the 5D MkII and are always looking for additional lenses they can use on that body. We also have an adapter for the Nikon G line of lenses (which have no aperture ring).
Next are our mirrorless camera lens adapters for the Sony NEX and micro 4/3rd cameras. There are somany different combinations of lenses and cameras that can be used. We manufacture just about 200 different camera/lens adapters for all type of combinations. I think about 7-8 of our top ten best-sellers are lens adapters.
PS: Besides all of the mirrorless lens adapters, what else does Fotodiox produce?
JH:We sell it all. Right now LED lighting is extremely popular. These are great for both the photographer and the videographer and provide clean consistent light in a nice and portable package. We manufacture these in a variety of sizes for a variety of uses.
We also sell studio lights, backdrops, anything and everything the photographer could possibly need. As a photographer myself, it is a bit like working in a candy-store. If you need it, we probably already make it (with the exception of lenses, batteries and memory cards – but who knows what the future holds).
We also design some very interesting and unique products. One of which I am quite proud, just started shipping and has already sold out its first run. I’m looking forward to showing it to you later.
PS: Sounds intriguing. I’m looking forward to learning more about it. So, what is Fotodiox’s take on the mirrorless camera market?
JH: We have seen a tremendous acceleration in our business since the introduction of the mirrorless camera. First it was the micro 4/3ds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. We now sell more adapters for the NEX system than micro 4/3rd. My guess is that this is probably because there are fewer lenses for the NEX system currently. The NEX system is great! You can adapt practically anything to it.
Pro Adapter (with Aperture Control)
For some combinations of lens and camera we manufacture both a Standard anda Pro adapter. The difference is that our Standard adapters just allow you to mount the lens to the camera platform of your choice. With our Pro adapters we go one step further. Some incorporate “Optical Glass” to enhance the image quality or focal length performance of the adapter. Others, such as our Proadapters for the Canon EF line, compensate for the lack of an aperture control, but incorporating an iris in the adapter itself. While this allows you to control the light, it also allows you to control the image vignette as the iris is placed much closer to the imager than the one in the lens. Sort of a trade-off, but it is nice to have the option.
We also manufacture lens adapters which contain auto-focus confirmation chips in them. This allows the camera to alert the photographer as to when the camera is in focus, while using manual focus to capture the image. We can now, even provide the focus confirmation chip specific to a single focal length, so the focal length is recorded appropriately in the EXIF data in the image.
Confirmation/EXIF Lens Chip
PS: One issue that comes up a lot is “Infinity Focus” and whether an adapter allows for infinity focus or not. Can you explain what this is, and how Fotodiox’s adapters handle this?
JH: Sure, infinity focus is the point at which the lens obtains its greatest depth of field and all objects from a certain distance to infinity are in focus. The problem in creating a lens adapter for a camera is that this was never the intention of the camera manufacturer. I am sure no one at Canon ever planned on accommodating a Nikon lens on their cameras.
Each camera and each lens has its own set of tolerances. These are different for both the camera manufacturer and the lens manufacturer. So, in order to allow our customers the greatest latitude in putting these combinations together, we design our adapters to allow a little “slop”, going just beyond infinity focus. This is to ensure that any lens, from either a primary manufacturer such as Nikon or a third-party company such as a Tamron, lenses will work on the system you choose. The amount of the overage will depend on the lens/camera combination you choose. This is basically the same reason that camera companies now offer electronic lens adjustment features in their bodies, as no one setting is going to work perfectly with all possible combinations of lenses and body.
PS: So, with all of this rapid growth, where is Fotodiox heading?
JH: Well, I think we are going to move away from the “Grocery Store” approach to our products and move more into the specialty products which are unique to us. One of which is this new product I want to show you. It took us three years to fully develop and it is truly unique.
I think we bring a lot to the party with some products which we do extremely well, such as our lens adapters and our lighting kits. We are always working on new things, (Jeff shows me some work in progress prototypes – which I can’t show you yet) things like these. Pretty cool, huh?
We’ve got some great stuff we’re working on.
PS: Excellent. Well, that sounds like a great place to end the interview portion. Thank you.
Next, Jeff takes me on a tour of Fotodiox. We get to look and play with some really interesting products.
We also get to see an outstanding product they have been working on for the last couple of years, which just came to market.
More next time…