We review the Megadap MTZ11 Leica for Nikon Z autofocus adapter
A few years ago, a small Hong Kong-based company called Megadap raised eyebrows when they announced their latest product, MTZ11, which allowed Leica M-mount lenses (along with a number of other manual focus mounts when used with adapters) to be used with Nikon Z-body with autofocus.
The idea of being able to use M-glass in an autofocus capacity was absolutely exciting, since there are many impressive M-mount lenses on the market. Between that announcement and now, several other similar adapters have been announced under a number of names and manufacturers. Fotodiox and TechArt both have similar units that play largely similar roles.
The concept of an autofocus adapter for manual focus lenses is not entirely new. In the 1980s, Nikon released the TC-16A, a 1.6x adapter that worked in the same way as the MTZ11. The TC-16A had a lens element that moved back and forth in the adapter, powered by the screw motor found in Nikon cameras. The trick was to focus the MF lens to infinity, and the TC-16A would move the rear element until your image was in focus. But as nice a trick as this was, it never quite caught on. First, there was a clear loss in image quality, and you lost one and a half stops with light. Second, it did not always work to focus on infinity; Sometimes you have to fiddle with your focus to get it right. Third, it did not work with all lenses: some had rear elements that protruded too far back, leading to damage to both the lens and the adapter.
MTZ11 is able to bypass some of these issues due to the nature of mirrorless cameras. Because the camera lacks a mirror and prism, there is no need for a corrective lens in the adapter. The motor is powered by the camera, but internally in the adapter, and physically moves the lens back and forth. You still have to set the lens to infinity (and sometimes you have to make minor adjustments), but otherwise it’s fine to go.
For my tests I used a Voigtlander 35mm f / 1.2, a Leica 50mm f / 1.5 Summarit and a 90mm f / 2.8 Elmarit. Between my M3 and my Z 6, it was a nice change of pace to be able to carry both a film body, a digital body and the three lenses without the bag digging into the shoulder. I must admit that as I get older, I discover the wear and tear of wearing more bodies and heavy, pro-end lenses have worn on my shoulder and back. Everything fit in my bag with room to spare.
During my tests, I took the adapter with me for a few missions, including a police-involved shooting on the Upper West Side. Police lights can have a funky, disorienting effect on some autofocus systems. The constantly changing colors and lights can cause some autofocus systems to struggle and search back and forth. Megadap did not seem to have this problem more than native lenses, although the 90mm f / 2.9 Elmarit I used for this scene was quite soft wide open, especially compared to more modern native lenses.
I used the Z6 / MTZ11 combination in a variety of weather and light conditions and had no significant issues. Although the adapter is not weather sealed, I felt safe enough to use it in light rain. At the same time, it had no problems focusing on and tracking my subject in low light conditions. Physically, the MTZ11 is well built: the metal construction is solid enough to withstand beatings. I must admit that it is a bit of a pain to mount it or remove it when used with the MB-N10 battery grip, which must be removed to do so.
I specifically used narrow-depth lenses for this test, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well they worked with the adapter. More specifically, 50 mm f / 1.5 has always been a slightly picky lens to use; with practice, it can produce beautiful images with a pleasant bokeh, but if you are not paying attention or shooting in a hurry, it can just as easily give you soft frames with low contrast. Still, during my testing, the adapter reliably gave me a precise focus and produced some solid frames.
Having said all that, the adapter has some things that work against it. The first and most obvious is that it is loud; there is a significant and distracting “buzzing” noise when the motor drives the lens back and forth. For news work, this can be a problem: If you cover a fire or protest, it probably will not be a problem, but if you are in the middle of a press conference, you will annoy a lot of TV and audio people. During the press conference after the UWS shooting, the noise simply became too much, and I had to put down the adapter. If you are shooting out of town for everyday photography, you probably will not notice it, and for the average photographer it will probably not be a big deal, but it is something you should be aware of if you are considering buying it. If you use the Z-series camera for video, keep this in mind when setting up your photos. Secondly, as I mentioned above, it is a bit clumsy when used in combination with a battery grip.
Beyond that, I found that the adapter was well made, solid and skilled. I do not think I would completely replace my Nikon glass with M lenses for everyday work, but as a walkaround set, this combination can be a lot of fun. You can get yours here.