The Hawk’s Factory Close Focus Adapter is a marvelous little piece of engineering that many people won’t care about, and those that should care, probably don’t know about. One of the biggest limitations of any rangefinder system is close focus ability. Rangefinder bodies and lenses just aren’t designed for it; parallax error makes focusing closer than around a meter very difficult with mechanical rangefinders so there was never really any reason to build a lens that could focus closer than that. Using a rangefinder lens on a mirrorless camera avoids the issue of parallax error, but the lenses still can’t focus any closer than they used to; enter the Hawk’s Factory Helicoid. Not only does it allow Leica M lenses to be mounted on a Sony E-Mount camera, it’s got a built in helicoid to move the lens out a few more millimeters from the sensor. So what… a few millimeters, what does that give you? Quite a bit actually…
The adapter is solid, very well machined and feels like a quality piece of equipment. Fully collapsed, the Hawk’s adapter works just like any other Leica M adapter, allowing them to be mounted on a Sony NEX body at the correct distance to allow full infinity focus, and it does a damn good job of that by itself; it’s on par with the more expensive adapters I’ve tried from Voigtlander or Novoflex. Mounted on the Hawk’s adapter I feel absolutely no looseness with any of my M mount lenses, something I can’t say about some of the cheaper adapters I’ve tried, and all my lenses focus right to infinity just fine. This isn’t new though, we’ve had adapters for our legacy lenses for some time, sometimes even before the cameras they’re designed for are available. What’s new is the incorporation of the helicoid in the adapter.
The helicoid in the Hawk’s adapter gives you another range of focus for any lens mounted on it; focus your lens to its minimum focal distance then continue focusing closer by twisting the adapter just like you would on a lens. The helicoids itself has a silky smooth movement and the newest version of the adapter even gives you a convenient focusing tab. In most cases this extra couple millimeters of extension will let you focus 50% to 80% closer than you could normally. This is simply a miracle for those of us used to the usual one meter minimum focus distance of many RF lenses. It doesn’t bring you into the true macro lens range, but it does bring you within the close focus range of most SLR lenses, and since there’s no glass element involved the Hawk’s adapter won’t degrade your image like using screw on close up filters or macro attachments.
The adapter focuses in the same direction as Leica M lenses, which is nice for those of us that are already used to that. It’s got a very nice throw length, assuming you’re wearing the camera around your neck, the focusing tab goes from around 5 o’clock collapsed for normal focusing to about 7 o’clock at the closest focus distance. The focusing is well damped and stiff enough to prevent accidental movement but not too stiff to be impede easy use. The adapter focusing tab doesn’t interfere with the built in focusing tab on my 25mm Skopar and I doubt it would interfere with the tabs on any of the Leica lenses with one either. There’s no infinity lock, which I count as a huge plus; I can’t stand infinity locks and have gotten rid of lenses that have them for that reason alone. As I’ve said, it feels as well built or better than any of the Leica M adapters I’ve tried and I sense no loss of stability or durability when fully extended as well.
Some people have balked at the price of the Hawk’s adapter, which goes for around $179 on their eBay store, but if you think about it for a second it’s actually a real deal. It’s the same price as the high end adapters Leica adapters, and provides the same functionality and so much more. What other piece of equipment will improve the usefulness of every single lens you can mount on it? It fills a major whole in any rangefinder kit; I used to carry around and have to switch to the kit lens that came with my NEX any time I needed a close up shot. And the beauty of using the Hawk’s adapter is that there’s no fumbling and switching of lenses, the close focus capability is always there waiting to be used no matter which M mount lens I’m using at the time. Below are some sample shots from my Voigtlander M-mount lenses at normal minimum focus distance and the close focus achieved with the Hawk’s adapter; just mouse over the images to see how much closer you can get.
For me, the Hawk’s adapter has been the single greatest addition to my rangefinder kit since my Sony NEX 3. It’s only available for Sony E-mount at the moment, and so far it’s only available from the Hawk’s Factory eBay Store and a few other resellers on eBay. If you can’t find a listing, contact Hawk’s directly via eBay and they might be able to tell you when more will be available, they’re not mass producing them. They don’t have a website and it’s not sold in any brick and mortar store as far as I know, but if this adapter is any indication of their potential I think we’ll be seeing more of Hawk’s Factory in the future. It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea that strains our knowledge of optics to the limit; it’s straight forward physics, something I expected one of the big companies in the adapter game like Cosina, Novoflex or Fotodiox, but it ends up coming from a small factory in Taiwan.
I’ve found one issue with the adapter, although I’m not sure if it’s user or equipment that’s to blame. As I stated, the Hawk’s helicoid is stiff enough to prevent accidental turning most of the time; I’ve found it’s harder to accidentally change focus with the adapter than it is to accidentally change focus on most of my lenses. That being said, it can happen. If you’re checking focus each shot, this isn’t really a problem, but if for instance, you had set your lens to the hyperfocal distance and where only framing each shot and not checking focus it can be a problem. If the adapter is only slightly extended away from the base position, the slight shift in focus is hard to see without magnifying the image on the LCD. I got home last night to find all my shots during a hour long period of wandering around to be just slightly out of focus, luckily they weren’t critical work. I though about it all night, wondering if some kind of lock on the adapter to solve this problem would be an improvement, but in the end I feel that a lock would just get annoying; I like the fact that I can go from normal to close focus so smoothly, a lock would mean more fumbling and missed shots. In the end, it’s my job to make sure I’m properly focused; so while it is an issue to watch out for, I don’t think I can blame the adapter.