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How to Use Old Film Camera Lenses on Your DSLR

Why use Vintage Lenses on DSLR Cameras?


A lens that has been maintained well could last a life time, in the earlier days lenses were built to last so if you could find a good one chances are it could still give you the very same picture quality it used to give when it was new. After the digital revolution, old film camera lenses have flooded the market and you could get extremely good glass for a song from most online market places like ebay and craigslist.

There are chances that your friends or relatives have a collection of old lenses stacked up somewhere which they no longer need and they might be willing to give to you for free.

One fine day I went to visit one of my friends who were a professional photographer for a long time. He was in the process of cleaning his store room and had placed this box outside all covered in dust. I was surprised to find a couple of lenses inside that box carefully wrapped in plastic with some silica gel. And one of them is actually a cult lens, a Vivitar Series 1M (VMC) 90mm f/2.5 Macro.

How to use a classic manual lens on a DSLR
How to use a classic manual lens on a DSLR

The other a pancake Pentax 40mm f/2.8. He was happy give me both, he no longer used them and was happy to see that someone actually valued them and will take better care of them.

I ordered a Pentax to Canon Converter ring the moment I got back home, it works like a charm, and the lens is in excellent condition, free of fungus and scratches, is built like a tank; feels good just to hold it and gives excellent image quality.

Use SLR Lens on DSLR
Use SLR Lens on DSLR

 Here’s a shot taken with my battered old Canon 350D + the Vivitar Macro.

How to Use Old Film Camera Lenses on Your DSLR
Canon 350D + Vivitar 90mm Macro Lens

So when great image quality could be obtained at a mere fraction of the costs involved with comparable auto focus lenses why not give it a try.

Adapter or Converter Rings

How to use vintage lenses on your DSLR
How to use vintage lenses on your DSLR

Adapters or converters make it possible to mount a lens of different make with a different kind of lens mount on modern digital camera bodies.

how to use vintage manual focus lenses on dslr cameras
Pentax to Canon Adapter Ring

For example using an adapter / converter you could use lenses from different manufacturers like Nikon, Olympus, Pentax etc on Canon Cameras.

old film camera lenses on new digital cameras
Pentax to Canon Converter Ring

The important thing to remember is that each lens to camera combination requires a different adapter ring. For example to fit a Pentax lens on a Canon camera requires a different ring than the one needed to fit a Nikon lens on a Canon camera. You could easily find if an adapter will match your camera and lens which you intend to use by a quick online search.

How to Use Lens Adapters?

1. Attach the adapter ring to the lens mount (just the same as attaching a lens to your camera).

how to use old lenses on new digital cameras
Pentax Lens Mount

using old lenses on modern digital slr camera
With the converter attached it is now a Canon mount lens

2. Now attach the whole thing to the camera body
3. You need to focus and set exposure manually
4. Aperture is to be set on the lens using the aperture ring

How many adapters do I need?

how to use old lenses on dslr
how to use old lenses on dslr

Adapters with no electrical contacts or lens elements like the one featured in this article costs less than $15. So the best solution will be to buy a ring for each old lens you wish to use on your dslr. This way you could attach an adapter ring to a lens and forever use it just like a lens with a compatible mount for your dslr.

Related Reading

  1. Stacking Lenses with Coupling Rings for Extreme Macro Photography
  2. Turn Your Kit Lens into an Extreme Macro Lens with Full Aperture Control
  3. How to Make Aperture Work as Normal With Lens Reverse Technique
  4. How to Lock a Lens at a Certain Aperture
  5. Reverse Lens Macro Photography Using Lens Reverse Ring
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