Classic Lenses on Modern Digital Cameras

     Classic manual focus lenses are often very sharp, well made and relatively inexpensive.  Many can be adapted for use on many modern digital cameras.  If you are planning to use a vintage lens on a modern camera, you must first make sure it is possible.  Not every lens mount is adaptable to every other lens mount.  Also, even if the adaptation is possible, there is often a design issue which can cause damage to your camera.  Mirror damage is a major concern.  You won't have auto focus or auto aperture.  You must meter with the lens wide open and then re-adjust the aperture to shoot the photo.   So, it's not good for changing light situations or quick snapshots.  Also, there are many versions of m42 lenses that are not safe for my Canon camera because they interfere with the mirror.  Focusing can be tedious depending on the adapter you use and not all adapters are made well.   Some combinations just aren't possible or safe.  For a comprehensive compatibility chart, click here.

Flange Distance

     Flange distance is the distance from the camera’s mounting flange to the film or sensor plane.    Flange distances vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer.   Lens design dictates the specific flange distance for a camera mount.   This distance must be consistent for lenses to focus properly on the film or sensor and to fit the camera without interfering with the camera moving parts.    In order to adapt a lens that wasn't designed for your camera, you must use a spacer (adapter) to move the lens mount to the proper distance that the camera body requires.   Please see diagram.

flange distance

     As you can see in the example pic,   Lenses that require long flange distances can easily be adapted to cameras that are designed for short flange distances by simply filling the gap.   It is not possible to adapt a lens with a short flange distance to a camera that requires a long flange distance.   To address this, some adapters are made with a correction in order to change the size of the focused image to fit on the sensor.   Image quality suffers greatly when this is done.   I strongly suggest that you avoid any adapter that uses a correction lens.    For instance,  Canon FD lenses will not adapt to Canon Eos EF bodies without the use of a correction lens.    

Flange Distances

flange-chartweb.jpg

     Please notice that mirrorless and cine mounts have the shortest flange distances.    Medium format slr's have the longest flange distances.   Essentially any lens mount on this chart that has a long flange distance can be adapted to any camera mount with a shorter flange distance.      However, If the flange distance of the two mounts is closer than 5mm, it is not possible to adapt.   There must be enough space to physically fit an adapter.

Most Popular Combinations

     Nikon - You may use old Nikon lenses Ai mount or newer on most Nikon D-Slr's with limited functionality.  However, it is not possible to adapt any other lens mount to Nikon D-Slr's without a serious loss of quality.  Nikon's flange distance is quite long compared to other brands.   Certain Nikon D-Slr's, i.e., the D40 will accept non-Ai lenses.  Click here for the Nkon specific compatibility chart.  Ironically, vintage Nikon non-Ai lenses are more adaptable to Canon digital than to Nikon digital.    

     Nikon Z - Nikon Z cameras are mirrorless.  There are many adapters available for Nikon Z and the size of the Nikon Z makes using vintage lenses very attractive, including telephotos.   

     Canon EOS - There are many lens mounts that will adapt successfully to Canon EOS EF because Eos EF bodies have a long flange distance and a wide mount,  The most common adapters are M42, C/Y (Contax/Yashica), Pentax K, Olympus OM, Nikon F and Leica R.   Petri and Contarex can also be adapted with more effort.    The following mounts need an adapter with a quality reducing correction glass so they are not recommended; Konica F, Fujica X, Canon FD, Minolta MD, C Mount and Miranda.   In my opinion the only FD adapter worth using is the 'ultra rare' original Canon adapter and it is only usable on a select group of telephoto lenses.   Ricoh KR mounts are not adaptable to Canon due to a protruding pin.  It is very difficult to find a K-mount to Eos adapter that isn't designed for the Ricoh program KR-mount.  Be careful.   I suggest avoiding K mount lenses on an Eos EF slr body..   
     Note:  Sigma lenses from the '90's AF' era do not communicate properly with modern EOS cameras and will cause an error code to be displayed on the camera.  The most notable of these lenses are the Sigma 24mm f2.8 AF and the 70-300 f4-5.6 1:2 macro.  Canon wasn't lying when they suggested that off brand lenses may not work properly on their cameras.   You can , however, use a Nikon AF version of the Sigma 24mm f2.8 on your Canon w/ a Nikon to Eos adapter.

     Canon M - Canon M mirrorless cameras accept a large selection of adapters because its flange diatnce is very short.    I do have an observation to share.   I have noticed a shutter vignette when shooting with an adapter at speeds above 2000th sec. on my M3.    If you experience this effect it is not your shutter failing.   It is a glitch in the processor caused by the lack of communication with the lens.  

 

     Canon R -  Fotodiox offers a wide range of adapters for the Eos R.    They are not inexpensive though.

     Micro 4/3 - The next best system for old lens adaptations.  Having said that, many lenses, though mountable are not usable.  Watch for extruding pins from M42 and K-mount lenses.  Micro 4/3 bodies are small and do not accept large or wide lenses well.   Focusing errors are a common problem.

     Samsung NX - Samsung accepts almost all mounts with an adapter except for Micro 4/3 and Sony E.

     Sony Alpha - Sony Alpha mount bodies accept adapters for Pentax K or Leica R and most Minolta AF lenses are usable with some limitations.

     Sony E - Sony E accepts almost all mounts with an adapter except for Micro 4/3.  As with Micro 4/3, Sony E bodies tend to be small and focusing problems may also arise.

     Pentax - Pentax accepts most older Pentax K lenses.  Pentax KA lenses are the most adaptable of the manual focus lenses.   M42 and Leica R lens mounts are usable with an adapter but no others.   

     DO  NOT USE Ricoh P-series lenses.  You can identify these lenses by a "P" or "(A)P" setting on the aperture ring similar to the A on the A-series Pentax.  These lenses have a small ball bearing contact on the rear flange of the lens that will pop right into the hole that holds the AF cam on Pentax autofocus bodies. The lens gets locked tight on the body, only halfway mounted.  This is unfortunate because the Ricoh P 50mm is a very, very sharp lens.

      Avoid third party lenses designed specifically for program Ricoh cameras.  Third party lenses designated "KR" or "PK-R"  are usually Ricoh  program ready K-mount and can get stuck just like Ricoh P lenses.  

     Early, non-P-Series Ricoh lenses should be okay because they have no extra electrical or mechanical contacts, but be careful.

     Leica, Panasonic & Olympus L - Leica M, Canon EF, Pentax K, Sigma EF, Contax Yashica, Leica R, Minolta MD, Nikon F, M42 and Canon FD are easily adapted to the L mount.  

     Leica M -  Leics 39mm Screw, Contax Yashica, Canon FD, M42 and Leica R adapt well to Leica M. 

     Fuji X -  Nikon F, Exakta, Canon FD, M42, Pentx K and  Canon EF adapt well to Fuji-X.  

     Special note about C mount lenses:    Cine lenses come in several mounts.  C,CS, D.  The most popular is the C mount.    Not all C mount lenses are designed the same.   C mount lenses that are made for surveillance cameras will vignette severely on most digital bodies because the sensor they are designed for is very, very small.    

     Cine mount lenses made for Super 8 movie cameras are a better bet, but they can be a rare find and expensive.
     Modern C mount lenses will work fine as they are designed for larger sensor sizes.  

     There are plenty of lenses that may fit your camera with an adapter but will also damage the camera and/or the lens.  This happens mostly in D-Slr's because an slr uses a mirror which is precariously close to the rear of the lens being mounted.    Before you plan to use an old lens on a modern D slr, research if it is safe.   Use these links to help you determine if a comination is safe.   Pebble Place   Panorama Planet

     I must add that cameras like the Nikon Z have the sensor very close to the mount.   Be very careful mounting wide angle lenses.  Also, I can see those sensors getting dusty fast.  Make your lens changes in a clean room, if possible.