A Quick Guide to Using Classic Lenses on Modern Cameras

     Classic manual focus lenses are often very sharp, well made and relatively inexpensive.  They can be adapted for use on many modern 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.  

     First, is it possible? Let's go one brand at a time and look at our choices.

     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 without a serious loss of quality.  Certain Nikon D-Slr's, i.e., the D40 will accept non-Ai lenses.  Click here for the compatibility chart.  Ironically, vintage Nikon non-Ai lenses are more adaptable to Canon Eos digital than to Nikon digital.   

     Canon EOS - The best system for old lens adaptations. There are many lens mounts that will adapt successfully to Canon EOS.  The most likely of which are M42 Screw, 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 magnifying glass so they are not recommended; Konica F, Fujica X, Canon FD, Minolta MD 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.   
     Note:  Sigma and Tamron made 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 (A GREAT LENS. BTW) 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.

     Micro 4/3 - The next best system for old lens adaptations.  Micro 4/3 cameras accept just about any lens with an adapter except for Sony E.   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, simply because of the cameras small size.   Focusing errors are a common problem with electronic viewfinders.  

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

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

     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 result will be that 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 cause no problem because they have no extra electrical or mechanical contacts.

     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 an slr, research if it is safe.  Below is a list of links which will help you determine if a lens is safe to use. 

Panorama Planet

Pebble Place

     Of course, you may be asking, "Is it worth it?"  Well, here is an example of a pic taken with an old lens on a Canon Eos D-Slr.

Yashinon DS 28mm f2.8 Canon Eos Rebel T2i

1/60 sec at f2.8 ISO 800

     The Yashinon DS 28mm f2.8 is 45 years old.  It is a single coated lens.  It is mounted to the Canon body with a $12 adapter.   As you can see when you click on the image, it is tack sharp with a nice bokeh.  

     So, you can see the Pro, but what is the Con?  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.