Can manual focus lens be used on digital camera

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by bernadine_love, Nov 26, 2016.

  1. Hi, I'm thinking of starting over, again.
    A long time ago I had a Konica camera with a Vivitar Series 1 70 to 210 macro zoom 67mm lens and another Series 1 lens that complimented the 70 to 210 lens, but I don't remember the specifics. I had been advised on their purchase and I couldn't have been happier using them. But they were stolen and I went into mourning.
    Years later, I bought a Pentax P5 with a Tamron 70 to 210 and a Tamron 28 to 70 lenses. I guess I was spoiled by the Vivitar lenses and I still don't think I could do as much with the Tamron lenses as my old cherished Vivitar lenses.
    I haven't taken pictures in the last few years because film and processing is expensive. I've thought maybe a digital camera would be an alternative. But I know nothing about digital cameras. When I found your website, I thought this looks like a good place to ask some questions. I have used a friends little digital camera a few times but I don't like the auto-focus. I much prefer to do the focusing myself.
    Can I use my Tamron lenses with a digital camera? Since they currently attach to a Pentax camera, am I limited to only a Pentax camera? I think I remember (but maybe that was with the Konica camera) having an adapter to fit the lens to the camera.
    The Vivitar lenses had a macro setting, though I know they by photo standards they probably weren't a true macro, but I loved the pictures I got with them. The Tamron lenses don't have the same ability to adjust the macro as the Vivitar lenses did and I was disappointed with them for that use. I would like to have a lens with a similar capability to the Vivitar. If I can use the Tamron lenses with a new digital camera body, maybe I could get a macro lens to make up the difference.
    I've looked at digital cameras on line and there are lots of terms I don't understand. What other things do I need to know about digital cameras and how they differ from film cameras, that I don't know to ask? Any hint/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Before I do anything I need to go to a store and have several in hand.
    And I do have to keep this in a budget, so I don't need the top of the line. Remember I was very happy with my little Konica camera.
  2. SCL


    You can use older manual focus lenses on modern digital camera bodies, provided the mount is compatible. However, being manual focus lenses, they won't auto-focus. Also, depending on the camera body, they may not meter properly, as there is no electrical connectivity. I routinely use old lenses on modern digital bodies, but usually the higher end ones which allow metering functionality. If the Tamron lenses you have, are of the Adaptall II variety, their mounts are interchangeable for a variety of cameras and widely available on Ebay (I own three of them and use them on older and more modern digital bodies with no problems - just no auto-focus). Mirrorless micro 4/3 (digital) bodies have readily available inexpensive adapters to use most vintage lenses from as far back as 60-70 years ago. Before committing your money to a new system, I encourage you to either immerse yourself in self-study and terminology, or take a class at a local facility (community college or night school) to bring yourself up to speed. You will make better choices comfortably having the right knowledge in hand.
  3. I'll keep this brief, because I could go on forever. ;-) Basically, you can certainly use your Pentax lenses on a Pentax DSLR. You might be able to use them on a Canon DLSR, although with some limitations.

    But the best way to use your collection of lenses - IMO - is to pair them with a mirrorless camera such as the Sony A7. You will of course have to buy adapters.
    If you don't care about sensor size too much, a smaller mirrorless camera would work just as well. Sony has the 6000 series (previously known as the NEX series), and Fuji has a few good ones, too. Their sensors are smaller than 8-perf 35mm (36mm x 24mm). However, the angle of view will become a bit narrower, because the sensor is smaller (it's effectively the same as cropping your images).
    There are lots of details you could examine, so I'll leave it there. I think you would benefit from figuring out this at your own pace - not because I don't want to help, but I just don't want to give you information overload at this point.
    Edit: I forgot to add that manual focusing is much, much easier with live view - and in that case, mirrorless body will be your best bet.
  4. Yes but . . .
    - You MUST check with your specific camera model to see which of the older lenses will fit the camera. I am not familiar with the Pentax cameras, nor your P5.
    - Then you MUST check to see what lenses will fit your specific model without damaging the camera or the lens. The fact that the lens will fit the mount, does not mean it will work or not damage the camera.
    - Note that with todays DSLRs, if you use an older lens, you may loose functionality of the camera/lens, vs. using a current lens. Example, some current cameras cannot meter with non-electronic (older) lenses, some cameras cannot control the aperture of the lens so the lens is then fixed at wide open. So using an older lens could significantly handicap you.
    - If you like the Vivitar Series 1, 70-210, I would look for one. Otherwise you will be constantly thinking about it, and wanting it. BUT, just be aware that as above, it MUST fit AND work with the DSLR you have or are going to get.
    - DSLRs are harder to focus manually, because the screen is not optimized for manual focusing. Most DSLRs do not have a focusing aid on the screen; split image or microprism.
    - Finally, since you are 'starting over,' I would give a lot of thought to starting over from scratch, and not be tied/handcuffed to your old lenses. The cameras today have pretty good lenses. Even some of the kit lenses are pretty good. When I replaced my D70 with a D7200, the 17-140mm kit lens almost eliminated the need for a medium zoom. And the lenses work with the body.
  5. I have Pentax DSLRs with crop factor. - You could buy the Pentax K1 to have a film sized sensor. Do your lenses have an "A" setting on the aperture ring? - In case of Tamron a lever to lo be pressed to lock the aperture setting at f32/ AE marking? - If not they will be a bit awkward to meter with but could still be used on a Pentax DSLR after changing a menu setting.
    Manually focusing DSLRs is comparably hard; their screens weren't really made for that and lack split screen prisms or microprism spots that manual SLR used to have.
    Here I own 2 copies of the Tamron 70-210 f3.5. Those lenses don't blow me away when mounted on DSLRs; results look rather soft, compared to Pentax AF primes like 135mm f2.8 or 100mm f2.8 from film days. - Modern lenses made for digital seem better than them too.
    I switched to Leica M which doesn't provide any AF (but surely isn't everybody's cup of tea!) and enjoy that shooting experience.
    From hindsight picking Pentax DSLRs seems like a mistake I made. - I did not warm up with my manual focus lenses on them and ended repurchasing the basic kit as AF versions. - Pentax' AF seems the slowest on the entire DSLR market and I am tempted to replace it with another brand, especially for the long end, but it does still work more precise than my attempts to focus anything wider than 50mm wide open.
    I do not know what was around adapters wise in the Tamron system. - If you plan to get a Sony A7 II, as others already suggested, you'll have to stop your lenses down by hand with a Sony E mount to PK adapter in use. - If you can find an adapt all to Minolta AF mount you could also buy a unfortunately not cheap Sony E to A mount adapter that will operate your aperture as your SLRs did; i.e. keep it open for easier focusing, stop it down for exposure.
    Just as a reality check: You can buy a (barely) used Samsung GX 20 with kit lens for 200 Euro/$ these days, which is basically the same camera as the Pentax K20D. - I'd recommend getting the Pentax, if you want to be easy going in free software like Google Picasa. In Adobe Lightroom the cameras seem more equivalent. - I am not sure if Lightroom has equally great profiles for Samsung, but after using X-Rite passport colorchecker they seem OK. - I am not sure if Pentax renders color for JPG files better than Samsung. - In doubt: Spend the $20 a Pentax might cost extra but if you don't mind working on your RAW files: both cameras were shipped with Silkypix Software.
    Most DSLRs have a crop factor of 1.5 due to their sensors being smaller than film. This makes filling the frame for a macro shot of course easier. On the other hand your 28-70 lens won't count as "wide" anymore. - If you buy used: get a 18-55mm kit zoom. They might matter $50 or even just $30 on the total bill and deliver impressive bang for the buck.
    I can't yet comment on the joy of using mirrorless cameras. - The Fujis I bopught were too early models to be real fun for me. Focus peaking is a nice feature to have in an electronic view finder and a modern mirrorless can probably be great to shoot with rather fast manual lenses in broad daylight. If you aren't going to use a tripod buy a camera with image Stabilisation in it's body. - That feature is really nice to have, offered by Pentax DSLRs & the Sony A7 II series. - I am not sure if Micro four thirds bodies with 2x crop factor will make you happy behind the old Tamron lenses.
    I also have no clue what Tamron provided adapters wise for Canon EOS or Nikon AF bodies. - Maybe the cheaper Nikons will refuse to meter behind your lenses.
  6. Haven’t seen any Konica cams on the market….and the Vivitar Ser 1 lens was made in several variations….Ken Rockwell’s site has some info on this lens….not that I’m his fan. I get it why you feel so strongly about the Vivitar zoom… and don’t despair, since they are still available.

    From your description, It’s likely that you’ve had the Vivitar 70-210/3.5 version. It’s a weird lens and unless it was collimated properly, this glass is nothing to howl about (my copy) = soft. Yet, the macro portion (technically a 1:2) is v. good and I would easily put it up there among macro lenses in $500-800 range. By the way, Tamron and Sigma have come a long way since the ‘80s and they make better optics…..some even surpass Nikon/Canons in similar range. I have seen this lens for sale on CL, usually at $40-100 price…either in Canon or in Nikon mount. Although this zoom will pair up effortlessly on most current Nikon DSLR’s (older DX models maybe no), there will be some difficulties, to my knowledge, in pairing it up to most recent Canon rigs, since they’ve changed the lens mount on their cameras.

    As to digital cameras, there is no reason for concern, they can work similarly to film….and they have many more options. As Stephen mentioned, there is bit of a learning curve and you can follow this up on that with the camera manual, web info, books or you can even pop some questions here on Pnet. Hope you had a chance to see some digi cam options. Although DX is great for certain purposes (and more reasonable), I happen to have FX rig (24MP) and am quite content with it.

    Good luck choosing. If you really want to return to the 70-210 zoom, my hand could be twisted :>) and I could let go of my copy (for a price), since I mostly use Tammy 90/2.8 now.


  7. Oh my, thank you all for your replies.
    Stephen: The Tamaron lenses are the Adaptall II variety, so they should work with a digital camera. I didn't like the autofocus on the little Canon Powershot I used a few times (think digital instamatic). I don't know if DSLR's have better auto focus but I had a hard time getting the little camera to focus on what I wanted in focus not what it thought I wanted in focus. You are right I should take a class, it would be so much easier than trying to teach myself like I have on so many other things. Unfortunately, I have looked through the community college and art center Winter catalogues and all of the classes require bringing a camera to the class. They are all about learning to use a camera, not about choosing one.
    Karim: I have a Pentax P5 camera, I don't have Pentax lenses. Both of mine are Tamron lenses and the owner's manual says they are have the Adaptall-2 Interchangeable Mount System. (Thanks for not wanting to overload me, but after reading all of the replies, I think I already am. Doing this one sentence at at time.) Mirrorless body - looked that up on Wikipedia. So with a mirrorless body, the picture is smaller than what I would be seeing when I'm focusing? I'm used to looking through the SLR viewfinder to focus and compose the picture. On the little Canon Powershot, there was no viewfinder, just a screen on the back of the camera. Is that also true of mirrorless DSLR cameras?
    Gary: My original thought were to start over from scratch, until I started looking at prices. That's when I wondered if I couldn't use the lenses I already have, with their filters etc. with a new digital body. And if I could, even though I don't like the macro on them as well as the Vivitar, maybe I could get a dedicated macro lens and a DSLR camera. And no I haven't looked at their prices either, so that may also go the way of good ideas gone bad. Or maybe I could get a dedicated macro for my film camera.
    Jochen: My lenses have the AE on them. I'm going to have to read your message a few more times to understand it.
    Leszek: I ran across Ken Rockwell’s site and he did have several versions of the Vivitar Series 1 listed. I must have been lucky and had one of the good versions, seems there were some not so good too. I'd hate to buy one and have it not be the same as I had. And since it's even older than the Tamrons, it would be even less likely to work with a digital camera. And I'm quite a bit older and my hands are less able to hold things, and that was a big lens to hold. (But if I still had it I wouldn't be looking for something in digital.) Would you please translate your almost last sentence - "Although DX is great for certain purposes (and more reasonable), I happen to have FX rig (24MP) and am quite content with it." Thanks for the picture. Yes, that's the sort of picture I could take with my dear old lens. And would still like to be able to do with a new set up.
    Thanks for all your replies,
  8. Yes, DX (such as Nikon D7100 or D7200 have a smaller sensor) and their prices are lower: saw refurbished for $579 and $759 respectively. Compared to FX models, such as D750 or D610 (both 24MP) will go for over $1700 and 1496 - the latter ones were brand new (not refurbished). Prices change, as you know. Anyway, DX cameras are wonderful for reach and are usually bit smaller....many wildlife photographers prefer it. There have been many discussions that the DX format is not being treated with respect and there seem to be lack of good wide angle lenses for them. FX models require bulkier lenses (and longer) to accomplish the same as DX models, tho some find the bokeh more pleasing as the DOF is thinner. Some of the DX models, such as D7200, and the new D500, catch up with high ISO's of the FX models, making them less noisy when the light becomes somewhat murky. Both, the DX and FX models can utilize the same optics, with a caveat that DX lens on an FX camera will be quite limiting and not cover the entire view. Anyway, there are certain differences and no camera is perfect....much depends on personal needs.
    The DX camera sensor amplifies the photo 1.5X (Nikon), but also increases your DOF some....and that helps in taking macro photos. In FX macro has a v. thin margin and it requires higher F-stops....I use F11 to F22 on regular basis.
    If the lens has a Nikon bayonet mount, then it will work with recent DSLR's. My 70-210/3.5 was bought in 1981 (glass still in perfect condition) and it works perfectly on my DSLR. I can't vouch for any other makes.
    I'm in total agreement, it's a hefty lens. Your call on this.
  9. Why don't you just get something like a Nikon D5500 with the 18-55mm and 55-200mm kit lenses. I think you'll have nothing but frustration trying to use your old lenses on a new body, unless you're into that kind of fiddling around. The auto-focus on the D5500 is much much better than the point and shoot you used, and the image quality with this camera and the kit lenses will be far and above what your old lenses will do. The kit lenses focus fairly closely, too.
  10. The use of older manual lenses only makes sense if they have some feature you need (like perspective control) or if you are doing it for the fun of it. I have hundreds of old lenses in virtually every mount, because I do like to shoot with the old manual bodies that they work on. I also have "X" to Canon EOS and FD adapters, because the Canons are nearly universal receivers. But it's not a way to save money or practical for normal, everyday use IMHO.
    Lenses that lack manual apertures and even manual focus, of course, just don't make any sense on an AF, AE camera body of any age.
    BTW, the Nikon mount has changed over the years and there are many lenses and bodies that will not work together; some can even cause damage to each other. So the "universal" claim about the Nikon F mount is optimistic, to say the least.
  11. SCL


    While I love auto-focus for some things, I have found that in many instances of macro work, manual focus often does a better job. Whatever system you get, since your Tamron lenses are Adaptall, get an adapter or two and try them out, it is the only way you will really be able to decide if you want to keep them or dispose of them. I ended up keeping one zoom which worked well on film & digital, mainly because I couldn't get much for it in a sale, and in a pinch it fills in nicely. I kept a Tamron 90 macro because it is just so good and I can readily switch it among camera bodies. And lastly I kept a Tamron 17, again because it works well across bodies, and their OEM 17mm lenses are so expensive. Focusing manual focus lenses on DSLR bodies, like others said is a little harder due to changes on focusing screens from the film era, but it is a breeze on mirrorless micro 4/3 bodies, as you can usually magnify the images with their electronic viewfinders about 14x (at least on mine), which assures sharp photos.
  12. Bernardine,
    As a committed Pentax user of many years standing, I applaud your decision to stick with Pentax. With my eyesight, I find autofocus invaluable, but can use MF if the need arises. May I suggest you have a look at the Pentax Forum :
    who have a great 'Beginners' section, and many enthusiasts who can help you each step of the way with what you want to do, not what others think you should want to do. I have a second hand Pentax K20D, with which I am extremely satisfied, and it didn't cost an arm and a leg !
    Good luck
  13. JDM
    The NIKON mount itself has not changed, it is the linkage between the lens and the camera that has changed. And the design of the camera behind the mount, which could conflict with the mounting of older lenses. So yes, using older lenses on a new camera can be OK, problematic or impossible, all depending on the specific lens and body.
  14. quote: My original thought were to start over from scratch, until I started looking at prices. That's when I wondered if I couldn't use the lenses I already have, with their filters etc. with a new digital body. And if I could, even though I don't like the macro on them as well as the Vivitar, maybe I could get a dedicated macro lens and a DSLR camera. And no I haven't looked at their prices either, so that may also go the way of good ideas gone bad. Or maybe I could get a dedicated macro for my film camera.
    Look at the kits (body + lens(es)). You can get some pretty good deals on kits, especially now that Christmas is coming.
    And you don't have to go upscale to the higher end cameras. Match what you want to do with the cameras. You might be surprised at what you can find.
    Most kit lenses will not do macro very well, but might be adequate. If you want macro, you will likely have to get a macro lens.
    A macro lens for your film camera is a good option. The older manual focus lenses are much lower in price that they are almost CHEAP.
    But check very carefully what the compatibility is of the older lens that you have with the DLSR that you are thinking about. Like I said, you could loose functionality that would make it painful to use the older lens with the DSLR, such as the ability to meter the exposure.
  15. to use the older lens with the DSLR, such as the ability to meter the exposure.​

    The way I use, the Pentax DSLR are most compatible to their manual lenses especially the A lenses. It is good to go with A lenses because it is easier to find A lenses in good condition with cheap prices (compared to Takumar M42 for example) and you can fully use the lens as if you are using the lens on the film camera that was sold with the lens in their time. Mirrorless cameras on the other hand may be used with almost any of the old manual lenses but the compatibility level is very very low. That makes using manual lenses on MILC a pain. Besides, if you like focusing using LCD or EVF, you should use a mirrorless, but I prefer manual focusing with a pentaprism+mirror. Without that, I'd prefer focusing by the scale.
  16. The NIKON mount itself has not changed, it is the linkage between the lens and the camera that has changed. And the design of the camera behind the mount, which could conflict with the mounting of older lenses. So yes, using older lenses on a new camera can be OK, problematic or impossible, all depending on the specific lens and body.​
    Sounds like a prime example of "a distinction without a difference" to me.
    If you don't care to gamble, you may want to consult the mostly up-to-date information at
    And, by the way, the inability of the earlier Nikon digital cameras to accept my library of non-AI Nikkor lenses was one factor in my decision in 2004 to switch to Canon digital (which did take the non-AI lenses with inexpensive adapters).
  17. JDM
    Yes the marketing folks were out of touch with the practical reality.
    Yes, the MOUNT itself is the same.
    But if you can't mount the lens for other reasons, then they are not truly interchangeable and thus not backward compatible.
  18. Generally you can use lenses from an other mount on a digital body if a) there is an adapter for that purpose and b) if the sensor to flange distance for the one you want to use is bigger than the one for the digital body because the difference is used to allow the adapter to have some thickness (zero or negative thickness is not physically possible of course). Some digitals revel in this sort of thing, such as the Sony mirrorless cameras. I bought a NEX-7 a few years back and was able to use nearly every lens I owned including - Minolta manual focus (MC/MD mount), Leica M, Leica screwmount, Canon AF, Contax/Yashica SLR manual, Contax RF lenses, and Minolta AF lenses. But check for the particular combo you need on the digital body you are considering. Note that a good adapter can be expensive.

    Also some digital cameras have features (such as focus peaking, manual focus modes, etc.) that help you do this, and some do NOT. All digital cameras are not created equal in this regard. There are also exceptions. For instance, I cannot use my 21/4.5 Contax RF lens on the adapter for the NEX-7 because the rear of the lense protrudes too far into the lens opening. Probably not an issue for you.
  19. One nice feature that is present on (AFAIK) all Pentax dslrs is "catch in focus". I don't know if other manufacturers have this or not.

    With CIF, you can use a manual lens and, while the camera will not focus the lens, it will give a signal when you achieve proper focus.

    Years ago, Pentax made an autofocus lens extender. I believe it was 1.7x. The extender itself would move the entire lens forward and backward in response to the AF mechanism of the camera. This, effectively turned a manual focus lens into an autofocus one. It was, admittedly, a compromise, but it did work but with limitations.

    They still pop up on eBay occasionally, but they're a bit pricey.

    Pentax probably has the best backward compatibility of any brand. Any lens ever designed for a Pentax 35mm SLR can be used on any Pentax dslr. The screw mount lenses require an inexpensive adapter and require stop-down metering, but they will work. Any k-mount lens will fit and will work as the lens was designed.
  20. AJG


    @paul--I wish you were correct about backward compatibility--K and M series manual focus lenses meter via stop down on DSLRs, not full aperture as they did with the film cameras they were built for. Stop down metering on Pentax DSLRs isn't always that accurate in my experience with a number of Pentax K and M lenses.

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