General Rules on using Film Lenses on DSLRs?

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by evanlberent, Jul 19, 2008.

  1. Pardon me if this has been answered, but all I can find are specific answers to this lens with that DSLR body and so on.
    Feel free to redirect me to the post which may answer this.

    What are the basics for using Film Lenses on DSLR bodies?

    For specifics, I have been using a Nikon, Nikkormat with a Vivitar 70-210mm as well as a Nikon lens. I have been looking at the Canon
    Rebel XTi. Feel free to use these as examples.

    Any help would be very much appreciated.
  2. Mount it and shoot. That's about it. You might have some limitations with manual lenses but that's no different than the limitations with the later film SLRs. Some older lenses show more chromatic aberrations on DSLR.
  3. Wouldn't it be easier to stay with Nikon?
  4. SCL


    Most work fine provided they fit or have adapters which provide infinity focus. Sometimes automatic functions don't work when switching brands...big deal, use it in manual and check the histogram. There are some real issues for a small number of people who pixel peep, one of which is that the angle of light which exits the rear of the lens and hits the sensor may not be optimal (since film has a greater tolerance as it never lay perfectly flat in the first place) and result in certain distortions, generally around the peripheral edges of the picture. I've used many of my old manual Nikon and Tamron lenses, as well as some Leica lenses on my Nikon DSLR and for me, generally, there are few issues. Some lenses don't seem as sharp on the DSLR as they did on film, but a little post processing seems to clear that up pretty well. I suggest you go ahead and give it a try.
  5. While there are some lenses designed for the smaller sensor size in some digital cameras (Canon EF-S, for example) that do not mount on film cameras, lenses are optical, not digital.

    As an aside, want to buy a digital tripod?
  6. Thank you so much guys. I've been dying to get a DSLR but am very tight on money, and it is more of a hobby then a job
    and it seemed the Canon Rebel XTi would perfect (around $600) and I am contemplating what lens to get. If I can hold off
    on that and use my old lenses which apparently I can, then I could save a few bucks... just a few.

    As Vierimaa pointed out, would it be easier (for the lenses to fit properly without an adapter) to stick with Nikon?

    Oh and D N, no thank you, I'm planning on buying a surreal tripod, I've been told it's out of this world!
  7. If you buy a Nikon body, you can use all or most of your older lenses with no problems. In the price range you're looking at,
    you won't have metering but that's not such a big deal with a digital camera ... guess, check the exposure on the LCD,
    adjust and shoot.

    If you buy a Canon body, you will need adapters, you won't have auto-diaphragm operation, etc.

  8. With the CAnon bodies you WILL get metering in Av and M modes. I have used all my older Nikkor lenses with my Canon EOS DSLRs and they worked great. In the end, I got tired of using the older manual lenses so, I sold them all.
  9. Don't bother. The finders on entry level Canons and Nikons (~$600) are vastly unsuitable for manual focus.
    They are small and the apparent DOF is much more than what is recorded.

    As for adapters, they can be either too thin or too thick. (Yes I speak from experience.) Yet another headache.

    The Nikon D40x/D60 have decent kit lenses. Just make sure you get the VR version. You will be able to use your
    MF lenses properly when you eventually upgrade to the D300, D700 or whatever with a decent pentaprism
    finder and metering for non-CPU lenses.
  10. Don't kid yourself that a well regarded film prime is always better than the kit lens. It depends on the specific lenses, but none of my primes are significantly better than the Nikkor 18-70 kit lens.

    A couple people at work just bought D40s, and they're excellent. I let them try a bunch of primes- it was fun, but the only prime they seemed really interested in was the 50mm f/1.4, due to the improved light gathering. As said above, the screens in dSLRs are not optimal for manual focusing.

    About the only time I mount up an old manual focus lens is for macro work.
  11. Pardon me if I sound so dumb, but the reason I wish to get a DSLR is to have what I had on my Nikkormat except in
    digital. I WANT manual adjustment for all the possibilities, which I had to do with film. When you guys speak of the DSLR's
    manual vs. autos, am I missing something if it is not just focusing, aperture and the like?
  12. Evan,

    Well, the format of the DSLR cameras you're looking at is 16x24 mm rather than 24x36 mm so even if you use the same
    lenses as you have now, you *won't* have the same FoV choices. For a Nikon with this size sensor, to get the same
    FoV you need different focal lengths (the equivalent of your current 70-210 lens would be about 45 to 140mm, the
    equivalent of a 50mm normal will be about a 35mm lens, etc).

    Any/all of the Nikon bodies and lenses, whether manual focus or auto focus, will allow you to manually focus, and set
    exposure (aperture and exposure time) manually. But only Nikon lenses with cpu chips will allow you to meter with the
    low-end Nikon bodies. Those will be the AI-P and various AF series Nikon lenses. The Nikon DSLR bodies that allow
    metering with older (AI/AI-S) manual focus lenses are the D200/D300 and the pro series bodies (D1, D2, D2 etc).

    The result of all this is that if you get a low end DSLR with whatever standard kit lens it normally comes with, you'll likely
    get something closer to what you want than if you depend upon using your older manual focus lenses with a new DSLR
    body. In other words, if you want similar field of view and full metered manual operation, get a body and modern lenses
    that match it.

  13. Just an update,
    I actually brought my lenses to B&H. The Non-auto Nikkor lesnes do not seem to fit on the D60, however the D80 they fit without a
    hitch(although maybe a click). Although I didn;t try comparing similar lenses (auto digital to my manual) I think I found my DSLR, now time
    for me look for a good price!

    Thanks everyone.

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