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Author Topic: Lens compatibility with DSLR/Mirrorless and classic lenses part I  (Read 1096 times)

Offline kumarrishi

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Hi everyone, time and again there are post of people asking varied questions on using manual lenses on DSLRs, mirrorless and NEX etc. I have gone through most of this path and just for help of such people who would like to use the wonderful classic lenses on their cameras, just like to give a one stop answer to all these questions.
I would go by camera systems and what lenses you can use on them. Fairly simple way but also remember lenses can be modified destructively to be used on your camera too and I am avoiding it at present but would also give some insights later.
For understanding all these first you need to understand flange distance. Flange distance is the distance of camera sensor/film from lens mount.  And this distance of a camera will dictate which mount lens can be used on that camera.

Following link gives a comprehensive account of Focal Flange distances (FFD) of each camera system. Technically for any camera with a particular flange distance x, any camera system lens that is more than x flange distance can be used. But practically as you need an adapter with would be few mm thick a safe bet it atleast 1 mm extra distance. So eg in canon EF system with flange distance 44.0 mm we can use most of the other system lenses except one having less flange distance or having flange distances which do not allow an adapter to fit in. So Canon FD/FL lenses with 42.0 mm flange distance has to be fitted 2mm inside the camera mount for full infinity focus. So the lens will not give infinity focus on Canon EF camera. However canon when it changed from FD to EF mount, came up with an adapter with glass which would focus some of your lenses on canon FD. The adapter was very expensive and produced in small amount only and with new AF system for EF lenses it died out.
A read on the theory here http://photo.net/canon-fd-camera-forum/00LnZP and canon FD to EF issue

NIKON DSLR ? The camera has a FFD of 46.5 mm and there aren?t many other manufacturer?s lenses which have more than this FFD so it?s not an ideal camera to try old other mount lenses. However, a lot of Nikon lenses for F mount are still available and will fit with minor corrections. You just need to convert old Pre AI lenses to AI (a lever has to be clipped and base has to be slightly grinded). If you are not sure of the conversion process give it to a professional. All AI and AIS lenses can be used on any Nikon DSLR. However these lenses would not meter with non-professional cameras. It will meter with DXXX and higher series cameras. For other stop down metering can be used, you change the aperture and check the light. It will not autofocus with anything on your AF camera unless you have a TC 16 A. TC 16 A was an interesting TC which would definitely multiply the perceived focal length by1.6 but allow many MF lenses to AF.
There are some glass element adapter which corrects the focusing for other mount lenses on your Nikon camera, but it degrades the quality too much. Its fun to try out but for a serious photo its not worth it. When you are using a high end and sharp classic Nikon it defeats the purpose to use a low quality glass and degrade the quality. Nikon cameras are made for only Nikon lenses, stick to that. Medium format would work but add bulk so not really something to try unless you are fan of a particular lens.

CANON DSLR ? Most of the other camera mount lenses will work well with an adapter (glass less), except and sadly even the canon FD/FL lenses could not be used on Canon DSLR. Minolta and few other mount lenses also does not work with canon. You can use Nikon, Olympus, most practika PB (except the wides), pentax, M42 etc perfectly with infinity focus on canon DSLR. It would not autofocus by an means at present. All these old lenses have a aperture ring, which is fun to use, and sometime its faster than the dial on camera. This also makes all these lenses usable when reversed for macro. Canon FD and Minolta FD would work just fine for macro and would focus closer and would give more magnification as your adapter works as an extension tube.
If you want to use DSLR for classic lenses use Canon DSLR. It?s most versatile here. Glass adapters are also available for Minolta , canon FD to focus to infinity on Canon DSLR, but again quality takes a hit.

PENTAX DSLR ? With a flange distance of 45.46 mm for K mount, pentax is not adaptable to classic lenses. It works well with all older K mount lenses and M42 lenses. Will focus to infinity with these.
Not worth to use with other mount lenses and glass adapter, but works perfectly without glass adapter as a macro. You can however use all medium format lenses, but it would be bulky.

Mirrorless ? A perfect system to try classic lenses with flange distance between 18 mm to 20 mm you can use all earlier mount lens system, which would focus to infinity. Only issue is with micro four third you would get a 2x magnification due to smaller sensor. With sony etc it will act as APSc magnification (even for DSLR it?s the same if you do not have Full Frame). No legacy lens will focus and you have to use Manual focus, aperture ring for setting aperture.
M39, Leica M mount and Pentax Pen F mount lenses would also work on these which are not supported by any DSLR.

Destructive Modifications ?
1.   Simple mount conversion ? In some systems as the difference in flange distance is small say 1-2 mm or same flange distance, just removing the earlier mount and placing a new DSLR mount will work. Rollei QBM with 44.5 mm works with canon DSLR.
2.   Base flattening ? Some cameras have thicker bases and just little bit of flattening works, eg is exacta ? where you need to flatten the aperture leg base too. Works with canon DSLR after this.
3.   Mount removal, flattening and aperture system tweek ? It works for few lenses, Minolta lenses like 55 mm 1.2 and 50 mm 1.2 it has been tried successfully, there are few more lenses. Do not try this yourself unless you have some proficiency in doing DIY stuff. The aperture adjustment is critical in some and sometime when you open the aperture to adjust the ball bearing in aperture may just jump out, leaving your aperture of lens in adjustable.

Some interesting classic lenses we hear less about/ Interesting facts

Olympus Pen F system (can only be used on mirrorless) - The Olympus Pen F, Pen FT and Pen FV were very similar half-frame 35 mm single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras with interchangeable lenses produced by Olympus of Japan between 1963-1966 (Pen F), 1966-1972 (Pen FT) and 1967-1970 (Pen FV). The chief difference between them was that the Pen FT had an integrated light meter, while the F and FV did not.
Half frame meant that the camera used an 18?24 mm vertical (portrait) format, producing twice the pictures on a roll of 135 film as the regular 36?24 mm format. The smaller image format also allowed for a smaller camera and lenses, making the Pen F system one of the smallest SLR systems ever made; the Pentax Auto 110 was smaller, but with a much more limited range of lenses and accessories, and smaller 110 film.
These cameras were somewhat exceptional since they used a rotary focal-plane shutter, rather than the two-curtain focal-plane shutter commonly used in other SLRs. Since this one-piece shutter opens fully before it starts to close, it can synchronize to electronic flash at all shutter speeds.

Contax C/Y mount lenses ? FFD 45.5 mm. These are some of the very high quality Carl Zeiss or Yashica lenses you can get. Yashica manufactured some of the Zeiss lenses on contract and Yashica ML series is said to be result of that. Many believe there is little different Yashica ML and Zeiss. Will fit canon DLSR/ mirrorless.
Canon Rangefinder/ Nikon Rangefinder lenses ? Nikon Rangefinder lenses had a FFD of 34.85 mm and thus only mirrorless can support it.
Voigtlander Bessamatic DKL- Mount (FFD 45.7 mm) ? If you want to use the high quality Voigtlander lenses of yester era, buy one of these and use a DKL- Canon adapter. Will work fine with infinity focus. Voigtlander needs no introduction, but  the factory was bought by Zeiss, after closer of the voigtlander factory the name was sold to rollei and later transferred to Cosina in 1990. All produced some of the very best lenses. Most classic manual focues ones are by Voigtlader directly, and later years by rollei. Rollei used zeiss and voigtlander designs for their own leses.

Adaptall lenses ? Tamron made a very interesting lens system, which started off with Adaptamatic lenses and later tamron adaptall lenses. These lenses were for all systems of film camera, you just need to buy adapter for your camera system. Many of these lenses were very good, especially the SP lenses. Later series were called Adaptall 2. Two of the highly acclaimed one are 90 mm 2.5 52 B macro and 35-80 mm lens. I have both and love their rendition, colour and bokeh. If you get any of these in good condition don?t hesitate. The SP ones are all good and now a days can be had for decent price.

Soviet lenses ? After taking over East German Carl Zeiss facility and copying their designs, Russian lenses saw a spurt in their designs. Interestingly Russian took over lot of camera designs too and improvised on it. The quality control with these lenses were major issue but I feel its also about how people and used and misused these lenses. After opening a lens if you do not fit the elements with precision, there is no way you can get the sharpness. And all these lenses of more than 50 + year history has been cleaned, adjusted and opened innumerous times. Some time you may have the sharpest lens produced but you may get the worst sharpness. Based on Zeiss Biotar design and with similar swirly bokeh. Many people have reviewed it and according to some there is relatively very little difference between biotar and helios to justify buying biotar.

Helios 50 mm F2 - are well known lenses. Interestingly the early and later versions has quite an interesting difference. The early versions were not very sharp but had a wonderful bokeh (44-2- series), later series were sharper but comparatively poor bokeh (44-6/7).

Mir -1 B 37 mm 2.8 lens. There are few lenses in Mir -1 series but this is the best known example. My copy is ultra-sharp. Its based on 35 mm design (flektogon) of zeiss. If you get a good copy its worth keeping. Its cheaper way to get flektogon look.

More reviews on manual lenses soon, I realized I never named the files for a particular lens. Now I do not have shots to share here, will have to shoot again. I request other classic lens use to update information if i missed or wrongly indicated something.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2016, 02:51:15 PM by kumarrishi »

Offline LightWave

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Re: Lens compatibility with DSLR/Mirrorless and classic lenses part I
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2016, 12:56:52 PM »
Thanks for that pretty exhaustive write up :)

Offline kumarrishi

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Re: Lens compatibility with DSLR/Mirrorless and classic lenses part I
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2016, 02:52:24 PM »
Thanks Rajesh ji. Would add more info, the point with classic systems is they have so much history. A small writeup can not do any justice to it.

Offline kumarrishi

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Re: Lens compatibility with DSLR/Mirrorless and classic lenses part I
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2016, 09:50:33 PM »
PB to EOS - people need to be very careful as most of these and particularly the wides will not give infinity focus, which most seller do not tell.

Exakta was another system which had some fine Zeiss lenses. You need to modify the lenses a bit, a file will do the job,  but you will get a good quality zeiss glass on canon camera. A base flattening and it has an aperture control arm, it also needs flattening. On NEX and micro 43 you just need an adapter. These lenses however would be mostly with single coating so be aware of that. Getting a scratch free lens is always an issue but some scratches on front may not even show any effect. A hood while outdoor use is necessary.

Autofocusing Manual lenses There days however a number of different type of adapters are available and if you do want AF for any manual lens, its also available. Techart is one company which manufacture such adapters for different mount lenses. There are many others that i do not know of. Thanks Raay (Abhishek Ray) for this information. See the video to believe it.