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Canon 5Ds is fine with old lenses

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Canon 5Ds and old lenses

Using old lenses on the 5Ds


The Canon EF mount has a relatively short distance between lens and sensor which makes it fairly simple to use many old lenses with simple adaptors.

There are quite a few articles on the site about using old lenses with lens adapters, and trying different lenses.

What about using them on our new 50+MP 5Ds? Do you need very expensive high resolution lenses?

5ds oly50

The Zuiko 50mm f/1.2

My Olympus 50/1.2 lens dates from the early 1980’s and was for long my standard lens on my Olympus OM2.

At f/1.2 it has a slightly soft feel and, as you’d expect, a razor thin depth of field…

Oh, and it’s manual focus, which is never going to be easy to use with modern DSLR focus screens.

The effective resolution of a camera system is a combination of the optical system and the sensor – so improving one, should make for a better overall performance.

In fact I first tested this when using a 100D for macro photography with my MP-E65. This is a very high quality lens where the finer pixel pitch of the 100D (equivalent to about 46MP on a full frame sensor) revealed finer detail than my 21MP 1Ds3, albeit with the smaller field of view of the crop sensor.

That’s with a good lens – how about some older ones?

The bear and the piano

Two shots of Karen’s friend at my piano – one with the 5Ds and one with the 1Ds3 (mouse over image to see)

It’s not a studio shot, so there are a few slight differences in RAW settings to get a similar look.

The Olympus OM to EF adapter I’m using, has an AF confirm chip which works on the 1Ds3, but gives a communications error on the 5Ds – this clears if you press the shutter, but means I might need to remove the chip. The M42-EF adapter I show later, works just fine, even if the accuracy of the AF confirmation is sometimes problematic.

Zooming in on the music shows a difference (mouse over to see)

Note the zoom levels (this is a screen shot from Adobe Camera Raw)

Looking at several other sample images I’m inclined to say that sharp bits of the image are indeed a bit sharper – or more to the point they look a bit better when sharpened.

This is pretty minimal though. I’d suggest though that if you wanted to make a big print form an image like this, you’re probably not looking for ultimate sharpness.

Where the 5Ds does make a difference is that any noise (and it’s not a lot at 100 ISO) is much finer textured, compared to the 1Ds3.

The Tamron Duo/Twin-Tele 135mm f/4.5

An interesting lens, that was actually the first Tamron branded lens from 1958. It came with a 2x teleconverter (more info)

It’s M42 screw fit. You can see the M42-EF adapter

I paid £2.50 for this lens (just the main part you can see), from a charity shop… ;-)

5ds and tamron twin-tele 135 mm lens

The lens is very solidly built, with manual focus and aperture setting.

At f/4.5 the lens has a very smooth bokeh (the name given to the look of out of focus areas) and a modest bit of vignetting.

This shot (of Karen’s father) was taken with auto ISO (2000)

mr saunders

If you take it to f/5.6, sharpness improves noticeably.

This outdoor shot of some ivy on a wall shows the handling of out of focus highlights.

ivy - backlit

The lack of coatings does distinctly reduce contrast if there is much light on the lens.

100% crop from the shot above (f/5.6)

100% crop showing out of focus areas

More obvious is longitudinal chromatic aberration, with purple/green fringing. Fortunately modern RAW converters handle this very well. There are some more example shots using this lens in my Piccure+ review.

I also have another 135mm M42 lens, the Zeiss 135/3.5 which I tested on the 100D a while ago. Given the performance there (albeit with a crop sensor) I’ve no reason to expect other than similar performance on the 5Ds.

Here are three sample versions, at increasing crop, from a photo (f/5.6) of the honeysuckle that is growing though trees at the end of our garden.

The full frame.

honeysuckle flowers

The lens focuses quite smoothly, once you get used to the minimum focus distance of 6 feet.

flowers and hover fly

The hover flies are out in force this morning after almost 24 hrs. of steady rain.

hover fly on honeysuckle flower

Some conclusions?

Whilst this is all very nice, I’d note that if I really want shots like this, then I’ve an EF70-200 2.8L IS which has AF and IS.

However, even using the Mk1 version of the lens, a used copy is going to cost 30-40 times the price I paid for the Tamron…

It seems that better sampling, with smaller pixels, of the image cast by the lens gives an image closer to the best the lens can manage.

Although this seems blindingly obvious to me, I’ve seen numerous forum responses suggesting that unless you spend vast amounts of money, you won’t see the ‘real advantage’ of the 5Ds and 5Ds R. The combination of the test prints I made comparing cameras with a very good lens, and these quick tests with old glass strongly suggest to me that:

1 – All lenses benefit from a higher pixel density, but that doesn’t mean it will be obvious.

2 – The very best lenses will need big prints to show their potential advantages from a detail/resolution point of view and then that’s not what people will notice (note that I don’t include many other advantages from good lenses that you might choose, such as bokeh and contrast).

I’d also add that with good technique, I can get cracking hand-held shots from the 50MP 5Ds just as easily as I could with my 21MP 1Ds mk3, 18MP 100D and 11MP 1Ds.

More experimental and How-to articles

All articles and reviews are listed on our main Articles and Reviews page, or use the search box at the top of any page. Experimental items, hacks and how-to articles are all listed in the Photo-hacks category Some specific articles that may be of interest:

  • Using old lenses on your DSLR
  • The 1Ds digital pinhole SLR camera A Canon 1Ds pinhole camera, making a 50mm 'standard' pinhole and a 200mm zoom version - results are compared to a lens some £1400 more expensive.
  • Canon View Camera An adapter ($20) to use an old MPP 5x4 view camera with a Canon 1Ds. Article shows details of construction and just what it can be used for. Could be adapted for any DSLR and many old large format cameras.

More of Keith's articles/reviews (Google's picks to match this page)


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