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Using old lenses on a modern digital DSLR camera

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Old lenses and kit on a new camera

Using old lenses on your DSLR with adapters

Keith’s had a clear out and found quite a few old bits of camera equipment in various drawers and cupboards.

So, what’s worth using and what’s not?

Using old stuff

Over time, I’ll put up some short articles about using old kit on our 5Ds/ 1Ds Mk3 / 100D

I’m not looking for the ‘perfect lens’, it’s mostly ‘for the fun of it’ and partly to remind me that although I’m a professional photographer, it’s still fun :-)

2019 update: now includes EOS RP [RF mount]

assorted lenses

Many lenses are very easy to use with appropriate adapters, I’ve already got adapters for M42 screw fit and Olympus OM fit.

Both came at quite reasonable cost from eBay. A quick search for ‘EF adapter’ will find several.

You may hear people on the forums say that cheap adapters are to be avoided.

However I’m of the opinion that this frequently comes from those of the ‘sharpness trumps all else’ school of photography.

I know some people collect vast piles of old kit and use it just for the sake of it, well that’s a fine hooby, but from my own POV, it ain’t why I enjoy photography.

tamron 35-70 f/3.5 on a Canon 1ds Mk3If you are looking for an adapter for a £2500 digital medium format lens, then it’s probably worth spending a bit more on an adapter than for a lens that would have difficulty raising £5 at a photographic bring and buy sale.

Right, an OM2 mount Tamron 35-70 CF Macro on a 1Ds3 – Why??

I’m just doing this for an experiment – If I want real sharpness and image quality, I already have lenses costing an awful lot of money, but who knows what I might find?

Other DSLRs also take adapters, however some need an adapter with a lens in it to allow for infinity focusing (i.e. the lens will only focus short of infinity – not a problem for macro use).

I suspect that much of the stuff tested here may well find itself on eBay some time, since being a professional commercial photographer, I’ve got a fair collection of Canon ‘L’ series lenses, which are not only very good quality, but have working autofocus, something you won’t get with old lenses.

Am I going to use this stuff ‘for real’ – I suspect not – if I wanted to make things purposely difficult and tedious, I might take a tripod with me everywhere and go back to film, say large format :-) Some types of photography just don’t suit my temperament… YMMV! ;-)

M42 to EF lens mount adapterThat said, some of these lenses may well produce quite acceptable results and be of genuine use to someone wanting to experiment (particularly on a tight budget)

The Canon EF mount is a very flexible design – you can see how much bigger it is than the M42 screw mount to the right.

Note that there is no mechanical activation of the aperture stop-down for the lens.

You will have to manually adjust the aperture ring of the lens (and you will forget sometimes).

Update 2014 I now also have an EOS100D 18MP APS-C DSLR

I’ll be testing this camera too with some of the lenses, such as this test of the Photosniper

zenith photosniper and EOS100D

Update 2019 The new EOS RP works really well with adapted lenses, see several in use in my EOS RP camera review

Here it is with the Olympus Zuiko 50/1.2


Here with the Mamiya 210/4

210mm F4 on RP

Here with the MTO1000A


Detailed view showing M42-> EF and EF->RF adapter.


The lenses

I’ll add items to the list as I find them.

These are not detailed lens tests, more aimed at giving a feeling for what the lens is like. I’ll try and include a few comparative images.

The lenses sitting around… (link goes to article)

Zeiss Flektogon 20/2.8
Olympus Zuiko 24/2.8 
Olympus Zuiko 50/1.2 (featured in a Canon 5Ds article and EOS RP review)
Tamron Twin-tele 135/4.5 (featured in a Canon 5Ds article and Piccure+ review)
Tamron 35-70/3.5 CF Macro
Tamron 70-210/3.8-4
Olympus TCON-08B, Olympus 0.8 Wide angle converter + several others
Helios 58/2
Sirius 28/2.8 used for x5 Macro
Tair 3PhS 300/4.5 – The Photosniper lens – Tested on Canon EOS 100D
Zeiss 135/3.5 (on 100D)
Soligor 300/5.5
MTO1000A 1100/10.5
Paragon 500/8
Hanimar 135/3.5
Sigma 70-150/3.5
Mamiya Sekor C 35mm/3.5 
Mamiya Sekor C 55mm/2.8 
Mamiya Sekor C 80mm/2.8 
Mamiya Sekor C 210mm/4 

Mamiya Sekor C 35mm and 55mm lenses

If you’ve found this page looking for info on a particular lens, and I haven’t tried it out yet, drop me an email and I’ll push it up the list :-)

Other assorted items

MPP View camera
View camera with 55mm Mamiya reverse mounted
1Ds Pinhole adapter
Jessop slide duplicator

…and any more ‘junk’ I find in all the various boxes and cupboards here at Northlight.

Here’s a few of those lenses…

assorted old lenses

More Info

Canon view camera adapterPicture shows a 1Ds attached to a view camera

Assorted articles/links

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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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