Sunday 9 August 2020

Some Thoughts on Adapting Vintage Lenses

Sun over Seaton 

Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8

I've been adapting vintage lenses to digital cameras since the day I got my first DSLR back in 2005. I love manual focus and manual lenses and I've learned a few lessons the hard way.

Here's a few thoughts.

For APS-C shooters, don't bother adapting anything vintage wider than 35mm, and frankly most vintage 35's aren't worth your time. At 40mm or longer, adapting comes into its own. This goes doubly for Mirrorless, where you pay a significant size penalty for adapting lenses wider than 35mm as compared to simply buying a cheap and native manual focus lens. The issue is that you're already somewhat more dependent on lens speed than a FF shooter and vintage glass wider than 35mm is very rarely faster than f2.8, and when it is it's usually very low contrast wide open. That makes focus all but impossible on DSLR's and merely a pain on Mirrorless. Also most folks just find largish f3.5 normals kinda useless. 50mm and longer? Have fun, 50-200mm in particular is a sweet spot (longer and I find AF just becomes more and more useful for the sort of shooting you'll want 300mm+ lenses for)

For m43 shooters (or the few remaining Nikon 1 shooters). Don't waste your time. The crop factor hits you far worse and frankly anything on either side of the 50-100mm range is just going to suck as a shooting experience. I'd only bother really with macro's, and especially ~100mm ones. The more I shot m43, the more I just left everything vintage except macros at home.

For FF shooters, go nuts. You're not paying any penalty for adapting, especially on mirrorless, that you wouldn't have on the original camera, with one glaring exception. The exception is the use of classic RF wides (or the handful of SLR wides that require MLU to mount) on non-Leica cameras. These lenses have some interesting colour shift issues and require care to use with success.

As somebody who doesn't own much in the way of AF lenses, with one single one for my Fuji's (the XC35mm f2) and only a handful for my D750 (4 in my shooting kit and a spare 50mm) as compared to the 15 or so vintage lenses I own

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