Something Old, Something New; Are “Older” 35mm Film Camera Lenses Suitable For D-SLR Cameras? Page 2

The Olympus OM series of 35mm SLR camera lenses can be used with the new Olympus E-System digital cameras using an optional MF-1 OM adapter or the MF-2 adapter on the E-P1 Micro Four Thirds digital body.

Since the OM-series lenses cannot communicate with the firmware in the E-System cameras the following restrictions will apply. No autofocusing is available. OM-series autofocus lenses cannot be manually focused. Stop-down metering must be used. Spot metering will not work correctly. You can use A (Aperture priority AE) Shooting mode but the aperture display is not visible. The aperture display in the M (Manual) mode is not available. In the P (Program AE) or S (Shutter speed priority AE) modes the shutter will release but the autoexposure control is inoperative. Finally, the distance scale on the OM-series lens may not show the actual distance, therefore the viewfinder or Live View should be used for focusing.

An Olympus E-P1 (Micro Four Thirds camera) with an older OM-series Zukio Digital lens attached and an E-620 (Four Thirds camera) with an older OM-series 16mm fisheye lens attached, plus the OM MF-2 adapter needed to use these lenses shown between the cameras.
© Courtesy of Olympus America Inc.

If the older lenses are mounted on an E-System camera having built-in image stabilization, the OM-series lenses may utilize this function—provided the firmware in the D-SLR body has been updated. They caution that since the OM series of lenses were originally designed for film instead of a digital sensor, the image quality might not be comparable to the newer Zuiko Digital lenses.

It seems that owners of older Pentax lenses retain some of the best operating compatibility with their new Pentax (and Samsung) D-SLR cameras. Pentax A-series lenses (those having an “A” setting on the aperture ring) can be used as manual focus lenses in all Exposure modes on Pentax D-SLRs such as the K10D, K200D, K20D, or K2000. In addition, even older Pentax K-mount, M-series, and S (Screwmount) lenses without the auto-aperture feature (an “A” on the aperture ring) can be used in Manual Exposure mode using stop-down metering and manual focus. Caution: If using older lenses without an “A” on the aperture ring in AV (Aperture Priority) mode, an exposure error may occur. To use the older Pentax S-mount lenses on a Pentax D-SLR you must use a Pentax Mount Adapter B.

A Pentax K20 D-SLR with an older M-series Pentax 50mm lens attached.
© Courtesy of Pentax Imaging Company

Most older Phoenix lenses will work OK with newer D-SLRs having the same mount. There are some exceptions in functionality such as autofocus and auto aperture. The Nikon D5000, D3000, D60, D40, and D40X do not have a focus motor in their camera bodies therefore even some newer lenses will not be fully operational with these cameras. They will work, but just won’t have autofocus capability.

Most older Sigma interchangeable lenses can be used with many different brands of digital cameras (Nikon and Pentax) having a compatible mount. Conversely, many older lenses with either Canon or Sony (Minolta) mounts require some type of upgrade. For recent lenses this upgrade may only be a firmware change. Lenses older than about four years will require a change of a ROM “chip” and there is no charge for this service the company told me. However, if the Sigma lens has been discontinued too long, the part needed may no longer be available. The part required is proprietary for each different model lens so you would have to contact Sigma and determine if your lens still can be upgraded. An upgraded Sigma lens is generally fully compatible with the newer D-SLR cameras. Exceptions would be older lenses for Nikon which might not have a built-in focus motor (which cannot be added to an older lens) therefore such lenses could be used in Manual Focus mode only with Nikon cameras such as the D5000, D3000, D60, D40X, etc.

The Minolta Maxxum 35mm SLR lenses were introduced in 1986 along with the first Maxxum film camera. Maxxum D-SLRs were available from 2003-2006. All of these lenses are suitable for use with the Sony Alpha D-SLRs. Earlier Minolta SLR cameras prior to the Maxxum models are not autofocus and are almost always labeled “Rokkor.” These older interchangeable lenses are not compatible with the Sony Alpha D-SLRs. There were some third-party manufacturers that offered lens adapter products to adapt one lens mount to another, and there are some that convert the older Minolta Rokkor mount to the Sony Alpha mount. These adapters don’t maintain either AF or AE capability, but if you set the focus and exposure manually they could be used with the Sony Alpha D-SLRs.

There is detailed information about compatibility on the Sony support site, but I’ll save you lots of hunting by giving you a route through it all: first visit Sony’s Customer Support website at: Then enter your camera’s model number and select the “Hot Topic” for a “Lens and Accessory Compatibility Chart.” This link only lists Sony lenses, not Minolta lenses. But, you can enter a question as a query, which will pull up a page of all Maxxum lenses ever produced and will show their compatibility with the different models of Sony Alpha D-SLRs. To do this, select “FAQ & Solutions” (the second item under “Support by type” on the left), and then enter your query in the dialog box labeled “Type your question here.” If you enter “Minolta Lens Compatibility” it will bring up links labeled search results. The link lists both Minolta Maxxum and Konica Minolta lenses with over 100 lenses shown.

The informative folks at Tamron told me that there are several issues when attempting to use older film camera interchangeable lenses with new D-SLR bodies. These include mount changes and subtler changes such as changes in metering modes, the autofocusing system, and communication between the lens and camera body via computer chips in newer lenses. Plus, there are numerous new and different feature changes, all of which must be considered, including the big one: the move to all-electronic interfaces instead of mechanical interfaces, common with film-era lenses but virtually nonexistent in D-SLRs. Finally, there are issues with EXIF data communication.

All this means that Tamron Adaptall and Adaptall II mounts (the older style interchangeable couplers that allowed Tamron lenses to be used on various camera bodies) will not be modified since the degree of changes made by the major camera body makers tend to make compatibility with new D-SLR cameras an insurmountable issue.

Another prime concern is the actual image quality of film lenses when used on digital cameras. New, more visible kinds of flare are created by digital sensors, which sometimes bounce light back into the optical system. Corner falloff can result from a sensor’s tendency to display a wider dynamic range than was visible with film. Tamron has incorporated the changes in their Di (for full-frame 35mm format) and Di-II (for the smaller APS-C format) lenses. This is not to say that you must have newer lenses for D-SLR bodies, but Tamron gave us one of the frankest assessments on the image-quality issue.

Tokina interchangeable lenses made within the last 10 years for major brands of film cameras should be fully compatible with new D-SLR cameras. They still have parts needed to upgrade some of the older models of Tokina lenses. For instance, lenses suitable for Canon film cameras after the EOS 3 should work properly on new digital cameras. Lenses for Nikon film cameras will work electronically, but the autofocusing won’t work.

The Pros And ConsOf Using Old Lenses
• This is self-evident: you already own the lens or the price will be substantially lower than new in the used market.
• A few models of more recent older lenses can be factory upgraded to be nearly fully compatible with new D-SLRs.

• Your old lens may not be (is unlikely to be) fully functional when used on a new camera, especially when the camera body is generations ahead of your old lens.
• The consensus among all firms is that there are sometimes serious limitations.
• Possibly of least concern is the elimination of autofocusing capability.
• Metering might be limited to Manual mode (perhaps with a separate light meter) or at best Aperture Priority mode.
• There could be possible loss of image quality from an older lens that’s less refined and not designed for use with digital sensors. You also might encounter some visible flare because of bounce back light within the older optical system when working with the new sensors. There could be potential corner falloff.