How to Use Old Lenses on Digital Cameras


When making the switch from a film-based camera to a digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, any photographer may get discouraged by lens compatibility. However, many auto focus lenses will adapt to the new digital camera body, making them retain their value in the new digital venture. How to use old lenses on a digital camera is not difficult, and very possible, if a digital camera is selected that is compatible with the old lenses.

  • Look at the mounts on the old lenses. These are found on the rear portion of the lens that attaches to the camera body. If they are a bayonet, pin-style attachment, the old lenses will not fit on a digital SLR camera. If there are smooth contact points, and it is a screw-mount lens that clicks into place on the camera body with a half turn, the lens will attach to a digital camera.

  • Take note of the band of digital SLR camera to which you want to attach the lens. All Canon-based digital camera bodies will accept screw-mount lenses made by Canon (or off-brands with a Canon-style adapter) that offer auto focus. Many Nikon digital SLR cameras will accept lenses previously used on film cameras; however, they are more limited than Canon. Read the digital camera manual to see what series of Nikon mount auto focus lenses the camera will accept.

  • Prepare for magnification. When a lens that was used on a film camera is mounted onto a digital camera body, the focal length of the lens is magnified. If the lens offers a range of zoom, the wide-angle feature will not appear as wide as it once did on film. The longer, telephoto features on a zoom lens will appear to zoom in closer than they did on film. The digital sensor in not as wide as a piece of film, which appears to trim the edges of the image, making it appear closer.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the old SLR camera lens that was used on a film camera has auto focus capabilities, it will most likely fit on a new digital SLR camera body, as long as the cameras and lenses are all from the same manufacturer.

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