|Micro-Nikkor and two Super-Taks|
I've been using manual lenses since shortly after I got my first DSLR. I've developed quite a collection of equipment over the years, and quite a reputation among my friends thanks to that collection. I'm going to start a regular feature here on the Prairie Rim Images blog where I highlight a certain piece of vintage equipment every so often. Before I start that, though, I need to lay down some basic info so you all know what I'm talking about.
I'll concentrate mostly on old lenses in this post. Flashes will get their own treatment later.
|Tele-Vivitar 400/5.6 and M42-EOS adapter|
The two biggest considerations for determining whether a lens made with one mount will fit on a camera made with another mount are the throat diameter and the register distance. The throat diameter specifies how wide the mouth is on your camera body. A wide throat on the body will accommodate a lens designed for a narrower throat. Canon's EOS mount, for example, has a very wide throat into which just about any other lens will fit.
|Register distance: 44mm on a Canon EOS|
|Tele-Vivitar 400/5.6 on Canon 400D/XTi|
Some digital bodies are able to use older, manual lenses from that same manufacturer without the use of an adapter. Frequently, these bodies can also make use of aperture controls that make the user experience a little more automated. For example, Nikon bodies can use any Nikon F-mount lens made since the 1950's, as long as it's been converted to AI mode. Pentax bodies can also use their old K-mount lenses made since the mid-1970's. Canon, Olympus, and Minolta redesigned their camera mounts when they introduced autofocus lenses, and therefore require adapters to use the older glass (if it's possible at all).
|Olympus F.Zuiko 50/1.8 on Canon 7D|
But what happens if you find a third party lens (like Vivitar) at a pawn shop and don't know what camera mount it was made for? Rick Oleson to the rescue. This pictorial list illustrates most of the common mounts you'll run across. I keep a printed copy in my Jeep at all times, just in case.
When you've found an older lens and gotten the appropriate adapter (if necessary), it's time to try it out. This whole experience will be easier for you if you've already gotten used to shooting in "aperture priority" or "manual" exposure mode, because these old lenses require you to set the aperture manually using a ring on the lens.
|Focus ring, depth-of-field scale, and aperture ring|
on a Pentax Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4, c.1967
Speaking of viewfinders, modern cameras were designed to focus automatically, so their viewfinders are intended only for composition, not for accurate focusing. Compared to finders from 1970's bodies, today's finders are very small and dim. The viewfinder on an Olympus OM-10, by comparison, is a veritable picture window.
|Split image + micro prism ring|
|135/3.5 ($8), 200/3.5 ($10), and 70-300IS ($500)|
When shooting static subjects on a tripod, the best way to really nail the focus is to use the magnified LiveView feature present on most current DSLR's. By displaying the image on your rear LCD and then zooming in to 5x or 10x, you can see quite accurately where your focus point is.
|50/1.4, 135/3.5, 35-200/3.5-4.5, and 28/3.5 for $80|
|4 lenses & more, $150 at an estate auction|
|Brothers: $35 (eBay) and $17 (pawn shop)|
|$17 SMC Takumar 50/1.4, sans fungus|
- ManualFocus.org forums
- MFLenses.com forums
- PentaxForums lens review database
- WhiteMetal.com equipment database
- FredMiranda.com's alternative lens forum
If you're curious about the lenses I've collected for myself, check out the complete list. It ranges from 24mm f/2 to 400mm f/5.6 and includes no less than six prime lenses that cover the 50-55mm range and four 135mm primes. The next blog post to discuss specific manual lenses presents my "fast fifty" Pentax Takumars, followed by my Yashica ML 75-150/4, my Tamron 90/2.5, and a borrowed Nikkor-S.C 55/1.2. Differences between the various Nikon mounts can be found in this article.
There is a lot more I could say about this, but I've rambled long enough. This is only a blog, not a book. If you've got questions about anything, leave a comment below. Now, get out there and play!
Before I go, here are some links to common adapters: