Analog Glass on Digital Cameras

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Money. It can’t buy happiness. But it can buy camera lenses. And camera lenses are basically happiness. I mean, let’s face it, I’m writing a blog about photography, you’re reading a blog about photography. Pretty clear what makes us 

I have a lovely set of Olympus OM-D EM 5 micro 4/3 (m4/3) cameras. They are beautiful, durable, affordable and surprisingly diverse. And the best part is with the proper adapter, you can use old film lenses on them. Have old Nikon glass you loved in the days of film? Use it! Have a Canon lens you couldn’t part with? It will work! You can pick them up on Ebay for a little bit of nothing. I picked up a prime 135 Hanimex f/2.8 for $30.00. I shot one of my favorite photo series with that lens one night during an impromptu fire breathing session. None of my other lenses were fast enough. There certainly many pros to adapt analog lenses, but there are a few cons as well.happy right? I’m not rich. But I’m not unhappy either.

The Pros:

They are super affordable. You can buy fast lenses, f/2.8 or wider, for less than 

100.00 on Ebay or from online camera stores with reputable used departments. I recommend or They have excellent rating systems that will let you know 

what kind of condition the lens is in. That’s one heck of a deal considering that a m4/3 35-100 f/2.8 lens -used- is almost $800.00. I don’t have that kind of cash just laying around. And since most of my paying work is real estate, I can’t justify it.

If you are hybrid (film and digital) shooter like myself, you can switch between your film camera and your digital camera easily. You don’t have to buy multiples lenses for different systems.

The crop factor on a m4/3 camera is almost 2x the size of a 35mm camera. Meaning that a 50mm f/1.4 film lens is is going to be 100mm f/1.4 on a m4/3 camera. Again, if you are a decent bargain hunter you can come away with an amazing zoom lens.

The Cons:

Another downside is the crop factor. It is listed above because it favors someone looking for a telephoto lens. But utilizing a wide angle lenses is a bit of a problem. Your 16mm wide angle lens becomes a 32mm lens. Cutting the the field of view in half.These old analog lenses are all manual when connected to with an adapter. Manual focus, manual exposure. This can be cumbersome in a situation that require quick focus or quick thinking. There is no way to let the camera do the thinking for you. However, could be considered a silver lining to some. New shooters who are trying to learn shooting manual on a digital camera will have no choice with lenses. Much like learning to do math before reaching for a calculator.

Adapters can be a bit of a hassle unless you have multiples. I have several Nikkor adapters which I keep on my favorite film lenses. But if you only have one adapter, hunting for it to switch lenses on the fly might mean the shot you wanted slipped by. But adapters are $10-$25, so for very little you can circumvent this problem entirely.

There are many different sources that argue for and against the use of analog lenses on digital cameras. If you shoot on a professional basis you should look into investing in digital lenses, in the long run, it will save you time, which is money. But for a hobbyist in search of a cost effective means to produce creamy bokeh or a fast nighttime lens have a look at some old glass. If its well cared for, the images produced in many situations will be better than the cheaper digital lenses in the same price range.

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