Using your film camera lenses with a digital camera

We get questions, and sometimes the answer is "no"

Just got a call asking for an adapter to put a Canon VL lens CL 8-120mm f1.4-2.1 15X zoom lens on his EOS Rebel camera. That lens was designed for a video camera. It makes too small an image, and sits too close to the film plane, to ever work on the digital still cameras. So even a "great bargain" on eBay or at a garage sale is no bargain if it won't work with your camera.

Older camera lenses that won't work:

Canon FD and FL lenses, made for the AE-1 and T-series manual focus SLR cameras will NOT work on digital SLR cameras.

Minolta manual focus lenses for the SRT, X-700 and similar models will NOT work on digital SLR cameras.

Olympus OM series lenses will not work on digital SLR cameras

Older camera lenses that work but not easily:

Nikon manual focus lenses will work - with limited functions - on some Nikon digital SLR cameras. Not on the Nikon D40, D3000, D3100, D5200 etc..

Pentax thread mount lenses (from the Spotmatic and even older cameras) can be used, with an adapter, on Pentax digital SLRs but you must program a custom function.

Pentax bayonet mount, manual focus lenses will fit on the Pentax digital SLRs and work, but you must program a custom function.

Older film camera lenses that work pretty well with digital SLRs:

Canon digital cameras such as the Rebel, Rebel XT, XTi, 20D and 30D accept and work with just about all Canon brand lenses made for the EOS and Rebel film cameras.

Minolta brand autofocus lenses for the Maxxum and Dynax series camera work on digital Minolta SLR cameras, Konica/Minolta digital SLRs, and the Sony DSLR cameras. Other brand lenses such as Sigma and QuantaRay brand lenses often donít work.

Nikon auto focus lenses will work pretty well on most Nikon digital SLR cameras. Not on the Nikon D40, D3000, D3100, D5200 etc., only certain series lenses will work.

Pentax bayonet mount, automatic focus lenses will fit on the Pentax digital SLRs and work.

Why you might not want to use film camera lenses with a digital SLR

Digital cameras like the Canon Rebel, Nikon D7000 or the Pentax *istDs have an image sensor that is smaller than a 35mm negative area. 

That means lenses provide more magnification when used on a digital camera than when used on a film camera. Itís like having a 1.5X teleconverter built into the digital camera. 

A 300mm telephoto, used on a digital camera, has the same field of view as a 450mm telephoto used on a film camera. Thatís pretty cool! 

Unfortunately, your normal and wide-angle lenses are also magnified. A 28mm lens gives the same field of view as a 42mm lens on a film camera, so youíll often find yourself backed up against the wall. Thatís not so cool. 

Thatís why our digital SLRs usually come with lenses such as the 18mm-55mm zoom. This gives about the same field of view as a 28-85mm lens thatís so handy on a 35mm camera. 

Not every lens made for film cameras will work on the digital model. In particular, Sigma and QuantaRay brand lenses often donít work on the latest model. You can usually rely upon lenses from the maker of the camera. 

Many lenses designed for digital cameras canít be used on film cameras.

When used on a digital camera:

19mm has the same field of view as 27mm on a 35mm camera

28mm has the same field of view as 42mm on a 35mm camera

50mm has the same field of view as 75mm on a 35mm camera

90mm has the same field of view as 135mm on a 35mm camera

200mm has the same field of view as 300mm on a 35mm camera

400mm has the same field of view as 600mm on a 35mm camera