Old Lens with New dSLR?
August 10, 2008 8:41 PM   Subscribe

dSLRfilter - What will a dSLR think about my 30 year old lens?

I've recently started photography as a hobby, and have been using a very old Nikon EM from 1979 that my parents had lying around the house. It only has one lens, a 50mm f/1. Series E, which I quite like. My limited but growing understanding of dSLRs tells me that because I won't be getting a full frame camera, the image is going to be different in some way because the lens is designed for film. What is that something? Is there anything else that will prevent it from working with a new camera?

Bonus: thoughts on Nikon D40 v. D60? I'd go with the D40, but I'm a bit concerned about not having a dust removal system...how big of a problem is that?
posted by awesomebrad to Shopping (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It'll basically have the same field of view as a 75mm lens would on a 35mm camera. So your normal turns into a bit of a telephoto.

No reason you can't just slap it on a modern SLR; no worries about losing autofocus since, y'know, it doesn't have it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:47 PM on August 10, 2008

D40's and D60's can't autofocus on many older lenses that are pre-AF.

See link for compatibility. I'd get a 50mm 1.8/1.4 or a 35 prime which will be roughly 50 when you take the conversion in to account.


posted by iamabot at 8:51 PM on August 10, 2008

Yes, you can use your Series E lens on a digital Nikon DSLR (from Googling nikon series e lens). However, like Tomorrowful said, the field of view would be cut down to that of a 75mm lens (50mm x 1.5) because the smaller sensor crops the image.

I'd go with the D60 simply 'cause it's not ancient technology (the D40 nearly 2 years old). The dust removal is still up in the air, but more megapixels and a newer sensor can't hurt.
posted by hobbes at 8:55 PM on August 10, 2008

The series E lens should work find on a d40/60 body, it's rouhly equivalent to an AI-S, so no metering.
posted by iamabot at 8:55 PM on August 10, 2008

It will crop the image. Probably to the effect of 85mm instead of 50mm.

I don't know about Nikon's mounting system's now, and somehow less than what they used in the past (Canon user). If the mounting system is different you probably won't be able to use it. I know Canon has adapter rings to mount the old style lenses on newer bodies, so it wouldn't surprise me if Nikon did as well. I haven't used those though, so I can't tell you if they actually make it worth it.

The Nikon 50mm lens is 114 USD on Amazon. Probably the cheapest lens really worth having. I'd rather get that over any adapter because it's best to use things that don't require a hack-like thing to make them work.

My sister has a D40 and loves it. I don't know anyone who's even played with a 60. But DP Review has pretty good reviews, so go read the one for the D60, D40 and D40X.

Dust removal systems are good. I wish I had one. But if you take care of your stuff, you shouldn't get too much in there anyway.
posted by theichibun at 8:59 PM on August 10, 2008

Nikon hasn't changed their lens mount in decades. A lens from 1979 should work fine. The autofocus thing is a nonissue, since I assume it's manual focus anyways.

Metering is another issue. I'm not too well-versed in this, but as I understand, you won't be able to meter TTL with the old lens unless you get a D200 or better. The D40 almost certainly won't be able to. This won't keep you from using the lens in manual exposure mode, of course. Hopefully someone else can shed some light on this.
posted by neckro23 at 9:15 PM on August 10, 2008

It should work great. Future people visiting this thread should note that Nikon is the only company that this is true for; Canon incompatibly changed their lens mount when they introduced autofocus, and the other DSLR manufacturers are using even newer mounts.
posted by aubilenon at 9:26 PM on August 10, 2008

I have the EM and 50mm lens as well as a D40. The 50mm lens fits on the D40, no problem, but as others have said there's no TTL metering. So to use it you'll need to have an external meter or guess and set it manually. The kit lens is pretty good, though, so I can't say I've actually used the 50mm for anything beyond testing. Dust removal shouldn't be an issue unless you plan on changing lenses frequently in dusty locations. Otherwise, just point the camera down while the lens is off.

I also just got my D40 a few weeks ago after a few months of contemplation. The D60 is the same camera with a different sensor as far as I can tell. Personally, I'd rather have the $120 than the pixels. I'd also recommend heading to a camera store to hold & try out several different cameras - there's no physical difference between the D40 & D60 (which are very different from the EM), but you may find that you really prefer holding a Canon or Sony.
posted by pmann at 9:46 PM on August 10, 2008

It only has one lens, a 50mm f/1. Series E

There never was a series E F/1.0 lens. There were 1.8s, but no 1.0s.

That having been said, an E series lens should have no trouble on a modern Nikon dSLR. The earliest 55mm f/1.2 lenses don't play nicely with modern bodies, but it is unlikely that you have one of those.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:36 PM on August 10, 2008

@b1tr0t: typo, it's the 1.8.

@everyone else: Do you know if the crop will be visible through the viewfinder, or will it only show up on the photos?
posted by awesomebrad at 10:55 PM on August 10, 2008

The crop is visible through the viewfinder, yes. Actually, a common complaint with many of the low-end DSLRs is that many don't have 100% viewfinders on them, anyway, so you actually have a crop of the real picture, anyway.
posted by rodgerd at 1:22 AM on August 11, 2008

As an aside, the dust removal system with the D60 is the reason I spent the extra money... I could imagine being away from a technician when I really need one to clear the dust could be insane frustrating. Since I figured this camera will be something I own for years to come, the extra cost will probably be worth it (also, since you'll never pay to have someone remove the dust, maybe it will pay for itself if you own it long enough).
posted by mateuslee at 1:44 AM on August 11, 2008

To amplify mateuslee's aside, I was a skeptic about the dust removal feature of some newer DSLR cameras until recently. I do a lot of lens changing and since last November I've shot roughly 15,000 frames on my three D300 bodies.

I have yet to do any sensor cleaning other than using the built in cleaning procedure, and all of my photos continue to be free of any dust spots.

I'm impressed (but sorry to be off topic to some degree).
posted by imjustsaying at 3:55 AM on August 11, 2008

@Aubilon, this is not true: "It should work great. Future people visiting this thread should note that Nikon is the only company that this is true for; Canon incompatibly changed their lens mount when they introduced autofocus, and the other DSLR manufacturers are using even newer mounts."

Pentax is doing this better than anyone. Nikon, as far as I know, is a little rough in this regard.
posted by sully75 at 9:45 AM on August 11, 2008

I use old Pentax lenses on my Pentax K100D all the time, all Pentax K mount lenses are interchangeable. Yes, you lose a little width due to the smaller sensor field, but you will probably get a kit zoom lens that runs from a little wide to a little telephoto anyway, that will give you flexibility.
The joy of the older prime lens is the wide aperture, so you can get fuzzy backgrounds in portraits and shoot without a flash in low light.
I believe most Nikon lenses can be used, but some auto focus lenses lose that feature, I think.
As to the right body, I would say go for the cheapest.
You get a huge amount of capability with the cheapest dSLRs today, more than you will likely need for years as you develop (pun intended) this new hobby.
If one day you need the extras you can buy the latest and greatest then.
You can pick up some great old lenses on ebay for peanuts, giving you the tools to experiment and see what you really like/want/need.
This is truly a golden age for the hobbiest photographer.
posted by bystander at 12:24 AM on August 12, 2008

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