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Photography Question 
Jarred K. Peterson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/20/2007
 

Using Film Lenses on a Digital Back


I have heard people say that a lens designed for a film camera will not generate the same results when used with a digital camera. My question is whether or not that statement is true. Thanks!


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12/19/2007 5:48:29 AM

 
Alan N. Marcus   Hi Jarred,
I have seen articles and statements that clamed differences in performance when a lens designed for film is mounted on a digital. It is likely that performance dissimilarities exist however I bet they are negligible. Negligible is a relative however. I think the biggest impediment will be mounting. If mounting hardware is available; and the lens mechanical and electronic links to the body; you will be OK.

There is just one more consideration. Your film camera is a 35mm. The image area of this format is 24mm x 36mm. We calculate the diagonal, it works out to 46.9mm. The diagonal measure establishes what focal lengths are normal – wide – angle –telephoto - portrait. We round the diagonal up to 50mm as this is the accepted normal lens. Wide angle is 35mm focal length or shorter – telephoto is 135mm or longer – Portrait is 105mm or longer. These are not engraved in stone values but they are tried and true.

Now your digital has an imaging area that measures 15.1mm x 22.7mm with a diagonal of 27.3mm. Thus your camera being smaller is best served by shorter focal length lenses. In fact your digital is 60% of the 35mm format or stated another way the crop factor is 1.7 (inverse is 0.58). Thus:
Normal is 30mm – Wide angle is 20mm – Telephoto is 60mm – Portrait is 60mm or longer.

Hope this is enlightening (marginal technical gobbledygook)
Alan Marcus
ammarcus@earthlink.net


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12/19/2007 7:26:36 AM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Jarred,

Alan is far more learned than I and has given you very good information, as he always does. I'd like to add that 3 of my 4 lenses are from my film camera. I shoot Nikon, and the oldest piece of gear I have is about 5 years old so the mounts for my lenses matched up with my digital camera purchase. I've not had any noticeable difference in my images after switching to digital.


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12/19/2007 7:52:40 AM

 
Tony Sweet
TonySweet.com
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  Hey Jarred:
I hear a lot of technical and somewhat academic questions like this in the workshop and lecturing business. Obviously, we can debate the technical merits, pluses and minuses, ad infinitum. Alan's answer is certainly credible and is important knowledge. However, a visual art - like photography - makes it very easy to see the results. For example, if you can, just take the same image with a "film" lens and with a "digital" lens of excellent quality. Open both in your image editing software of choice, enlarge to 100% and merely compare them. Just look at them. If the difference is not glaringly apparent, then I wouldn't worry about it. We use a mixture of film lenses and digital lenses, and it's a non-issue. The stock agencies we shoot for are the ultimate judge of what is acceptable, and our images (made with both types of lenses) are readily accepted for inclusion in their picture libraries, no problem.


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12/19/2007 8:00:38 AM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
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  Hi Jarred,
I set up my digital camera to work with view camera lenses. The performance is not the same as a digital lens is, but different isn’t inferior. I have used Schneider, Dagor and Zeiss lenses, made at least as far back as 30 years ago with very exciting results. For information on the digital view camera check out this link: www.siskinphoto.com/camera4a.html.
Thanks, John Siskin


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12/20/2007 12:24:39 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  I think the direct answer to your question is that digital and non-digital will not produce the same results, exactly, but that different may not at all be judged as good/better or bad/worse necessarily. So, I have to agree with both Tony and John and emphasize their positions.

The most obvious difference you are likely to run across is a conversion factor. A digital camera's sensor may be a different size than 35mm film (the exceptions are "full-frame" sensors which are sized the same as 35mm film, but even then there can be differences in how digital/non-digital lenses perform). This will lead to your lens length acting differently depending on the size of the sensor (called both a focal length multiplier and field of view crop--the latter is likely more accurate). In many cases the fact that digital sensors are smaller than 35mm film leads to non-digital lenses acting longer than they are when used on a digital SLR. One of the other key factors is loss of function: some non-digital lenses will not perform properly or take advantage of the features on a newer digital. There are other issues like vignetting, chromatic aberration, depth-of-field, angle-of-view, sharpness and there is a lot of discussion on the web about these and other factors...some good, some not. I've listed a few resources below.

* crop factor

* equivalence

And then there are resources dedicated to manual focus lenses:

http://forum.manualfocus.org

http://www.mflenses.com

If you have the opportunity to test the lenses that is the best -- you can actually judge the lens performance, and never mind the theory -- which will sometimes explain behaviors you see, but not always. I can also state that my favorite lenses are mostly my old, manual-focus, vintage lenses, which add character to shots, and force me to remain keenly aware of controlling my captures. For all the theory I read, I've had trouble with a handful of lenses, and these were, admittedly, of lesser quality.

So, the results may be different, but whether they are better or worse is your call.

I hope that helps!

Richard Lynch


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12/26/2007 6:02:28 AM

 
JOHN R. ROLLASON
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2007
  It has been most refreshing to read this thread, it proves to me that there are level headed people out there that can give very useful advice on what can in other forums be a thorny subject.

I have always said "don`t knock iy till you have tried it ", I get the impression that all of you on this thread have tried it and found that it does work.
I use FD lenses on a canon 350/xt digital via an adapter from china and get very good results,so much so that I use the FD lenses on the digital more than I do on my T90 and A1, but mention that on other forums and you get shouted down by the "L" brigade.

I only joined this forum a short while ago, but as I have found that there are like minded people on here I shall spend more time here from now on.

Best wishes

John


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12/27/2007 11:25:35 AM

 
Nanette B. Stephens
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/8/2005
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  When I married my husband, he had all Nikon equipment (lens, etc.). He got me very interested in photography and eventually bought me a Nikon N80 with a Sigma 28-80 lens and bought himself a Nikon F100. When we both decided to go digital, we bought a Nikon D70S because we were able to use all of our film lenses with the camera. My husband taught me the most important thing to remember with the digital is to set it up properly before taking the picture. The menu has a lot of options to choose from, but it does make a difference. Your decision also depends on what you are going to do with your photos. Good luck and have fun experimenting.


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12/28/2007 8:04:36 AM

 
Vickie Burt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/29/2004
  I used to use a Sigma AF 70-300 zoom lens with my Nikon F801, and was always happy with the optical quality of the shots. That changed when I upgraded to the Nikon D70. The camera performed well, except when coupled with this zoom, and the images were clearly 'not sharp'. I spoke to Sigma about the problem, and they thought that as the lens was 10yrs old, and pre-digital, that perhaps it was unable to perform at the level demanded by a digital camera.

I have since upgraded to a new digital lens, and no longer have this problem :-)


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12/28/2007 11:33:13 PM

 
Michael McCullough   35mm. lenses as I've heard cover a greater area of the sensor there for you are using whats known as the sweet spot when using these lenses therefore quality should be great depending on the lens quality to begin with...


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1/7/2008 1:01:11 PM

 
Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
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  "I have always said "don`t knock iy till you have tried it ", I get the impression that all of you on this thread have tried it and found that it does work.
I use FD lenses on a canon 350/xt digital via an adapter from china and get very good results,so much so that I use the FD lenses on the digital more than I do on my T90 and A1, but mention that on other forums and you get shouted down by the "L" brigade."

Wow, I wish I had known this when I went DSLR. I might now own Canon rather than Nikon. I was so upset over Canon changing their lens mount that I decided to change brands when I purchased a digital camera.


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1/7/2008 1:15:58 PM

 
JOHN R. ROLLASON
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2007
 
 
 
I have 17 FD lenses for my A1 and T90 ranging from 17mm to a 600mm mirror, I have tried all of them on the 350, so far the results are not bad even though the adapter was on £22.00 from china via E-Bay.
I realise that the results are not going to compete with top notch lenses, but for me they are more than adequate, considering that I can use the lenses on all 3 cameras and they can be picked up for a fraction of the price of new ones.
This picture was taken with a Tokina 80-200mm F2.8 ATX on the 350 which with the adapter gives 160-400mm F4.


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1/7/2008 1:35:57 PM

 
JOHN R. ROLLASON
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2007
 
 
  Robin 1
Robin 1
Taken with 350D using Tokina 80-200mm F2.8 ATX FD lens via an adapter.

1/500 sec @ 5.6 at 200mm, picture taken at WWT Arundel, West Sussex
about 14.30hrs.

© JOHN R. ROLLASON
Canon EOS Digital ...

 
 
I have 17 FD lenses for my A1 and T90 ranging from 17mm to a 600mm mirror, I have tried all of them on the 350, so far the results are not bad even though the adapter was on £22.00 from china via E-Bay.
I realise that the results are not going to compete with top notch lenses, but for me they are more than adequate, considering that I can use the lenses on all 3 cameras and they can be picked up for a fraction of the price of new ones.
This picture was taken with a Tokina 80-200mm F2.8 ATX on the 350 which with the adapter gives 160-400mm F4.


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1/7/2008 1:37:32 PM

 
Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
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  It looks good to me, John! I have the A1 as well and wanted the T90 in the worst way. I thought at the time that one looked like it had all the bells and whistles! I'm not sorry I went with Nikon but had I known I could get an adapter I may have stayed with Canon.


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1/7/2008 3:05:47 PM

 
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