Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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The camera I am thinking buying doesn't have much selection of lenses. Only 7 or 6 lenses, but using an adapter on the camera can widen the lens selections. Does using non native lenses have any side effect on image?

Added: The camera is Sony NEX 7.

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Loss of control over aperture is the biggest problem - modern lenses generally depend on aperture communicated electronically, which adapters don't do. So you'll be stuck with older optics just to have an aperture ring. – Imre May 19 '12 at 19:37
The NEX7 to Minolta A mount adaptors probably do do aperture OK. (I haven't checked but I'd be surprised if they didn't). Rushing out - but almost certainly has comment on quality with adaptors. Can be a little hard to navigate at first. – Russell McMahon May 19 '12 at 21:26

If you don't specify the camera and adapter and lenses you are talking about then the answer tends to be of the form "The sound of one dog barking".

IF the adapter is a glassless one and used only to adjust the lens to sensor plane distance then you may get little or no quality loss. Even without glass you can get effects due to different geometry.

If the adaptor contains a lens or lenses to allow for an otherwise unattainable lens to sensor distance then some quality loss will occur. A $2000 adaptor or one branded "Carl Zeiss" will have little quality loss. Practical reality says that a $100 or less will have noticeable quality loss.

As well as optical quality loss you want to check re possible partial or complete focus and aperture functionality loss. Also, lenses with inbuilt IC's need to be correctly dealt with if functionality is not to be lost.

What camera? NEX series?

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Yes, Sony NEX 7 – Dave May 19 '12 at 18:49
What's an "inbuilt IC"? – Imre May 19 '12 at 19:35
@Imre - Modern (and not so modern) lenses may contain a memory or some form of processing internally. This needs to communicate with the camera via supplied contacts (usually). Handling this is not hard but it has to be done and the simplest adaptors don't do it. – Russell McMahon May 19 '12 at 21:24

Depends on the camera, adapter, and lens, but in my experience, if you are using a good simple ring adapter (no optical element) that holds the lens the correct distance away from the sensor, no. There is no image quality hit.

Fountain at Sunset

Canon 5DMkII + adapated Contax/Yashica Zeiss Planar T* 100/2.

tilt adapter test

Panasonic DMC-G3 (mft camera) + OM-mount Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.2 on a tilt adapter.

OTOH, I'm not a pixel-peeper. And Roger Cicala of lensrentals has emperical proof that adapters can cause image quality issues (although, read his article carefully. They deliberately plotted the data in a way to make the problem more self-evident (to make it really obvious if they need to service a lens), so everything looks a lot worse than it is in reality). And, as he says at the end of the article:

What Does It Mean in the Real World?

Like a lot of laboratory testing, probably not a lot. Adapters couldn’t all stink or people wouldn’t use them. Like a lot of tests, you can detect a very real difference in the lab that doesn’t make much difference at all in the real world.

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