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I tried researching this but I kept getting contradictory answers - is it possible to use vintage/film lenses on Nikon D3200 (with lens adapters if necessary)? If so, are these lenses limited to Nikon, or can Canon, Pentax etc lenses be used too?

Also am I correct to assume that the Canon 600D can use most vintage/film lenses with the correct lens adapters?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

What matteres is not the manufacturer of a lens, but its lens mount. In fact, there are two things that have to be considered.

First and most important aspect is probably the flange focal distance. This is the distance from the mounting flange (the metal ring on the camera and the rear of the lens) to the film plane.
In order to achieve infinit focus, this distance is essential. Every lens mount has a different one. Look at this list for reference. To be able to focus to infinity, the adapted lens has to have the same flange focal distance as the mount dictates.
Let's look at an example:

  • Say you want to put a Nikon F-Mount lens on to your Canon EOS M. No problem at all! The Nikon lens is made for a flange focal distance of 46.50 mm. The Canon EF-M-mount has a distance of only 18mm. This means that you need an adapter that adds additional 28.5mm between lens and sensor.
  • Another one: You have a old Leica M39 lens, that you want to put on your D3200. The lens is made for a flange distance of 28.80mm, where the D3200 sports 46.50mm. That means that the lens is at least 17.7mm too short (not counted the addtional space that a adapter adds). In this case, the only thing you could probably do with that combination, is macro photography.

Like mentioned, if you look at the linked table, don't forget, that an adapter adds some extra millimeters space.

Another thing to look out for is the mount diameter. If the diameter of the mount of the lens is larger than the diameter of the camera mount, the adapter has to be put entirely in front of the camera, adding some extra flange focal space.

That said, there is a workaround, when adapting lenses with a small flange focal distance on a camera with a larger one:
There are adapters with a corrective lens built in, like this M42-to-Nikon F-Mount adapter from Kipon. That built in corrective lens tries to make up for the difference in flange distance.
However, as this adds another glass element (and most adapters are too cheap that they could possibly be of higher quality glass), there is a high propability that this affects image quality negatively.

Second aspect to think about, is the built in electronics.
If you adapt a old lens to your camera, you will most likely end up with complete manual control of your exposure and focus. Old lenses had no auto-focus, and no transmitting of exposure settings, like aperture.
Higher end cameras, like the Nikon D800 are able to measure the exposure and so work at least in aperture priority mode, setting the shutter speed automatically, addtional to the manual mode. Entry level cameras like the D3200 can't do that with non-CPU lenses and have to be operated fully manual, as they can't determine that a lens is put on without the CPU.

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That said, there is a workaround, when adapting lenses with a large flange focal distance on a camera with a smaller one -- Shouldn't this be the other way around? –  JohannesD Jul 10 at 10:46
1  
You're right. Thanks. I've edited it. –  msal Jul 10 at 10:51

Yes, you can use vintage/film Nikon F-mount (AI and later) lenses on a Nikon D3200, but you probably don't want to use adapters to use other mounts. Nikon F has one of the thickest registration distances of any SLR mount. This distance is how far the lens is held from the image plane, and needs to be maintained if the lens is to focus to infinity, as designed. Adapters add to that distance. This acts like macro extension tubes, and limits the far focusing capability. The mount throat diameter can be another issue, and is the reason Sony Alpha mount is not as adaptable as Canon EOS.

pre-AI lenses can be used on a D3200, but moving up to a D7000 or higher model, these lenses could cause issues, unless modifications are made. If you're willing to replace the lens mount, you can also use some Leica-R, Contax/Yashica, and Olympus OM mount lenses with a Leitax mount replacement kit. Otherwise, if an adapter exists, it will contain a glass element in it to act as a short teleconverter to get over the registration distance issue, and like any tc this decreases the maximum aperture, increases the focal length, and probably adds softness (especially if it's low-cost).

Realize also that with a D3x00/D40 or D5x00/D60 body, you will not have accurate metering. You will not have autofocus. You will not have lens information in your EXIF. There is more here than just popping it on and shooting. The phrase you probably want to google up is "non-CPU lens".

Canon EOS mount cannot use all vintage/film-era lenses, either. The six film SLR mounts you can easily find simple ring adapters for are Leica-R, Nikon F, Contax/Yashica, Olympus OM, Pentax K, and M42. Canon FD/FL and Minolta MD/MC are particularly problematic, as they have the thinner registration distance, and will require glass-element converters. Also realize that brand is not enough to distinguish a mount. Many brands had both SLR and rangefinder lines and any rangefinder lenses are out altogether, since they have even thinner registration distances than SLRs (think: no mirrorbox).

For example, if you look at the Canon Museum website, they list eight separate groups of lenses: EF, EF Cinema, New FD, FD, FL, R, S, and "special". Of those groups, only the EF ones are meant for dSLRs. FD/FL are manual-focus SLR. R was the pre-FL SLR bayonet mount, and S are (mostly) LTM/M39 rangefinder lenses. You need a collector's mindset to suss out all the possibilities of vintage lenses. There are a lot of exceptions and gotchas.

Because of the lack of electronic communication, there is no autofocus, no aperture control from the body (upshot: you can only use M and Av modes), and no lens EXIF information. There will, however, be accurate stop-down metering. Realize, too, that going wide is going to be harder (crop factor) with an entry-level body, and that the focus screens in dSLRS do not offer the manual-focusing aids film SLRs used to (split circle, prism collar). You can use an after-market focus screen, or Magic Lantern with liveview to get focus peaking and magnification, or learn to scale focus, but a modern, native-mount autofocusing lens will always be more convenient.

Two good sites with a lot of information and discussion about using adapted manual focus lenses are:

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Thank you! I think this will be a great reference for me in the future! :D –  Mal Jul 13 at 10:56
    
You're welcome. Just remember it's hard to control your aperture if the adapted lens doesn't have an aperture ring. :) –  inkista Jul 13 at 19:00

Provided the lens either fits the mount or has a compatible adaptor, you can use pretty much any lens with any camera. However, there are almost always limitations:

  • Autofocus: the 3200 has no in-camera focus drive. Very few (if any) 'vintage' lenses have built in autofocus motors, let alone the CPU connection to control them, so you will be limited to manual focus.

  • Metering: because there is no connection between the lens and the camera relaying aperture information, you will have to rely on Manual mode to set exposure. Assuming your lens has an aperture ring, you will set the aperture on the lens and shutter speed and ISO on the camera

  • Focusing to infinity: because of the design of some lenses and adaptors, you may find that some lenses will be unable to focus to infinity.

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For what it is worth, NIKON-lenses, an off-site search reveals more information. https://www.google.se/?gfe_rd=cr&safe=off#q=nikon%20lens%20compatibility&safe=off

One of the hits refers to "Ken R" - he generally has facts OK, but may deviate quite a bit on 'opinion'. http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/compatibility-lens.htm

This is as useful: http://www.nikonians.org/reviews?alias=nikon-slr-camera-and-lens-compatibility

There is more, among them one from Nikon.

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