I'm looking at buying a new SLR body. I have an old film Nikon entry-level SLR (about ten years old) with a kit lens. If I buy a Nikon body, how likely is it that my old lens will work on it? Would I be better off buying a new lens?
This is a particularly thorny question with Nikon. On one hand, Nikon still uses the same basic mount as their very first SLRs did shortly after the second world war was over. On the other hand, over the years they've had to come up with quite a few variations on that mount. As a result, the exact degree of compatibility between a particular lens and camera varies all the way from "it'll work fine" to "can break the lens and/or camera."
Is your lens autofocus? If so, your new camera will need the autofocus drive - many of Nikon's newer, entry level dslr's don't have one. Most of my older lenses are MF (Manual Focus).
I have a 30+ yr old MF Nikkor 135mm that works great on my D700. It's been "AI'd" which means someone cut a notch in the part of the lens's mounting ring so that the newer Nikon bodies known what aperture the lens is set at. If it isn't AI then you might have some issues. I don't know if that means it won't mount or if you just lose metering. Maybe someone else can comment about some of the other newer terms like "AIS", etc. The link below explains mo'better
Assuming your lens will work fully on the body you choose (see the other answers), you've still got to decide whether you want to buy a new lens or not. There are a few issues besides compatibility:
- New lens features: Your old lens probably doesn't come with VR, whereas a lot of the new kit lenses do. Also, a modern kit lens may have better glass than your older entry-level kit lens.
- Appropriate focal length: If you buy a DX body, a wide angle zoom lens like a 28-85mm wide zoom becomes equivalent to a 42-128mm. You might miss the ability to zoom as wide as you could on your film camera. This isn't a problem if you buy a full-frame camera, but these are generally more expensive.
If you look up lenses on Nikon's official web sites they never give you a list of which cameras are fully or partially compatible with each lens. The same is true of the owner's manual for each specific lens.
On the other hand, if you look up camera bodies on Nikon's official web sites they do tell you which types of lenses the camera can use. They also specify when a particular camera will have only partial compatibility with certain lenses or lens types. The same is true for the owner's manual/ reference guide for each specific camera body.
So if you want to look up a lens to see a list of what digital camera bodies it works with, the only place I know to look is this obscure page published by Nikon that is near impossible to find using search engines. It does not list specific lenses, but does list specific digital camera models and shows each type of lens with which each camera is fully or partially compatible.