I know that you can use an adapter to mount various old lenses on D3200, but would I lose quality by doing so? I even read something that said that the default VR2 lens delivers 3 times as poor quality... So I'd assume that by using something from the 70s or 60s would definitely deliver a much lower quality, or at least a bit lower quality.

Anyway, if I'm wrong, what kind of lenses should I be looking for, and which adapter would you recommend?

Is there something else I should know before attempting to go the poor-man's way and trying to acquire older lenses? I can't really pay 200eu for a lens.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Many of the old Nikkor AI and AIS lenses are fantastic and worth considering. The 28 2.8 AIS is still in production (which is a testament to how good the design is) but can easily be found used. The 50 1.8 AIS is also a good starter (and a very cheap) manual lens (used). It may be that the focus feedback on your body isn't good enough to shoot manual lenses, I don't know. But if there's a store near you with a liberal return policy it would be worth finding out. Things to check for: positive clicks when you turn the aperture ring and shine a flash light in the lens to see any fungus or mold. \$\endgroup\$
    – moorej
    Feb 22, 2015 at 5:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ What does "quality" mean to you? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Dec 23, 2016 at 14:00

2 Answers 2


You cannot adapt lenses to Nikon F without quality loss without modifying a lens mount. You can use an adapter with an optical element that will act like a short teleconverter, but that will increase the focal length, reduce the max. aperture, and probably add softness, particularly if it's low-cost. (See: Can I use lens brand X on interchangeable lens camera brand Y?).

This is because the Nikon F mount has one of the largest registration distances of all the old film SLR mounts. This is the distance the lens is held away from the image plane and is crucial for the lens to achieve focus capability across the entire range. You push the lens out farther, and it's like using a small macro extension tube--you lose the ability to focus at the farther end of the range, and for Nikon F, this often means not being able to focus past 10'. So, you either have to use a small teleconverter-type adapter, or reduce the mount depth on the lens.

Unless you have €100 or so to spend on a Leitax kit, but most of the lenses those will fit are going to cost you decidedly more than €200 if they're in good working shape. Stick with older used Nikon F-mount lenses.

Quality is in the eye of the beholder. Older vintage lenses have older optical designs, older coatings, and have been used for much longer. They may exhibit softness, chromatic aberration, coma, or spherical aberration that you won't find in newer designs, and of course, new lenses come with warranties and return policies older lenses don't. But sometimes the older "flaws" of vintage glass are prized for a specific character they can lend. The opinion on whether it's better or worse to use them is in the eye of the beholder.

What is without argument is that older manual vintage lenses from the '60s and '70s (which, btw, are much too old to have VR) are much more inconvenient to use--particularly on an entry level body. Even if you manage to find some bargains in pre-AI vintage Nikkors (but if you ever plan to upgrade above the D3x00/D5x00 bodies--go for AI or later lenses. Pre-AI lenses, if unmodified, can cause damage to the higher-end bodies), remember that you won't have any electronic communication from the lens to the body. No lens EXIF. No accurate metering (until you get up to the D7x00 bodies). No autofocus. No aperture control from the camera body. No way to judge accurate focus without putting the camera on a tripod and using liveview and magnification. And, of course, all these lenses will be designed for full frame, not crop, so finding wide angle glass or fast glass is liable to be just as expensive as with new lenses.

This is a harsh thing to say, but dSLR photography is expensive and there is no way around that. If you can't afford the native-mount autofocusing lenses in a camera's mount, then you can't afford the camera. Bodies come and go on a regular basis. They're the single most transitory part of the system. It's the lenses that are your permanent purchase and where the majority of your money will go. Save up and budget accordingly.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for a straightforward answer - always appreciate those! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Feb 22, 2015 at 1:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Glad it was helpful. I've done adapted manual focus lenses, and as a way to save money, it utterly sucked :). As a way to appreciate and play with vintage glass, though, it rocked. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Feb 22, 2015 at 6:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally I'd prefer to buy ten rolls of film, a couple of vintage cameras and a whole bunch of old lenses... And have fun! I think that would be a lot more fun, considering that they would be made for one another (the lens and the camera), along with pretty much every point you made here. :) That's me though, a person who likes things 'original'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Feb 22, 2015 at 8:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack That's not a bad thing to like! Old school can be so much fun. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Feb 23, 2015 at 3:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ "You cannot adapt lenses to Nikon F easily without modifying a lens mount. " - this is clearly false as there are active optical adapters. Whether they possess a huge loss of quality or not depends on the adapter used. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 23, 2016 at 9:11

I shoot with a Nikon D3200 and exclusively with vintage glass. I have had no problems with focus through the viewfinder. I haven't had to modify any lenses, but i did have to modify an off-brand doubler. Other than that, it's just choosing ISO, shutter speed, and aperture and taking photographs.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Your answer doesn't cover differences of quality between old and recent lenses. You are saying that one can shoot with old lenses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Dec 23, 2016 at 16:53

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