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Currently, I am using a Yashica FX-3 Super 2000, and over time I have acquired a reasonable set of vintage C/Y mount lenses. In particular, I have a ZEISS Tele-Tessar T* 300mm f/4 Lens, which I am quite happy with.

I am looking for a budget DSLR camera, and my goal is to use my C/Y lenses with a mount adapter. However, I have noticed that some DSLR cameras are not able to take pictures at all, even in manual mode, if they do not detect a mounted lens. This would be the case with my old lenses because they have no electronics. Other cameras, such as the Nikon D3100, will take pictures, but the light meter (exposure indicator) will be disabled, which would be a problem for me.

I would like to know, Can anyone recommend some budget DSLRs which are compatible with old lenses and support using the light meter with them?

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    Possible duplicate of Can I use lens brand X on interchangeable lens camera brand Y? – flolilo Jun 13 '18 at 12:01
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    Note in particular the part about registration distance in the other question, which you haven't mentioned in your own question, so it's unclear if you are aware of this obstacle to what you want to do. – osullic Jun 13 '18 at 12:12
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    You might want to consider mirrorless cameras as they allow room for an adapter. Also, most inexpensive cameras will have an APS sized sensor which changes the effective focal length of the lens. – Eric Shain Jun 13 '18 at 15:00
  • Specific product recommendations are off topic, though I hope there's enough explanation in my answer to get you by in your search. Do keep in mind that budget cameras will use APS-C and, as a film guy, you probably will miss shooting full frame. (You may also want to look into used full-frame models. 5Dmk2's are pretty cheap these days, for example). "Budget" is also a bad term. One man's budget is another's luxury. – Hueco Jun 13 '18 at 16:57
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As noted in the question, exposure metering with adapted lenses can be a major issue with some cameras. I think there would be more useful replies if the question asked for people's experiences, both positive and negative, with exposure metering using adapted lenses on different cameras, rather than asking only about which cameras work well.

Each camera has its own idiosyncrasies, beyond exposure metering, it would be a good idea try out some cameras before you buy them. Mount adapters are relatively cheap, so if you're serious about using your old lenses, get a mount adapter for each camera you want to try. However, as @Agent_L has commented, "Using an adapter most of the time is masochism." So don't be surprised if you can't get the results you want when using adapted lenses.

Notes/Assumptions

  • Focusing: On DSLRs, focusing is on plain ground glass. A light might flash to indicate that the camera thinks a target is in focus, but there is no optical focusing aid, such as the old split screens. Mirrorless cameras usually magnify a portion of the image. Some also have peak indicators, such as overlaying blue or red, to show areas of high contrast. I tend to find focusing with magnification and peak indicators (in particular, FujiFilm's system) easier than on plain ground glass.

  • Stop-down metering: For both DSLR and mirrorless, focusing is usually done wide open. The camera is then stopped down before the shutter is released. Metering is usually done upon shutter half-press, unless the auto-exposure lock is used.

  • Flange focal distance: I assume that if an adapter for a camera exists, issues such as flange focal distance and infinity focus are non issues because the manufacturer of the adapter has already accounted for them.

  • Camera features: Because I am addressing primarily exposure-metering capabilities, I will not describe features that set different cameras apart, such as Pentax pixel shift technology or FujiFilm X-Trans sensors.

DSLR

Regarding DSLRs, the main options are Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. I have experience only with a Canon DSLR from around 2004. I have no significant first-hand experience with Nikon or Pentax DSLRs, and no recent Canon experience.

  • Canon 20D. This camera had barely functional metering, even with native lenses. With adapted lenses, it was all over the place. Lenses greater than 28mm tended to underexpose. With a 16mm Zenitar fisheye, it had drastic frame-to-frame variability. One frame could be several stops too dark, while the next could have a third of the frame blown out. Changing F-stops increased the likelihood of underexposing, without completely eliminating the risk of overexposing. Upon reflection, I now think the camera simply had a really narrow dynamic range.

Mirrorless

There are many more options if mirrorless cameras are considered. Many people use adapted lenses on micro-four-thirds, mainly Olympus and Panasonic, bodies. If you're okay with the smaller sensor size, you will be in good company.

  • Olympus PEN E-PL2. This camera had no problems with exposure metering that I recall. I was mainly disappointed by the smaller micro-four-thirds sensor size. For instance, the 16mm Zenitar fisheye felt like a rectilinear lens with bad barrel distortion, not a fisheye.

Many mirrorless cameras share the same APS-C sensor size as most DSLRs. I've been playing in the FujiFilm ecosystem for quite a few years.

  • FujiFilm X-A5. This camera tends to overexpose, even with native lenses. If I hadn't previously used real X-Series cameras (with X-Trans sensors), this experience would have soured me on FujiFilm. I recommend avoiding the faux X-Series cameras that use Bayer sensors. (X-A#, X-T100)

  • FujiFilm X-E2. Excellent camera. Exposure metering is spot on, regardless of lens, unless the exposure compensation dial is accidentally switched. Main problem is poor battery life compared with DSLRs. Secondary problem is the camera is too good. I was "stuck" with this camera for so long because FujiFilm couldn't significantly improve it. The best they could manage was an X-E2S re-release. (At least they were honest about it.)

  • FujiFilm X-T20. FujiFilm changed so much when they designed the X-E3 that it doesn't really count as a successor to the X-E2S. The X-T20 is pretty close though. Problem is, it kind of feels like a toy compared with the X-E2 (more plastic, less metal). But image quality doesn't disappoint. Just like the X-E2, exposure metering works great. I suspect I'll be "stuck" with this one for a while. There's probably an X-T20S in their pipeline.

Many people also use Sony cameras with adapted lenses. Both full-frame and crop-sensor models are available. I do not have significant experience with Sony cameras, so cannot comment regarding exposure metering. However, I did notice some strange performance issues while an ILCE-6000.

  • Since I use my tele-lenses a lot, I am afraid mirrorless cameras would not be ok for me... Focusing with the screen rather than with the range finder would definitely be a problem... Thank you for your answer though. – Daniel López Jun 14 '18 at 8:25
  • One last question. In the case of mirrorless cameras, will the metering work with my old lenses stopped down?. In my lenses, when I move the aperture ring from say f4 to f11 the diaphragm actually closes. Will mirrorless cameras' metering "think" that the diaphragm is actually wide open and try to compensate for that, or just give me the right metering without doing any tricks? – Daniel López Jun 14 '18 at 10:07
  • Finally I got myself a Sony A6000, thanks for the advice! – Daniel López Jun 15 '18 at 8:01
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Any used Canon dSLR body will work for you with a simple adapter ring. Canon dSLR bodies, even the entry-level models, can perform stop-down metering with non-communicating lenses. The only possible issues are with a full-frame Canon body (say a 5D or 6D body) there may be mirror collision issues, but as full frame bodies are more expensive than crop ones, if you're on a tight budget, this may not be a consideration.

You do have to use either full manual or aperture-priority shooting modes on the body, since without communication, the camera body cannot control the lens's aperture setting.

Other candidates to look at would be used mirrorless bodies: Fuji X, Sony E-mount, and micro four-thirds all can use Contax/Yashica-mount lenses with simple C/Y adapter rings and maintain accurate metering.

See also: Can I use lens brand X on interchangeable lens camera brand Y?

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A big deal with adapting lenses is the distance from the film/sensor that the lens is intended. (Wiki)

According to the Wiki, the Contax C/Y Mount has a FFD of 45.5mm. The Canon EF Mount has a FFD of 44mm.

What this means is that, to perfectly space a C/Y lens on a Canon body, one would need an adapter that is 1.5mm thick. Normally, I'd say this is a pretty tough engineering feat, but these guys have solved it.

The problem you will run into using old lenses on DSLR's is one that you'll run into with just about all of them. Most have a setting where the camera will not fire if autofocus lock is not achieved. You may need to disable this setting.

The exposure meter should work in just about any camera - but the problem is that the camera will be measuring the light coming through the lens while it's wide open. This means that you will have to use technique known as Stop Down Metering in order to meter. Here's a post that shows some problems with the technique (even given the issues, there's no way around it). The big issue you'll run into is when there's just not enough light in the scene for the meter once it's stopped down. (Personally, I walk around with a Lumu on my phone for just these situations, but it is a work around)

So really, you do have your pick of cameras, provided an adapter exists for it.

I'd urge you to look into mirrorless cameras as @EricShain has suggested. Adapting old lenses to the Sony mounts seems to be quite popular and there are a a good amount of options for it. Also, given that the FFD of a mirrorless camera is much smaller than for a DSLR - this means that the adapters don't have to be as thin.

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