Old Lenses: how to use, choose and adapt old film lenses for your new DSLR

Old Lenses: how to use, choose and adapt old film lenses for your new DSLR

What to look for when buying old lenses


How to use old lenses on your modern DSLR

There are countless second-hand lenses on the market, so how do you know what to buy? When it comes to which lens mount to choose, you’ll find it easier to find adapters for lenses in Olympus OM, Pentax-K and Nikon AI fittings.

When looking for used lenses, ensure that the optical elements are reasonably clean. To check, hold the lens up to the light and try to spot any haziness or marks on any of the elements.

Also make sure that the focus ring and aperture work smoothly (find out . Turn the focus ring throughout its range to check for looseness or too much friction. Look for mould in the lens too.

Many lenses have a small mechanical lever on the back to open and close the aperture, so set the lens to a small aperture such as f/16 and move the lever to make sure that the aperture opens and closes smoothly (What is a small aperture? Check out our photography cheat sheet on small and wide apertures).

With the aperture closed, look at the aperture blades through the lens to ensure they are reasonably clean and free of grease or oil.

Visible gunk may mean that the lubricants in the lens have started to break down; they could end up on the optics or jamming the aperture.

You have a choice when it comes to buying old film lenses. Some specialist camera shops sell second-hand gear, though it’s not the cheapest option.

Prices are lower on eBay, but ensure you buy from somebody with a good feedback score. You can sometimes strike lucky at second-hand shops and car boot/yard sales, too.

PAGE 1: Types of old lenses
PAGE 2: What to look for when buying old lenses
PAGE 3: Which old film lenses fit my digital camera?
PAGE 4: How to use a lens adapter


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