How to Mount a Vintage SLR Lens on a DSLR: A Simple Guide

If you’ve read our choices for the 10 Best Vintage SLR Lenses for Your DSLR, you’re also going to want to read our simple guide below with tips on how to mount those lovely, classic pieces of glass on your modern digital SLR.

Mirrorless cameras are supremely flexible when it comes to using vintage and third-party lenses. If you can physically mount a given lens on your mirrorless camera so it’s properly aligned and focuses to infinity, chances are pretty good that you can shoot photos with it. There are literally hundreds of adapters available that will let you do just that.

On the other hand, mounting legacy 35mm SLR lenses on your current DSLR, which incorporates a flipping reflex mirror, a mirror box, and an optical viewfinder, can be a little more challenging, but it’s still pretty straightforward in most cases. Here are four ways to mount a vintage SLR lens on modern DSLR.

1. Simple lens-less mechanical adapters available at major retailers will let you mount Leica R, Pentax screw-mount (M42), and Pentax K-mount lenses directly on most current Canon EF- and Nikon F-mount DSLRs, albeit at some cost in convenience. There are similar type adapters for Leica R- and M42-screw-mount lenses to Sony A-mount available on special order.

2. Vintage manual focus Nikon F lenses in AI mount, or those converted to AI mount will work on any current Nikon DSLR. Also Minolta Maxxum AF lenses will work on Sony A-mount DSLT cameras including the latest Sony Alpha A99 II with full AF and auto-exposure modes because the mounts are the same.

3. Simple lens-less mechanical adapters will let you use standard M42 screw mount lenses made by Pentax, Ricoh, East German (DDR Zeiss Jena, etc. on any Pentax DSLR, but the best candidates are the full-frame Pentax K-1 and K-1 Mark II. The K-1 will also work with any genuine Pentax K-mount lens of the film era without any adapter, but the earliest may require stop-down metering.

4. There are adapters that will let you mount older Canon FL and FD lenses and  Minolta MC and MD lenses on current DSLRs but all the ones I was able to find incorporate optical glass elements that inevitably alter the imaging characteristics and/or magnification of the original lens. Nevertheless, if you have some treasured lenses in these mounts they may be worth a try.

Architect1776's picture

Remember you can also mount all Nikon F and Exacta mount lenses on all Canon EOS bodies and no glass is in the adapter. Also all the Canon EOS bodies will meter through the lens in at least A and M modes, I use P as well with my 10D and 7D.