How to Use Adapted Lenses on Mirrorless Cameras

As mirrorless cameras surge in popularity, more and more photographers are choosing not to abandon their old hardware collections. Between the heaps of film and DSLR lenses most professionals have available, why start over again with micro 4/3 lenses? In the video below, Mark Ryan Sallee from Michromatic explains everything you could possibly need to know about adapting old lenses onto mirrorless cameras:

As Sallee explains, there are three reasons why you might want to seek out and adapt old lenses:

  1. You might already own them. If you’ve been in the photography game a while, why throw away or sell your old film or DSLR glass just because you have a new Olympus OM-D E-M10?
  2. Old lenses are cheaper. New mirrorless lenses run anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, but find a good old film or DSLR lens—online or in a used-gear shop—and you can buy something perfectly good for less than $100.
  3. The experience is different. This isn’t necessarily better or worse, but it’s different, and you won’t know whether or not you enjoy it unless you try. Because many older lenses don’t have autofocus and are often heavier, the experience is different—heftier, more tactile.

olympus mirrorless camera

Different lenses call for different adapters, of course. The flange focal distance—a.k.a. the distance between the sensor and the lens—needs to match both the camera’s and the lens’s specifications, which adapters help with. And the connection itself won’t be universal, so you’ll need to find a particular adapter for each one.

flange focal distance explanation

The downsides of using adapters include, frequently, the loss of autofocus and additional bulk. Most people enjoy mirrorless cameras because of their size; adding an adapter—and a clunky old lens—won’t help. Also, you’ll need to do some research before diving into this field; many zoom lenses don’t age well, and just buying any old 18-200mm lens for $50 won’t solve any problems.

mirrorless lens adapter

You can buy a more expensive “smart” adapter, which solves the focus issue, but they tend to cost significantly more than a regular adapter, which are often less than $40 apiece.

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