You’ve done it. You’ve made the leap from a DSLR camera to a mirrorless camera system. It could be a Fuji XT-2 or a Sony a6000, or if you’re like me, you went all out and got a full frame mirrorless camera(Sony A7R for me). That’s great! Welcome to the club. You’re now part of a family of “the other guys”. Now what do you do? Well, you need a lens, right? Of course but what lens? Now you may be thinking that you have to go out and spend a couple grand on some brand new lenses made specifically for your camera. Well, you’re wrong. Let me show how you can use the lenses you have right now, virtually any lens you have right now, with your mirrorless camera.
Lens adapters/converters are the best thing to hit the camera market since sliced beer(yes, it’s possible). Lens adapters have actually been around for a while. My first introduction to the world of “Frankensteining” my camera setup was when I began looking around for a way to use a couple of old Nikkor lenses with my Canon 7D MK1. Admittedly, my motivations were driven by my finances or lack there of. I needed a way to use the lenses I had on hand with the camera I had at the time.
So, I scoured the internet and found a couple of adapters that allowed the lenses to be mated to the camera. It was like magic. I snapped on the adapter ring to the Nikkor lens and then snapped the lens right onto the the camera. It was one of the best feelings of my photographic career. The two lenses I’m talking about here were a 50mm F/1.8 and an 85mm F1.4. Beautiful old glass. Granted, those were both fully manual lenses so it wasn’t overly complicated. The adapters cost me about $20 total and they allowed me to shoot those super slick prime Nikkors with my Canon camera body. It was great!
Picking a Lens Converter
Lens adapters work with mirrorless cameras just like any other adapter or converter. Simply find the adapter that accepts your lens mount and converts it to your particular camera mount. A good Google search for “Canon EF to Sony FE adapter”(or whatever you need) will yield a cornucopia of results. All that is happening is that the lens mount is being augmented to fit a camera that the manufacturer never intended to ever collide together. In most cases, you will be looking to convert your current DSLR lenses, which are probably auto focusing, with your mirrorless camera. This is not difficult but there are a couple things to watch out for when looking for the correct adapter.
Don’t use a crop sensor lens with a full frame camera body
This is a no no. You see, full frame digital cameras whether they are mirrorless or otherwise, have sensors based roughly on the 35mm film frame. That means that virtually all of old manual SLR lenses, which were used with 35mm film, will be able to cover the entire frame of the comparable 35mm digital sensor. The same is true for modern full frame DSLR lenses. In short, any lens that was originally intended to cover a full frame image size can be adapted across a wide platform of full frame AND cropped sensor(APS-C). The problem arises when you attempt to fit a CROPPED SENSOR lens with a FULL FRAME mirrorless camera. Lenses that are intended to only be used with a cropped sensor digital sensor will not provide enough coverage for a full frame image sensor even with an adapter. The result is a little bit of tunnel vision…
Do you need auto focus?
This is where the waters get just a tad murky when it comes to lens adapters for mirrorless cameras. Do you actively and consistently require fast auto focusing during the majority of your photography. Lens adapters have come a long way since I began using them four years ago. Today, multiple manufacturers make awesome adapters that have virtually native grade auto focus even with your adapted lenses. Some companies like Sigma have even released proprietary adapters like the MC-11 that are designed from the ground up to work with Sigma lenses to yield incredible auto focus speed and accuracy.
Unfortunately, you often get what you pay for with lens adapters for mirrorless. If you shoot a lot of landscapes and static scenes you can save a little dough by going with a fully manual or cheaper priced AF adapter that supports AF but perhaps does so less than optimally. If you’re a sports or wildlife shooter then you might benefit in the extra investment needed for a higher end adapter that will facilitate near-native AF speeds…or maybe search for a lens that is native to your particular mirrorless camera.
Final thoughts on lens adapters…
Lens adapters are the skeleton keys of the photography realm. They allow us to use virtually any lens with virtually any camera. There are a few caveats but for the most part adapters can open up an entirely new world of photography to you. If you’re like me then you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on new lenses made specifically for your new mirrorless camera so being able to use your current DSLR or SLR lenses with your full frame or crop sensor mirrorless camera enables you to save money while still being able to continue…or improve the quality of your images with very little in terms of investment from you. Keep in mid the following when looking for an adapter:
- Make sure you’re lens can cover the sensor of your mirrorless camera. Consult your lens specs for this info.
- Do you need speedy auto focus? Consider how you will use the lens and decide whether you can use a lower priced budget model or if a high-end version with great AF would be better…or perhaps even investing in a native lens for your camera.
- Have realistic expectations for your adapters. This goes along with the previous point in that don’t expect $700 results from a $25 adapter.
All in all, mirrorless camera tech is advancing exponentially. The mirrorless adapters, lenses and even cameras have now evolved to the point where there are multitudes of options for us mirrorless users. In the end, it’s up to you to ultimately decide what combinations of gear works best for you. But as always, we here at Mirrorless Connection are here to answer any and all questions you might have about finding the perfect adapter to fit your needs. Shoot us a message and we’ll make sure you’re on your way to making great images with whatever your setup might be!
Even now I still use those same Nikkor lenses converted to with not only the Canon adapters but also with my Commlite converter (read more about that adapter here). Frankensteing indeed…. Have a favorite adapter/lens combo for your mirrorless camera? Let us know in the comments!
Photomaker, author, adventurer, educator, and self-professed bacon addict. You can usually find me on some distant trail making photographs or at my computer writing about all the elegant madness that is photography. Pick up a copy of my new photo book of wild pony portraits, Faces of Grayson.