Vintage Lens Adapters – the Ultimate Guide

vintage lens adapters ultimate guide

Using vintage lenses on digital cameras has become pretty popular in recent years.

There are plenty of reasons why this is, with a big one being the rise of the mirrorless camera making it so easy to do so.

Whatever the real and full reasons are though, there’s one thing about using vintage lenses on a new camera that cannot be avoided: you’ll probably need a lens adapter.

If you don’t know which type you need, the first section of this post is for you. And if you do already know, you can use the table of contents below to find the vintage lens adapters you need.

Then if you have any other questions about lens adapters, you can check out the remaining sections to see if they’ve been answered there.

Let’s take a look.

Which lens adapter do I need?

The adapter you need to shoot a vintage lens on your digital camera depends on the following:

  • what type of camera you have
  • what type of lens you want to use on it

Once you know that, you can use the numbers and letters on the adapters to figure out which you need.

These numbers and letters tell you what lens and camera body the adapters are to be used with, in that order. First the type of lens mount, then the camera mount. However, they will often use codes rather than spelling out the full name.

For example, an m42 lens to Sony E-mount adapter will be labelled m42-NEX, while a Pentax K-mount lens to Fujifilm X-mount adapter will be PK-FX.

As long as you don’t change your camera, the second half of the code will of course remain the same for any adapter you buy.

I’d recommend making very sure you’re getting the right adapter for each different lens you buy, though.

While some are obvious, there are a few pitfalls out there. For example, F.Zuiko lenses from the old Pen F camera need a PenF-xx adapter, while G.Zuiko lenses from Olympus OM SLRs need an OM-xx adapter.

Double check before buying.

m42 to nex adapter

Vintage lens adapters by camera mount

Sony E-mount adapters for vintage lenses

Sony E-mount adapters have the code NEX on them, which comes from the Sony NEX range of mirrorless cameras. Although the NEX name has been retired, the vast majority of Sony cameras still use the E-mount.

If you have a Sony Alpha mirrorless, you’re in luck when it comes to shooting vintage lenses. Thanks to the accommodating design of the body, few other camera types have as wide a range of lens adapters available for them.

Also, thanks to features such as focus peaking, few other digital cameras make it as easy to get great results from vintage lenses as Sony Alphas.

If you have an E-mount Sony camera, here’s a taster of the vintage lens adapters available to you.

Sony A-mount adapters for vintage lenses

Originally introduced by Minolta in 1985, the bayonet style A-mount system was acquired by Sony in 2006. Although no definitive official announcement has been made, Sony appears to have discontinued the A-mount for new products, choosing to focus on the E-mount instead.

Be aware that some adapters for the A-mount include a glass element, which will enable the lens to focus to infinity, but can also degrade image quality.

Unfortunately, as a DSLR system, the range of adapters available for A-mount camera bodies isn’t particularly extensive.

If you’re interested in using vintage lenses with your Sony A-Mount camera, then the following adapters are available.

Fujifilm X-mount adapters for vintage lenses

Fujifilm adapters are identified by the code FX, which you would presume comes from the initials of Fujifilm X-mount.

The recent range of Fujifilm cameras further displays the company’s kinship with the letter X, with mirrorless models like the X-T1, X-T2, and X-T20. The rangefinder-style X-Pro range continues this trend.

Plenty of vintage lenses can be used with mirrorless Fujifilm cameras, thanks to the compatible design of the bodies and the subsequent range of X-mount adapters on the market, making the range a worthy rival to Sony for vintage lens shooters.

If you want to use a vintage lens n your X-mount Fujifilm camera, here’s a selection of the adapters available to you.

MFT mount adapters for vintage lenses

‘MFT’ stands for ‘micro four thirds’, and is also known as m43 or m4/3. Developed as a mirrorless alternative to the original Four Thirds system, the name derives from the size of the image sensor.

Launched in 2008, it’s a relatively new system, and is used mainly by Olympus and Panasonic. As the “micro” in the name suggests, it allows for small and lightweight bodies that make for popular alternatives to bridge cameras.

As a mirrorless system, the MFT mount has a wide variety of adapters available, which is great news if you’re interested in shooting with vintage lenses.

If you want to use vintage lenses with your MFT mount camera, here are some of the adapter options available to you.

Canon EF mount adapters for vintage lenses

The Canon EF mount was originally introduced in 1987 and is the standard lens mount system for the DLSR cameras which comprise Canon’s EOS range.

EF stands for ‘electro-focus’, deriving from the system’s innovation of placing the focusing motor within the lens itself. In 2003 Canon launched the EF-S mount derivative for digital cameras with the newer APS-C sensor, which is backwards compatible with the original EF mount.

The EF mount’s relatively short flange focal distance makes it very versatile for pairing with other lenses, and accordingly a good number of adapters are available, including those which have a glass element to enable lenses to focus to infinity.

If you want to use vintage lenses with your Canon EF mount body, then check out these adapters.

Canon EF-M mount adapters for vintage lenses

A newcomer on the market, the EF-M mount was introduced in 2012 for use with Canon’s range of mirrorless cameras, which launched with the EOS M and continued with the EOS M50 and EOS M100.

Canon have been slow to produce lenses for the EF-M system, leading many customers to the lament the paucity of native options.

The good news is that as a mirrorless system there are a wider variety of adapters available for the EF-M mount than the older EF and EF-S mounts, which makes it a good option for pairing with vintage lenses.

If you shoot with a Canon EF-M mount camera, the following vintage lens adapters are where it’s at.

Nikon F-mount adapters for vintage lenses

The Nikon F-mount was introduced all the way back in 1959 and has remained in use ever since, making it one of only two mounts still in production that predates the introduction of auto-focus.

Unfortunately, the longer focal distance of the F-mount makes it problematic for use with non-native vintage lenses, and some adapters have a glass element to enable lenses to focus to infinity.

The good news is that thanks to its long and storied history, there are approximately 400 different lenses produced by a variety of manufacturers available for the Nikon F-mount, so native vintage lenses aren’t hard to come by.

However, if you do need a vintage lens adapter for a Nikon F-mount camera, then here are some of those that are available.

Nikon 1-mount adapters for vintage lenses

Introduced in 2011, the 1-mount is used by the Nikon 1 series of compact mirrorless camera bodies.

As is the case with other mounts, as a mirrorless system the 1-mount is a more flexible option than the DSLR based Nikon F-mount, which means there are plenty of adapters available – great news if you want to start shooting with vintage lenses.

The FT1 F-mount adapter is an option if you have lots of vintage Nikon glass, permitting the use of over 80 F-mount lenses on your 1-mount body while retaining auto-focus functionality, albeit with a high degree of magnification.

If you want to shoot with vintage lenses on your Nikon 1-mount camera, the following adapters are available.

Leica M-mount adapters for vintage lenses

The Leica M-mount was introduced in 1954, originally appearing on the Leica M3 camera, and has been the long-time standard Leica mount ever since.

Remaining in use to this day, it has also been utilized by other manufacturers, including Minolta, Konica and Carl Zeiss AG.

The ‘M’ in the name comes from ‘Messsucher’, the German for rangefinder, and M-mount cameras are known for their compact bodies and simple designs. Adapters for the M-mount are identified by the abbreviated ‘LM’ code in their title.

If you own a Leica M-mount camera and want to shoot with vintage lenses, here are some of the adapters available to you.

Samsung NX-mount adapters for vintage lenses

Introduced in 2010, the NX-mount was the standard mount for Samsung’s NX range of mirrorless cameras, which launched with the NX10.

Although no official announcement has been made, Samsung’s withdrawal from the camera market means that no further models are expected to follow on from 2015’s NX500.

The NX-mount’s relatively short history means there are not as many adapters on the market as for equivalent Sony and Fujifilm mounts, but the mirrorless system’s flexibility means there are still some options available.

If you’re interested in using vintage lenses with your Samsung NX camera, take a look at the following adapters.

Pentax K-mount adapters for vintage lenses

The Pentax K-mount is also known as the ‘PK-mount’ and has appeared on Pentax 35mm and DSLR cameras dating back to 1975. The popular mount has also been used by a range of other manufacturers, including Sigma, Cosina, and Ricoh.

A number of adapters are available for the K-Mount, and many feature glass elements to allow the lens to focus to infinity.

Some users have reported difficulties with attaching and removing lenses on non-Pentax adapters though, so shop carefully if you plan on using a third-party product.

If you own a Pentax K-mount camera, here are some of the vintage lens adapters on the market.

Pentax Q-mount adapters for vintage lenses

A relative newcomer, the Pentax Q-mount was launched in 2011 and set a new standard as the smallest and lightest mirrorless camera body type on the market, only recently being surpassed by newer Samsung and Panasonic offerings.

Used in compact, rangefinder style cameras, the Pentax Q series has a short flange focus distance that makes it a versatile option for use with other manufacturers’ lenses, and accordingly a good selection of adapters are available.

Pentax have also made available a Q to K-mount adapter, making the use of over 200 K-mount lenses possible.

If you have a Pentax Q-mount camera and are interested in using vintage lenses, then the following adapters are available.

Quick charts of commonly available vintage lens adapters

Sony, Fujifilm, MFT, Samsung, Leica

 E-mount Sony CameraA-mount Sony CameraX-mount Fujifilm CameraMFT / m43 CameraNX-mount Samsung CameraM-mount Leica Camera
m42 LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Pentax K LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Canon FD LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Nikon F LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Nikon G LensInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Nikon S / Contax RF LensInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / AN / A
Minolta SR / MD LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Konica AR LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Olympus OM LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Olympus PenF LensInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / AN / A
Contax / Yashica LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Leica M LensInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / AN / A
Leica M39 LensInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Exakta EXA LensInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Praktica B LensInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / AN / A
Rollei QBM LensInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
E-mount Sony CameraA-mount Sony CameraX-mount Fujifilm CameraMFT / m43 CameraNX-mount Samsung CameraM-mount Leica Camera

Canon, Nikon, Pentax

 Canon EFCanon EF-MNikon FNikon 1Pentax KPentax Q
m42Info / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Pentax KInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / AInfo / Prices
Canon FDInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Nikon FInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Nikon GInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesN / AInfo / Prices
Nikon S / Contax RFN / AInfo / PricesN / AN / AN / AInfo / Prices
Minolta SR / MDInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Konica ARInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Olympus OMInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Olympus PenFN / AInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesN / AInfo / Prices
Contax / YashicaInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Leica MN / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Leica M39N / AInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / Prices
Exakta EXAInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / A
Praktica BInfo / PricesN / AInfo / PricesN / AN / AN / A
Rollei QBMInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesInfo / PricesN / A
Canon EFCanon EF-MNikon FNikon 1Pentax KPentax Q

Why do we need lens adapters?

There are two main reasons why we need lens adapters for vintage lenses. First is that different camera manufacturers use different mounts for their lenses and bodies, as shown above.

Second is they tend to design their gear to have different distances between the lens and the sensor or film in the camera.

The latter means the size of your lens adapter will vary depending on what lens it’s for and what camera it’s to be used on, and isn’t something you can change or avoid.

The former means you need to ensure you’re buying the right adapter to use your vintage lens on your camera.

Put together, they mean lens adapters serve two main purposes – to adapt different mounts to each other, and to ensure the distance between lens and sensor is correct.

m42 to nex lens adapter

Types of lens adapters available

Generally speaking, and for the purpose of what we’re talking about here, there are three main types of lens adapters available.

The first type is a completely dumb, or mechanical only, lens adapter.

These are simply blocks of metal that provide no electronic communication between lens and camera. This means having to use manual focus, and either manual or a priority exposure mode. They do allow you to focus to infinity though.

If you have a mirrorless camera, these will likely be the type of adapter you need for your vintage lenses.

The second type of lens adapter available looks similar to the first, but has a single glass element embedded in it too. This is to allow you to focus to infinity.

If you’re trying to use vintage lenses on a Nikon DSLR, for example, you might well be recommended one of these.

However, some say the glass element can ruin the image quality of the lens and prefer to remove it, sacrificing infinity focus but keeping that sharpness.

The third type of lens adapter is a fully electronic affair that probably won’t be in your sights if you’re looking to use vintage lenses on your digital camera.

These smart lens adapters are more for adapting newer DSLR lenses to mirrorless cameras, such as Sony A-mount to Sony E-mount, and can come in at around 10x the price of the purely mechanical type.

Worth the money if you have a new mirrorless camera and want to use your modern yet non-native lenses on it, but not one for vintage lens people to worry about, in the main.

penf to nex adapter

Advantages of using vintage lens adapters

There are certain pros and cons to using vintage lens adapters.

A lot of the good stuff should really be obvious, but it won’t hurt to go through some of them.

First is that that using old lenses helps give your photography a different aesthetic. If you want a vintage look to your work, I don’t see the point of using an ultra-sharp modern lens and then spending time changing how it looks in Lightroom afterwards.

Just use a vintage lens.

The second is keeping vintage lenses alive and in service. Whether they are ones you’ve owned since the days of analogue photography or are ones you’re picking up second-hand today, they deserve to be shot with.

Keeping perfectly good glass on the shelf or in a box is a real shame when a simple adapter would give it life again.

Third is that using vintage lenses can – and probably will – help you improve as a photographer. As mentioned, you’ll probably have to shoot with manual focus and in manual or an exposure priority mode.

If you want to get out of auto-mode, using a vintage lens is a great way to force yourself to do so.

vintage lens adapters

Disadvantages of using vintage lens adapters

There are also some things to look out for when using vintage lens adapters on your digital camera.

Most of these will depend on the type of lens you’re using and what type of camera you’re using it on. Some cameras, like Sony mirrorless, are just more suited and less problematic than, say, Nikon DSLRs.

First up is vignetting on your photographs. If you’re trying to use a lens from a smaller camera on a full-frame body, you may find it’s not wide enough to cover the whole of your sensor.

This can lead to dark corners on your images.

Second is the chance that the mirror in your DSLR will hit the back of the lens. Again, this depends wholly on the type of camera you have and the type of vintage lens you’re using on it. If the distance between lens and mirror is too small, there may be a problem.

As the name suggests, mirrorless cameras don’t have this issue.

The third issue, as mentioned in the earlier section, is any glass elements in your lens adapter spoiling the image quality.

It makes sense that this would happen when you consider the craftsmanship that went into producing the lens, with it having multiple elements of high-quality glass, engineered to give the best results possible.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a single element on an inexpensive lens adapter might not be up to those standards.

The final potential issue with using vintage lens adapter is one of magnification. Most adapters will allow you to use the lens pretty much as designed, with any magnification coming from the sensor size in your camera.

This is unavoidable with DX cameras, APS-C, and micro four thirds, but you can still use the lenses perfectly well.

However, some adapters on the market will mean the lens can only really be used for macro photography. Again, this depends entirely on the lens type and camera type, but most issues come when using DSLRs. If you have a mirrorless, you should be golden.

As before, the advice is to check and double check before buying.

Don’t let any of this put you off, though; especially if you already have a mirrorless camera or a DSLR that can use vintage lenses easily.

Shooting with them is the most fun I have in my photography, and it’s only possible with these small and unassuming chunks of metal we call lens adapters.

If you’ve not picked one up and shot with a vintage lens yet, I highly recommend you do.  😀

p.s… one more thing… if you’ve found this guide to vintage lens adapters informative and want to help others discover it too, why not share or pin it?
Using vintage lenses on digital cameras has become pretty popular in recent years. There are plenty of reasons why this is, with a big one being the rise of the mirrorless camera making it so easy to do so. Whatever the real and full reasons are though, there's one thing about using vintage lenses on a new camera that cannot be avoided: you'll probably need a lens adapter. If you don't know much about lens adapters and why we need them, this guide is for you.
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10 thoughts on “Vintage Lens Adapters – the Ultimate Guide”

  1. Hi Lee just found your web page….. just to say I use Pentax k lenses on my canon DSLR….. awsome the the lenses I’ve had from new when I bought my Pentax MX when they first came out ….. yep I’m an old still learning still trying to create great pictures….. just one question have you any info on the focal length changes on a crop sensor camera …..

    Regards Fred

    Reply
  2. I just purchased an Anscomark M camera from early 60’s. It has a very nice selection of lenses. A 35/3.5, 50/1.9 , and a 100/f4, of which I would like to put on my A7. My exacta to nex was easy to find but this one has me stumped…any ideas?

    Reply
    • Hey Randy. No idea, no! 🙁 I’ve Googled around and perhaps the most telling thing I found was this quote:

      “The Anscomark M uses a bespoke bayonet mount with only three known lenses available…”

      A camera from the early 60s with a bespoke mount doesn’t sound promising as far as adapters goes. The camera looks gorgeous btw though. Would like to see what you get from putting some rolls of film through it. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Great article!
    Im considering buying a 100mm f/3.5 canon lens. I own a fujiXt20. Im still doing my research and I am no expert when it comes to this area. Which adapter do you recommend me?

    greetings from Puerto Rico 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey Tania. Depends how old the lens is! If it’s really old you’ll likely need an FD-FX adapter. If it’s newer than 1987, likely an EOS-FX. Better to ask the seller really, they should know. 🙂

      Reply
    • Hi Tony. Great that you’re looking to try some vintage lenses. 🙂

      As far as which camera to go for, I can’t really advise a particular model but I can give a few pointers based on my experience and opinion.

      1. Go for a second hand one. You don’t need all the latest features on newer ones if you’re shooting vintage lenses. Will also save you money as you’re on a budget.

      2. Look at the manual focusing assists any camera has as these will help you a lot with your vintage lenses. I really like the ‘focus peaking’ on my Sony NEX and some Fuji cameras have a dual screen focus assist which looks cool too, although I haven’t used it.

      3. Go for one with a bigger sensor than m43, in my opinion. So that would rule out a lot of Olympus cameras. Check out my article on focal length if you need to know why, but I think APS-C or even full frame will give you more flexibility when it comes to which lenses you can practically use.

      To sum up, I’d be looking at Sony or Fuji as they have good manual focus assists and also bigger sensors than m43. And go for a second hand one that still has the features you need. I still use a 5+ years old Sony NEX.

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you need to ask more. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hi,

    Great site and great article, but one thing doesn’t seem entirely right: You describe “Smart Adapters” with electronics as “Speed Boosters”.

    “Speed Boosters” are not necessarily “smart”, i.e. with electronics to relay settings to the lens. They contain an optical element which focuses the light from a full-frame lens (which is otherwise wasted on a “crop” camera) onto the smaller sensor of e.g. an APS-C camera, thus regaining the f-stop that is otherwise lost due to the crop sensor: on a crop sensor, with a vintage lens and a “regular” adapter, any aperture setting dialed on the lens has to be multiplied by the crop factor to get the actual aperture. The “speed booster” adapter compensates for this, thus boosting “lens speed”.

    And maybe more importantly, it (near as makes no difference) restores the original focal length, thus eliminating crop factor here as well. With the speed booster, a 50mm vintage lens from a full frame camera does become a true 50mm lens, while with a “dumb” adapter, it would be a 75mm (in case of Sony, with a 1.5 crop factor). Obviously, this only works with full-frame vintage lenses – with anything less, one would get severe vignetting with a “speed booster”.

    Another nice benefit is that these “sub-types” of adapters are sometimes a bit shorter than the equivalent “dumb” adapter. On the downside, any optical element can introduce additional issues, and in case of (especially) some of the more affordable speed boosters, this may present as a blue glare in the image when light hits the lens at certain angles.

    But all of this does not necessitate any contacts or electronics (though there may be some “smart” adapters that feature “speed booster” optics also). For instance, I have a “Speed Booster” from E-Mount to M42 which is just a hunk of metal with one lens in it, with no electronics or contacts at all.

    Keep up the great website, greetings from Germany!

    Reply
    • Hi Carsten.

      Thanks for pointing out my error. 🙂 Thanks also for the detailed and informative comment doing so. I’m sure it will be useful for other people who come across it as well, which is great.

      I’ve edited that part of the article so hopefully we’re all good now. Thanks again.

      Lee

      Reply

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