Want to make your camera system even more flexible? Lens adapters can open your world to an array of alternatives—whether the glass you crave is bizarre, classic, or simply no longer made. These magic rings can make many lenses fit on cameras they weren’t made for. Here’s how to put adpaters to work. Also check out our lens adapting compatiblity chart for even more info.
It was love at first sight. But as with the greatest love stories, this one seemed cursed by fate. I was a young photographer and she was beautiful: a little bulbous, sure, but incredibly sharp. Not unlike Romeo and Juliet, our problem was pedigree. She was from a rival house, but I vowed to make her mine. With the help of an adapter, I was able to do just that—and now my Canon EOS 5D Mark III is rarely parted from my beloved Nikon 14–24mm AFS f/2.8G ED lens.
Lens adapters allow you to use a variety of wonderful alternative lenses—including some truly exotic optics and some classics that are so exceptional that you may wonder why they aren’t still made. Although the lenses made for your camera may be great, having options is nice.
How Adapters Work
Adapters are usually low-tech, nothing more than a machined ring that fits between your lens and your camera. One end is designed to accept a specific lens brand and/or type; the other end is designed to fit the camera. Typically there is no communications bridge to allow the lens to send data to the camera (or vice versa), so electronically driven lens features—notably autofocus and auto aperture—won’t work when the lens is mounted on the adapter. You will need to focus manually and physically stop down the aperture before shooting. The lens also won’t be able to communicate EXIF data to the camera.
Some adapters include a focus- confirmation chip that allows the camera to signal when a subject is in focus, using an audible beep and/or icon displayed in the viewfinder.
Unfortunately, not every lens is adaptable to every camera system. Most adapters are made for use with older lenses that have manual aperture rings, which must be adjusted by the user. Many modern lenses, such as the Nikon 14–24mm, have electronic aperture control that won’t work on other cameras. Adapter manufacturers have worked around this problem by including a physical actuator for the lens aperture built into the adapter. You still have to manually set the aperture, only by adjusting the adapter, and not the lens.