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Film camera lenses used with new digital SLR?

by Simonvine / April 9, 2007 9:24 AM PDT

I am thinking about purchasing a digital SLR, perhaps a Canon EOS. Maybe I'm being naive here and haven't quite graduated into the world of digital SLR's yet, but can anyone tell me if it is possible to use my lenses from my old 35mm film-based Canon EOS 650 with a digital SLR? Are they compatible?

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Lens Compatibility
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / April 10, 2007 12:28 AM PDT

All Canon EOS lenses will work on Canon Digital SLR cameras.

If the lens is not made by will have to contact the company that made the lens. They usually require a full description of the lens (including serial number).


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55 mm threaded
by mtbarbee / April 13, 2007 9:42 AM PDT
In reply to: Lens Compatibility

as long as it's the correct diameter of ring size (normally 55 mm)and has threads.

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35mm to digital lens conversion
by weslambert / April 13, 2007 11:07 AM PDT
In reply to: Lens Compatibility

Having just recently purchased a Nikon D80 digital SLR and considering adding another lens to my kit, I've learned a couple of things to help me in my choices. The first thing is look at the manufacturer's support pages and users manual. In my case, Nikon does publish compatibility charts that tell which lenses will work and which functions are supported ( autofocus, metering etc. ). The other thing is there is a focal length conversion to be made between lenses for 35mm and lenses for digital cameras. As the area of film exposed when the shutter opens is larger than the area of the sensor in a digital camera the effective focal length of a 35mm lens is approximately 1.5 times larger. In effect a 50mm lens becomes a 75mm, a 200mm becomes a 300mm and so forth. I am using Nikon products in this and after market lenses or adapters can present their own issues. I would recommend careful research on any thing I mount on the front of my spendy SLR body. Hope this helps!

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Try before you Buy
by Donaldsc / April 13, 2007 10:01 AM PDT

I would add one additional thing to the answers already posted. Bring all of the lenses that you want to use to your camera dealer (you do have a local dealer, I hope) and try them before you make a decision. That is the only way to be sure.


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Slr Lens systems
by Argotec / April 13, 2007 10:28 AM PDT

Most film camera Lens will fit Digital cameras with the appropriate adapter ring fitted. Note that the focal length will be different normally by a factor of about 1.6x hence a 100mm lens will become a 160mm lens etc.

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Nikon "film" lenses are compatible, too.
by LaJan7 / April 13, 2007 12:12 PM PDT

Nikon uses Nikkor lenses that are interchangeable like Canon?s. However, I?d strongly suggest you read the reviews by the pros comparing the Canon to the Nikon D80. Opting for the Canon is fine only if money is really tight. Otherwise, the Nikon D80 seriously outperforms most of the Canon cameras. ( Note also in this article that legacy lenses from film SLR?s are a great selling point for both Canon and Nikon.

I too have a new D80 after a year of shopping everything in sight and I?m convinced the D80 and its available ?old? lenses is the best option.

Best of luck!

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Nikon Better
by yee940908 / April 13, 2007 3:13 PM PDT

Nikon seriously outperforms the Canon!!!!! Give me a break. The Canon are the choice of professionals worldwide. They are miles ahead of Nikon.

I had Nikon film cameras and lenses... loved them. When the shift towards digital began, I did the research and ended up selling all my Nikons and went with Canon. Never looked back since. The Nikon focus was noisy and slowwwwww..... Maybe they're better now but ? too little too late.

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"Maybe they're better now but ? too little too late."
by LaJan7 / May 12, 2007 7:27 AM PDT
In reply to: Nikon Better

LOL! croatianconnection, you and I have grown up on the opposite side of the tracks, it seems. :-D For you, there's nothing better than going Canon for a billion reasons and all of them are valid, not the least of which is that you probably have a mint invested in compatible glass.

There was a time when Canon was the ONLY way to go if you were a serious professional. That put them in the lead with professionals and it's a lead that may or may not still exist. (Can I hear poll, anyone?) But the newest Nikons are winning the battle at the prosumer level and that's what almost all the people new to DSLR are. The professionals who like film will like film forever just like the professionals who like Canon will like it forever.

Are you a pro? I'm not; I'm a prosumer: the new class of consumers who want good gear like the professionals use but not willing to pay $2000 for a camera body and $5000 for a lens. If you're a pro, you probably already HAVE $5000 in Canon lenses. But for this person with a question, I think prosumer is closer to his/her truth.

Tell you what. Let's use a neutral free hosting site to post some of our best shots from our respective equipment - complete with the metadata - and let some of the c/net users decide what images are more appealing to them. If you're a pro, you've got a major advantage on me, obviously. But I'll stack my Nikon up to your Canon in an informal opinion poll of results any day of the week. Winner types, "I love [the opposition's camera]!"

It's on, bro, so your move!

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You Can use them BUT...........
by mmayer54 / April 13, 2007 1:04 PM PDT

Old 35 mm lenses will work on DLSRs, however, because the camera's digtal sensor is a much smaller (APS size), the lens-to-sensor distance leaves very soft images. Also, there is a 1.6X magnification factor, so your 50mm standard lens becomes an 80mm. Recommended are the lenses that come with it (only $79 more for the 18-55mm wide-to-normal 28-90 35mm equivalent lens, that comes with it). Or if you get the Canon body, both Tamron & Sigma make very good little 18-200mm DIGITAL ONLY lenses, having the equivalent range of 28-300 on 35mm, PLUS MACRO! Apertures for these zoom lenses are a slow f/3.5 and up, but these new DSLR shoot up 1600 ISO (Pro DSLRS cameras @3200) with less digital noise aka grain, than film. Hope that helps

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by RenoDavid / April 13, 2007 2:30 PM PDT

"lens-to-sensor distance leaves very soft images"

Huh? I've never heard of this before. Why would the lens-sensor-distance make any difference? Isn't it the same as the lens-to-film distance? Could you explain this a bit more??

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Lens to Sensor leaves images soft
by yee940908 / April 13, 2007 3:30 PM PDT

That is totally false... EOS lenses work on film and digital cameras ? no problems. Period.

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by yee940908 / April 13, 2007 3:25 PM PDT

Good choice going with the Canon. The Digital Rebel's only flaw is that it feels too small if your hands are too big. Controls are conveniently placed ? similar to their film counterparts.

Your old EOS lenses will work fine. However, once you have a state-of-the-art camera why not combine it with state-of-the-art lenses as well. Canon's new zooms (in all focal length) have image stabilization and quick and quiet auto focus.

An important note... A 50mm lenses on a film camera is NOT a 50mm lens on a digital camera. Because the digital sensor is smaller than 35mm film, you have to multiply the focal length by 1.6. Therefore, a 50mm lens is actually an 80mm lens on a digital camera. Something to take into consideration when purchasing lenses.

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by fionndruinne / April 17, 2007 1:30 AM PDT
In reply to: Compatibility

The XTi grip is too small even if your hands are not too big. I have very normal-sized hands, and much prefer the grip on my D40 to my friend's XTi. There's just no room for the little finger to sit comfortably (or at all, if your hands are just a smidgen larger than mine).

Also, it's not easy to rest the finger on the shutter button. Give me Nikon ergonomics any day. The D40 through D80 are plain comfortable.

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lenses from film camera to digital camera
by befie / April 13, 2007 3:30 PM PDT

Yes! With Canon. That is why my first digital camera purchase was a Canon 20D. (I had some good advice from a pro whose word I admired.) I only had 2 lenses with my film Canon EOS and I can use them on my new camera. A real plus is that my 75-300mm lense actually zooms further on the digital.
In fact I often carry both cameras with me. Although I have had the digital a year, circumstances have kept me from fully exploring and learning its possiblilities. I still like the depth of vision I get with the film camera. Some would call me an advanced amateur though I participate in two local galleries as a "professional". My goal is to sell and I do.
Hope this helps. Befie

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Field of Vision
by yee940908 / April 13, 2007 3:57 PM PDT

Your Canon lenses focal length should be multiplied by 1.6. Therefore, your 75 to 300 is actually 120 to 480 on your Canon 20D. The reason is that the 20D uses a sensor that is smaller than 35mm film. So if you want what is a 'normal' lenses... purchase a 28mm lens.

If you were to purchase a Canon 5D, the sensor in that camera is the same size as 35 mm film. Your 75 to 300 mm lens will give you the same field of vision as on your film camera. Be sitting down when you ask how much for the 5D.

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digital camera lenses
by joffy1 / April 12, 2009 12:28 AM PDT

buying a new lens can be confusing with so much to consider.
best to stick to a few main specs to compare against.
this site might be of some benefit:

sticks to the basics and helped me.
hope you find it useful.

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Lens issues to think about.
by prentz / April 14, 2007 12:32 PM PDT

A number of points have been missed here- on the Nikons the new D40 and D40x do not auto focus without an AF-S or AF-I lens. Canon 'digital' lens do not work with full frame cameras, film or digital. Some Sigma lenses may work with your older camera but not your newer camera (Sigma will often update those lenses for you). Be sure to get an Iron Clad agreement that the lenses that you have (after discussing it with your dealer) will work with your new camera!
Second, there was talk for some time that full frame lenses would not be as good on your digital camera in that they'd through the extra light around and may cause some flair or softness. I've not seen it be a problem in four years of using full frame Canon lenses on a 10d and now a Rebel XTi. In your situation, if those are Canon EOS lenses, you should have no problems other than 'loosing' your wide angle and 'gaining' telephoto.

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Canon Lenses
by yee940908 / April 14, 2007 3:04 PM PDT

What do you mean by Canon 'digital' lenses do not work with full frame cameras, film or digital? Canon EOS lenses DO work with ALL film and digital cameras. The only difference is the focal length of the lenses. This talk about IRON CLAD agreements is nonsense. A reputable camera dealer will not sell you a lens that will not fit your camera!

There is NO problem with 'softness' or 'flair' on Canon or Nikon and probably not with any of the professional camera makers. I never heard this 'talk' in the thirty years I have beeen a photographer.

Your first smart decision was buying a Canon digital camera. The next smart decision is choosing a Canon EOS lens to compliment your camera. There are over a 100 lenses. You can save a few bucks going with Sigma but the perfect match is Canon camera and Canon lenses.

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Some of the Canon lenses will NOT work on a full frame
by Kiddpeat / April 14, 2007 4:35 PM PDT
In reply to: Canon Lenses

camera. That is either digital or film. I think they have an 'S' designation, but I'm too tired to look. The 17-85 IS and the 10-22 are both in this category. They only work on cameras like the 20D or 30D with a 'C' sized sensor. They will not work on a 5D, for example, or a 35mm film camera.

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Be careful in lens choices
by prentz / April 15, 2007 9:52 AM PDT
In reply to: Canon Lenses

There is no problem with EOS lens on a 'digital' (read 'APS' sensor camera- smaller sensor camera like the Rebel or 10 to 30d series) BUT there is an issue with using an 'S' series DIGITAL lens on a 5d (or any other 'full-frame' digital) or film camera- it would hit the mirror.
It would be difficult for any dealer to know the specifics of every lens as it relates to new cameras coming out all the time. Even a very good dealer can be wrong, but a good dealer will work with you to make it right. That's the Iron Clad part.
There HAS been discussion of the issue of problems with film lenses on digital cameras, but as mentioned I haven't seen it. Croatianconnection, you wouldn't see it in 30 years as digital SLRs have not been around that long. And, as mentioned, it's not been a problem I've seen either, but there was talk that digital sensors read light more straight on and that lenses that 'splashed' extra light or were not built to more directly 'aim' the light at the sensors could cause problems on DIGITAL cameras- even using the best film camera lenses made. BUT again, it's not a problem I've had in using a digital SLR for almost four years with 'film' lenses AND in printing images from digital cameras for over five years (I own a lab and have seen tens of thousands of images from digital SLRs.)
Some of the after market lenses are very good- check the ratings in any camera magazine. Not every lens made by Canon (or Nikon) has hit the highest marks, but to be sure, they are generally very good. Case in point, the 'kit' lens with the digital Rebel is not a top lens and often criticized. At that price, it would be hard to build one!
One interesting point, though, is that owners of full frame digital cameras tell me that they can really see a difference with the high end (L series) lens, a difference not as clear as on their smaller sensor previous cameras. Is this just the increase in pixels (at the time the 5d was much higher than any other Canon camera) or was it also better at 'resolving' the image?
So, in standard lenses there are many choices but in high end lenses, yes, it would be hard to beat a Canon 'L' lens.

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by Theresanord / April 15, 2007 7:05 AM PDT

I asked this same question to a professional camera store a year ago.

The reply was there where differences, apart from the physical lens sizes as discussed already here.

I was told the digital lenses have an antireflection coating on the outside face of the rear lens (closest to the sensor). The reason is that the digital sensors reflect light more than film and this coating is to stop light bouncing around in the space between the sensor and the lens. Made sense to me.

I have used both lenses (USM 28/80 and STD 80/200) from my old Canon EOS 100 on 300 and 350D?s and got perfect results (better impact than the supplied digital lenses IMO). But my lenses are not at the extreme end of the wide angle or telephoto scale. It should be noted that on that trip all the lighting was in overcast conditions so I would not have had the reflected light situation occurring.

So the short answer is yes you can run old lenses from EOS cameras in the new digital cameras but there maybe limitations that only time spent playing with your particular setup will highlight.

Enjoy the digital era!

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by yee940908 / April 15, 2007 12:08 PM PDT
In reply to: .

I sent this string of messages to the Canon rep and they had never heard of it.

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LOL! Classic!!! :-D
by LaJan7 / April 15, 2007 1:40 PM PDT
In reply to: Softness

Previous message notwithstanding, the ratings are crystal clear that the Canon or comparable pricing and features don?t come close to matching the Nikon D80. Of course, if you've already got glass for a Canon, it would be stupid to shelve it for all new glass for a new Nikon. And since the old film glass DOES work with the new DSLR cameras (with the notable exception of the autofocus on the Nikons and the changes in specs between film and digital), get a Canon IF you already have a Canon. Otherwise, getting lesser product for lesser money will show you just how much "you get what you pay for".

I take it back: there's another great reason to get a Canon. It may fit in your hands better than a Nikon. If it does, buying a Nikon that you don't want to use would be the biggest mistake of all. LOL!

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For a Nikon, the discussion is basically moot.
by Kiddpeat / April 15, 2007 2:36 PM PDT
In reply to: LOL! Classic!!! :-D

Nikon doesn't have full frame, digital cameras. They probably never will. Nikon, in their digital line, also does a poor job with noise levels. Only Canon has full frame digital.

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by yee940908 / April 15, 2007 2:43 PM PDT
In reply to: LOL! Classic!!! :-D

Keep kidding yourself that Nikon is better than Canon. Show me the reviews. As a former owner of Nikon products which I loved dearly but gave up because they dragged their hind end getting into digital. When they did their product was inferior.
Regardless of all that was debated here, I use Canon because it works flawlessly, looks and handles professionally and is reasonable in cost. The output is superior to anything out there.

Nikon can't match that. Like I said before, (Nikon) too little too late...

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The reviews are in and Nikon wins in most categories.
by LaJan7 / May 12, 2007 7:06 AM PDT
In reply to: D80

--In short, only one camera takes images that are acceptable as unedited documents in court: Nikon in the RAW mode.
--In reviews, the Nikon stacks up as best against the comparable Canon by both users and reviewers

And to be as fair as possible, here's a review that places the Canon over the Nikon by a single point and why:

In the end, Canon lovers love Canon and Nikon lovers love Nikon. Period. LOLOL! But this last review/comparison will help anyone decide between the Rebel and the D80 for what THEY are looking for. I held them side-by-side, with multiple sales' persons, and the Nikon was the only choice for me.

Anyone ever mess up a display by bumping it on something? Nikon covers that - literally. :-D
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Reply to softness and additional information
by Theresanord / April 17, 2007 6:15 AM PDT
In reply to: Softness

A few sites that look at lens reflections and ant reflection coatings

But this site gives a very good professional run down on the new Digital lenses. Short answer is, there are differences and there is improved antireflection coating applied.

This site finishes with the paragraph

The bottom line? The ?digital-only? lens category is relatively new and growing rapidly, but it?s no marketing ploy. If you have good 35mm ultra- and wide-angle lenses, as well as normal-to-telephoto lenses, keep them. But if you?re starting out, opt for digital-only or digitally optimized lenses for better edge-to-edge sharpness, contrast, and brightness.

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That's simply dumb.
by Kiddpeat / April 17, 2007 7:53 AM PDT

The digital only lenses, at least on the Canon side, are not the best lenses. A 17-85mm f/4-5.6, which is soft to begin with, will produce a better photo on a digital camera than a 24-70mm f/2.8L?

Someone hasn't used one or both of these lenses. Take it from me. The 17-85 DOES NOT produce a better image.

IMCO, only a very naive person would prefer an 'S' lense. They will not work on a film camera, and they will not work on a full frame digital camera.

Perhaps the situation is different for Nikons. For Nikon, the possibility of moving to a full frame camera does not exist, and probably never will.

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The PopPhoto data is misleading
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / April 17, 2007 10:50 AM PDT

It does not address the longer focal lengths such as 150 to 300 mm.
When you get to those lengths, the 35mm film lenses will outperform the digital lenses in corner resolution on a half frame camera.

Their chart implies that corner resolution does not differ with different aperture setting.
I would like to see the testing results that backs that up.

Too bad they did not give us access to the raw data.


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Canon versus Nikon
by Donaldsc / April 15, 2007 2:56 PM PDT

Seems like most of the replies to this question have not bothered to read the question. Simonvile wanted to know if he could use his 35mm Canon lenses on a dSLr.

The obvious answer is probably yes but the level of automation (autofocus and auto exposure that will be available depends upon the exact lenses.

I did not see anything his post asking whether Nikon or Canon cameras were better. In fact, since he already has Canon glass, the question of the relative merits of the 2 camera would appear to be irrelevant, except to the owners of each brand who can find nothing positive about anything except the camera that they own.

I find the need to bash everything that you do not own pathetic. I bought my Nikon because it felt better to me when I held both cameras. Ultimately, for most of us, this is the only decision driver that matters.


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