photography how to

how to use a vintage lens on a canon DSLR

i absolutely love my canon 50mm 1.8 lens, but my favourite lens is actually a vintage one. i take the majority of my photos with it, and it’s the one that’s on my camera about 90% of the time. just for reference it’s a tokina RMC 28mm 2.8, but this little guide applies to pretty much any vintage lens that will go with a canon dslr.

m42 to EOS adapter
OM to EOS adpter
before you can use your vintage lens, you need an adapter to go on to the back of it. the type of adapter depends on the lens (and the camera make you’re using ..but this is for a canon dslr). the most popular vintage lens type is m42, but OM fit is pretty popular too. the adapters are pretty cheap ..they generally are available for about £5. for a canon you need an EOS to m42 or OM adapter. for reference: the top image is an m42, the bottom is an OM. i find the m42 needs to be screwed on a bit more.

if you already have a vintage lens, or are looking out for one google is probably your best bet as to finding out what adapter you will need to make it work on your canon dslr. you can use these on a crop sensor (like the 550d, 650d etc) and on a full frame (like the 5d or 6d). on a lot of ebay auctions they will specify too, which is pretty handy. if you type in something such as ‘m42 lens’ or ‘vintage m42 lens’ that’s a good start. i can suggest some lenses for you if you feel stuck. my dream lens is a flektogon 35mm 2.4 ..i will own one, one day!

RMC tokina 28mm 2.8
helios 28mm 2.8
the two vintage lenses i use most are the one mentioned and pictured above at the top of the post (the tokina) and a helios lens. the tokina is an OM fit lens, and the helios is a m42 fit. when you have your lens and adapter, all you need to do is to screw the adapter on to your lens, and pop it onto your camera as you would any other lens and you’re good to go!

well, almost. there are a few things you need to know to help you get better pictures and to make it a bit easier for yourself.

  • these lenses will be manual focus. not an issue if you normally use manual focusing on your newer lenses, but it does take a little getting used to if you’ve not really used it before. if anything, i’ve found i can now actually take photos faster with manual focus, and very rarely use autofocus. it does depends on your needs though. this also means no image stabilisation, so get that tripod out, or make sure you have a steady hand in lower light.

  • you will need to have at least a basic grasp on shutter speed and aperture. unless you like winging it and learning as you go! like if you were using a film camera, these won’t be done for you, and i think most manual lenses have an aperture ring on the lens, so you will need to set that from there. leading on to…

  • the best mode to use (i find) is AV ..which is the one that chooses your shutter speed for you depending on exposure and the aperture you’ve set. i find if i go full manual with these lenses they tend to over expose. i don’t know why! if the shutter speed is too high or low you can either adjust the exposure compensation, or take note of the shutter speed, switch over to manual mode and adjust up or down depending on your exposure needs.

some images i’ve taken with the tokina: (though most on this blog have been in the past year)
pink flowers
hand holding buttercup
blue flowers
extra things to note:
when it comes to finding lenses, ebay is more than likely your best bet. always keep a look out in charity shops and anywhere that sells photo gear too, though.

older lenses are more prone to dust, fungus and scratches.

i’m not sure, but i think most (if not all) of these lenses will be prime lenses.

vintage lenses can be very good for a bit of videography/filming, especially if you like a dreamy, soft and cloudy look. some vintage lenses have really amazing bokeh!

magic lantern is your friend. use focus trapping and magic zoom to help get your focus spot on.

when it comes to editing ..if you’re shooting in RAW you may need to up the sharpness and contrast a bit more than usual, but this may depend on the lens you’re using or if you like a slightly softer look you can just adjust to your needs.

depending on the lens you may also need to bump up the contrast a little more too. same with saturation. again, it depends on your needs.

if there’s anything else you want to know, or anything you think i should add, let me know in the comments!

You Might Also Like

1 Comment

  • Reply Ian Roden 09/10/2017 at 21:43

    Hi Laura, some lovely images there, nice to see someone using some of theses old gems. I too use vintage lenses on my 700D had some lying around from days gone by , a Helios 44m, which on the aps sensor serves as a more than decent portrait lens, and for general purpose I use a czj flecktogon 35/2.4 which also serves as a decent Macro. I also have a czj 135/3.5 which I use on rare occasions as I find it a little too long and slow because of the effects with the aps sensor. The lenses were part of a Praktica kit I purchased in the late 80’s, The 44m was a replacement for the Pentacon 50/2.8 which developed a terminal fault, and I paid £10 for the 44m complete with a zenit 11 camera body. Agree manual focusing can be somewhat problematic especially for close ups, but i was raised on manual focus and like yourself do not find it too much of a problem. with my lenses in Manual mode I’ve found the metering pretty good on the 700D if I use centre weighted. One thing all this has done is slow me down and made me think about what I’m doing mind you I can still take the shot and forget to stop the lens down i’m only human after all lol.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.