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Modify older lenses to fit on to modern equipment

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Category: Lenses and Optical Items

‘Alternative’ Lenses - David Clapp tells us why our old equipment shouldn't be put at the back of the cupboard just yet.

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David ClappDavid Clapp is a professional photographer who specialises in landscapes, seascapes, architecture, travel, macro and close-up work. Represented by seven agencies both UK and worldwide he supplies clients with high quality images for advertising as well as photography magazines. Thanks to his varied interests in photography David will give us an array of advice that can be applied to most forms.

To see more pictures or view some of David's work visit David Clapp.

Here's his tip:

"It may well be the most common misconception that older lenses will never match the quality of their modern equivalents. Wrong. If you are not already aware it's an easy job to modify older lenses to fit on to modern equipment. Canon digital cameras in particular are the ‘alternative lenses' camera of choice. With a larger bayonet mount than other 35mm cameras, many lenses can be modified to fit using adapter rings that can be bought cheaply online, breathing life back into the older equipment at compelling prices.

Ever fancied a super sharp 24mm prime lens? For £70? The Olympus Zuiko 24mm f2.8 is a real bargain. There are some real gems to be had in the Contax / Zeiss, Nikon line up too. I use the Contax 35-70 on my 1DsIII literally all the time as its simply the best medium telephoto money can buy, resolving ever ounce of detail from the sensor, with incredible edge to edge sharpness at f5.6. A £4500 camera and a £200 lens in perfect harmony! The quality of the image will have you falling off your chair in disbelief.

Remember there is a trade off - manual focus and manual aperture. All the lenses have to be ‘stopped down' before the photo is taken unlike their modern counterparts which only do this at as the shutter is pressed but if you shoot landscapes like me, you will see this as little compromise. In the advent of the long awaited 21mp 5DmkII, the reason to invest in the best quality glass has never been more important as these modern sensors will eat glass for breakfast.

Canon 1DSIII and C35-70 lens

For more information and examples visit:

  • 16-9 - A super resource showing comparisons and head-to-heads between old and new.
  • Fred Miranda - A resource for enthusiasts and conversation alike.
  • Maual Focus - An excellent forum that pays homage to all manner of lens designs over the years.
  • Pebble Place - A great resource for Contax and Leica lenses, including a great section of adapting lenses.


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