The Trick That Saved Me Big Money As a Beginning Photographer

This is a guest post by Steve Messa, Director of Sales & Marketing @MosaicArchive

lens adapters

My passion for photography and video began years ago when I picked up a friend’s DSLR camera for the first time. I’d been a musician since I was very young, and until that point, I’d spent most of my disposable income on recording gear. I’d always envied the ability of others’ to take beautiful photos and videos, so I finally convinced myself to buy a Canon 60D.

However, I quickly realized that the stock lens that came with my camera was not going to cut it. In turn, I scoured the internet for new lenses. I could have easily spent hundreds of dollars on a new Canon lens, but I had a photography friend who shared a valuable secret with me. The Secret… buying cheaper, used lenses and adapting them for DSLR use. Many photographers are privy to this secret, but quite a few are still unaware.

In this post, I’ll cover the basics of this technique so you can save money and refine your photography skills by using inexpensive, vintage lenses on your DSLR.

Lens Adaptors

Using inexpensive, vintage lenses on your DSLR grants you access to a world of new lens options, but you can’t simply connect any old lens to your camera. Lenses are designed for specific camera mounts, so you’ll need to find out the specific mount of your vintage lens, and then purchase the correct adaptor to connect it to your DSLR. With this simple adapter (see an example below), you’ll be able to attach a wide variety of lenses your DSLR. Adapters are simply plastic or metal rings that fit on your camera and connect a specific lens to your DSLR mount.

You might have some great old lenses hanging around your attic or closet, and if this is the case, do a little research to determine whether the specific lens will mount on your DSLR. See this chart of adapter compatibility for reference.

Find the lens adapters that you need for your specific camera and then buy an adapter for each old lens in your camera bag. One of the most popular adapters is the M42 mount. The M42 mount is a mounting standard for attaching lenses to 35mm cameras, primarily SLRs. Some of the cameras that used this mount included Pentax, Zeiss, Praktica and Zenit.

Why Should You Do This?

There are a number of good reasons why one would do this. The first and most obvious reason is to save money. This is a legitimate reason, especially when just starting out in photography. I picked up my Pentax Super Takumar 55mm f1.8 lens (shown below) for $30!

There are a few downsides to this solution, though. For one, these adapters don’t transmit electronic information between the camera and the lens, so autofocus and aperture are out (you will need to use the manual rings on the lens). There will also be no EXIF data for the photos. Because of this, vintage lenses are not a great fit for every situation. Some shoots require super quick autofocus and auto-aperture, therefore rendering these vintage, manual lenses nearly useless.

That being said, being forced to shoot in manual is a great way to refine your photography skills. Manual lenses force photographers to slow down on their shoot and actually think about how to get the best shot. In addition, since using autofocus is rare in video production, this technique works particularly well for videography.

Lastly, if you’re switching from one camera manufacturer to another (such as from Nikon to Canon), adapters are a great way to keep using your stash of lenses without having to purchase all new ones.

Have you tried using vintage lenses with your DSLR? If so, what’s your favorite lens?

Steve Messa is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Mosaic: makers of the free Lightroom Sync App.

Steve Messa co-founded to bring consumers the best deals on the internet.