Amongst the trends of DSLR videomakers is to mount older, manual Nikon/Nikkor F-mount lenses (amongst others) to the front of their Canon EOS cameras.
It is a good trend; one that keeps you from the aperture flicker nightmares described in yesterday’s post. These older Nikons are also known for their buttery smooth, long-throw focus rings, as opposed to the ultra-minimal throw of most Canon EF lenses (those that are not outrageously priced, anyway).
Mounting these Nikon lenses is as simple as an adapter ring off of eBay, and said adapters are not necessarily expensive either. Not all of these adapters are perfect, but the choices are varied (more on that later).
Using Nikon AF lenses:
One thing that was never made clear to me until I tested it myself: Nikon’s later AF lenses with autofocus motor contacts will also fit a 5D Mark II (provided the rear glass element clears), as the autofocus contacts do not sit deep enough into the body to contact the mirror:
Using other lens brands:
Adapters are also available for Olympus OM-mount lenses, M42 lenses, amongst many others. A number of these will work, though there are also some combinations which are either incompatible or require modification.
Even Nikon G-series lenses can be used with full (though manual) control of the aperture as well with Fotodiox’s Nikon G-to-EOS adapter, which adds an external control to control the iris lever at the back of the lens.
By that, I don’t mean sticking the lens in your camera body, turning it on, and waiting in tense anticipation of whether the mirror will snap upwards or snap into pieces when you hit Liveview. I mean making absolutely sure that this won’t happen at all.
Due to a very similar mirror design, some 5D Mark II owners keep a 35mm Canon EOS 650 body ($15-20 on eBay – this is the 35mm EOS 650 SLR I’m speaking of, not the current T4i/650D DSLR) on hand for these tests.
Documentation as to compatible lenses is spotty, but I’ve tried to assemble a rough guide from my experience and collective information from forums. This chart is by no means complete, but it is a handy, general guide to compatibility:
|Mount||Compatibility with Canon EOS and others
(Details given are for the 5D Mark II, though this also applies to most EF and EF-S-mount cameras)
||Most all, with a few exceptions. Early lenses may have protrusion issues.
The 20mm f/4 AI* will not fit without modification, as possibly the 24mm in both f/4 and f/2.8 variants. *Note that the 20mm f/2.8 AI-S is compatible, as is the later 20mm AF-d (part of the Nikon AF group below) is said to work without issue.
|Nikon AF||Most all|
|Nikon G||Most all – use Fotodiox’s Nikon G adapter for aperture control.
Full-frame users – beware of DX-series G lenses, which are for crop sensors only.
|Olympus OM||Most Zuiko OM lenses will mount; OM-mount Vivitar/Tokinas are usually safe as well. Other aftermarket OM-mount specifications are unknown.|
|Pentax M42 (screw mount)||Luck of the draw – some may interfere with the mirror, others may work fine. Proceed cautiously.
Many inferior adapters are made for this mount – see this forum thread for a comprehensive overview of M42 adapters.
|Tamron Adaptall/Adaptall II
Adaptall II shown below w/aftermarket EOS adapter
|To my knowledge, all Adaptall lenses are compatible when used with the Tamron EOS Adaptall mount. Original EOS mounts are scarce; aftermarket alternatives are available on eBay.
|Contax RTS, Kalimar (C/Y bayonet)
|Some fit, some will interfere with the mirror.
The following Contax models and focal lengths will not fit without mirror interference. Some may fit with modification:
Lots of good information about the RTS lens range documented at RedUSER.net
|Contax N||Completely electronic auto-focus design in the fashion of Canon EF. No adapters available; direct modification to lens necessary. Expensive.|
|Minolta AF / Sony A||Electronic design with camera-controlled, lever aperture (no aperture ring) and a backfocus distance almost identical to EOS, requiring an optical adapter with a manual aperture control ring.
Will work with extension tube adapters (no optics) on M43/EF-M.
|Leica-R||Some yes, some no. Full list here.|
|Fujica X, Contax G, Konica F, Leica M, Minolta MD, Miranda||Backfocus distance (lens to sensor/film) shorter than Canon EOS (44mm). Ineffective if used; causes macro effects.
Will work on M43/EF-M bodies due to extension tube adapters.
|Canon FD||Same back focus issues as with the lenses above; however, Canon used to sell an optical multiplier to interface with EOS; worked only with select telephoto lenses – a detailed list is here.
Usable on M43/EF-M.
|Pentax K (PK)||Incompatible on full-frame EF without modification – aperture lever interferes with mirror.
Usable on M43/EF-M.
I am open to updating this list with any additional experience that readers may have encountered.
An very comprehensive list is available at the MFLenses forum:
M43 / EF-M users:
Regardless of compatibility with the full-frame 5D Mark II, most all of the lenses listed above are adaptable to cameras utilizing the Micro 4/3rds mount*, or Canon’s EF-M (specific to the EOS-M at this time).
|Panasonic GH-2 shown with M43 adapter (mounted to GH2 body).
Photo by Eduardo Morales – used with permission
The mirrorless design of M43 and EF-M cameras allow the sensor to sit very close to the front of the lens body, thereby allowing for lenses of shorter backfocus distances to be used as intended – with the proper adapter. These adapters are essentially extension tubes due to this design, which also solves the issue of clearing the auto/manual tabs that would otherwise hang up the mirror on a DSLR.
|Redrock Micro’s LiveLens MFT|
Adapter quality and thickness:
Some cheap Nikon adapters have had the distinction (or lack of it) to be machined too thin. Though there remain some inferior adapters out there, the culprits are no longer common on eBay – and the difference between the two can be spotted easily.
Just the same, a snug fit is essential – whether you get it from an expensive Cinevate adapter, or something less pricey.
Case in point, the adapter to the left (in the photo below) was packaged in a DLG-brand box. Who actually made it? Anyone’s guess, but it is a quality, one-piece CNC stainless steel adapter. My Nikons fit tight on it, with zero rotational shift. $40 at the local camera store, and I can’t find any of its kind on eBay for a similar price.
The one on the right is a Chinese generic that came in a white cardboard box. Unlike the DLG, it is chrome plated steel, and will wear over time. Granted, my Nikon AI-series lenses fit equally tight on it (AF lenses not so), though there is about 0.5mm of rotational play in this adapter (which one can shim with adhesive clear acetate). Price was $10 on eBay.
Which one is better? You’ll have to choose what takes precedence – the savings of $30, or the assurance of zero rotational play. It all depends on whether you want to trade fit for cost.
Nevertheless, most users seem to like the standard Nikon F-to-EOS Fotodiox adapters, which can be had on Amazon.com at prices just as competitive as any of the off-brands. The difference in price is negligible, and they prevent quite a bit of guesswork and frustration.
A word of warning to the starving artists:
If your plan is to use your camera rig to keep the rent paid by freelancing everything in sight (a.k.a. = “If you are on a budget and have to take the lousy jobs too…”) do not let this blog post convince you to buy exactly one, glorious Nikon prime lens to cover every possible situation you may find yourself in.
If this describes you, I still stand by one of the recommendations I made in my Top 5 list – get yourself a cheap Canon EF kit zoom with IS (image stabilization), such as the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, which can be had for $200 used.
Yes, I hear the experts shouting “BLASPHEMY!” and whining about loss of precious image quality from every direction – even I am no fan of this lens either due to sharpness dropoff on the corners, amongst other reasons – but it’ll cover a reasonable range without requiring lens swaps.
Granted, if you are lucky enough to have saved up a lens budget in the $700 range, the Canon 24-105 f/4L IS is the best choice you could make of any Canon lens, as the constant aperture and smoother zoom ring gives you the ability to zoom reasonably smoothly while shooting.
Most importantly however, if you get that Freelance Job from Hell that requires you to shoot smooth shoulder-mount footage in the midst of a mob resembling the Pamplona running of the bulls, that precious little IS button just might save your footage from becoming a tribute to The Bourne Ultimatum. Nevertheless, make sure to look into ProDAD’s Mercalli Pro for stabilization.
Yes, you can wait for that Nikon lens if you have to.
No monetary compensation was provided for the mention of any of the above products. LiveLens MFT image has been provided by Redrock Micro upon my request.