Adapt Old Lenses To New Cameras To Save Money

Before still cameras were being used to create HD video, director Tim Burton was already seeing the possibilities. His film “Corpse Bride,” a stop-motion animation, was shot entirely on DSLR cameras, according to Effects consultant Chris Watts tested a variety of cameras for use on the animation and settled on the Canon 5D Mark II. Unfortunately, they already had $90,000 in Nikon glass, and they weren't ready to part with it. So they bought adapters to fix their beloved Nikon lenses to their preferred Canon camera body, shot the breakthrough film and achieved stunning results.

Now that DSLRs are being used for video as well, the issue of using Nikon glass on a Canon body is increasingly popular, due to the benefits of using older Nikon lenses (see previous post). You can save a lot of money by purchasing Nikon lenses as opposed to professional cinema lenses (like the Zeiss ZE series== for Canon DSLRs). Of course, there are drawbacks to adapting lenses. As explained in the DSLR Cinematography Guide==, many adapters do not allow you to use focus assistants that tell you when you're in focus (though adapters with this feature are available==), the adapter often allows you to focus past infinity – you'll need to pay more attention when focusing on distant objects, and there is potential for the mirror to lock up (particularly when adapting Zeiss lenses; this is less of an issue in video, as the mirror is always flipped up when taking video).

If budget is an issue, the money saved by using lenses from other manufacturers on your Canon body can far outweigh the drawbacks. Especially now that adapters are available for about $10 from eBay seller kawaphoto==. This allows you to buy an adapter for each lens so you don't need to switch out the adapter each time you swap lenses. This seller has many happy customers who are very happy with kawa's products. Many other adapters are available at Amazon==; if you're worried about quality, it's a good idea to spend a little more on an adapter for peace of mind. There are many adapters available for a variety of lenses and cameras. Consult a professional camera shop to learn if a particular lens is compatible with your camera body,

Wider angle Nikkor lenses (35mm and wider) sometimes have a metal flange protrusion on the lens mount that interferes with the adapter and camera. This protrusion doesn't serve any practical purpose, and can be removed by filing it down. The mount can be removed from the lens so you can file the tab down without damaging the lens; simply remove the five screws that attaches the mount to the lens, remove the mount and then file down the protrusion. Use a smooth, flat file and shave off about three millimeters from the tab. Before filing down the tab, however, consult a camera professional to be sure you will not affect the functionality of the lens.

There is no substitute for the excellent quality work produced by professional cinema glass. However, you can come very close to the end result with the right kind of relatively inexpensive glass, such as the discontinued Nikkor AI and AI-S lines, adapted to your camera's mount. The adapters come with certain inconveniences, but the end result can be professional-looking footage created on a budget.


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