Many older lenses work on new cameras

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 6, 2012 - 4:54 PM

Answers to your multimedia questions.

Q I have a pair of dandy Nikon telephoto lenses from my old Nikon 8008 film camera body. Is there a newer digital Nikon SLR that they might fit? I hate to see them gather dust.

A Your lenses use the Nikon F-mount, which has been in continuous use in Nikon SLR cameras (film and digital) since 1959.

Although the mount has remained the same, there have been changes in mechanical linkages and electronic contacts over the years as cameras and technology have changed. Your lenses will mount on the camera, but you might not have access to all of the digital camera's exposure modes or automatic controls.

You can find out more about Nikon lens and camera compatibility at www.startribune.com/a1185, where you will find a chart detailing how the cameras and lenses work with each other.

There are a few lenses, such as fisheyes and vintage models without Nikon's AI system, that must be avoided entirely because they could damage your camera if you attempt to mount them. But, for the most part, any lens produced in the past 30 years will mount and take pictures with no problem.

If in doubt, check the chart. Actually, if it isn't an autofocus lens, always check the chart before you try to mount the lens on your camera.

Nikon isn't the only manufacturer that will allow you to use legacy lenses.

Comparing the big five Japanese camera makers, Nikon and Pentax retained their lens mounts as they transitioned from manual focus to autofocus, and then film to digital. Canon and Minolta changed mounts when they went from manual focus to autofocus but retained the mounts when they went from film to digital. Olympus never made a comprehensive 35-millimeter autofocus camera system and went to something completely new when it came out with its Four-Thirds line of interchangeable-lens digital SLRs.

Note: Minolta no longer manufactures cameras, although the mount is still in use. Sony purchased Minolta's camera business, and the Minolta lens mount is now used by Sony for its Alpha series digital SLRs.

Some older lenses can be great buys for digital SLR owners. Although they might be bigger and heavier than more recent lenses, they often had wider f-stops and were built to higher optical standards than today's consumer-grade lenses.

Stay away from older third-party manufacturer lenses, but any fixed-focal-length autofocus lens from the original camera manufacturer (such as a 50mm, 28mm or 85mm) is worth buying. Some of the older zooms are quite good, too.

Canon fans should keep their eyes on Craigslist for gems such as the EF 70-210 f/4 and the EF 28-70 3.5-4.5 II, which have excellent optics and can often be had for $75 to $150.

Submit questions and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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