Nikon and vintage lenses

Discussion in 'Nikon Cameras' started by Sylvia Livingstone, May 23, 2019.

  1. Sylvia Livingstone

    Sylvia Livingstone TPF Noob!

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    Hi all

    I recently picked up a used Nikon D300 (which is now my favourite thing in the world!) along with a functional AF 70-300m lens. So far, although I’ve a lot to learn, I’ve taken some reasonable shots as I get to learn how this camera works.

    One of the reasons I decided to dive into photography now is a fascination with old lenses and the potential to link old (good) glass with more modern kit, especially if it can be picked up on a budget.

    Now, because of the mount, I accept that Nikon isn’t necessarily the best option for trying vintage lenses but when I ordered the camera, I also sourced a mint Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135mm, thinking that a cheap adapter (without glass) would be fine. Although I’d no sooner ordered before doing some further research which suggested that wouldn’t quite be the case....

    Anyway, the lens and adapter arrived and I prepared for the worst.....Wow! I was wrong - the detail and colour is incredible, a huge step up on the more modern (but basic) Nikon zoom I’d also purchased. I knew that the lens wouldn’t talk to the camera and that I’d be manually focussing but, close up, this thing is a revelation!

    So that leads me to some questions which I’m hoping you knowledge folk can help with:

    1. Of course the Zeiss lens won’t focus to infinity, so there are limits to what I can shoot, but is this ever likely to cause a problem?
    2. As the lens isn’t talking to the camera, how do I best set the non-cpu data? Is it worth using whatever aperture setting I’m using at the time?
    3. As a newbie, P mode is a big help, but with this lens I may be better served with A, S or M mode - any tips here would be very welcome.
    4. Is it worth going for other M42 lenses (Helios for example)?

    Any help here would be very gratefully received!


     
  2. 480sparky

    480sparky Chief Free Electron Relocator Supporting Member

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    Nikon's website will have a chart showing compatibility with their legacy glass. Once outside the Nikkor Arena, you're pretty much on your own. M42 glass is definitely worth looking at, but M42 is only the mount (threaded). There's lots of crap M42 stuff out there. Do your research, ask questions, look at samples online. You'll find some gems if you take your time.
     
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  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Canon is a great d-slr brand for using adapted legacy lenses. SEVEN popular legacy 35mm system lenses focus to infinity with glass-free adapters on Canon d-slr cameras. Mirrorless camera are even better. Nikon F is a POOR choice for adapting legacy lenses, since it (NIKON F-mount) requires glass to focus to infinity,and yes, lack of anything except close-range focus will be a problem in MANY situations.

    If you really wish to use adapted, legacy 35mm lenses, I would get another camera.
     
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  4. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Welcome, and congratulations on the Zeiss lens!

    There are plenty of older, excellent Nikon lenses available as well. (PM sent)

    I think the best strategy is to concentrate on lenses that produce excellent image quality. Good luck!
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Look for 1960's and 1970's Nikkor lenses, for low prices, or third-party lenses; for example, a $15 pawn shop 135mm f/2.8 made in Japan, but in F-mount, will give decent to excellent quality, in most cases.The old AF Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.3~4.5 is a decent lens for $25-$45. A 1970's 500m f/8 Mirror-Nikkor is $100-$140, and is still plenty good as a Long lens for the beach, outdoors, etc.

    Seriously: if your deal is using old lenses, a mirrorless would be best, for several reasons.
     
  6. MartinCrabtree

    MartinCrabtree No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    What's nice about Nikon is the availability and compatibility of vintage Nikon glass. I have a few older Nikon lenses adapted for use in all modes and matrix metering. This was taken with a 50mm f1.8 Series E Nikon on my D90 in full manual w/flash. So don't overlook the OEM stuff seeking great photos. You can install the chip yourself if you want to or just shoot full manual with a handheld meter. I usually do that before spending the time on adapting.


    DSC_1339_113tag5.JPG
     
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  7. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I have a different system, Leica Thread Mount (LTM), but use vintage lenses on my digital (mirrorless) camera and on film rangefinders. Works great, but I shoot manual settings anyway. Sounds like that might be what you'd need to learn instead of using modes.
     
  8. unpopular

    unpopular Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Vintage glass can offer a lot of nice surprises, and I use them almost exclusively. I've experimented with modern-ish AF lenses, but never really felt totally comfortable with them, and always ended up going back to vintage glass. Because "sharpness" may not be what you're going for with vintage lenses quality "glassed" adapters are an option, though I understand why you might be skeptical, and I don't use them myself.

    That said, the Chinon 50/1.4 is a great lens and is definitely one of my favorites. It can be found in a number of different brands, the one I have is a GAF/Sears that can be found for cheap. Obviously anything from Zeiss/Zeiss Jena are a good choice, and the 50/2.8 Tessar T* is also one of my favorites.

    Another great thing about M42 is that you can just drop $10 on some mystery lens, and sometimes it'll turn out pretty nice. I've bought Porsts and Accura's with ... well, interesting results. But if things don't work out or you're not impressed, you can take them apart and build frankenlenses.

    Another fun lens is the Vivitar 35 "circular saw". It's a WILD lens, wholly unpredictable and a super weird circular saw diaphragm that sometimes will show up in your bokeh ... that might not seem like a good thing, and it isn't, but it's a really fun lens wide open with this cool dreamy effect, especially at close focus.
     
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  9. compur

    compur Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You might want to try that Zeiss lens with an adapter that allows infinity focus. Yes, I know those adapters have that dreaded glass element in them that everyone knows is horrible (even thought they never tried one) but you might be pleasantly surprised at the result and the adapters are cheap.
     
  10. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I own an M42 to Nikon F adapter...it's BAD...it turns razor - sharp Super Takumars into dreadful performers....but on the Canon 20D and 5D, the same lenses are excellent. Adding a single, generic negative element between a good lens and a good sensor...not a good idea. Perhaps there are some "good quality' adapters for adapting lenses to Nikon F cameras..but I have never heard of their existence.
     
  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    You wrote:
    1. Of course the Zeiss lens won’t focus to infinity, so there are limits to what I can shoot, but is this ever likely to cause a problem?
    2. As the lens isn’t talking to the camera, how do I best set the non-cpu data? Is it worth using whatever aperture setting I’m using at the time?


    A-1--s this ever likely to cause a problem? Yeah...how close and far can the lens focus?

    A-2-2. As the lens isn’t talking to the camera, how do I best set the non-cpu data?--- There is a specific menu called Non-CPU Lens, with numbered selections..1-8 or 1-9 IMMSMC....the photographer pre-enters lens focal length and maximum aperture...let's say Lens #1...you enter 135mm and f/2.8...this info is used in the EXIF reporting
     
  12. unpopular

    unpopular Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    OTOH, your minimum focus will be less without infinity focus. It just kind of depends on what you're after. I've shot plenty with enlarging lenses just plopped into an M42 adapter, focussing by moving the camera back and forth. Sometimes being limited to close focus is kind of refreshing.
     

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