Using Adapted Lenses On Your Mirrorless Cameras

by Reads (5,105)

Mirrorless Cameras are not only capable of shooting really amazing images, but they have the ability to do so with nearly any lens. Sure, many systems have their own lens lineups with autofocus and other bells and whistles, but maybe you’ve got a collection of lenses already. Even if you don’t, browse around Flickr and you’ll see that people hunt after lenses in order to adapt them to their cameras.

If you see yourself becoming one of those lens collectors, then you’ll want to keep in mind a couple of pointers before and when you put that lens onto your camera.

Imaging Circles

Imaging circles are at the butt end of each lens. They’re what displays the image seen from the lens onto the film plane or sensor. Now with that in mind, you’ll want to remember how big your camera’s sensor is. For example:

– CCTV lenses are designed for very small sensors. However, people adapt them onto Micro Four Thirds cameras all the time due to the look and the small size. Because the lens was originally designed for a smaller sensor and you’re putting it on a larger sensor, you’re going to experience lots of vignetting and also perhaps lots of distortion. When used creatively though, it can give you a really cool look.

– If you adapt something like a Nikon full frame lens onto Micro Four Thirds, then you’ll have to consider that the imaging circle is larger than what Micro Four Thirds was designed to accommodate. For that reason, the sensor will only use the center of the imaging circle on the lens and you’ll experience a 2x crop factor/field of view change. That means that a 35mm lens will become a 70mm lens.


Go onto eBay and you’ll see loads of adapters for cheap prices. You’ll need to read the descriptions and see which one is right for you and your camera. It will go something like this usually:

– I’ve got a Leica 50mm f2 M lens and an Olympus OMD EM-5 camera.

– I need a Leica M to Micro Four Thirds adapter because I have a Micro Four Thirds camera and this is a Leica M mount lens.

– Search on eBay–see that there are a ton of them.

– The cheapest ones sometimes might not let me focus out to infinity which will be nice for when I want to shoot landscapes.

– The Novoflex adapters seem to have the same features as brand B, but brand B is cheaper.

– Finally pick the one you want and need.


Unless you’ve purchased a special adapter or you have really good eyesight, magnification will be your guide to ensuring that you’re absolutely 100% in focus. This is because you’ll need to manually focus the lens. When manually focusing, you’ll often want to set up your scene like this:

– Compose your scene first.

– Move the target area for your camera over the subject that you want in focus.

– Magnify that area.

– Focus in and out until the area becomes sharper and more clear. The clearer it is, the more in focus you are.

– Stop focusing, and get out of magnification to ensure that you’re still all set in terms of composition.

– Shoot. Do not focus and recompose because then all the hard work you did to set up the scene will have been for nothing due to the fact that you’ve just thrown off the focusing plane by recomposing.

Magnifying and focusing can be a tough way to use a lens, but it sure does work.  Also note that since youre most likely adapting a 35mm full frame lens onto a smaller sensor camera that the depth of field will also be different. To get the equivalent of f1.4 on a full frame camera, you’ll need a lens with a super fast aperture of around f0.7 due to the sensor size difference. Native Micro Four Thirds lens currently come in at f0.95 at the fastest; and these are made by Voigtlander.

Legacy glass

Viewfinders Are King

Whenever you can, try to get your hands on an electronic viewfinder. Optical viewfinders will only show you your composed scene and not what the camera actually sees. Electronic viewfinders are much better at this and not only show you what the camera sees, but the focusing, too.

Ensure that your diopter is properly calibrated to your eyes though. To do this, set the display to show an overlay on the image in the viewfinder. Then toggle the +/- setting on it until the text and symbols become clearer. Once they’re totally clear, you’ve calibrated it to your eye.

Viewfinders also help you stabilize your camera because you’re bringing it closer into your body and tucking your elbows in vs shooting with outstretched arms.

Focus Peaking

Some camera systems have another option for focusing called focus peaking. Sony, Samsung, and Fujifilm have peaking. This is a function used a lot in the video industry. Peaking shows lines around what is in focus. What that translates to in real life is that when you’re shooting wide open at f1.4 and you’re trying to shoot a portrait of someone, you’ll need to move the focusing back and forth until you see the lines around the person’s eyes. That means that the eyes are in focus.

Peaking is an excellent feature for mirrorless cameras because if the autofocus isn’t doing what you want it to, then peaking can very quickly help you do it manually.

Depth of Field Scales

The other option really works for lenses that are very old or of classic and German designs. Depth of field scales are often on lenses and help you to figure out how much is in focus at a given aperture. They can be tough to use, but once you get the hang of them and keep the focusing range in mind, you’ll learn that a depth of field scale can make you shoot faster, think about your shots beforehand, and free you from the camera’s autofocusing that may or may not be accurate.

In this image, were focused to around 1.25 feet away. Notice the markings for 16 on the left and right? That means that f/16, we will have anything from 2 feet to 1.10 feet in focus. At f/8 we will have 1.5 feet to a little bit more than 1.25 feet in focus.

Once again, this method is advised only for the advanced users.

In the meantime, head over to your local flea market and see what vintage treasures you can uncover.

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