Many professional and amateur photographers have abandoned Canon lenses in favour of Olympus, Leica, Zeiss (and even Nikon!) lenses for their Canon digital cameras. Given the fact that a (frequently expensive) adaptor is required, and that the user is robbed of autofocus and required to deploy stop-down metering, some have rightly wondered: is it worth it? Is it just a fad; or is it plain snobbery?
In a nutshell: it depends. It depends on whether your subject matter stays still long enough to compose a shot wide open, then stop down to the required aperture and shoot. If you cut your teeth on view cameras, this discipline is second nature; if not, the procedure may seem hellishly protracted.
And again it depends on your preferred focal length: Canon’s 85mm f1.2, 135mm f2 and 200mm f1.8 L series lenses are as close to perfection as matters. On the other hand, until the launch of the 16-35mm Mark II, you wouldn’t find a Canon lens below 35mm worth using as anything but a paperweight (unless you stumbled across a rare nominal 24mm f1.4 L).
Furthermore, it also depends on the demands made by your camera. A 300D couldn’t care less about the edge performance of your Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4; ditto a 20D – despite its much more demanding 9.9ü pixel pitch. For Canon’s full frame sensors, however, it very much matters. Your 1Ds Mark I, 5D, 1Ds Mark II or even III (in increasing order of fussiness) want lots of lpmm – they want it across the frame, and they’re not going to get in sub 35mm focal lengths from Canon lenses. Adapted enlarger lenses, for instance, offer a unique range of tilt and shift movements combined with perfectly flat-field rendition and extremely high resolution that makes them peerlessly useful in many fields of technical and creative image-making.
There’s also the question of brand loyalty: many have a legacy of superb lenses left over from the demise of support for the Contax and Olympus OM systems. It’s cheaper to use them than to invest in new Canon glass.
Finally, there are aesthetic considerations: there is no doubt that certain lenses just have a bit of unaccountable magic and sparkle that suits our personal style of shooting. There are Olympus 90/2, Nikon 24 AIS and Zeiss 28/2 users, for instance, who have become inseparably attached to their glass over the years – and there’s a certain glow produced by Summicrons and fast Takumars that no Canon lens quite duplicates . . . . That metal ring grants acces to a world of optics with unique characteristics: from oscilloscope lenses like the charming Helios 85mm f1.5, to the largely uncharted delights of the Pentacon Six range: the Sonnar 180mm f2.8, for instance, is a budget-minded astrophotographer’s dream.
Fortunately – and I’m sure Canon didn’t design it purposefully to boost used Distagon sales – the EF mount has a larger throat than almost any other 35mm system, and has a focal-plane-to lens-mount (register) distance that is very short, which handily means that many other manufacturer’s lenses can be mounted with an appropriate adaptor that adapts down to the third party lens, and pushes it away from the focal plane by just the right amount. This tends to be in the 0.5-2.5mm range.
It cannot be stressed too strongly that all the arguments in favour of adapted lenses are nullified by using a badly matched adaptor (or adapter). Symptoms of bad matching include blurring in one half of the image circle, atypical colour fringing, failure to acquire infinity focus, and overall resolution loss. The jury is still out on whether adaptors of different thicknesses should be used for lenses in the same system with different focal lengths – for instance, demanding a thinner Contax-mount adaptor for the 15mm Distagon than the 35mm Distagon. Sample variation affects adaptors, too. If you’re suffering any of the above symptoms, try a different lens on the same adaptor – then a different adaptor on the same lens. When you find a match that works, stick with it!
35mm Mount Compatibility and Adapter Suppliers
|CANON EF ADAPTABLE||ADAPTOR SUPPLIERS||LOCATION||PRICE|
Requires adaptor with glass element(s)
|Fotodiox||USA / China||$90 / $30|
Auto focus confirm chip
|Pham Minh Son||USA||$100|
Original mount and electronic components are replaced with donor Sigma parts. Uniquely, auto-focus is retained.
|NIKON F (NIKKOR)||YES||Arax||Russia||$45|
|Fotodiox||USA / China||$90/30|
Auto focus confirm chip
|OLYMPUS OM (Zuiko)||YES||Cameraquest||USA||$160|
|PENTAX / M42 screw mount||YES||Cirrus||Hong Kong||$60|
|Fotodiox||USA / China||$90/30|
|Jolos / RU Gift
Auto focus confirm chip
Some claim that K lenses can only be used on EF-S Canon bodies. In fact, most work fine after the protruding aperture lever or mounting fin has been filed down.
Auto focus confirm chip
Caveat emptor: registration is very similar to the EF mount: many adaptors are not thin enough for nfinity focus.
Medium Format Lenses on 35mm bodies
• Wider range of focal lengths: Hasselblad, Pentax and Mamiya have a wide range of lenses that can be used as EF shift lenses in wacky focal lengths: from the 30mm Arsat Fisheye to the 600mm Pentax FA.
|LENS BRAND||CANON EF ADAPTABLE||ADAPTOR SUPPLIERS|
|Hasselblad||YES (also via Pentax 645 adaptor)||Arax | Fotodiox | Zörk | Elefoto|
|Kiev 88||YES (via Pentacon 6)||Arax|
|Mamiya 645||YES||Zörk (PSA)|
|Mamiya 67||YES||Cameraquest | Novoflex | Zörk|
|Pentax 645||YES||Elefoto | Zörk (PSA)|
|Pentax 67||YES (via Pentax 645)||Novoflex | Zörk | Elefoto|
|Pentacon Six||YES||Arax | Zörk | Novoflex | Elefoto|
Canon 5D adaptor compatibility
Thanks to the small sensor, and correspondingly small mirror, deeply recessed into the body, the vast majority of adapted lenses work on EF-S mount bodies like the 400D. Most of those continue to work well on the 1Ds Mark I and II. However, the Canon 5D has a slightly taller mirror that requires correspondingly more clearance at the rear of the lens. For whatever reason (mirror size variation, adaptor thickness variation, undocumented alterations to the design of the rear of the lens between production runs), some 5D users report being able to mount and use some lenses that give trouble to others. The tolerances are very tight back there, and if the 5D detects any impedance to the movement of its mirror it will Err99 and lock up.
In rear-focusing lenses (like the Pentax 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar) the problem may only occur at infinity focus. A common workaround is simply to set the lens at, say, 10m, pre-fire the mirror, nudge to the focus to infinity, then release the shutter. A more permanent solution – indeed the only way to use the peerless Leica wide angles – is to modify the 5D’s mirror. Here ‘modify’ is understood to mean ‘hack a chunk out of’. Watch this space for reports from 5D owners who had performed the mod without regret.
Here, then is the most recently updated compatibility list for the 5D. Particularly because of the number of unpredictable variables arising from using adapted lenses on the 5D we cannot be held responsible for damage incurred to bodies or lenses as a result of referring to this list, which is provided for information only. Naturally modifying any body or lens will invalidate the warranty.
|LENS MOUNT||LENS MODEL||COMPATIBLE||NOTES & CAVEATS|
|15mm Distagon f3.5 AE||YES||–|
|15mm Distagon f3.5 MM||YES||–|
|16mm Distagon Fisheye||YES||–|
|18mm Distagon f4 AE||YES||–|
|18mm Distagon f4 MM||NO||Most 5D users find that the rear element protrudes beyond the lens mount and fouls the mirror. Mirror surgery required.|
|21mm Distagon f2.8||YES||–|
|OLYMPUS OM (ZUIKO)||YES||YES||–|
|PENTAX M42 SCREW FIT||YES||YES||–|
|LENS BRAND||LENS MODEL||COMPATIBILTY||Notes, caveats and modifications|
|Contax/Zeiss Primes||15mm f3.5 AE/MM||Needs mod.||Rear element housing requires adjustment|
|16mm f2.8 Fisheye||OK|
|18mm f4 AE||OK|
|18mm f4 MM||Doubtful||The rear element protrudes above the housing on most MM lenses by just enough to graze the 5D mirror. Mirror surgery is the only possible mod.|
|21mm f2.8 MM||OK|
|25mm f2.8 AE/MM||OK|
|28mm f2 MM||Needs mod.||May have difficulty clearing mirror|
|28mm f2.8 AE/MM||OK|
|35mm f2.8 AE/MM||OK|
|35mm f3.5 PC||OK|
|45mm f2.8 Pancake AE||OK|
|50mm f1.4 AE/MM||OK|
|50mm f1.7 AE/MM||Needs mod.||Aperture fin requires trimming by approximately 2mm|
|60mm Makro AE (1:1)||OK|
|60mm Makro MM (1:2)||OK|
|85mm f1.2 Anniversary||OK|
|85mm f1.4 AE/MM||OK|
|85mm f2.8 AE/MM||OK|
|100mm f2 AE/MM||OK|
|100mm f3.5 AE/MM||OK|
|135mm f2.8 AE/MM||OK|
|300mm f4 AE/MM||OK|
|OLYMPUS Zuiko||18mm f2.8||OK|
|24mm f3.5 PC/Shift||OK|
|35mm f3.5 Pc/Shift||OK|
|40mm f2 Pancake||Unknown|
|Leica Primes||15mm f3.5 Elmarit||Needs mod.||None of the wide Leica lenses fit the 5D without modification. The 19mm requires the least surgery: removing 1.5mm from the rear element housing does the trick (see here for instructions and pictures). Some have found it worthwhile to permanently modify their 5D mirrors to use what is probably the finest range of ultrawides available. For details of the 2mm mirror shave mod (sometimes known as the Mancuso Manoeuvre) please see here . . . .|
|15mm f2.8 Super-Elmarit||Needs mod.|
|19mm f2.8||Needs mod.|
|24mm f2.8||Needs mod.|
|28mm f2.8||Needs mod.|
|28mm f2.8 PC||OK||The same lens is available from Schneider with a dedicated Canon EF mount. If the lens is branded Schneider, the rear mount is removable.|
|60mm f2.8 Macro||OK|
|100mm f2.8 Macro|
|Leica Zooms||21-35mm||Needs mod.||Rear element shroud needs removing for mirror clearance. Easy mod – see here for details.|
This list is possible thanks to Emanuelle C, Cinstance, PSquared, Jack Flesher, John Black, MarkSaperstein, Foto-z and other FMers that are trying off-brand lenses with the 5D. Thanks also to: Guy Mancuso for his efforts w/ Leica glass and kidigital for 5D mirror mod.
Canon 1Ds Mk 1 and 2 adaptor compatibility
Canon EOS 1Ds (I and II) Lens Compatibility
LENS BRAND LENS MODEL COMPATIBILTY Notes, caveats and modifications Contax/Zeiss Primes 15mm f3.5 AE/MM Needs mod. Rear element housing requires adjustment 16mm f2.8 Fisheye OK 18mm f4 AE OK 18mm f4 MM OK 21mm f2.8 MM OK 25mm f2.8 AE/MM OK 28mm f2 MM Maybe May have difficulty clearing mirror 28mm f2.8 AE/MM OK 35mm f2.8 AE/MM OK 35mm f3.5 PC OK 45mm f2.8 Pancake AE OK 50mm f1.4 AE/MM OK 50mm f1.7 AE/MM OK 60mm Makro AE (1:1) OK 60mm Makro MM (1:2) OK 85mm f1.2 Anniversary OK 85mm f1.4 AE/MM OK 85mm f2.8 AE/MM OK 100mm f2 AE/MM OK 100mm f3.5 AE/MM OK 135mm f2.8 AE/MM OK 300mm f4 AE/MM OK Contax/Zeiss Zooms 28-85mm AE/MM OK 35-70mm AE/MM OK 35-135mm AE/MM OK 100-300mm AE/MM OK Olympus Zuiko 18mm f2.8 OK 21mm f2 OK 21mm f3.5 OK 24mm f2 OK 24mm f2.8 OK 24mm f3.5 PC/Shift OK 28mm f2 OK 35mm f2.8 OK 35mm f3.5 Pc/Shift OK 40mm f2 Pancake Unknown 50mm f1.2 OK 50mm f1.8 OK 55mm f1.2 OK 90mm f2 OK 35-70mm f3.3 OK Leica Primes 15mm f3.5 Elmarit Maybe Optically identical to Zeiss and Pentax 15mm. Some report mirror clearance difficulties: problems often fixed by use of thicker adaptor or simply by removing plastic shroud on rear element. 15mm f2.8 Elmarit-R Needs mod. Remove 2mm from the lower portion of the 1Ds mirror. 19mm f2.8 Needs mod. Metal retaining ring on lens’ rear element has to be filed down by approximately 1.5mm. For details see here. There’s alway the mirror mod . . . 21mm f3.4 Needs mod. Remove 2mm from the lower portion of the 1Ds mirror. 21mm f4 OK 24mm f2.8 Needs mod. Remove 2mm from the lower portion of the 1Ds mirror. 28mm f2.8 OK 28mm f2.8 PC OK The same lens is available from Schneider with a dedicated Canon EF mount. If the lens is branded Schneider, the rear mount is removable. 35mm f1.4 Needs mod. Remove 2mm from the lower portion of the 1Ds mirror. 35mm f2 OK 50mm f1.4 OK 50mm f2 OK 60mm f2.8 Macro OK 80mm f1.4 OK 90mm f2 OK 100mm f2.8 Macro 180mm f2 OK Leica Zooms 21-35mm
Needs mod. Remove plastic shroud from lens element rear housing. Very simple mod. See here for instructions . . . 28-90mm
Needs mod. Remove 2mm from the lower portion of the 1Ds mirror. 35-70mm
OK Leica Extenders 1.4x APO OK 2x APO OK
This list is possible thanks to Emanuelle C, Cinstance, JohnBlack, PSquared, MarkSaperstein, Foto-z and other FMers that are trying their CZ lenses w/ the 5D. Thanks also to: Guy Mancuso for his efforts w/ Leica glass and kidigital for 5D mirror mod.