Should You Use a Lens Adapter with a Mirrorless Camera?

Someone holding a Canon camera with a mirrorless adapter.Cannon

Mirrorless cameras are not the future, they are the present. If you are switching from an older DSLR camera, the obvious thing to do is simply purchase an adapter so that you can continue using your old camera.

The advantages of a lens adapter

The biggest advantage of lens adapters is pretty clear – they allow you to use your existing lens collection on your new camera. With many mirrorless cameras from $ 1000, anything that offsets the cost of change is much appreciated. After all, mirrorless glasses costs as much as the new camera body.

For most photographers, switching systems simultaneously and replacing all of their DSLR lenses with their mirrorless equivalents would cost more than they can justify the expense.

So, since the benefit of a lens adapter is pretty clear, are there any downsides?

Why lens adapters are needed

Mirrorless cameras aren’t just mirrorless DSLRs – they’re a completely overhauled platform. Canon and Nikon took the opportunity to radically rethink their decades-old lens mounts, and with good reason. Canon introduced the EF mount in 1987, while Nikon’s F mount has been around since 1959.

Someone holding a Canon EOS camera with a mirrorless adapter mounted on it.The adapter is actually wider than the lens because the new R mount is larger. Cannon

The most notable change is that the lens mounts are now larger and the rear lens elements are closer to the image sensor. Of course, the actual mount connection has also changed.

This means that lens adapters are needed because lens mounts on mirrorless cameras are completely different from the DSLR mounts they get. Canon’s RF Mount is not just an updated EF, it’s new.

Lens adapters add size, weight and hassle

A Nikon camera, an FTZ adapter and a lens.Nikon

Lens adapters add physical size and weight to your goals. It’s not a huge amount, but if you’re buying a mirrorless camera because you want a smaller, lighter setup, it’s something to consider. For example, Canon the most basic EF-EOS R adapter adds an extra inch and four ounces to whatever lens you use. Nikon FTZ Adapter adds a little more weight and bulk thanks to its tripod mount.

Along with the size and weight penalty, a lens adapter is simply one thing you must remember to take with you when shooting. If you forget it, you will no longer be able to take pictures.

Compatibility issues

If you’re switching from a Canon DSLR camera to a Canon mirrorless camera and also using a Canon lens adapter, things are going pretty well. You should be able to use all of your goals happily. Otherwise, however, things get a bit tricky.

Even if you switch from a Nikon DSLR to a Nikon mirrorless camera and use a Nikon lens adapter, there are compatibility issues. Most of the newer lenses should be fine, as they have built-in autofocus motors. However, since the adapter does not have one, Nikon’s AF and AF-D lenses are only manually focused.

With some older lenses, there is also no automatic aperture control, which means no electronic metering, automatic exposure modes, or EXIF ​​data.

And this even if you stay with the same brand. If you want to mount a Nikon DSLR lens to a Canon mirrorless camera, you need expensive adapter to get even a fully manual experience.

With Canon, however, there are EF adapters to other brands for just about any platform. Photographer Ken Rockwell even claimed he obtained better results using Canon’s DSLR lenses instead of Nikon’s on his Nikon mirrorless camera.

Simply put, however, just because an adapter exists doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy (or enjoyable) change of weather, especially if you’re mix brands. Typically, cheaper adapters will only give you manual control. They can also prevent features like image stabilization from working.

Be sure to research the specific compromises you will need to accept before committing to a new system.

Autofocus may be slower

DSLR and mirrorless cameras autofocus a little differently. DSLRs have dedicated focus sensors, while mirrorless cameras typically rely on sensors built into the imaging sensor. Naturally, mirrorless lenses are designed to work with an emphasis on mirrorless cameras, while DSLR lenses are designed to work with digital SLRs.

This means that if you are using a lens with an adapter, you may notice that it autofocus slower than on your DSLR or an equivalent mirrorless lens. This is especially noticeable when trying to focus on fast moving subjects or action shots.

Of course, it’s still ideal if you can replace your DSLR lenses with equivalent mirrorless lenses for your new mirrorless camera. Unless you have a lot of money to spend, a lens adapter can certainly be a good compromise.

RELATED: How to use old and different brands of lenses with your mirrorless camera

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