Legacy Glass, Digital SLR

After I got my Nikon F80 film camera in 2002, I collected a fair number of compatible Nikon autofocus lenses for it. I had a couple of zooms, and some really nice prime lenses ranging from 24 mm up to 300mm in all. I kept those lenses and the F80 camera body even though I didn’t use the whole kit much after 2006.

When I purchased my new DSLR (Nikon D5500) in 2015 I got some new Nikkor DX zooms with it. Although in theory I could use the legacy glass with my new camera body, I felt it would be better to move on with newer lenses for the following reasons:

  1. The old lenses were designed for FX (full frame) cameras. On a DX camera like the D5500, they had a 1.5X crop factor so that a standard 50mm lens worked like a 75mm short telephoto. My widest angle 24mm legacy was now a 35mm lens.
  2. The legacy lenses would not autofocus on the new DSLR since it lacked the old-school screwdriver motor. My eyes at the time were not the best so autofocus was pretty much essential and I got that in the new lenses.
  3. The new lenses had image stabilization built in so camera shake was much reduced. The older lenses didn’t have this feature.

Nevertheless, I did some experimentation with the older lenses and was pleasantly surprised when I could get them focused in good light.

Here is a picture of the Mississippi River below the falls with a 24mm lens acting like a 35mm lens.

And here is a picture of the old flour mill with a 50mm lens behaving like a 75mm short telephoto.

Finally here is a picture of Oates with an 85mm portrait lens acting like a 128mm medium telephoto. Focusing is a bear with this lens in low light, but I managed to get the cat’s head in focus although the rest of his body could not be given a wide aperture.

I have been pleased that I can use my legacy lenses on my newer DSLR – but mainly this activity is for curiosity only. The more modern zooms provide image stabilization and fast autofocus, so I can concentrate more on composition and less on focusing. I won’t be getting rid of my nice 80s and 90s legacy glass though.



Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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