Sunday, February 1, 2015

Adapting Long Lenses on Sony E-Mount - Part I

If you are a die-hard manual focus lens user on digital cameras, sooner or later you will find that, although satisfying, your current collection of M42, FD, Nikon, Minolta MD, Contax, or whatever mount your lenses have, lacks excitement, uniqueness, weirdness, or, just not different enough, and you will be looking for less mainstream stuff, like enlarging lenses, projection lenses, and of course, medium/large format lenses.

Shorter focal length lenses are relatively easy to adapt.  They typically just need a short focus helicoid and some extension tubes, but large format lenses usually measure in inches, instead of millimeters, and adapting them is not as easy, for three reasons.

Except for some projection lenses, long focal length lenses usually have very long lens to film/sensor flange, usually in inches.  This means you will need very long tubes between the lens and the helicoid.  The other problem is minimum focus distance is very far; getting close-ups is not easy to do.  Lastly, long hood is required to shield the flare from these old lenses, which often are uncoated and very susceptible to stray lights.  We will address each of these issues in this mini series.

Long lenses without focusing mechanism.

Before we start, I just to show you how a typical lens looks like with my setup.  I have often been asked how I setup and shoot with my long lenses, hence these posts that follow.  We will be using the Wray London 7 inch f5.6 lens as an example. This lens requires approximately 6 inches of space between its rear element and the front of the mount on the Sony mirrorless cameras.  The focus helicoid I use is approximately 2 inches in length, that means we will need 4 inches of tube between the helicoid and the lens.  So far, this is not too bad, but 7 inches is equivalent to about 177 mm, which corresponds to a medium telephoto.  A 12 inch lens will need much long tubes.  But, let's look at how it looks with 7 inch Wray Lustrar on the camera:

It looks pretty long, no?  Note the double helicoids.  We will talk about that shortly.

With Hood - Looks monstrous, eh?  You will get curious looks and people will ask you what heck you are shooting with!

On our next post, we are going to look at the our options to adapt these long lenses.  Go to Part II.


  1. Excellent. Looking forward to the rest of the mini series.

  2. Hey I'm new to your blog and due to all your amazing posts, you got me wanting to use vintage lenses! I have a 5D mark II and I see you used to use it. I was wondering what are some cool and cheap vintage lenses that would be great to get? I heard a Helios 44-2 58mm is a must, any more that you can recommend? Thanks for everything can't wait to read more of your blog!

    1. This is always a tough question to answer, simply because there are seemingly endless selections out there. Besides, lenses are very personal things. But, for the 5D II, there are many that won't work, so the selection is a bit limited. I like some of the old Kiron lenses, like the 28mm f2 and 24mm f2. Just make sure you buy the mount that fits the 5D II, like OM, and Nikon AI. Good luck.