How to use old manual lenses on Sony Mirrorless

For now DSLR cameras may still rule the roost, but mirrorless cameras are soon catching up. They provide many advantages over the bulkier DSLR, one of which I want to talk about today.

Sony has stormed through the market with its mirrorless camera’s and now solely ventures down that route. Its NEX range introduced the possibility of a tiny form factor, packing in an APS-C sized sensor, the smae size you find in camera’s such as the Canon 1300D or 750D, or Nikon’s D3400. Sony ditched the NEX brand and merged them into the Alpha series, along with the multi-award winning A7 series.

So what is so special about Sony mirrorless cameras and old manual lenses? Well the space between the sensor and the lens bracket is smaller than most. The spacing between them is important that the lens can function properly, so bolting a nikkor lens to a canon wouldn’t work as well, although adapters are possible. Sony Alpha to “whatever else you want” is much easier since any other lens just needs a slightly longer gap from the sensor, so adapters work really well.

Choosing your lens

The choice is yours here. You might have a collection already or just fancy experimenting. You’ll find plenty of lenses on ebay or amazon. Some older lenses which aren’t commonly used by modern cameras can be great bargains, such as Pentax k mount, m42 lenses (vintage zeiss), or old Canon, Nikon or Sigma lenses.

lens

Finding the right adapter

Once you’ve chosen a lens, you can hunt for the right lens adapter. These will typically be named Pentax K Mount (PK) SLR Lens to Sony Alpha E-Mount or something similar. Some may advertise electronic control of your AF, depending on the lens you bought this may be handy, but this is mainly about buying a manual lens, so these adapters are pretty cheap, and simply provide the right spacing between the lens and sensor.

lens adapter

Changing the settings in your camera (For Sony A5000 and 6000 series)

The manual lens you bought will probably have its aperture ring on the lens itself, so set your camera to aperture priority mode (you don’t have to but I find it works best). This will mean that all the other settings on your camera will be automatic and work around the fixed aperture. You could also use other modes such as manual if you want more control. You will notice that your camera’s screen will show a blank mark where your aperture settings could usually be seen, this is normal as your lens can’t tell your camera which aperture you have chosen.

If your camera refuses the lens once attached, just head into you settings and choose “release without lens” option. You then want to enable MF assist and focus peaking to assist you in focusing as quickly as you can since AF won’t be working. Focus peaking will highlight the edges of the subject that’s in focus, a must have feature for manual lenses. All done, enjoy the nostalgic feeling of a vintage lens on a modern mirrorless camera and get creative!