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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Low-Cost Lens Solutions

Think about using a lens adapter to get lower-cost specialty lenses

Labels: GearLens Adapters

The vast majority of your nature photography is probably accomplished with your core setup of camera and three-lens kit (wide-angle zoom, midrange zoom and tele-zoom). Using that gear, you take care of at least 90 percent of your shots. Every once in a while, though, you have a need for a more exotic lens—something special. But these out-of-the-ordinary lenses also tend to be very pricey pieces of gear, especially when you consider that you don’t use them all that often. It can be hard to justify the cost when you’ll only be using a super-telephoto, super-wide-angle or fisheye lens on rare occasions.

There’s a simple photo accessory that can give you access to these and other lenses for relatively little cost. It’s the lens adapter, and it lets you use lenses on your camera that you couldn’t use otherwise. A quick visit to eBay.com or Amazon.com or the like will reveal a wide variety of used, older lenses that are reasonably priced, but may not fit your new, high-tech AF DSLR. An inexpensive lens adapter or two will let you use these lenses on your camera.

The recent proliferation of video-capable DSLRs has expanded the nature photographer’s horizons tremendously. But the contrast-based AF systems these cameras use for video work is very slow, so it’s generally best to focus manually. The AF lenses for these cameras have focusing mechanisms that were designed for autofocusing, not smooth and easy manual focusing. And some such DSLRs won’t let you set apertures manually during video recording. An adapter will let you attach an older manual-focus lens with an aperture ring and a focusing system designed for manual operation, so you can easily set everything as desired.

Adapters also let you use favorite lenses from your previous SLR system with a new DSLR that has a different mount. And they let you use optics that may not be available in mounts for your camera, like mirror lenses. Some aficionados of respected Leica and Zeiss lenses use adapters to mount these on other brands of cameras.

And adapters don’t just let you use old lenses on new cameras. They can also expand the range of lenses available for brand-new cameras. When the Micro Four Thirds System was introduced a couple of years ago, there were few Micro Four Thirds System lenses available. But simple adapters made it possible to supplement these with the full range of standard Four Thirds System lenses (even retaining autofocusing capability with many of them).

When Sony announced their new NEX-3 and NEX-5 mirrorless interchangeable-lens models (which, despite their tiny size, contain DSLR-sized APS-C image sensors), they also announced the Alpha NEX Camera Mount Adapter, which allows NEX-3 and NEX-5 users to attach the full range of lenses for Sony’s Alpha DSLRs to their cameras, instantly expanding the NEX camera user’s focal-length options.


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