Analogue Lenses on Digital Body

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by CJB, Dec 20, 2005.

  1. CJB

    CJB Guest

    Jessops (Strand Branch, London) tells me that all of the Pentax SLR
    analogue (aka traditional 35mm film) lenses that I have - zoom,
    fisheye, macro, etc. - are unsuitable for digital use. Is this a
    cynical con. to force photographers to junk their expensive lenses and
    buy new 'digital' versions? If so I feel a sudden need to travel
    overseas and get some duty free equipment 'cos I aint paying the
    grossly inflated prices in rip-off Britain!! But I would really just
    prefer to buy a Pentax digital SLR body replacement and keep all the
    lenses I already have. Please can anyone advise me on this issue. Sorry
    for cross-posting. Many thanks - CJB.
    CJB, Dec 20, 2005
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  2. Cynical con, or typical camera salesman ignorance. Lots of people are
    perfectly happy using mostly old lenses on their digital cameras (I've
    got one "DX" lens to get me back into the wideangle game).

    As with any lens -- test it. Never easy, but at least it's *cheap*
    with digital. You will then have a basis for an opinion, either being
    happy or not happy with that particular lens. If you're not happy,
    trade it off. It's possible that certain lenses might really have
    performance issues on digital, I guess, especially extreme
    wideangles. I didn't notice any problems with my Tokina 17mm f3.5 or
    my Nikor 20mm f2.8, though.
    David Dyer-Bennet, Dec 20, 2005
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  3. CJB

    Bill Funk Guest

    I'm not familiar enough with the camera and lenses that Pentax uses;
    maybe it's a mount difference thing?

    Otherwise, there are no *digital* lenses for DSLRs. They are all
    There are lenses that are designed and optimized for use on digital
    cameras, but they are still analog.

    Just like those "digital" speakers you see advertised; they aren't
    digital, they are analog. They just work with digital sound equipment.
    Like normal, non-"digital" speakers do.
    Bill Funk, Dec 20, 2005
  4. CJB

    Paul Guest

    I don't know about Pentax not accepting older lenses, however, there is no
    need to travel abroad to buy new lenses as you can get them from
    (DigitalRev) and

    Depending on what you want, it varies as to who is the cheapest to buy from.
    Make sure that you take into consideration the p&p, VAT and import duty if
    buying from America. Import duty is approx. 5%, but can't remember the
    exact figure. DigitalRev often offer to refund you the VAT if Customs and
    Excise charge you. Sometimes one is better, sometimes the other. For
    example Canon 'L' lenses are generally cheaper from DigitalRev, but DSLR
    kits are generally cheaper from B&H.

    Check out for a currency converter.
    Paul, Dec 20, 2005
  5. CJB

    Paul Furman Guest

    There is supposed to be some anti-reflection coatings on the digital
    lenses as I recall but it doesn't seem to be a huge problem.
    Paul Furman, Dec 20, 2005
  6. Maybe one could apply several layers of that coating to a lens?

    I think I'll patent the idea and call it "Multi-..AntiReflection"!
    : )
    Chris Loffredo, Dec 20, 2005
  7. CJB

    christina Guest

    I use my old Pentax lenses (including an f1.4 50mm Takumar - screw
    mount - lens) on my Pentax *ist D with no problems. Any color
    differences due to coatings can be easily corrected with software. I
    shoot raw files and edit first with Camera Raw and then Photoshop
    (Camera Raw is a Photoshop plug-in). It's a breeze. I don't do much
    wide-angle stuff however. But then, an effective 75mm f1.4 lens is
    great for available light protraits.

    While metering might appear to be a problem (you have to use total
    manual settings on non-AE lenses) in fact pressing the green button
    after setting aperture usually finds the correct shutter speed.

    christina, Dec 20, 2005
  8. CJB

    Sarah Brown Guest

    Yes, that's exactly what it is.
    Sarah Brown, Dec 20, 2005
  9. CJB

    Paul Guest

    Another option. Ditch Pentax and go for a new Canon setup.

    I chose to go to Canon when I changed from 35mm to digital and have no
    Paul, Dec 20, 2005
  10. CJB

    Matt Clara Guest

    Film doesn't care what angle the light's hitting it from (provided it's
    striking the emulsion side, of course), whereas digital sensors want
    the light more or less straight on/perpindicular to the sensor
    surface. With DX sized sensors such as that used by Pentax and Nikon,
    this is much less of a problem than with full frame sensor, so much so
    I wouldn't worry about it. Your fisheye will be just about useless on
    a DX sized sensor, though, 'cause it'll just crop out the edges where
    the extreme distortion occurs and leave you with a slightly distorted
    middle section.
    Matt Clara, Dec 20, 2005
  11. CJB

    phk Guest

    There are some theoretical issues, but whether they become material
    depends on how much of a perfectionist you are. Most rear film lens
    elements are not coated, which potential creates more internal
    reflection with the digital sensor. Also, the digital sensor needs
    light to fall as vertically as possible on all areas. Film didn't care
    about the angle, so older lenses might produce a little less light at
    the edges.

    On the other hand, some of the newer "digital" lenses do shown signs of
    vignetting at wide angles, which is disappointing.
    phk, Dec 20, 2005
  12. CJB

    Mark Roberts Guest

    He's lying.
    Oh yes.

    Of all my lenses, only one is of the latest "optimized for digital"
    generation (the Tamron 17-35/2.8-4) and though it's a fine lens, it's
    nowhere near as good as my Pentax zooms (28-70/2.8 and 80-200/2.8), both
    of which pre-date digital by a good bit. My primes also work
    wonderfully. I also have a 1980's-vintage Vivitar 70-210 Series 1 that's
    a great performer on digital.

    Get the camera and try out your lenses. You'll be very pleased.
    Mark Roberts, Dec 20, 2005
  13. CJB

    Paul Guest

    That's interesting.

    I did experience slight vignetting on my 17-85mm 'digital' lens that
    originally came with the camera at the wide end (below 24mm). And no, it
    was not due to the filter or lens hood, as it was the same with a 'bare'
    Paul, Dec 20, 2005
  14. CJB

    Iraxl Enb Guest

    I recommend checking out Robert's gallery for the
    quality that the pentax is capable of... i was impressed...
    Iraxl Enb, Dec 20, 2005
  15. ***!!!! MYTH WARNING !!!!***
    Kennedy McEwen, Dec 20, 2005
  16. CJB

    Deep Reset Guest

    Lemme see - 28, 40, 50, 135, 200mm Pentax primes, 'A' bellows, Tamron 500mm
    cat, Tamron 28-200mm..

    Yup, all work great with my *istDS.

    And my 330FTZ flash, my Vivitar 283s...

    Really, all work perfectly

    I'd expect better of Jessops (particularly the old Fox Talbot shop)

    Deep Reset, Dec 20, 2005
  17. CJB

    Bruce Hoult Guest

    It's rubbish, assuming that the old lenses physically fit the camera
    (same mount).

    Most digital cameras have a sensor that is about 2/3 the size of 35mm
    film in each direction. So old lenses that are designed to make a nice
    image over all of a bit of 35mm film are making a bigger image than the
    digital sensor can use. A lot of it spills over the edge of the sensor
    and is wasted. Which doesn't matter at all. The pictures will be fine.
    They'll just be cropped compared to what you'd get using a film camera
    with the same lens and settings. Which is perhaps a good thing with
    telephoto lenses because they appear even more telephoto than with film,
    but a bad thing with wide angle lenses.

    So digital cameras work fine with old lenses, they just don't do as wide
    angle as a film camera does with the same lens. If you want really wide
    angle then you need a new lens with a shorter focal length than you used
    for film. But film lenses already went as wide as was possible while
    covering a 35mm frame with image. A lens with an even shorter focal
    length won't cover the entire 35mm frame. But it will cover the digital
    sensor, which is all you need.

    Getting away from the wide angle issue: because a lens designed for a
    smaller sensor doesn't have to produce as large an image, the lens
    itself can be of smaller diameter while retaining the same F number.
    Thus the lens can, in theory, be smaller and lighter and cheaper. This
    doesn't seem to have happened all that much in practise yet, though this
    may be because this whole thing is still so new that lens manufacturers
    have so far concentrated their new "digital" lenses mostly on the wide
    angle end where they are really needed.
    Bruce Hoult, Dec 20, 2005
  18. CJB

    Matt Clara Guest

    Dear Ewen, if you're going to shoot down facts, let's have some back up
    for it, otherwise you're just another idiot troll:
    To understand how sensor optics can cause vignetting, it is useful to
    to some concepts in optics. The exit pupil of a lens is the apparent
    position of the aperture diaphragm when viewed from behind the lens.
    You can
    think of it as being the apparent point through which all principal
    pass as the image is inverted by the lens for projection onto the
    sensor. A
    principal ray is the central ray of the cone of light that is focussed
    the lens onto each point of the image. The apex angle of the focussed
    of light will depend on the aperture in use, and will be wider for
    The distance of the exit pupil from the sensor/film plane defines a
    whose base is largest across the diagonal of the image. The angle
    the central lens axis and a side that extends from the centre of the
    pupil to the corner of the image is also the off-perpendicular angle at

    which the principal ray strikes the sensor at the corner of the image
    opposite angles, for those who remember their Euclidean geometry). The
    microlens layer which lies over the Bayer colour filter array on top of
    actual sensor silicon is typically only capable of accepting light to
    onto the sensor photodiodes provided it lies in a cone typically with
    more than a 25-30 degree apex angle - i.e., within 12-15 degrees of
    before light falloff begins to be significant. Film, which lacks the
    microlens layer, has no such limitations.

    Of course, all wide angle lenses are susceptible to various forms of
    vignetting - there is an excellent discussion of these that also
    some of the concepts discussed above here:

    When using a fast lens wide open with a digital sensor, the cone of
    light has a much wider apex than when using a narrow aperture. More of
    rays in that cone will lie outside the acceptance angle of the
    at the corners of the image. Again, film will only be subject to the
    causes of vignetting discussed by van Walree.

    A comparison with the performance on film will reveal the extent to
    vignetting is caused by features of the lens design or by additional
    limitations imposed by sensor optics. Of course, it is possible to
    for vignetting (and drawing/barrel distortion) in software.

    As a footnote, the high level of barrel distortion at 24mm with the
    is a consequence of trying to design the lens with the exit pupil
    from the film plane to help with vignetting, coupled with the 4+ zoom
    of the lens. Figure 2 in this van Walree article should give a basic
    understanding as to why this is so:

    Have you got anything other than exclamation marks and capitol letters
    to back up your claim, you annoying little prat?
    Matt Clara, Dec 20, 2005
  19. CJB

    Martin Brown Guest

    Cynical con. Most will work fine. I am surprised you got such dodgy
    advice from Jessops - most of their guys are reasonably clued up. If you
    are very unlucky and have a bad or marginal PK fit lens any lateral
    false colour will be annoying (but even that can be fixed in software).

    Digital takes a smaller on axis field of view than the standard 35mm
    format. This means a lens optimised for the CCD can be smaller lighter
    and a full illuminated 35mm frame lens has slightly more compromises,
    but stopped down you will seldom notice the difference (apart from the
    extra weight).

    One of my old lenses works better with the smaller size of the CCD than
    it does on the full frame 35mm (corner vignetting much reduced).

    You can even use antique M42 threaded manual lenses with the Pentax istD
    series with a PK adapter. Obviously if you use old lenses you may have
    to use manual focus and/or metering, but it isn't a great hardship.

    A few cheapo lenses may show bad false colour on a digicam at the edge
    of field but they were just as grotty using film. The extra 1.4x scale
    factor plays a part in making it more obvious. All my Pentax lenses from
    fisheye 17mm out to a 1600mm SCT behave perfectly well with the istDS. YMMV

    Martin Brown
    Martin Brown, Dec 20, 2005
  20. Issue no.1: Film also reflects light as the angle of incidence
    devitates more from normal.

    Issue no.2: Although the silicon surface has a somewhat higher
    reflectivity than most films, it also varies with angle of incidence.
    A microlens structure helps not only to focus the incident light, but
    it also serves to improve the apparent fill-factor. This is in
    addition to the fact that DSLRs use a retro-focus lens design
    especially for shorter focal lengths. The need for a large minimal
    'exit-pupil to sensor/film distance' is forced by the mirror-box.

    So, angles of incidence are already limited by retro-focus lens
    design, and further restricted by the micro-lenses.

    In addition to the two issues above, since aperture often has a
    profound influence on the amount of light fall-off, it by itself
    proves the lens design to be the main contributor.
    For example, the EF 24-70mm @ 24mm at wider apertures is said to
    exhibit less fall-off than the new EF 24-105mm @ 24mm at the same
    apertures. Same sensor, same focal length = same angle of incidence,
    yet different behaviour due to design.

    The effect of lens design becomes apparent when the exit pupil is
    observed by looking at it from an off-axis angle. If the almost
    circular exit pupil changes to an oval, you are bound to have light
    fall-off due to geometry of the exit pupil. Lens designs that can
    maintain a circular exit pupil shape over a variety of angles will
    exhibit less fall-off.

    And then there is the slightly longer travelling distance of corner
    rays to the focal plane. Magnification differences will produce lower
    luminance because the energy is spread over a larger surface area.

    Bart van der Wolf, Dec 21, 2005
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