Lens hacking with a lens adapter

Lens hacking is not Lens whacking

precision_machined_lens_adapter300

Lens hacking is the process of using precision machined adapters to make camera lenses usable on more than one camera system. The lens adapter usually has no electronic or mechanical interface with the camera which means that  the lens has to be manually focused and stopped down prior to exposure.

 

 

Taken with a 50mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Ultron on a Canon 40D. 1/30 sec at 800 ISO.

Taken with a 50mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Ultron on a Canon 40D. 1/30 sec at 800 ISO.

Lens whacking is the process of detaching a lens from the camera body and tilting it for special effects when making a video. Lens whacking creates numerous opportunities for airborne particles to enter the camera and contaminate the sensor and other internal components.

The point of Lens hacking

Lens hacking gives people the ability to use obsolete, manual focus lenses on modern digital camera bodies. Cinematographers want the manual control over focusing and aperture which is available with these older lenses. Lens hacking can significantly reduce the cost of acquiring a set of high quality prime lenses.

The Depth of Field Scale on this 50mm f/1.7 Carl Zeiss Planar provides information on the zone of acceptable sharpness. With the lens focused at 3 meters and the aperture set at f/11, everything between 2 and 8 meters will be acceptably sharp with the plane of sharpest focus at 3 meters.Contax/Yashica to Canon EF lens adapter attached.

The Depth of Field Scale on this 50mm f/1.7 Carl Zeiss Planar provides information on the zone of acceptable sharpness. With the lens focused at 3 meters and the aperture set at f/11, everything between 2 and 8 meters will be acceptably sharp with the plane of sharpest focus at 3 meters.Contax/Yashica to Canon EF lens adapter attached.

 

Auto focus is not necessary

The demand for manual focus lenses started to decline about 25 years ago as photographers became more dependent on automation. Manual focus lenses are inexpensive today because most people don’t know how to use them on digital cameras.

Canon cameras made after the 30D can dis­play live images on their LCD screens and with the 10x mag­ni­fier, it’s pos­si­ble to focus on an eye­lash. Older mod­els lack Live View and are dif­fi­cult to man­u­ally focus unless you replace the focus­ing screens. You’re better off paying more for a newer model that has Live View.

Taken with a 63 year old 58mm f/2 Carl Zeiss Jena Bio­tar on an Olym­pus E-PL2. 1/50 sec 200 ISO. RAW file processed in Photomatix

Taken with a 63 year old 58mm f/2 Carl Zeiss Jena Bio­tar on an Olym­pus E-PL2. 1/50 sec 200 ISO. RAW file processed in Photomatix.

Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras are easy to focus with their LCD screens and the 10x magnifier buttons. The latest Olympus Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds camera bodies also have built-in image stabilization which works great with older lenses.

Taken with a 34 year old 35mm f/1.4 manual focus Nikkor on a Canon 5D Mk II. 1/125 sec at 100 ISO. RAW file processed in Camera RAW.

Taken with a 34 year old 35mm f/1.4 AiS manual focus Nikkor on a Canon 5D Mk II. 1/125 sec at 100 ISO. RAW file processed in Camera RAW. List price on this lens was $1,110 in 1983. Adjusting for inflation, that would be $2,643 in today’s dollars.

Flange focal distance and lens hacking

Lens hacking works when the distance between the sensor and the lens mount allows the lens to focus to infinity. This distance is known as the flange focal distance (FFD). Canon EOS EF mount lenses have an FFD of 44mm and Micro Four Thirds lenses have a lower FFD of 19.25mm. Lenses with higher FFDs than the camera’s FFD are usable because the lens adapter makes up the FFD difference.

With an FFD of 46.5mm, F mount Nikkors, including non-AI Nikkors,  work great on Canon EF bodies, but Konica AR lenses with an FFD of 40.7mm don’t work because of the -3.3mm difference. If there was a Konica to EF lens adapter, it would act like an extension tube with focus limited to a few feet. You’ll need a mirrorless camera if you want to use Konica AR, Leica screw mount (28.8mm FFD), Leica M (27.8mm FFD) and Contax rangefinder lenses (34.85mm FFD).

The Sony E mount has an FFD of 18mm and you can currently get a new Sony Alpha A7 full frame camera for under $1,000.

Other goals of lens hacking

Lens hacking promotes the use of pre-owned, manual focus lenses.The information on this website is intended to help photographers and filmmakers practice their crafts without paying a fortune for lenses. Because resourcefulness is more important outside of western culture, Lens hacking.com is available in over 50 different languages.