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Lenses for Canon AE-1 on Modern Cameras

thatlem
Apprentice

Old shutterbug wants to return

I used to be an avid photographer in the pre-digital age, using a Canon AE-1.  I have a couple of autofocus lenses, including a 300 telephoto lens, and am wondering if they would still be useable for the current line of digital cameras, or if I'm going to have to start from scratch.  If so, are there particular camera's that you could suggest, or is it a matter of a particular mount.

Thanks

Todd

17 REPLIES 17

Tronhard
Elite
Elite

Hi Todd and welcome to the forum:

We have similar roots, I started off with Canon A-1 and Nikon F3 cameras, back around 1980, but have been shooting digital now for over two decades. 

To help you, it will be useful to clarify a few points.
1. What lenses exactly do you have, as specific as possible please to get an idea of the age of them?
It is likely that to get the most from a new camera body, you may have to get more modern glass.  That said, there are a few classics still out there and if budget is limited it will be useful to know what we might be able to re-use.
2. Do you have a particular budget in mind for the camera body and any lenses? 
An actual number is very useful.
3. What subjects do you want to shoot? 
Or alternatively, what focal ranges do you need?
4. What do you want to produce?   
The investment for producing find, print images is likely to be different for simply creating for social media or a digital display device like a TV or monitor.
5. What are you prepared to carry?   
As we get older, or have any physical limitations, lighter more compact gear can be a necessity.

As an overall observation, you have come back to photography at a time of major change.  Gone are the DSLRs that use an optical viewfinder and the flip-up mirror to expose the recording surface of the film or sensor.  Now, we are in the age of the Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC) that generates an image directly read from the camera sensor and displays it on a tiny screen in the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF).   

This has several advantages:
1.  Camera bodies (but not necessarily lenses) are now significantly smaller and lighter than their DSLR predecessors
2.  What you see through the EVF is a fairly exact representation of what will be recorded, including exposure and depth of field, giving you much more ability to get the image right first time.

So, much has changed, even over the last five years or so for Canon cameras.  It's an exciting time to return to photography!


cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

johnrmoyer
Whiz
Whiz

I hope this might be helpful.

I use a 45 year old Minolta lens from a film camera on my EOS R5 body, but it is manual focus and manual aperture. I use an Urth brand (about $40) to connect the lens. If the lens is EF mount, then the Canon EF-RF adapter ($99) might work, but depending upon the age of the lens, auto focus might need to be turned off. Others have adapted Canon FD mount lenses to Canon R series cameras. The newer electronic viewfinders have focus aids for manual focus such as marking in red the edges that are in focus.

All of my older Canon lenses work better on the new mirrorless body than they did on the body that I originally bought them for.

It may be necessary to stop down the old lens to avoid artifacts like color fringing.

I think it would be worth the price of an adapter to try the old familiar lens on a new mirrorless body. That is fun for me, but not for others. The free Canon DPP software will develop the raw images and a digital unsharp mask is much easier than using an enlarger. If the lens is new enough for DPP to retrieve information about the lens, then the digital lens optimizer in DPP can correct some color fringing and diffraction blur. If you were to use the 300mm lens with a EOS R10 or EOS R7 crop sensor, then only the center portion of the lens would be used which is usually the best part.

 

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

"I used to be an avid photographer in the pre-digital age, using a Canon AE-1.  I have a couple of autofocus lenses, including a 300 telephoto lens, and am wondering if they would still be useable for the current line of digital cameras,..."

 

First, I know of no AF lens for an AE1 Program film camera. Second, without knowing the exact model of lens or lenses you are asking about no one here can give you a true or meaningful answer. But generally if the lens or lenses are from the AE1 era, there is no doubt that any current lens will be better. And, that isn't just a bit better but a whole lot better. So do you want to spend the coin for a modern DSLR or R series camera and shackle it with inferior  lenses?

"...I'm going to have to start from scratch."

You probably already know the answer. Don't you?

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

My 45 year old Minolta 50mm lens is better than my newer Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM

Newer is not always better.

johnrmoyer
Whiz
Whiz

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

I have a Minolta srt 201 with 50mm Rokinon lens and I agree it is a nice combo. But it is certainly not in league with any current Canon DSLR lens or R series lens. You must have gotten a crappy copy of the ef 50mm f1.8.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

Tronhard
Elite
Elite

Generally speaking, I have to agree with Ernie that using old SLR lenses on modern cameras will not do those cameras justice.  If you decide to invest in a new camera body, you are best off to get lenses that are designed for that technology, as old lenses will demand you lose a lot of the benefits of the new technology, such as fast and accurate autofocus and eye tracking. 

You have the advantage of starting off with a relatively clean sheet, by which I mean no slightly old lenses designed for DSLRs that you might consider too valuable to give up.
Honestly, if you are considering returning to photography, and can afford to, I would go with one of the R-series bodies and RF lenses.  The question would be what of the range is best for you, and that is why I asked the questions I posed.


cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

Nice to see you post. Beginning to worry about you. You hit the nail on the head about old tech on new. Fun to play with the old stuff but not as a main purpose lens. Best is to start fresh.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!
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