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Old Masters, New life

Some years ago I had a simple thought, could I use an 'old' film lens on a modern day digitial camera? As photographers we all know that having the right gear matters, and the leading equipment manufacturers love to promote their latest products to a hungry audience. The latest gear is always better in every way than what they sold us before, isn't it? 

Lots of online discussion forums and expert comments suggested you can use a lens designed for film on the latest digital models, but I was sceptical. Anyway the only way to know was to try. Back in 2010 when I started wedding photography as part of my business, I turned to a trusty Nikon 55mm f/3.5 micro lens.

Okay you have to do everything manually, but to my surprise I found this 40 year old lens worked perfectly on my modern Nikon D3S dslr body, which I replaced last year with a D4. The 55mm micro lens produces super sharp images with a lovely shallow depth of field, its really easy to use and light to carry. Since then I have used this on every wedding I have ever shot, it is my 'go to' lens for bridal details for instance. It got me thinking, perhaps other 'old' lenses would work equally well.

Last Friday was the wedding of Laura and Jamie at the lovely Mercure Madeley Court Hotel. After testing on my D4 body, I decided to use a 15 year old Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5D lens in place of my much heavier and fantastically expensive modern product. This was actually sitting on a D1x body, part of my personal collection. Placed on my D4, this lens works with auto focusing and metering functions. Okay the auto focus is a lot noiser and slower than the latest models, and doesn't have the latest electronics and lens coatings. But it's significantly lighter to carry and produces lovely image quality, and the best part this one works out to be ten times cheaper to buy than what I would normally use.

Lets be totally honest now, advancements in photographic and electronic equipment have been stunning. New equipment helps to open up a wider range of creative opportunities, achieving quality images in situations that would have been difficult only a few years ago. But as my two examples show, yes it is possible to use old film and digital lenses on modern cameras, and still produce great results.

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