Your favorite Nikon camera body for use with vintage manual focus lenses

Started Aug 21, 2022 | Discussions thread
iljitsch Senior Member • Posts: 1,644
Re: Your favorite Nikon camera body for use with vintage manual focus lenses

Well, I haven't used that many Nikon cameras, so let me list two favorites and one less favorite.

First and foremost the Nikon FE. I learned photography on a super simple SLR back in the 1980s and the FE is a much better/nicer version of that. Still entirely manual except that it can do aperture priority auto exposure. And  it's old enough that it even allows mounting pre-AI lenses, although the metering is difficult and I don't want to give myself additional opportunities to waste film by introducing unnecessary extra variables. (Same reason why I don't use flash with film.) The FE also has some forward compatibility, with AF lenses also working on it.

Second, my D7100. Probably DX for old lenses is not ideal but I've never had an FX digital camera so I don't know what I'm missing. The D7100 has an aperture coupling ring so it works perfectly with AI AS-s manual focus lenses such as my 105 mm f/2.8 macro lens. You can can set up the camera to either let the camera set aperture, or you use the aperture ring.

You do get to set 10 or 20 non-CPU lens presets, but that's just focal length and minimum aperture.

Then the Z fc. I was quite disappointed when I found out that the FTZ adapter not only lacks a focus motor so no autofocus with AF lenses, or an aperture coupling ring so no easy compatibility with manual focus lenses, but with non-CPU lenses you don't even get all the focus aids you get on the D7100 with the same lenses or with CPU lenses in manual mode. So you have to use not very reliable/accurate focus peaking or use slow and laborious viewfinder zoom to nail focus. And the camera makes no attempts to control the aperture. So when you want to shoot at f/16 the viewfinder operates at f/16, so good luck focusing with so little light coming in and such a deep field of view.

All of that said, a big advantage of the Z cameras is that they have the shortest flange distance known to man so there are cheap adapters for pretty much any mount to Z. So I plan on getting an M42 adapter so I can use my Pentacon 135 mm f/2.8 "bokeh monster" (13 aperture blades!) lens a bit more. I do have a super thin adapter for M42 to F mount but with that, you can't focus to more than 10 meters, so not quite as useful.

The DX Z lenses don't have in body image stabilization, but the FX ones do. Not sure how well it works with non-CPU lenses. Like with the D7100, I can set up focal length and max aperture for 10 or 20 non-CPU lenses but unlike with the D7100, the actual aperture is not recorded in the EXIF data.

 iljitsch's gear list:iljitsch's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon Z fc Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +10 more
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