The Surprise Discovery Of My Nifty Fifty Prime Lens


If you've ever purchased digital photography equipment you'll know how expensive it can be. Even equipment geared towards hobbyists comes with a hefty price tag, let alone the professional gear.

Late last year I decided to take the plunge and buy myself my first Full Frame camera. It was a used camera at my local camera store and on the low end of the full frame price scale, but it still cost close to $1,000. In order to soften the financial blow I traded in another camera body and some of my lenses including a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. I loved that lens and didn't want to let it go, but it secured me more trade-in money than the other items I had on hand. I figured I could always save and get another one some day.

Not long after my full frame purchase I was in my office examining my film camera collection when I came across the Nikon my dad had given my mom back in the 1970s. My mom had given it to me more than a decade ago and it has been on display with the rest of my collection ever since. I picked it up and began playing with the body and lens when lightning struck my brain: will this lens work with my Nikon digital camera? I knew legacy lenses worked on digital but for some reason I never thought to try this lens before.


So, I took the lens off its original body and carefully mounted it to my digital camera and was exhilarated to find it fit perfectly! I looked at it closely and realized it was a 50mm f/1.2 lens; an even faster prime lens than the one I had traded in. Being more than 40 years old, the lens manually focuses and does not work with auto focus mechanisms, but who cares? After a really good cleaning, the quality of this lens is top-notch. Great bokeh, or blur, around my subject and tack-sharp focus on my subject. It also weighs next to nothing, so it is a great travel companion.

This is not my first legacy lens in the digital age. Not long before digital cameras took over the world, my then-boyfriend and now husband gave me my first Nikon film SLR for Christmas. I used it for about two years before I bought a digital camera. When the kit lens from my digital camera broke unexpectedly during my daughter's third birthday I discovered that I could use my film SLR on my digital body and have been using it ever since.

The great thing about legacy lenses is they're so much lighter than digital lenses, mostly because they don't have image stabilization or auto-focus built-in. This can be a negative to some people because auto-focus and image stabilization can make a photographer's life easier. On the other hand, learning how to manually focus can greatly improve skills. I also believe legacy lenses create much better image quality than digital lenses, especially when working with a basic kit lens. But don't take my word for it. Try it yourself.

Do you have an experience using film SLR lenses with a digital camera? Post the results below in the comment section. 


I've just been informed by my mother, and probably should have realized this from the get-go, that this lens was used to document mine and my brother's childhoods. It's no wonder I like the quality of the glass so much. It reminds me of comfort. It reminds me of home. It reminds me of love. It reminds me of family.