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How to Know If a Lens Is Compatible With Your Camera

Rajib Mukherjee Avatar
Rajib Mukherjee
12 November, 2022 • Updated 24 days ago
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lens compatibility with camera

In this discussion, we will look at lens compatibility while also covering adapters and how these aid in adapting lenses for specific camera mounts.

Lens Mounts

Camera lens showing bayonet mount

While lenses are interchangeable, lens mounts determine which lens will go with which camera. Lens mounts are an interface between the lens and the camera body. The lens mount contains mechanical interfaces and electronic contact points that secure a lens onto the camera body and exchange information back and forth between the camera and the lens.

Up until a few years ago, DSLRs dominated the interchangeable lens market. However, mirrorless cameras have taken over now. Like in any other system, mirrorless users have started to use legacy DSLR lenses on their cameras. This is easy, and you only need the correct adapter.

DSLR camera systems have a mirror on them which is why the lens sits a bit further away from the sensor, allowing for free movement of the mirror. However, there isn’t a mirror on mirrorless cameras, meaning the lens sits further into the camera. This has some interesting ramifications. It’s easy to mount a DSLR lens onto a mirrorless camera because the adapter fills the gap between the lens and the camera body. However, there is no way that you can mount a mirrorless lens onto a DSLR camera.

How Do I Know If A Lens Will Fit My Camera?

Canon camera with a lens suspended in the air

This is a common question that many first-time interchangeable lens camera owners ask. Different lens mounts have different markings and compatibility charts, and therefore, things can quickly get confusing if you’re not familiar with all the compatibility charts and markings.

Canon Lens Compatibility

Canon camera with a lens on the table

Let’s quickly look at the compatibility options for Canon camera systems.

RF and RF-S Lens Mount

Canon camera with a lens, where you can clearly see a red line on the lens (it is signifies that your camera belongs to the R system)

Suppose your camera has a red line on the lens mount that signifies that your camera belongs to the R system. This is a mirrorless lineup of Canon interchangeable lens cameras. If you have an RF or RF-S lens, this camera will be fully compatible with the lens.

Additionally, with the correct adapter, you can use a legacy EF and EF-S TS-E. Any MP-E lenses can also be used with the right EF-EOS R adapters.

EF Mount

Canon camera  lens with EF Mount

If your Canon lens mount has a single red circle, your camera is a full-frame unit and uses an EF mount. The camera will be able to use all EF lenses and all TS-E and MP-E lenses. EF-S lenses will not mount on this lens.

EF-S Mount

Canon camera with a lens, spare lens, bag, and notebook on the table

EF-S mount denotes Canon’s APS-C camera lens mount. This mount is identified by a red circle and a white square on the lens mount. Your camera can mount all EF-S lenses, EF lenses, TS-E, and MP-E lenses.

EF-M Mount

cameras with lenses on the grass

A white circle on the lens mount suggests that your camera uses the latest mirrorless lens mount. Your camera will be able to use all EF and EF-S lenses and, along with it, all TS-E and MP-E lenses.

For more information on Canon lens mounts and lens compatibility, check out the Canon lens compatibility chart.

This chart will also detail the various Canon lens adapters.

Nikon Lens Compatibility

Nikon camera with a lens

Nikon uses the F-mount camera system, and two distinct camera types use the same mount. These are the full-frame 35mm FX-format cameras and the crop APS-C or DX-format cameras. Both these camera systems use the F-mount. All modern F-mount lenses are compatible with these two bodies. These include lenses that are designed for smaller DX-mount cameras. When a lens designed for the smaller DX mount camera system is mounted on a full-frame FX camera, the crop mode is automatically triggered.

Ai Lenses

Nikon lens reflection in the mirror

AI lenses are fully compatible with most full-frame bodies. They are, however, mostly limited in compatibility with crop cameras.

AF-D Lenses

Nikon camera with a lens in the hand

AF-D lenses similarly have limited compatibility with most modern crop DSLRs. That said, they’re fully compatible with full-frame camera systems. AF-D lenses don’t have an autofocusing motor, therefore, when you mount these lenses onto a DX camera, the lens won’t autofocus.

AF-S Lenses

Nikon camera with a lens on a tripod

All AF-S lenses are fully compatible with all modern crop and full-frame Nikon DSLRs.

AF-P Lenses

AF-P lens in the hand

AF-P lenses have a complex compatibility list. Cameras like the latest Z series units are compatible. However, you must use an FTZ adapter for the AF-P lens on the Z-mount camera system. Cameras like the D3000, the D3100, and the D3200 are non-compatible. The D850 is fully compatible. However, the likes of the D810A, D810, and D800 are compatible, but the built-in vibration reduction feature of the lens cannot be switched off. Also, the camera does not offer the manual focus ring in the AF mode custom setting.

For more details on AF-P lens compatibility, check this resource.

E-type Lenses

-type lenses are fully compatible with the D3xxx and D5xxx series cameras. They’re also compatible with the D7xxx series cameras. The D850, D810A, D810, D800 and D800E along with the D750, D700, D610, D600, D500 and the D300 are also fully compatible. The D80, D90, D100, and D200 are, on the other hand, non-compatible.

For more details about lens compatibility of Nikon’s lenses, check out this link.

Sony’s Lens Compatibility

Sony cameras with a lenses

The final company covered in this article will be Sony.

A-mount

The Sony A-mount has been discontinued as of now. Sony uses this mount on the A-mount DSLRs, which they have stopped producing. Though legacy lenses and bodies will continue to get some support, no new lenses will be made. This lens mount was obtained from Konica-Minolta when Sony acquired the business. If you have the right Sony adapter, you may still be able to use some of the older legacy A-mount lenses on the new E-mount camera bodies.

E-mount

E-mount Lens with a laptop and a phone on the table

Next comes the E-mount, which Sony made for its mirrorless APS-C camera systems. This lens mount is designed for the Sony APS-C mirrorless camera’s smaller image circle.

FE Mount

Sony camera with lens in the hands of the photographer

Even though the E-mount and the FE mount are partially interchangeable, it’s not so cut and dry. The FE mount refers to Sony’s full-frame mirrorless lens mount. If you have a FE camera like the Sony a1 or the a9, you must buy a lens with the designation FE. This will ensure that you can take full advantage of the larger sensor.

On the other hand, if you have an E-mount camera system, you can use both the FE mount and the E-mount lens. But buying an E-mount lens makes more sense because the lens’s image circle is optimized for the smaller sensor.

How to Distinguish Between an E and a Fe Mount Lens?

The lens’s thread specification area will have the words FE or E written along with the maximum aperture and the filter thread specification. This indicates whether a lens is designed for a FE system camera or an E system camera.

A Word on Adapters

Lens Mount Adapter

Adapters allow you to mount a lens designed for another mount on a camera not initially meant for that lens. Regarding adaptability, mirrorless cameras are a better choice than other cameras. This article explains that mirrorless cameras have the lens mount sit deeper into the camera body. This is because mirrorless cameras don’t have a flapping mirror inside them, so they don’t need the space to accommodate the mirror. This makes a bunch of lenses for other mounts able to use the mirrorless mount, albeit with an adapter.

If you’re using an adapter to mount a lens, don’t always expect that the lens will function as its native mount. For example, even if the lens comes with autofocusing features, the adapter may strip that functionality, and you’ll have to be content with just manual focusing. Even essential functions like auto aperture may be disabled. In a situation like this, you have to depend on a manual aperture ring to ensure that you can adjust the aperture without being stuck on one aperture value.

When you’re using a lens that does not communicate with the camera, you will have to ensure that the camera does not have any issues working without a lens. Why? Because if no information is transmitted back and forth between the lens and the camera, the camera may think there is no lens attached to it.

Rajib Mukherjee Avatar
Written by
Rajib Mukherjee
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. The first time he ever clicked an image was with an Agfa Click IV back in 1984. A medium format film camera. From that auspicious introduction to photography, he has remained hooked to this art form. He loves to test and review new photography gear. Rajib travels quite a lot, loves driving on Indian roads, playing fetch with his Labrador retriever, and loves photography. And yes, he still proudly owns that Agfa Click IV!
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