Using New Camera Lenses with Old School Film Emulsions

One of the cooler things about owning a camera with a legacy lens system is that you can use their lenses with old school film cameras loaded with fresh film. That typically goes for lots of new lens options on the market. To be clear, this means that Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Leica M, and Sony/Minolta A mount lenses can all work seamlessly on your film cameras and your digital cameras without the need for an adapter. In fact, for a really long time I’ve used the Canon EOS Elan 7 as a backup camera body of sorts.

So what happens when you use new lenses with film? Those of you who grew up with film may say nothing special. But for those of us who started in digital, we say differently.

Zeiss Milvus Wide Angle Lenses with Ilford Delta and CineStill 50D

A while back before the Zeiss Milvus 15mm f2.8 and 18mm f2.8 were announced, I had a chance to play with them on film cameras. The lenses work really well and are designed for digital camera bodies, but when you mount them to film bodies, you start to see just how incredibly sharp the optics are.

The lenses are very capable of delivering not only sharp images but beautiful bokeh you’re going to love with film. But then you also consider the colors film can deliver when it’s well exposed and you start to become even more enamored. It truly comes out with black and white.

Sigma 85mm f1.4 with CineStill 800T

One of my favorite films to work with is CineStill 800T. This film is tungsten balanced and delivers a look that incredibly difficult to get anywhere else. Nothing digital can mimic it. And specifically, I’m talking about the older Sigma 85mm f1.4, not the Art version. With film, it shows off just how incredibly sharp it is.

Sigma 35mm f1.4 With KONO! 400T

Kono! 400T is another tungsten film that can give pretty awesome colors at night or when used indoors. It delivers really nice skin tones though its dynamic range doesn’t seem so incredibly wide.

Sigma 35mm f1.4 With CineStill 800T

When using the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens, Cinestill 800T will deliver colors that look a bit like Kodak Portra VC–though not those digital versions. This partially has to do with how contrasty and sharp the Sigma lens is.

Sigma 85mm f1.4 with CineStill 50D

CineStill 50D needs a lot of light. Since it’s a negative film, I recommend rating it about one stop under. And if you’re in cloudy coverage, I strongly also recommend using a flash. Sometimes you can also get a bad batch of CineStill, but some folks really like the look of it.

Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art with Fujifilm 400H

Fujifilm 400H is a fantastic film emulsion. Professionals have been using it for many years now and when you combine it with modern lenses the results are just as good as you’d think. Sigma’s glass is sharp and contrasty though, so it may add more contrast the image that you’d probably like.