How Good Are Legacy Lenses on Canon Mirrorless Cameras?

Canon's mirrorless lenses have been very well received and lauded for their high optical quality, but they are also quite expensive. Can you get good results by adapting some of their older and much cheaper lenses instead? This great video shows you what you can accomplish with one of their most legendary older lenses.

Coming to you from Christopher Frost Photography, this excellent video discusses adapting the FD 85mm f/1.2L lens to the EOS R. One of the best aspects of mirrorless cameras is their ability to adapt a wide variety of legacy lenses. It is worth noting that you can get the EF 85mm f/1.2L (Mark I or Mark II) for around $800 or so on the used market, and with that, you will get autofocus capabilities. In fact, many users have reported that autofocus of EF lenses is even better with RF cameras than with EF cameras, as it is just as fast (you don't have adapter issues since all components are first party) and more accurate due to the advantages of the mirrorless system. The FD version is still cheaper, but if you want autofocus capabilities, a used copy of the EF version is still significantly less than the RF version. It all comes down to your budget and needs. Check out the video above for Frost's full thoughts. 

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11 Comments

Christopher Cooke's picture

Its not really "legacy" but the 85 1.4 IS pretty much NEVER leaves my EOS R. My favorite portrait set up I have ever used

Alex Cooke's picture

I'm eventually going to trade one of my Canon DSLRs for an R5; I'm looking forward to trying out my EF lenses on it. How is the autofocus working for you with the adapter?

p.s. Good to meet a fellow Cook-with-an-e!

Kirk Darling's picture

Autofocus with EF lenses is no less than just as good and usually better on the EOS R. Even my 1987 vintage f1.8 50mm (Mark I, with the metal mount) snaps to focus with much more alacrity (albeit very noisily) on my R than it ever did on a DSLR. I strongly recommend the Control Ring adapter--it's worth the extra money.

Alex Cooke's picture

That's amazing to hear! I have a huge collection of EF glass, and I would be very sad to give it up. Thank you for your feedback!

Richard Kralicek's picture

I use two lenses on my EOS R that don't focus quickly/snappy on the adapter, the 135mm f2 and the 180mm f3.5 macro lens. While it's no problem on the macro lens as I'm used to prefocus or do it manually, using the normally fast 135/2 is a bit of a pain. Reducing the focus range helps, but I need it more in the near field, so this doesn't help me. The 24-70/2.8 ii works pretty much like a native lens, even eye-focus/face detection work well (I have no Sony experience).

Christopher Cooke's picture

Alex, nice to meet you as well.
I have my DSLR's still but they are just collecting dust. I am very excited to see the final release of the R5 and then the 5D's will be up for sale! I love my R!

Richard Kralicek's picture

Due to problems with my shoulder I sold my too heavy gear (including the Milvus 85/1.4) and bought lighter stuff for the EOS R (I replaced the 6D and the 6Dii), mostly vintage lenses, two older from Leica/Leitz, and the Canon FD 85mm f1.2 L (I guess it's version one, unused and therefor a bit higher in price). In case one doesn't need AF they are fine, apart from flaring causing reduced contrasts when shooting in bright situations against the light. Anyway, even in that conditions on can get nice images.

Most of my EF lenses are MF lenses (tilt shift 17, 45 and 90, old versions, mostly second hand; several Lensbabys). The 24-70/2.8 ii is my lens for all-round stuff and it works like a native lens adapted to the EOS R, and it's nice to have this adapter with a polariser for all old EF lenses, so there's no need for screw on filters, or square ones to attach. That's nice to have. Unfortunately the drop in ND filter is nearly of the same price as the whole adapter, so I'm gonna use my old square ones if needed.

What I haven't considered is the fact, that my old remote control for long exposures doesn't work with the EOS R, so I'm using the cameras capabilities to set timing and timer.

Alex,
"autofocus of EF lenses is even better with RF cameras than with EF cameras, as it is just as fast"

That is definitely NOT true, even RF lenses on and RF body don't focus as fast as EF on EF. The RF system is fairly accurate but not that fast. Not fast enough to keep up with sports, as EF bodies are the industry standard in professional sports (I shoot MLB, NHL, and NBA). The only mirrorless cameras fast enough for pro sports are the latest Sony cameras.

'FD', man, that brings back some (good) memories.... Should have kept my F-1