Use Nikon Lenses on Canon DSLRs

While testing some Canon EF lenses on the Canon 5D Mark III, I decided to try to compare the lenses to the latest Nikon lenses and see how they perform side by side. First, my plan was to mount Nikon lenses on the D800 and Canon lenses on the 5D Mark III and look at images at 100% view, but then I realized that it would be tough to do a fair comparison, since the cameras are different. That’s when I thought about using Nikon lenses on a Canon DSLR with an adapter. I knew that it was possible, since some people love mounting the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G on Canon cameras. In this article, I will share my thoughts and experience on using Nikon lenses on Canon DSLRs.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 with Novoflex Canon Adapter

1) Can Nikon lenses be mounted on Canon DSLRs?

As I have said above, yes, you can mount all Nikon F mount lenses (even the latest “G” type lenses without an aperture ring) on any Canon DSLRs – you will need a Nikon to Canon lens adapter to do that. There are plenty of options available from different brands. Generic adapters can be bought for less than $20, but those will only work with older Nikkor lenses with aperture rings. For “G” type lenses, you will need specialized adapters that could cost up to $300 USD.

2) Can Canon lenses be mounted on Nikon DSLRs?

No, Canon lenses cannot be mounted on Nikon DSLRs. Technically it is possible to design an adapter to do it, but you will not be able to focus to infinity. This is due to the fact that Nikon DSLRs have a longer distance between the lens flange and the sensor (focal plane), which would make Canon lenses behave almost like extension tubes. Nikon has a flange focal distance of 46.5mm, while Canon’s EF mount is 44mm as can be seen in this chart. So while a 2.5mm thick adapter could be used on Canon DSLRs, it would be impossible to go in reverse direction on Nikon DSLRs.

3) Why Do It?

So, why mount a Nikon lens on a Canon DSLR? Normally, you would not want to. Nikon lenses are designed to be used with Nikon DSLRs and Canon lenses are also specifically designed to be used with Canon DSLRs. At times, however, there might be a need to do it. Here are some reasons I could think of:

  1. You shoot with both Nikon and Canon DSLRs and you have some good Nikon lenses that you want to be able to use on your Canon DSLR. You do not feel like buying a similar lens from Canon, so buying an adapter would be a cheaper alternative.
  2. You shoot videos on a Canon DSLR and you want to be able to change lens aperture silently using an adapter, rather than rotating the lens aperture ring or the dial on the camera.
  3. You really love the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G and want to use it on your 5D Mark III.
  4. You converted from Nikon to Canon and you still have some classic Nikkor lenses that you do not want to part with. Using them with an adapter on a Canon DSLR sounds like a good option.
  5. You just want to do it for fun!

Due to different mount types and sizes, it is typically impossible to mount a lens from one manufacturer on a camera from a different manufacturer; unless a lens is made by a third party company specifically for that particular mount. For example, Sigma, Tamron and Zeiss make lenses for different camera mounts. So if you are not using a third party lens, the only way you can mount a lens from one manufacturer on a camera from another, is to use an adapter. If it exists, of course.

Nikon 24mm f/1.4G on Canon 5D Mark III

4) Consequences of Using an Adapter

If you do decide to get an adapter and try using Nikon lenses on a Canon DSLR, then here are some things you need to be aware of:

  1. Autofocus will not work.
  2. Vibration Reduction (VR) and automatic Aperture control will not work.
  3. Manual focus can be tricky when there is not enough ambient light. You might need to open up the aperture, acquire focus and then stop the lens down to a desired aperture.
  4. Unless you buy a chipped adapter, there will be no focus confirmation either.
  5. Unless you buy a chipped programmable adapter, there will be no lens-relevant EXIF information either.
  6. Metering will work, but it might be a little off in some cases.
  7. If you do not want to constantly swap the adapter between lenses, it might be best to get an adapter for each lens, which can get costly.
  8. It is best to use lenses with aperture rings.
  9. When using “G” type Nikkor lenses, it is impossible to pick a certain aperture except for maximum and minimum. The lever does not have a clear indication of a specific aperture, so you will often have to guess what it is based on the camera meter.
  10. You might need to trim or remove the weather sealing rubber gasket on your “G” lens for the adapter to function smoothly.

As you can see, mounting a Nikon lens on Canon body is not be a good idea for most people out there. Everything will have to be operated manually.

5) Selecting an Adapter

When selecting an adapter, make sure to get a high quality metal adapter that properly fits both the lens and the camera. A good adapter should be sturdy and reliable. The last thing you want is to drop your lens, simply because it was not attached properly. Also, cheap brands could be made from low quality metal that might drop small metal pieces into your camera, potentially ending up on the mirror or even on your sensor. So before you mount your $2K 14-24mm on a crappy adapter, think again.

Cinevate Generic Adapter

6) Buying a Nikon F to Canon EF Mount Adapter

The best Nikon to Canon mount adapters available on the market today are made by Novoflex and 16:9. Either one works great, but the latter adapter by 16:9 can be bought with a programmable chip (you can program things like focal length and aperture into the lens). I have been personally using the Novoflex adapter (see the Novoflex Nikon to Canon Adapter Review) and I it worked quite well.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Randy Foo
    June 19, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I am excited to see comparison of images taken with both lenses (preferably of lens of same focal range, aperture, and/or of similar “class” i.e. L lens with red ring and Nikon Pro lens with gold ring) on the same Canon body.

    Any upcoming article on this? I think it will be very, very interesting.

    • June 19, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Randy, that’s exactly what I will be doing in the upcoming Canon lens reviews :)

  2. 2
    ) rico
    June 19, 2012 at 5:24 am

    Am I missing something here??? I’m sure majority of people who read this article have the same question as I do – where are the results??? Mounting Nikon lenses to Canon or vice versa is an old topic.

    • June 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Rico, I will be posting detailed reviews of the Canon 50mm f/1.2L and 24mm f/1.4L with Nikon comparisons later this week, so please be patient :) It takes a lot of time to write reviews…

  3. 3
    ) Stoyan
    June 19, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I agree, this is useful information.

    Nasim should go further with the topic. There are many nice old Russian and DDR lenses on m42 :)

    Not to mention the Japanese “Takumar” and so on.

    Some of them have unique colors , character and bokeh.

    some examples mounted my old d40

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/57012003@N05/sets/72157629316334547/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/57012003@N05/sets/72157629144576436/

    Cheers :)

    • June 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Stoyan, there are many different adapters available for all kinds of cameras and lenses – it is amazing what one could do… Going forward, I will definitely think about doing more proper lens comparisons with adapters – we could then see how optics truly compare between brands.

  4. June 19, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Timely article Nasim! :-) Looking forward to your full review of the Novoflex adapter.

  5. 5
    ) Adnan Khan
    June 19, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Good information !
    I frantically searched for an adapter when I switched to digital as I had more Canon lenses than Nikon at that time but ended up buying a 350D :) ,but in no time switched to Nikon :)
    I came to know about this adapter 3 yrs ago and it’s pretty well made and many 5D2 shooters used it with 14-28 and are still using it with no complaints it was about $350 at that time and is a very well made product from Germany, according to users.
    Now Novoflex is making many other adapters for different makes as well.
    I think I should revive my EOS 3 with this adapter :)
    Thank you Nasim for a wonderful article,looking forward for a full review :)

    Regards
    Adnan

    • June 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      Adnan, thank you for your feedback! I will be posting a more detailed review of the Novoflex adapter later today.

  6. 6
    ) David B
    June 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Absolutely should do it. Great topic, Nasim.

    Either you shoot both systems, or you have some old Nikon lenses, or the price is a factor. here is one example:

    A used Nikon 50mm F/1.2 Ai-S costs around 500. it is a lens that is still made today, beautiful construction, very smooth focusing (perfect for video on a Canon for example).
    A used Canon 50mm F/1.2L will cost you over $1000. And Canon 50L has a reputation for being an iffy lens.
    So for $500 I get to use a F/1.2 lens on a Canon. Not bad at all. In fact my Nikon F/1.2 Ai-S was purchased by a guy with Canon 5DM2 who immediately put it on with an adapter.

    It is easy with a nonG lens, but there are plenty adapters for G lenses as well

    • June 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      David, that’s another great example on why one would want to use an adapter – lower cost. I agree about the 50mm f/1.2L. It is a great lens, but it has its share of problems.

  7. 13
    ) MKhan
    June 20, 2012 at 1:17 am

    I use Nikkor AIS lenses on my 7D and I love the results therefor just ordered a Nikon DSLR, These AIS lenses are too good to be used with a cheep adapter, get Nikon DSLR and put it directly on it.
    Love the color and feel from these lenses anf the are build like a tank wow!.

  8. June 28, 2012 at 2:35 am

    I thought no Canon user would ever care to use Nikon lenses on their Canon bodies as Canon has their own better lenses and options…but this will definitely sell

  9. January 27, 2013 at 3:39 am

    Its about the stupid marketing of nikon. Many times older nikon or third part lenses wont work on new nikon bodies. will say the light metering wont work. sometimes it works nothing. so it is an intersting option to buy nikon lenses. u can throw them on almost everything via adapter. i own nikon mf lenses
    and bought a 50mm afd 1,8 use it with love on my pansonic g3. the question ist, what about nikon g lenses how will they behave on canon or mirrorless bodies without software aid from the original camera, nikon body .
    it must be great fun to use the 40mm 2,8 micro on other bodies. i would buy one, if i would know how it behaves without software aid on different bodies. the nikon 50mm 1,2, mf is a great thing for using on third part bodies anyway.

  10. March 13, 2013 at 2:48 am

    Hi Nasim,
    im intersted to buy a wide angle lens,
    right now i have no idea about that,
    i dont really now which one would be perfect for me,
    i have heard that 14-24 wide angle from nikon is the BEST wide angle lens ever
    but I’m canon user, so i need your advice, or either way if there is a equal option on canon lenses
    (nikon with adapter VS canon lens)
    thanks for you time and your advice!
    oscarhiram@me.com

    • August 5, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Oscar, I would not recommend to use an adapter with Nikon lenses, unless you really know what you are doing. Canon has a number of good wide angle lenses – some newly introduced during the last year. Check those out instead!

  11. 17
    ) Wal
    August 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Hi, I am interested in this article from so many different reasons, but can you please tell me on the list of items you mentioned against things that will not work, why each of them will not work?

    1. Autofocus will not work. Why wont it work?
    2. Vibration Reduction (VR) and automatic Aperture control will not work. Why wont it work?
    3. Metering will work, but it might be a little off in some cases. Why will metering be off? IN what situations?
    4. It is best to use lenses with aperture rings. Why?
    5. You might need to trim or remove the weather sealing rubber gasket on your ā€œGā€ lens for the adapter to function smoothly. Why? Under what circumstance would you need to trim?

    Read more: http://photographylife.com/use-nikon-lenses-canon-dslr#ixzz2axTrcAFH

    • August 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Wal, that’s because the adapter is not electronic. In order for most of those features to work, you need communication from the lens to the camera. Canon and Nikon have completely different interface standards, so you would literally need a smart device in between to translate what happens between hardware. Not practical and not going to work due to flange distance concerns.

  12. 20
    ) Mark
    January 23, 2014 at 10:36 am

    I have been using Nikon AIS lens on 5D MKII for quite a while. I mainly use a 50mm 1.4.

    In my opinion the Manual 50mm 1.4 is much sharper then the Canon equivalent.

    As mentioned you get nothing from a standard adapter and only a sprinkle of extras with the more expensive adapters. So the user should be competent enough not to rely on anything AUTO.

    The biggest problem is focussing in low light. The aperture has to to be wide open to focus sharp and then stopped down to what you require.

    The set up works best if your in a studio or using flash outside. In the right environment and under certain conditions the image sharpness is outstanding.

    Works best for portraiture, landscape, architecture or other other static work.

    Best of Luck

    M

    • 21
      ) ezpop
      July 28, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      I am curious to know if there is any mirror clearance problem to use a Nikkor-S 50 1.4 Non Ai on a Full Frame Canon 5D Mark III or 6D.

  13. 22
    ) A.T.
    October 5, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Nasim

    Great info. I’m in Toronto. Where do I find one of the 16:9 adapters?

    Thanks

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