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  • A Common Cause for the Nikon "FEE" Error

    We sell a lot of used lenses over at our used equipment website: www.theusedcamerastore.com. Most of the lenses we sell are for either Canon or Nikon. We usually get more questions regarding Nikon lenses, however. In 1987, Canon introduced auto focus cameras and lenses, and switched the then FD lens mount to EF (electro-focus). The manual focus, FD lenses were no longer compatible with new, auto focus camera bodies. The mounts were completely different. It is possible to use FD lenses on an EF camera body, but an adapter is required, and infinity focus is only achieved with the presence of a corrective glass element.

    Canon FD Mount

    Canon FD Mount (courtesy Wikipedia)

    Canon EF Mount

    Canon EF Mount (courtesy of Wikipedia)

    Nikon maintained the same physical mount during the switch from manual to auto focus, however, so things are not so cut-and-dry as with Canon. This creates a bit more confusion among Nikon shooters because they often wonder about the compatibility of older lenses with newer bodies, or newer lenses with older bodies. Many of Nikon's more modern lenses (AF lenses) include a manual aperture ring. Most of Nikon's even more recent lenses, and Canon EF lenses, do not include a manual aperture ring. In this case, the aperture may only be controlled electronically by the camera body.

    If you have a Nikon lens and you are trying to use it on a more modern Nikon camera body, you may just run into the camera displaying an "FEE" error. This error is stating that the camera and the lens are not happy with each other. Essentially, the camera and lens aren't "communicating". If the lens is an auto focus (or "chipped") lens with a manual aperture ring, you may not be out-of-luck. Most likely you need to simply change the aperture to the smallest (largest number) value. This is often designated by being colored orange. Once the aperture is set to the smallest value, the camera is able to control the aperture electronically and everything is happy again.  Note that you cannot use the lens if you change the aperture manually from the smallest value. The aperture must be controlled using the camera's functions, and it must be physically set to the smallest value with the manual aperture ring in order for this to be possible.

    In order to see what we are describing, we made a quick video (see below). In the video you can see that the camera "locks" up when any aperture other than the smallest value is used.

  • Playing with Lens Mount Adapters

    Did you ever play with your food as a child? Ever stick broccoli in mashed potatoes to make them stand like trees? Then created a road of ketchup through the forest of broccoli to lead to a cabin built of toast?

    Playing with food

    Photo: Saxton Freymann, taken from the New York Times website

    Maybe playing with food is not a universal desire for children, but there is something undeniably appealing about mixing and matching that even adults cannot forsake. If you are a photographer, the desire to mix, match, or adapt has reached a golden era. I can think of no other time in photography when one could experiment with so many different lens and camera combinations with efficacious results. A lot of this success can be attributed to the mirrorless interchangeable lens digital camera.

    Leica Lens Adapted to Panasonic Lumix GH1

    Leica Dual-Range Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Lens adapted to a Panasonic Lumix GH1

    Doing away with the mirror box of a traditional SLR has opened up a whole new world for adaptation. And, this can only be done with digital, since digital cameras do not need a viewfinder for composition. The electronic LCD works just fine. Virtually any lens can now be adapted to these cameras because of the short distance from the sensor to the lens mount. Lens mount adapter manufacturers have a lot of play for getting lenses adapted to these cameras without jeopardizing the infinity focus of the lens being mounted.

    We sell a lot of different mount adapters. Most of the ones we sell are inexpensive, generic adapters we import ourselves. The results are generally good, but can be mixed. The overall build quality of the adapters are above average, but the machining is not always consistent. For example, when using adapters with an M42 screw-mount, once the lens is screwed on, it may not always line up as you would want. What is often considered the top of the lens--the focus and aperture markings facing up--may face down. The great benefit of these adapters is the value. None of theses adapters cost more than $50. If you are interested in any of these adapters, please give us a call.

    When it comes to high-quality lens mount adapters, the universal name is Novoflex. The machining of these adapters is right on, and the quality control is consistent. We have yet to experience a Novoflex adapter that does not smoothly and securely latch in to place when being mounted on a camera body, and the same goes when mounting a lens to the front of the adapter. In addition, the tolerances are spot on. Once the lens and adapter are mounted to a camera, there is virtually no play--the mount is solid. The downside of the Novoflex adapters is price. These adapters range from $150 to close to $300, which makes them as expensive as some lenses. If you are making an investment for a lifetime of use, however, the Novoflex adapters are a perfect choice. Many of the Novoflex adapters we sell can be found for sale at our website here.

    We recently took the GH1 pictured above for a photography stroll. The dual-range summicron is an excellent lens in terms of sharpness. The only issue with using a 50mm lens on a micro 4/3rds camera, however, is the 2x focal length multiplier. The 50mm focal length of the Leica on a GH1 has the field-of-view of a 100mm lens on a full-frame camera (you can learn more about this and depth-of-field on a another post we made here). The images featured below have no post processing, besides the cropped images, which were...cropped. In terms of sharpening and other enhancements, there was nothing done in post-processing to these images. I will say that the camera was set to JPG, so the image processor will have added some in-camera sharpening there. As you will see, however, the little 50mm dual-range Leica is a great performer. CameraQuest speaks highly of this lens, and more information can be found at their website here. In fact, you can find this statement from their website: "A 50 DR had the honor of having the highest resolution ever tested by the now sorely missed American photography magazine, Modern Photography, at over 100 lines per mm".

    Picture of flowers taken with a Panasonic GH1 and an adapted Leica 50mm f/2 lens

    Picture of flowers taken with a Panasonic GH1 and an adapted Leica 50mm f/2 lens

    Flower picture cropped to show detail

    Flower picture cropped to show detail

    Picture of walk sign taken with the Panasonic GH1 and an adapted Leica 50mm f/2 lens

    Picture of walk sign taken with the Panasonic GH1 and an adapted Leica 50mm f/2 lens

    Picture of plant taken with the Panasonic GH1 and an adapted Leica 50mm f/2 lens

    Picture of plant taken with the Panasonic GH1 and an adapted Leica 50mm f/2 lens

    Plant picture cropped to show detail

    Plant picture cropped to show detail

     

    Picture of Yoda taken with the Panasonic GH1 and an adapted Leica 50mm f/2 lens

    Picture of Yoda taken with the Panasonic GH1 and an adapted Leica 50mm f/2 lens

    Perhaps the most interesting part of using lens mount adapters is the sheer fun of mixing and matching old lenses with different camera bodies and observing the results. There is so much excitement in taken lenses from the 30's to 60's, or whatever time period, and using them on modern cameras. The results are usually surprisingly good, and often create a look that is not achievable with modern lenses. So go ahead, play with your food.

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