19 September 2021

Here, I’ll tell you how to get a rather nice set of modern lenses for your APS-C mirrorless body for about $1000.

This can be framed as a response to the question, “Sony E and Fuji X lenses are expensive and Canon EF-M is dying, what should I do?” If that resonates with you, then skip over the first section which describes my rather particular motivation and start reading at “Which Modern Lenses?”

The Vivitar 19 mm f/3.8 MC.

Canon EF-S 10-18 mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM adapted to a Sony α6000 with a Metabones EF-E Smart Adapter

Problems Going Wide and Long with Older Lenses

In 2017 and 2018, I used 1980s manual-focus lenses almost exclusively. While I was very happy with them for a lot of my photography, by 2019 I was dissatisfied in two ways.

My first problem was going wide. My wider options were a New FD 24/2.8, a New FD 28/2.8, and a New FD 28-85/4 on a Sony α6000 with an infinity-adjusted Zhongyi Lens Turbo II FD-E focal reducer. I loved the shooting experience, but their sharpness was not up to scratch for landscape photography. While they were all fine in the center, even when stopped down to f/16 on the lens or f/11 at the sensor, they ranged from poor to awful in the corners. This was not just pixel-peeping; I’d often notice the poor quality at FHD (2 Mpx) resolution and it was glaringly obvious at QHD (4 Mpx) resolution.

My second problem was going long. My longer option was a New FD 100-300/5.6L, again on a Sony α6000 without typically without a focal reducer. The optical quality was superb, but neither the lens nor my body were stabilized, which made focusing tricky and limited shutter speeds at the long end to about 1/500 second, which often lead to relatively high ISOs.

I mulled over how to solve these problems.

I came to the conclusion that I wanted a modern wide-angle or ultrawide-angle zoom and a modern stabilized telephoto zoom for my Sony α6000 body. I preferred zooms for flexibility and because I wasn’t crying out for especially fast apertures.

Which Modern Lenses?

Having decided that I wanted a modern wide-angle or ultrawide-angle zoom and a modern stabilized telephoto zoom, I examined the options.

None of these seemed like especially satisfactory solutions.

Adapting EF-S and EF Lenses

Eventually, I decided to adapt EF-S and EF lenses.

During 2019, I bought a Metabones EF-E Smart Adapter IV ($250 used) along with five Canon lenses:

The adapter and all of these lenses were bought from KEH, used but in excellent or like-new condition.

In early 2021, I added:

This gives me a quite flexible set of lenses: a trio of slow but stabilized zooms from 10 to 350 mm, a faster compact wide-angle, and a fast portrait lens.

There are other interesting EF-S and EF lenses worth considering adapting to APS-C. Consider, for example, the Canon EF-S 35/2.8 IS STM and EF-S 60/2.8 Macro USM macro lenses, the Canon EF-S 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS STM superzoom, the Sigma 30/1.4 standard prime, and the Sigma 17-50/2.8 fast standard zoom, all of which are available used for about $300. Beyond these, of course you have hundreds of other EF and EF-S lenses from Canon, Sigma, Tamron, and others.


The image quality of my lenses is really quite good.

The optical tests of the 10-18/4.5-5.6 and 24/2.8 at OpticalLimits shows very good sharpness (MTF50 of at least 2000 line widths per picture height) at all focal lengths, even wide open and even in the corners. Similarly, their tests of the 55-250/4-5.6 also show very good sharpness at 55, 135, and 250 mm, with the corner performance when wide open at 200 mm being slightly worse but still good. These results jibe with my experience of the lenses in real use. I’ve not found tests of the 18-55/4-5.6, but my experience is that it is also very sharp. The 50/1.8 is a little soft wide open, but very good from f/2.8.

In all, flare is well controlled by the modern coatings and vignetting is moderate and easily correctable.

The 50/1.8 has some longitudinal CA when wide open, but is fairly clean at f/2.8.

Let’s not get carried away, though; while optically very good, these are not L or GM lenses.

The lenses are all almost completely plastic, but they feel quite solid and so much better than the other plastic lenses I’ve used from Sony and Panasonic. They’re also focus-by-wire, but the Canon implementation works fine for me for photography. Again, let’s not get carried away; these are nice plastic lenses, but they don’t have the feel of L or XF lenses and are not at all weather resistant.

One advantage of EF and EF-S lenses is that they are still commonly sold in bricks-and-mortar stores, so I was able to check the feel of all of these lenses in a local department store (albeit on a DSLR) prior to buying them at KEH.

These lenses are much lighter than my New FDs, and so have become my first options not just for landscape and wildlife, but also for travel and hiking. The reappearance of AF (especially combined with face and eye detection) means that I now frequently use the 24/2.8 and 50/1.8 for social photography.

The Metabones adapter gives me good AF-S with all of these lenses, including face-detection, eye-detection, and MF and DMF with focus zoom. All lenses have full-time manual-focus. The main limitation is that AF-C is restricted to a small region in the center of the field.

My experience is with a Sony E body and the Metabones EF-E adapter, but there are other adaptors available for Sony E bodies and also for Fuji X, Canon EF-M, Canon RF, Nikon Z, and Leica/Panasonic/Sigma L bodies. If in doubt, ask about experience in the Adapted Lens forum on DPR. (Of course, mounting an EF-S lense on a FF body will only use about half the sensor, so the most interesting bodies here for EF-S lenses are currently Fuji X, Canon EF-M, Nikon Z APS-C, or one of the 40-60 Mpx FF bodies.)


The total cost of this kit, including the adapter and extender, was $1025.

I think there are two useful ways to look at this. One is that the $250 for the adapter is a one-time cost, like a body, and then consider that the six lenses (treating the extender as a lens) have an average cost of about $130 each. Perhaps more realistically, another is to divide the cost of the adapter between all six lenses, and then consider that the lenses have an average cost of about $170 each.

Regardless, that’s astonishingly good value, even for used lenses. Similar lenses from other manufacturers would be much more expensive. The economies of scale of Canon DSLR lenses are real, even in the used market.

Of course, a lot of this good value comes from spreading the cost of the adapter over several lenses. If you just get the adapter with one or two lenses, the proposition is a lot less attractive.


It is clear that Canon are unlikely to release new EF or EF-S lenses and have shifted their attention to their RF lenses. Similarly, Sigma and Tamron seem to be concentrating on mirrorless lenses.

In some sense, then, EF-S and EF are dead systems. If a particular EF-S lens doesn’t exist now, then it’s unlikely to ever exist. If you need a fast 18 mm prime lens with autofocus, then tough.

On the other hand, I fully expect that existing EF-S and EF lenses will be available for many, many years to come, both new and used. I also fully expected to be able to adapt EF-S and EF lenses to just about all relevant mirrorless bodies (currently E/FE, RF, EF-M, X, Z, and L) for an adaptor costing $100 to $400.

Lenses often last longer than bodies. In some sense, having EF-S and EF lenses gives me security against the future. If Sony stop developing their APS-C bodies to push more people to their FF bodies, then rather than moving to Sony FF, I could move all my lenses to a Fuji X (and whose eye does not occasionally stray to Fuji X?) or Nikon Z body for the cost of an adapter.

One thing that’s not clear to me is where Canon is going with APS-C sensors. The EF-M series seems dead. In theory, Canon could produce an EF body with a APS-C sensor, but the new RF 100-400/5.6-8 (which is pretty much like a 60-250/4-5.6 on APS-C) suggests to me that Canon instead will be pushing FF bodies with slower lenses.

And My New FDs?

There’s always a place in our hearts for our first love. I’ve kept a nice subset of my New FDs: the 28/2.8, 50/1.4, 100/2.8, 200/4, 75-200/4.5, and the focal reducer. I use these when I want or need faster apertures and a fully mechanical experience. Choice is good.

© 2021 Alan WF