“Better Lenses for Less Money: How to Use Vintage Lenses with Your DSLR” by Photojojo describes how you can use older manual focus lenses on your new digital SLR camera.
Now we’re thinking of “borrowing” Dad’s lenses again, because using vintage lenses on our DSLR is a lot easier than we thought.
All you need is a cheap adapter ring that allows you to attach a particular lens to your camera. And manual-focus vintage lenses are all over eBay, dirt-cheap and ripe for the plucking.
Miami Fever is a guy whose work you will want to check out if you are thinking of using some old lenses on your DSLR. He uses a Canon 5D with an arsenal of glass from Nikon, Leica, Carl Zeiss, and others. In this comment he describes how well suited Canon DSLRs are for vintage lenses. While the camera doesn't communicate with the lens electronically, it will meter light whether or not a lens is even mounted -- so use your adapter ring to mount your vintage lens, pop your camera into something like aperture priority mode, and practice your manual focusing technique.
The New York Times article on vintage lenses with DSLRs referenced by Photojojo describes which camera bodies are best for mounting certain brands of vintage lenses.
Having to manually focus may put you off at first, but consider that there are many situations in which auto focus is not desirable regardless of whether your lens has the capability to do so. In dark environments many AF lenses tend to hunt around for the subject, during which time you are likely to miss the shot. This is precisely the type of situation where manual focus will help you get the shot regardless of whether you are using a vintage or state-of-the-art lens.
Final point: do the research make sure a particular lens can indeed be safely adapted to the Canon EF mount (or to whichever camera body you use) before trying out a vintage lens. I am sure you don't want to end up breaking your lens mount, mirror or any other part of your DSLR.
Photo by Steve Keys.