Are DSLR Lenses Universally Compatible?

These days there are a plethora of camera lens options available. Recently, when I decided to buy a new camera, I was worried about the DSLR lenses that I had. I had invested a lot of my money on buying these lenses and held them very dear, so I wanted to bring them to use with my new gear too. So, I did some research to find whether the DSLR lenses I had were compatible with other cameras or whether DSLR lenses were universally compatible.

So, are DSLR lenses universally compatible? While lenses are compatible with different camera models from the same manufacturer, they aren’t universally compatible. This means that across brands and camera types, DSLR lenses are not completely interchangeable and compatible.

Whenever you wish to expand your range of DSLR lenses and go out to buy a new fancier DSLR lens, you would want to find out whether it will be compatible with your camera. Or, if you are buying your first DSLR and are looking for lens options, this post will help you identify which lenses are compatible and which aren’t.

Compatibility of DSLR Lenses

Changing the lens that came with your DSLR is an amazing way of expanding the uses of your camera in a variety of ways. You can get a standard lens, wide angle lens, a macro lens, a telephoto lens and many more depending on the kinds of photography that you wish to do. However, if you have thought of expanding your collection of lenses, there are a few things to consider before you get a DSLR lens for your camera.

Compatibility Between Brands

If your DSLR is from a major manufacturer such as Canon, Sony or Nikon, then it is highly likely that the brand has a lens range specifically designed for your camera. Most of the times, lenses from major brands are compatible only with their brand cameras. This implies that a Nikon lens will not fit into a Canon camera and vice versa.

This is something that you may not want and like since you cannot use them with the new camera you bought of a different brand. Although there are adapters available that can help in mounting those lenses that are otherwise incompatible, in the long run they may not be worthwhile. This is because of the differences in features of different brands, which means the camera will not be able use all the features even if it can be mounted on a DSLR of another brand.

A lot of times, smaller brands bring lenses that fit majority of the top DSLR brands. Though sometimes these lenses are not as good as those that are made by these top brands, they are usually affordable and can do the job just the same way as those of good manufacturers.

Compatibility Between Different Mounts

One of the major reasons for this incompatibility of DSLR lenses is that the mounts of these lenses differ from brand to brand and camera types. A variety of third-party lenses clearly mention the brands that a specific lens is compatible with, but different cameras within a brand also have different mounts. This implies that not all DSLRs by a manufacturer have the same mounts and hence, they are not compatible. For example, Canon EF-lens mount had been there since 1987 and its design was for their EOS camera range. In 2003, a newer EF-S mount was introduced by Canon which was used for cameras using an APS-C sensor.

Tokina, Tamron, and Sigma manufacture lenses using the EF-S and EF mounts. On the other hand, Panasonic, Olympus, and Kodak make use of the Micro Four Thirds mount. With these differences, it is, however, important to see if the feature of image stabilization is compatible with the body of your camera or the lens, since for different brands it operates differently.

Mirrorless Cameras vs. DSLR Lenses

The recent introduction of mirrorless cameras or compact system cameras also means that a lot of DSLR lenses are not compatible with the new types of cameras. Mirrorless cameras are the new innovation that is slowly and steadily taking over the market. They are becoming popular with every passing day. Hence, photographers who are delving into this new technology look for utilization of their older lenses.
Mirrorless cameras are similar to DSLRs in a variety of ways and also give the option of changing lenses.

However, generally, lenses that fit into your DSLR may not fit the compact system camera because of the differences in their mechanism (though an adapter can be used to mount a DSLR lens on a mirrorless camera). There is usually a separate range of lenses that is specific to compact system cameras introduced by manufacturers to work with these mirrorless cameras.

When you buy a lens for mirrorless camera, it is important that you go through the specifications. Using DSLR lenses with your compact system camera can be possible for the brands that may have adapters. However, the camera function may be limited if an incompatible lens is used with an adapter.

How to Identify Which Lens is Compatible For Your Camera?

Buying DSLR lenses that are compatible with your camera or fitting your old DSLR lens onto your new camera is not always simple. There are different options depending on different brands, mounts, and camera types. Even if you want to identify which lens is compatible with just one brand, there will be a variety of choices for a full-frame camera and different choices for a crop sensor camera within the same brand. Here we will discuss about how you can identify which lens is compatible with two major manufacturers Canon and Nikon.


Canon has three kinds of lens mounts—the two derivatives, the EF-S mount and the EF-M mount and the standard EF mount.

Canon has provided a guide to identify which lens is compatible with their cameras. One of the easiest ways to discover out the lens’ compatibility with a Canon camera is to look at the indicators on lens mount on the front of your camera. This requires that you eliminate the lens from the camera by simply pressing the release button, twisting the lens anti-clockwise. EF lenses will be accepted by your camera, if there is a red circle on the lens mount. On the other hand, if there is a red circle with a white square, an EF-S lens will be accepted. If there is a white circle, EF-M lens will be accepted by the camera.


In contrast to Canon, Nikon has only one lens mount, i.e. the F-mount, which they introduced in 1959. There are though a few complications. The sensor sizes in Nikon vary, i.e. they have the FX full-frame sensor that is used in cameras like D810 and they also have the DX APS-C sensor that is found in cameras like D500.

Since the DX sensor is smaller in size, lenses that are designed for it do not require projecting as big an image. The lens may still fit on any F-mount camera, but they will not be able to make the full use of the larger sensor. The recently introduced FX DSLRs by Nikon may crop out the empty image space automatically if they identify that a DX lens is being used, but there will be lower resolution and may be an image of lower quality.

Usually third-party lenses designed for Nikon cameras will make use of the F-mount, but some may be designed just for DX cameras.

However, there is another type of lenses for Nikon cameras, which is called the AF lenses. They use an autofocus motor that is built into high end Nikon DSLRs. The AF lenses can be used on any DX model without an autofocus motor, but it will be required to manually focus them.

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