35mm Lens Adapter Buying Guide

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35mm Lens Adapter Buying Guide

The advent of the video camera popularised film-making, with users being able to use the video camera to record significant events in a manner that was easy, and produced sharp, crisp images. Digital cameras took this a step further, allowing for easy editing of videos and providing storage space for hundreds of hours of footage.
However, there are times when an old-time film look is desirable, and many camera enthusiasts discover that it isn't so easy to get footage that mimics the film look. The reasons for this are many: film was recorded at 24 frames per second, while a video camera records at a much higher speed. Film also has a much shallower depth of field, meaning that many items in the image are out of focus. This allows for the manipulation of focus to create focal points in the image and draw attention away from other points. Video cameras don't have this shallow depth of field due to sensor sizes that are much smaller than a 35mm frame, and most items recorded by a video camera will be mostly in focus, with no control over which items are in focus and which aren't. In addition, many video camera models have a fixed zoom, which forces the operator to work within the constraints placed upon the camera by the manufacturer.
The advent of 24p video has solved the first problem, but even these cameras cannot fully mimic the shallow depth of field or the control over the zoom provided by film. Luckily, 35mm adapters have addressed both issues of depth of field and zoom and can effectively mimic the look of film on a video camera.

How Do 35mm Adaptors Work?

35mm adapters have a ground glass layer that is 35mm large, and the image is first projected onto this layer before being visualised by the video camera. The ground glass simulates the grainy look of film, and as the size of the image is 35mm, it is possible to obtain the shallower depth of field usually seen in film. When the adapter is mounted, the camera films the image off of the glass, and as the area of the ground glass is much larger than the sensor in the video camera, the shallow depth of field is obtained, and more control over the focus of the image is obtained.

Types of 35mm Adaptors

Having a layer of ground glass between the real world and the camera can simulate the look of grainy film, but can also just simply provide a ground glass texture to the recording. To minimise this, many adapters ensure that the glass is constantly moving, to provide a grainy effect without the glass texture. Some adapters are static, while others generate movement through vibration or spinning. The type of movement is an important consideration when choosing an adapter as each has their advantages and disadvantages.
In static adapters, the ground glass doesn't move at all. This means that the glass texture can be detected in the image, but due to the fact that the planes of the glass don't shift, it makes it easier to film at higher shutter speeds. The main advantage of static adapters is their low cost and their leniency with higher shutter speeds.
Vibrating adapters have their glass particles move through rapid vibration. This softens the texture of the glass, making the grain look more authentic and less like ground glass. However, the glass particles do shift planes and there are fractions of a second where the image will be out of focus due to this shifting of planes. This isn't easy to detect, but does limit the shutter speeds at which images can be recorded. Vibrating adapters are more costly than static adapters, but are still usually reasonably priced due to their limitations with high shutter speeds.
Spinning adapters ensure that the glass remains on the same plane while generating movement through spinning. Off-centre spinning adapters work on the same principle, but the centre of the spinning disk is not in the centre of the adapter, making the grain smoother. The glass texture is eliminated in these adapters, and all that is seen is a fine grain closely mimicking film. The off-centre spinning disc promotes the most even light transmission, ensuring flawless images. Due to the quality of the images, spinning and off-centre spinning adapters tend to be the most expensive adapters around, but do produce the highest-quality images.

Other Considerations

In addition to the type of moment of the glass particles in adapters, many other aspects should be kept in mind when choosing an adapter. The three most important aspects are those of light, mounts, and image inversion.
35mm adapters present an additional barrier between the image being recorded and the sensors on the camera. This means that the levels of light that are let though can be different. High-quality adapters will let most of the natural light through, while poor-quality adapters will usually result in a darker image.
Most manufacturers offer a variety of mounts for their adapters, with one being available on purchase while additional ones being available at extra cost. It is important to ensure that the adapter can fit on the video camera before purchase as most manufacturers will charge extra for additional mounts.
Image inversion is a property of all 35mm adapters. The image on the glass of the adapter is upside down, meaning that the video camera will record the image upside down. Most adapter manufacturers will provide an image inverter that flips the image the right way around. Some higher-end adapters will come with this feature already installed in the adapter unit, while other manufacturers will require the additional purchase of this inverter. Some cameras have the functionality to invert the image, making the accessory unnecessary, and it's worthwhile to check if the camera that the adapter will be used with provides this function. It is also possible to adjust the image correctly during post-processing, but this may be undesirable due to the time investment required.

Which Manufacturer to Choose?

There are many manufacturers that produce 35mm adapters, and the choice can be both intimidating and overwhelming. Below are some of the more well-known and respected brands that produce 35mm adapters.


A great starting point when entering the world of adapters is JAG, which produces high-quality entry-level adapters. The JAG35ST has a static ground glass element, but has only 1/2 stop of light loss, making it a good starting point. The JAG35E has a vibrating glass element, and the JAG35Pro adds an achromat onto the features of the JAG35E. As these are entry level adapters, they do not include image inversion or accessories to correct this, meaning that the recording has to be corrected either on the camera or during post-processing.


Shoot35 produce a solid mid-range adapter system known as the SGBlade. The SGBlade has a interchangeable spinning ground glass element that offers high-quality features and only 1/2 stop of light loss. Shoot35 offer a flip attachment to right the image, and provide mounts for a large variety of cameras including most top models.</td<

Redrock Micro

Redrock Micro produce the M3 adapter which is one of the most successful adapters on the market today. The adapter contains a spinning glass element and comes with a variety of accessories including a rechargeable battery and collimating lens mount. Consumers can choose between a variety of packages for the M3, including an indie package for those starting out, up to a professional package which contains a number of accessories bundled with the adapter. The M3 can be used with almost all cameras that have up to a half inch chip size.

T+S Technik

On the top end of the spectrum are the P+S Technik adapters. The manufacturer has been producing adapters since 1990 and has two lines that are built for serious film-makers, the Pro and the Mini35. All the adapter models automatically invert the image, and have off-centre spinning glass elements.

How to Buy Adaptors on eBay

Finding 35mm adapters on eBay, either new or second-hand, is easy. To start, head to the Cameras & Photography category, then refine the search by looking in the Lenses & Filters subcategory. The Lenses and Filters subcategory is further divided, and 35mm adapters can be found under the Lenses and Lens Adapters, Mounts & Tubes categories. Alternatively, the search engine can be used to find a specific brand or model of adapter by simply typing in the brand and model number in the search bar. Moreover, look under the category Vintage Photography subcategory of Cameras & Photography.


Adapters are a great way to add a vintage feel to digital or video film. Choosing one will depend on a variety of factors, including the movement of the glass, the quality of the light loss, and whether the adapter has image inversion accessories. It is advisable to get a demo video, available on most manufacturer's websites to see how the adapter functions before making the final leap.

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