Is it possible to free-lens with this camera?

edited December 2013 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
Is it possible to free-lens with this camera? I would like to experiment with free-lens techniques, however, I always get some sort of error message when no lens is attached.


  • Hey @coastie - It's a bit difficult with the D3200 and 18-55mm combo. First you have to disable autofocus and you can do this by pressing the (i) button, then selecting the focus mode option, then adjusting it to MF (manual focus).

    On the back of the lens is a little spring loaded metal piece that can slide back and forth. This is the aperture and you'll need to hold it open while freelensing with your finger or with some tape. If you're interested in freelensing, you might think about finding some older Nikon prime lenses where you can lock in the aperture without having to hold it open.

    Hopefully all of that makes sense. All the best!
  • Thanks for the tip about the aperture lever on the lens, Moose! I was inspired today to try freelensing after reading an article on using this technique for macro work...and teased by some really gorgeous example photographs made by the author. I used my D3300 with a 50mm 1.8G and had a repeat of disastrous results as per my previous tries. Who knew about the little aperture lever?

    BUT with your little tip about the aperture slider--IT WORKS! Yip-skip! And thanks so much for your excellent advice. I'm leery to try this outdoors with the crazy amount of pollen in the air currently, but maybe I can bring some flowers indoors and give macros a try with freelensing, now that we know it can actually be done.
  • I second the suggestion of older lenses. Of course unless you hold the lens very close to the flange you won't get infinity focus, but one other possibility is to use non-Nikon lenses. Because Nikon has a longer lens-to-sensor distance than other SLR's other lenses will fall even shorter of infinity focus, but for closeups any lens will work. Sometimes older lenses for now-obsolete cameras will show up at thrift stores or the like. Relatively wide angles like 35 or 28 mm. work pretty easily, giving a wide depth of field so that focus is less critical, and allow tilting for perspective control that can be quite effective. Although some of those old lenses are enjoying a revival because they can be used on mirrorless cameras again, some very good lenses can still be had for almost nothing. Keep an eye out for Minolta, which made some excellent glass, but their common short primes of 28 and 50 mm. can be found for nearly nothing sometimes.

    With the exception of old screw mount Pentax lenses, which operate backwards from everything else, SLR lenses of all sorts, if they have an aperture ring, will operate at the set aperture when disconnected from the camera.

    If you have access to any junk lenses, photo shops with bargain bins, and the like, also look carefully for old manual lenses that use a universal T-mount.

    These will be purely manual or preset aperture lenses, made to fit a variety of cameras using a threaded adapter. If you take the threaded adapter off a T-mount lens, the whole apparatus can be pushed further toward the camera and you can free-lens easily even at long distances. However, I would add the very big caution here that because it's easy to stick some lenses in deep enough to interfere with the mirror, you should always do this in Live View mode, so the mirror is up and cannot be harmed.

    Many T-mount lenses were cheap, because they did not incorporate automatic aperture mechanisms and did not need to be made differently for different brands of cameras, and some are just not very good but some are surprisingly decent optically. They often have more aperture blades than auto lenses, since they don't have to operate so fast and easily, and as a result the rounder aperture holes can deliver unusually smooth "bokeh" and fine starbursts.

  • edited April 2018
    So glad to have found this forum. I am wanting to play around with the free-lens capabilities as well. I feel like I am following along with the instructions and I can get video footage by walking through the steps. (ie manual focus setting, tape on the aperture slide of lens) but after the shutter clicks, I get no image. I'm sure I am missing something basic, but don't really know what it could be. Advice?
  • Make sure you have your manual exposure settings right, and that you have taped the aperture lever of the lens open, not shut. To do this you must fix it in the direction opposite of the spring action to hold it open.

    It's always going to be easier with a manual lens, which needs no fiddling to make the aperture work.

    If you seem to have trouble with this, first try it on a still image, and see if you get anything then. Make sure the video shutter speed is similar to what gives you a good still image.

    And remember that the Live View screen has its own exposure metering, and what it shows is not a reflection of what will show in the image. It's quite possible to get a black image from a wrong exposure even if the Live View looks good.

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