How to Hack a 120-Year-Old Lens to Give it Autofocus


The first autofocusing camera was invented 40 years ago, so how did weird lens lover Mathieu Stern manage to ‘hack’ AF capability into a 120-year-old lens from a folding camera? Well, it turns out there’s an adaptor that will let you do just that.

Just about any old manual focus lens can be made to autofocus, you just have to measure out the proper distance for infinity focus, and attach it (and any tubes you might use) to the Smart Teacart Pro Adapter. The adapter—which is meant to adapt Leica M lenses to Sony E-mount—works with the camera’s on-sensor AF to move the old lens towards and away from the sensor for focus.

That’s how, using this adapter and a few extension tubes, Stern was able to make a 120-year-old lens autofocus.

Here are some sample shots taken with this paradox of a lens:

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We have to admit this video feels a bit like an advertisement for the Smart Teacart Pro Adapter, but Stern promises Techart didn’t pay him to push their product… he just loves it all on his own.

Of course, if you’re a lover of old lenses like this, chances are good you’re also very good at manual focusing your glass. But if you’re feeling lazy or just want to impress your photographer friends with a weird invention, it’s good to know this sort of thing is possible.

Check out Mathieu’s website or give his channel a follow on YouTube for more weird lens videos, hacks, and tutorials.


Image credits: All photos by Mathieu Stern and used with permission.





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