Can you mount a Nikon lens on a Canon body? Absolutely. The Nikon F-mount is one of the most versatile and flexible lens systems that can be easily adapted to different camera bodies. Why is this so? Because Nikon F-mount lenses have the longest Flange Focal Distance out of all mainstream lens systems. Flange Focal Distance is the distance from the back of the lens (mounting flange) to the focal plane (sensor or film). This distance varies from one camera system to another. Each brand’s lens system is designed to work with a specific Flange Focal Distance. It’s this precise calibration that allows the lens to achieve proper focus throughout all focal range.
Canon’s Flange Focal Distance vs. Nikon’s
This means Nikon lenses can be easily mounted on Canon bodies with use of an adapter. The adapter acts as a spacer between the lens and the camera body which, in effect, increases the Flange Focal Distance to match the value set for Nikon lenses. This allow for proper focus including focus to infinity.
So, while the Flange Focal Distance can be increased using the adapter, shortening of this distance isn’t physically possible. This is why it’s not so straight forward to use Canon lenses on a Nikon body. There are Canon-to-Nikon adapters. But they contain corrective optics in order to achieve focus to infinity. However, this is something usually frowned upon because anything placed between the lens and the camera can be a cause for degradation in image quality. And typically, those piece of glass tacked on by the adapter makers are of questionable quality. Therefore, the Canon-to-Nikon adaptation isn’t very popular.
Nikkor on Canon body
Nikkor on Canon body
Another thing that makes adapting Canon lens to other systems tricky is that Canon has more than one mounting system. Canon lenses produced from 1986 is called “EF-mount” system. EF lenses do not have physical aperture rings. All of the mechanical connections between the camera and the lens were replaced by electronic contacts making them unusable on any other camera bodies except on Canon EOS system bodies.
The newer Nikon “G” series lenses have also abandoned physical aperture rings, however, if you look at the back of these lenses, you’ll see series of electronic contacts along with a protruding mechanical lever. The Nikon G Series lenses still retain a mechanical connection that physically interacts with the camera mechanism to control the aperture. It’s this very feature that still allows even the newer Nikon “G” lenses to be used on other camera bodies because adapters can be made to move this lever, in turn, allowing you to control the aperture manually.
Aperture lever on Nikkor G Lens
Another reason for Nikon F-mount’s versatility is that the F-mount bayonet basically remains unchanged since 1959. This means every F-mount lens produced since 1959 (with few exceptions) can be used on every Nikon camera as well as on Canon bodies using the adapter.