Five good reasons why you should use them


Modern camera lenses are fantastic for many reasons; however, they are boring, predictable and have virtually no character, which is a full 180 over vintage lenses.

Modern glasses have many advantages over vintage glasses. Nobody can deny it. Lightweight yet rigid plastics make modern lenses easy to transport. Most modern lenses also feature weather sealing and fast autofocus motors. Modern lenses also have optics that make images near perfect. Yet modern lenses use multiple dispersion elements and excessive coatings that make their optics too clinical. These technological “advances” suck the life out of images.

Vintage lenses, however, add flair, style and character to images that modern lenses can only dream of. Have you ever wondered why items like pro mist filters suddenly become so popular? This is because modern lenses lack character. Another advantage of vintage glasses? They will really help you become a better photographer.

So below we’ll look at five reasons why your next lens should be vintage. Be warned, however. Once you get down the rabbit hole of vintage lenses, you’ll have so much fun you might not want to go back to modern lenses.

Vintage lenses are easy to adapt to digital cameras

Adapters are plentiful and easy to use. Photo by Marcus Urbenz — Unsplash.

Manual focusing of vintage lenses on modern digital cameras is easy thanks to the maximum focus and improved digital zoom of EVFs and LCDs. As a bonus, if your camera has IBIS, you can use vintage lenses with stabilization. It’s a huge victory!

But what about adapting vintage lenses? Do not be afraid. There are affordable adapters from Fotasy, Viltrox, URTH, Photodiox and others for just about every mount. Simply purchase an adapter for your current camera mount that also matches the lens mount you are adapting. It’s so easy. For example, to use M42 screw mount lenses on a Lumix S5 (read our review here), all you need is an inexpensive M42 to L-mount adapter.

As a side note, I want to add that retrofitting vintage lenses is easier on mirrorless cameras than on DSLRs. Sometimes with DSLRs, the mirror can cut off the back of the lens. However, very few lenses cause this problem; still, you need to do a little research. Lens clipping is not a problem at all with mirrorless cameras, however.

You can try many lenses without breaking the bank

vintage lenses

Imagine that. Your favorite lens maker just released a new lens. You think you need it, but it’s a focal length you’ve never used before. So, do you A, drop a lot of money on it and hope you like it? Or, B, buy a risk-free vintage lens with the same focal length for $100 or less?

My money will always go to the second option, and I highly recommend you give it a try as well. Of course, you’re spending money that could be invested in a modern lens. However, it’s a good idea to buy an inexpensive lens with a focal length you’ve never used before.

For a small outlay, you can experiment to your heart’s content. If you don’t like the lens, you can resell it and get your money back. On the other hand, if you like the focal length, you can buy your modern lens, knowing that you will like it. Alternatively, you might even find the vintage lens more than enough for you.

The vintage lens choices are nearly endless

Another advantage when it comes to vintage lenses is that some amazing options don’t cost a fortune. For example, the spectacular Meyer Optik Gorlitz Domiplan 50mm f/2.8 (pictured above with sample images) can be yours for around $50. The bokeh and the colors it renders will leave you speechless.

There are affordable lenses from Auto Rikenon (Auto Sears), Minolta and Fujifilm Fujinon. You also have the Asahi Pentax Super Takumar range to play with. Then there are the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses. The Russian Helios, Jupiter and Zenit Tair lenses are also beautiful and affordable. Don’t forget the Canon FD glass! All of these lenses also have spectacular build qualities. It’s really hard to go wrong. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Vintage lenses will make you a better photographer

vintage lenses
The rare eight-element Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 version. Slightly more expensive than some vintage lenses. However, the quality is so high that it is worth it. I paid $225 for my copy.

Modern lenses and cameras have spoiled us rotten. We have autofocus systems and burst rates that allow us to capture images that would have been impossible just a few years ago. You can aim, shoot, spray and pray, and capture anything and everything. But where is the skill (and fun) in that?

Vintage lenses will slow you down; believe me, it’s good. It’s true; vintage glasses will make you think. You’ll evaluate your shots and compositions more than you would with modern lenses. You’ll also be more likely to learn great techniques like Zone Focus and more.

Use vintage lenses for a short time and your muscle memory will improve so much that you’ll have no problem switching to manual focus to get the shot right, even when using autofocus lenses. Vintage lenses will improve your skills on every level. It’s guaranteed.

So don’t be afraid of vintage glasses. Learn, grow and create with them. I promise you that when you use vintage lenses and get the shot right, you’ll treasure your images more than ever.

Vintage glasses are bursting with character

Are you tired of sitting in front of your computer trying to create the perfect vintage look? Believe it or not, old lenses will give you that vintage look on your DSLR or mirrorless cameras. You will be able to create images with beautiful colors, surreal and dreamlike bokeh and other unique in-camera features! That’s right, bye bye computer!

The time that can be saved during post-processing is enormous. In fact, when shooting with vintage lenses, I usually only shoot JPEGs. There’s just no need to launch Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One or anything else. The images you get straight from the camera will mesmerize you. There is no modern lens that can create images like a good vintage lens.

You have nothing to lose

vintage lenses

I’m not going to lie that every vintage lens is good. Some are really terrible. However, others are gems. The fun is in creating and finding out which lens is which. I’m also not going to say that every vintage lens is affordable. Some vintage lenses are expensive. Canon dream lens (50mm f/0.95) anyone?

Vintage lenses are readily available and easy to find. Search around eBay, KEH, garage sales and stores like Goodwill, and you’ll find a whole world of affordable vintage lenses. There are plenty of cheap lenses to start with. Take a look at lenses like the Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 and the Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5. These lenses cost less than $100 and will create images that will surpass images made with modern glass. So before you drop big bucks on a modern plastic fantasy, see what vintage lenses exist. You have nothing to lose.

Do you use vintage glasses? What are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.


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