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Vintage camera photography and vintage lenses are going through a resurgence nowadays thanks to popular Instagram hashtags such as #filmisnotdead and #believeinfilm. In a way, this is similar to the rising popularity of vinyl – young people seem to be really interested in the analog treasures of the past.
When it comes to vintage lenses, the question is why use old lenses on new cameras and it is really worth it? The great thing about such lenses is the fact that they are often inexpensive, they can be small, they give your photographs a different look and finally, they can help you grow as a photographer because you’ll learn some new tricks.
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If you want to try some vintage lenses, the following 5 models are quite reliable as well as affordable:
1. 50mm f/1.4 Super-Takumar
Asahi Optical Company of Pentax is well-known for lenses of outstanding optical quality. Super-Takumar is certainly no exception – it produces a gorgeous bokeh and vivid colors along with impressive sharpness even at widest apertures. This lens comes in 2 varieties – 7 element version and 8 element version.
There are also two mounts available – M42 and K mount. It’s one of the fastest M42 prime lenses, it’s very compact and it has a solid metal construction.
This inexpensive little gem can be bought here.
Price range: $60-100 (Other versions: $80-200)
2. 35mm f/1.8 W-Nikkor C
This W-Nikkor C was the first high-speed wide-angle lens for the Nikon S2 rangefinder camera in the 1950s. It’s a surprisingly compact lens and it uses a rare lanthanum glass to enhance its performance. This lens is surprisingly sharp and it has a wonderful bokeh at wide apertures.
Ergonomics of this lens are great as well – it offers an easy focus and easy aperture setting.
You can buy this vintage lens here.
Price range: $500-800
3. 85mm f/1.5 Helios-40-2
This lens was made in Russia from the mid-‘50s to the ‘90s. It is a 6-element Double-Gauss lens based on Zeiss Biotar design and it’s usually found in M42 mount. Even though this lens is not perfectly sharp when it’s wide open it creates an interesting swirly bokeh with backgrounds such as trees and flowers.
The Helios 85mm f1.5 was initially very popular in the filmmaker community and it became well-known among photographers only a few years ago. If you’re interested in this vintage lens with an unusual bokeh, you can buy it here.
Price range: $300-500 (used or new)
4. 100mm f/2 Olympus OM Zuiko Auto-T
Olympus OM 100mm is one of the best vintage portrait lenses still available today. It was introduced along with the multi-spot-metering Olympus OM-4 in 1983 and it was one of the few Olympus lenses of its era to incorporate ED glass. The Olympus’ build quality is pretty much impeccable -the lens is made from metal, glass and some rubber and everything moves smoothly.
It delivers amazing sharpness even wide open, color is vivid and accurate and bokeh is creamy and smooth. This superb lens even has a floating rear element to suppress distortion.
If you want to add this gem to your portrait lens collection, you can buy it here.
Price range: $500-800
5. Minolta MC Rokkor 58mm f1.2
This legendary lens is one of Minolta’s most popular manual focus lenses. It was introduced in the late 1960s and it remained a favorite of many photographers. This lens is well-known for its speed – it has a super fast aperture of f/1.2. However, it’s a quite heavy lens because of such aperture.
This high-end lens has 9 aperture blades (compared with 7 aperture blades of mid-grade lenses) and it creates an interesting super creamy bokeh that appeals to many vintage lens collectors.
If you’re interested in this reputable vintage lens, you can buy it here.
Price range: $300-600
Shooting with vintage lenses can be quite fun, especially for those who like challenges. Photographing streets, nature and people can be taken to a whole new level thanks to such lenses – they will teach you how to use fully manual settings, including the manual focusing. Such conditions can spark your creativity, so why not give it a try?
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