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Thread: Vintage lenses discussion

  1. #1

    Default Vintage lenses discussion

    Hi, I thought I'd open a thread for discussing the use of vintage lenses for filming with a DSLR. Some of them are reputed to be just as good, if not better than current, new lenses for video purposes, and the price for those is incredibly cheap (for now). It seems that many amateur film makers go for these instead, for several reasons

    - crop sensor really allow the use of the "best part" of the image
    - fast primes can sell for as cheap as 50-100
    - the taste for "exploration" (for the most part, you don't really know what you're buying until you actually try it out)
    - manual aperture control
    - easy and cheap to adapt (you can find a pentax M42 to Eos adapter for less than 10 euros)

    Most of the fast primes seem to not be as sharp wide open than the more modern ones (with some exceptions)

    On my end, I've bought a bunch of these, but I am yet to truly test them in controlled, usual, filming condition. I will however list them here and post quick reviews of them in the future. I invite you enthusiasts to join me in that effort and take part of the discussion.

    Known "good" primes
    Asahi Super Takumar SMC 50mm 1.4
    Asahi Takumar SMC 28mm f3.5
    Vivitar 35mm f1.9

    To be tested
    Pentacon MC 29mm f2.8
    Revuenon 135mm f2.8
    Revuenon 35mm f2.8
    Helios 44 58mm f2
    Pentacon auto 135mm f2.8

    Alright, let's have it now
    You opinion, experience, pros? cons?

    to me, I think it's a great opportunity for film makers on a budget, to have a wide selection of fairly good quality or at least interesting lenses for the price of a couple of excellent new lenses or less. You can have several lenses of the same focus, choose the best for the situation, you can have fast lenses that will open the doors for night filming, you get to know about the history of photography, which is always a good thing, to understand where what we do now comes from.

  2. #2


    I just wish I knew more about vintage lens so I could join in the discussion. Sound like a good idea for a thread.

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    I just wish I knew more about vintage lens so I could join in the discussion. Sound like a good idea for a thread.
    that makes two of us. I've been digging the web about them for a week (and also emptying my paypal account on ebay in the process, I figured I'd try them, if I don't like them I just sell them for the price I've paid them)

    some are obviously more sought after than others, but it seems to me, reading here and there that it's more of a hype thing for some of them at least and there are still much undiscovered jewels out there that can be bought for a few bucks.
    Last edited by hadoq; 10-11-2012 at 03:02 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Blog Entries


    As a point and shoot amateur, the world of DSLR has been a radical education. However, one thing that's obvious is the difference a lens makes. It's become a natural reaction to switch and I have my favs. But could a vintage lens be one of them???

  5. #5


    for the price they cost, I say get yourself a well known vintage lense, maybe crack a hundred to get it, like that 50mm 1.4 takumar is great to see what it's about. if you don't like it, you can still resell it.

    I know it's not video but there are a few pics I took today with a friend using that lens on my 600D (I think the 4th one was actually taken with a 28 or 35mm, also one of those old ones), the last set have been reprocessed via instagram, I like to do that sometimes, get the picture right on lightroom and photoshop, then send it on my ipod and have a little fun with it)

    the first picture is a regular picture, relatively low iso (I believe 200 or 400), not at the full aperture (maybe 2.8 or was it 4, I can't remember), additional lights (a couple), then the regular lightroom/photoshop combo

    then those are instagrams, but originally took with my DSLR and that lense, processed, then reprocessed by instagram

    Last edited by hadoq; 10-12-2012 at 01:35 AM.

  6. #6


    I was doing a bit of Goggleing about this and found that more and more people are aware of the good lenses out there so the real bargains have mostly been snapped up BUT there are still some around. One tip I picked up was to look for miss or badly labelled items on Ebay or things sold in groups or packages ie, old camera and lens together. It might be worth a trawl.

  7. #7


    yep, that's what I'm thinking of, but even the known good lenses still are fairly cheap compared to their modern counterpart $150 for a Zeiss flektogon 35mm 2.4 in good condition for example is still fairly nice. I also noticed that the good but less fast lenses don't pick up in price as much. Bulk deals and misspelled items are good, and local sales, yard sales etc...

    in some time for now, the prices may as well go insane because of the hype factor of filming with a DSLR coupled with the economic crisis, but it's still time to get some nice glass.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    London, England


    SLR lenses were pretty good at full aperture (for focussing ) and sharpen up a couple of stops down. - but there will be variations lens-to lens of the same model.
    . For wedding shots the 50mm f/1.8 might be ideal being equiv 75mm =close to ideal for portraiture, whilst putting any backdrop very OOF. You may need ND filters to preserve exposure.

    Nowadays technology/computing/manufacturing has made great strides and lenses are quite amazing. But or filming you don't need top quality - the image is moving so there is some softness and many folks like big-glass to put the background out of focus. That's what I underestand by the Filmic look, etc.

    I have a manual adaptor for a Nikon 50/1.8 and it's great, but manual - whereas the silly 3:1 zoom is only f/3.5 at best - yet beiing Af usually gets results far quicker. In a studio where shots are set-up then Manual is good and you have a real focus scale . . . but how many of these lenses do you need?

    Modern Sensors have a good exposure range and much can be done in Edit.

    But the downside of this Vintage-lenses is that you have to keep changing (as the scene/shot demands . ).. . . that was why zooms were developed, wasn't it?

    I managed to buy a 35-200 lens which works fine with an adaptor - but you need a magnifyiing sunshade to keep up with outdoor filming - and now one of the lenses has come loose...
    Last edited by vidmanners; 10-14-2012 at 02:06 AM.

  9. #9


    I hear you.
    This is me, but I think "practical" is a word that doesn't have its place in my vocabulary when it comes to creating. It's more a matter of what I have in mind and getting the end result as close to that as possible. I don't mind switching lenses if that means that the quality will be better. if I have to spend 3 hours rather than 30 minutes, so be it.

    On the other hand, fixed focal length is very stimulating for my creativity and I really enjoy having to move around and "find" my perfect shot, to me, it's part of the fun and fixed length are doing just that.

    To be honest, I've been playing with the stuff for a few days now, I'm very happy with what I got and I also have some more great stuff on the way. I'm very inspired by it (I like the tactile feel of it and I'm a person who gets inspired a lot by this kind of stuff) and the results are beyond my expectations (the issue right now is to figure out the tech to get the best possible result visually, it's a learning process so I'm not worried).

  10. #10


    Alright, a few days and a few lenses later, I now have several 28, 35, 50, and 135mm lenses.

    the super takumar SMC 50mm 1.4 is a true jewel
    the vivitar 35mm 1.9 is also excellent
    the helios 44 58mm f2 lens really brings out the "vintage" from any kind of scene, loving it (I got one of the first versions in a working yet horrible condition, fungus and whatnot, loving the results, I'll probably get a mint one later down the road, of the later versions)
    the pentacon auto Mc 135mm 2.8 (not the "bokeh monster") is very decent as well

    none of the M42 lenses I've tried so far were bad, they all had something to them, some were proper excellent, especially in video but also in photography. I'm waiting for some Carl Zeiss Jena glass (a flektogon 35mm 2.4 and a tessar 135mm 3.5, both have an excellent reputation in photo and video).

    We're still miles ahead of anything "entry level" or "mid level". I wouldn't say they compete with the high end modern stuff, but from what I've seen they produce equally interesting and exploitable footage, at least on APS-C, full frame kinda seems to bring out the faults due to higher resolution and the full frame aspect (for example for vignetting, APS-C leaves most of it out)

    So do they compete with modern lenses? probably not, technically. But when you look at image quality, the aspect of it, the grain of it, they definitely bring something that newer lenses don't, unless you're willing to spend 4 digits on one. Right now I have a little under 20 old lenses (counting those currently still in the mail on their way here), it cost me less than 600€ which is the cost of 2 new decent wide angle primes. Now there are a few in my bag that I know I paid half or a third of the usual price (that 50mm 1.4 one can go as high as 250€ and the flektogon can go even higher and I paid 85 for it). This require some time to find out where the good stuff is and also some risks (a couple of the lenses I ordered came with a non working aperture ring, but then it was only 20€)

    I'm fairly confident that, with the right technique and talent, they can do their share in achieving that most fabled "film look" that everyone and his cousin is chasing.
    in my opinion, talent and experience alone can achieve that with a kit lens. But yea, just in case my talent by itself comes short (I assume I'm doing alright, but in reality, I can't say for sure as it'll never be an objective evaluation from my own self), I can appreciate the little extra help.

    not to mention the feel also inspires me, old/vintage mechanisms always do inspire me a billion times more than touch screens and fancy options.

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