Photography is one of the fields of art where you can change a lot of factors to determine the result. A lot of things will affect the photograph, including your gear, settings, the lighting on the scene, angle, and a lot more. That is why so many people are hooked to this since one simple scene can be interpreted in so many ways. At first, I had a simple DSLR and a couple of lenses, and I didn’t give much thought to my gear. I was focused entirely on the settings and how can I alter the settings to better fit my needs and deliver better results as an end. It was very interesting to see, as even the smallest altering did magic. That made me wonder just how much other things can change the results for the better or worse.
That is when I was consulting with my mentor and he suggested I take a look at different lenses. I didn’t understand it at first since I had already had two lenses, and I had a telephoto on the way. That is when I discovered the world of vintage lenses. I was awestruck with these, as they didn’t look like much but upon trial, I found out that the results were exceptional. It changed the way I look at photography and I was determined to try them as much as possible. For that reason today we will discuss the best vintage lenses in the market. We will check out the top picks, I will try to make it clear for you what makes one a good option or not and what you should be careful about vintage lenses. Now without further ado, let’s get on with it.
The Top 5 Best Vintage Lenses
5. Jupiter 9 85mm F2
We are going to kick off this list with the Jupiter 9 85mm F2 which is an absolute delight to use especially for portraits. This is a vintage Russian lens that delivers some exceptional results and it lives up to its amazing reputation.
One thing that impressed me the most about this lens was that it had a great build quality and it was super light thanks to its aluminum construction, meaning that you can carry around easily.
The images that came from this lens were fantastic with great color contrast and little distortion. The flaring was great as well and you will shoot the best portraits of your life. The 15 rounded aperture blades will make your bokeh effects delicious.
4. Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4
Moving on with our list we have the Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4 which is a lens that offers the most balanced package in this list. There is absolutely nothing bad with this lens, while it doesn’t offer anything exceptional, for its price it is excellent.
I should state that the Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4 delivers super sharp images and it was great overall especially in low light scenes. Also, this lens is a pretty small and lightweight model that will not be a bother to carry around.
The manual focus ring is super smooth and easy to use. it managed to reduce flaring and ghosting effectively thanks to its multi-coating and the end results came out with good contrast and no distortion whatsoever.
3. 7artisans 35mm F2.0 Leica
Next up we have one of the most popular models in the market when it comes to vintage lenses the 7artisans 35mm F2.0 Leica. This is a bokeh lens to be exact and it delivers a perfect performance for that and many other types of photography.
The price of the 7artisans 35mm F2.0 Leica is pretty good as well for what it offers and it delivers some sharp images with its great ease of use. I should also state that the body is made out of aluminum, making it strong yet lightweight, but it lacks any kind of weatherproofing.
The ten blade aperture rings deliver the loved bokeh effect of this lens and it keeps the chromatic aberrations to a minimum. I have used it for landscapes and sceneries and I can confirm that it is a joy to use.
2. Helios-40-2 85mm f/1.5
The runner up in this list is one of the most special lenses out there, the Helios-40-2 85mm f/1.5. This is a Russian made lens that was released in the mid-1950s and it has achieved legendary status throughout the years.
The Helios-40-2 85mm f/1.5 uses the special 6-element Double Gauss lens that is loosely based on the famous Zeiss Biotar design that is found in some of the Pentax M42 mounts of that time.
It is not very sharp wide open and if you want that you are probably in the wrong place. But it offers the swirly bokeh effect for backgrounds that is also pretty sharp stopped down, which is the feature that made this lens famous in the first place.
1. Voigtlander Color-Skopar Pan 35mm f/2.5
On top of the list, we have my favorite vintage lens of all time, the Voigtlander Color-Skopar Pan 35mm f/2.5. This lens has some extraordinary features that make it pretty special.
First, off I should mention that it is pretty light and small in size and it is used extensively for street photography. It is completely made out of metal making it extremely durable overall.
I can comfortably say that the images came out super sharp with this lens and has a vignette that delivers a classic effect. It has a perfect manual focus control that gives you plenty of control and it has a lens hood that protects it from flares. Overall the best without a doubt.
What is a Vintage Lens?
A vintage lens is older and used in most of the cases, and it is pretty hard to find an unused vintage lens. You should know that all vintage lenses in the market have a manual focus that delivers better control over the composition and most of them have the manual aperture ring which can be pretty handy for most photographers. The main difference between modern lenses and vintage ones is that they lack automatic and electronic components inside their bodies. Most of these lenses are made for film cameras with a 35mm frame and were used to deliver a more artistic and distinct look to your photographs, which I can confirm. And despite the popular belief, they can be used with most modern DSLR cameras in the market.
What are the Benefits of a Vintage Lens?
There are some interesting reasons why someone might choose a vintage lens and most of them are pretty beneficial. While they are not beneficial for everybody they might deliver some excellent features for users that require some distinct characteristics from their lenses, and I will try to inform you as much as possible about these benefits. Let’s get going with it.
The biggest reason that someone might want a vintage lens is that they are mostly pretty cheap. Most good quality lenses these days are pretty much very expensive and are not very feasible to buy, especially for photographers that want to experiment but can’t allocate an unlimited budget to this expensive hobby of ours. Yes, modern lenses are pretty much perfect, but with good technique, you won’t notice much difference between the results in terms of quality. I should mention that there might be some contrast issues with vintage models but you can edit it out in the end pretty quickly. So when you compare the value for the price aspect between modern and vintage lenses you can oversee those imperfections. Some photographers even embrace those.
There is nothing that boosts your photography creativity more than a vintage lens. You have to know that all modern lenses do a lot of things for us, most of the dirty work. On the other hand, vintage cameras are full manual tools, which give you the creative upper hand. For example, most of the vintage lenses out there deliver some flare when you shoot a subject under sunlight, to deliver a pretty pleasing effect. Some lenses deliver some pretty interesting bokeh effects and other unique effects. You know that in this time and age unique and beautiful is priceless, so they will give you the upper hand here.
Like I said, in the beginning, there is nothing automatic or electronic in these lenses, and everything you do will be in your control. While it will be a little hard to get perfect results and it will take you some time until you learn what each control does and how to master them after you learn how things work you will be more than pleased. I have to say that all this will teach you a lot about photography, as you will learn what each thing does in-depth and will have a better understanding of how photography works. it is pretty much like shooting with a film camera with all the advantages of digital models. Manual focus is the most important thing here. Experienced photographers already know that autofocus can get pretty annoying sometimes, especially when shooting videos. In these cases, manual focus will deliver a better performance. Combined with the features of modern cameras you will get the full benefits of manual focus.
What Should a Good Vintage Lens Have?
Just because a lens is a vintage model, doesn’t mean that it is good. So be careful about the factors that I will list here and never compromise quality.
Ease of Use
The ease of use of the vintage lens you are planning to buy is extremely important. You should pay a lot of attention to the focus ring here, as it is one thing that you will use a lot with these lenses. If it is a difficult ring to use, meaning that if it goes hard or doesn’t move smoothly it means that the lens might not be the best one for your needs. A hard to use the focus ring will make the difference between a perfect shot and a missed opportunity.
This is also important, as you will need a lens that works with your camera. Most of these lenses don’t work natively with your modern DSLR. However, you can utilize different adapters to fit your camera. But just in case check in advance if it works with your camera or not.
Just because you are opting for a vintage lens it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice sharpness, image quality and color in your photographs, as that nullifies the whole thing. Check reviews about how the lens in question performs in different scenarios and if it delivers image quality. You should be prepared that you won’t achieve the same sharpness from a vintage lens as in a modern one, but it shouldn’t be very visible and apparent. Your images and colors will look more natural and there will be a little vignette and controlled flare in your pictures, but not by a lot.
Construction and Size
You should always opt for a lens that has a good build quality and is practical to use, and you don’t have to sacrifice on the basics just to get a vintage lens. Make sure that the lens you have in mind is well-built and easy to control overall. Moving on I have to say that most of these lenses are pretty heavy and large since they do not use space-age materials most of the modern lenses use these days. So be prepared to pack on a bit more weight than usual with these lenses. however, there are a lot of models that deliver a lightweight package at the sacrifice of the optical qualities, so it is something you have to sacrifice most of the time.
This is the most important thing to consider when buying a vintage lens. Will, it fit your personal style and photography type? Vintage lenses have some benefits that we discussed earlier that we are big fans of and are pretty much in love with, however, with those goods come the disadvantages. To see if it fits your needs. For example, if you plan on using autofocus features let’s say for safari photography these lenses might not be the best pick for you. However, if you want to do landscape or portrait photography these are excellent choices. What I am trying to say is choose according to your style.
There you have it! Your guide to buying the best vintage lens in the market. I hope that now you are ready to go on and buy yourself the best vintage lens for your needs. The top picks are some excellent options that provide quality and value for the price, and they are more than worth checking. Now go on and explore a whole new world of photography with your vintage lens.