Well, photography as a practice and technology always seems to move forward. From wet plate photography to sheet film, to roll film, and finally to digital photography progresses. However, photography is also a practice that can enjoy looking back to its past.
What lens you put on the front of your camera is one of the most important decisions you can make to achieving the photograph you want.
Is it the right focal length?
Does it have a wide enough aperture?
Is it high-resolving?
What is it’s color rendition like?
All are meaningful considerations. Vintage lenses add fun and nostalgic flavor to those questions while giving a photographer more opportunity for expression.
Vintage lenses make up the body of lenses made in the latter part of the 20th century. Generally, when people talk about using vintage lenses they mean a lens made somewhere between the 1940s to the 1980s. Vintage can mean lenses far older too.
Many of these lenses were manufactured by legendary camera manufacturers like Leica and Voigtlander, but many manufacturers produced lenses that have fans to this day.
To use vintage lenses on modern cameras, you will need only two things; the lens itself, and an adapter.
Jason Schneider from Shutterbug has an excellent article about Vintage lenses on modern cameras. Check it out.
Adapters for Lenses
Adapters for old lens mounts are abundant today. Little effort is necessary to find an adapter to allow you to use a vintage lens with your camera, whatever brand it may be.
Not all adapters are created equal. Due diligence is necessary to determine which adapters are of the highest quality and have the best track records among photographers.
Fortunately, the use of vintage lenses is popular enough, and enthusiasm is high enough, that you can find plenty of recommendations. As well as warnings.
Okay, so what’s all the fuss? Mainly, vintage lenses allow for a different experience photographically. In many cases the construction of the lens is unique. The lens has characteristics that won’t be found photographing with anything else
1. Add unique character to your photos
Vintage lenses have a unique character that can add something special to your photographs. Manufacturing technology advances fast and most lenses made today use different techniques to lenses of the past and it shows.
A marked difference can be found in the way vintage lenses render color and sharpness. It could be just the certain something you are looking for.
2. Add quality for less
Modern lenses can be expensive affairs. For instance, shooting with a good prime with a wide aperture of something like f1.5 or wider will be an investment. However, there are quite a few vintage lenses at these wide apertures that can be had for less than their modern counterparts.
Of course, that is until someone writes an article online about a particular lens and its price hits the stratosphere like a Series V rocket.
3. Connect to photography’s past
This one is purely sentimental. Photography is as much about the experience of taking pictures as it is about the resulting photographs.
Using an old lens, you find yourself part of an unbroken chain of photographers who have found something meaningful in the experience.
Using vintage lenses on your modern camera comes with considerations you need to keep in mind. To make sure that your experience with using old lenses is positive, keep the following tips in mind.
Vintage lenses are used equipment — As you should with buying anything used you need to take appropriate steps to make sure the lens you plan to buy is working and in good repair; no scratches on the front element of the lens, fully-working aperture blades, solid lens body.
Ensuring the quality of lenses bought through online auctions can make this more difficult so buyer beware.
Vintage lenses are old equipment — Vintage. These lenses have been around the block. They have fallen prey to mildew or mold if not stored properly. Before attaching any old lens to your shiny modern camera, thoroughly inspect it for mildew or mold.
If mildew or mould is found it may be possible to clean it yourself or have it professionally cleaned.
John Duder from Ephotozine has a vast collection of vintage lenses and photos, check it out!
Understanding the benefits and limitations of vintage lenses can make the experience even more rewarding. You are presented with the opportunity, considering giving an old lens new life on your camera.
I started the road of photography, repairing some film cameras. But soon I've realised that I need some knowledge on how the photos are formed inside the camera. This road is tougher than I thought, but life is always a learning experience, and I am hoping that you could join me in this wonderful world of photography.
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