Your thoughts on vintage glass

I’m currently looking for a nice manual focus lens for general use in the 35-50mm range and I would like to hear your thoughts on buying vintage glass as opposed to brand new lenses from Voigtlander or other such modern lensmakers. There seems to be a lot of hype around vintage lenses online and I’m not sure if I should completely trust some of the opinions I read.

Personally, I use vintage glass almost exclusively. The main reason? Cost. I simply can’t afford to shell out thousands or even hundreds on a lens. I only have three modern lenses; all the rest are legacy.

This YouTube channel may be of help if you’re looking for recomendations:


That’s fair. I am also partially motivated by cost. But I find that some of these vintage lenses are priced more than what I would pay for something that has seen multiple CLAs and possibly a fungal infection. I was interested in the M-Rokkor 40mm f2 but someone wrote an article comparing it to the summicron and now people in my area are selling it for 400USD. Would you buy this lens?

Also thanks for the youtube channel recommendation, I’ll browse through it and see if anything catches my eye.

Same here, and even if manual focusing and no stabilisation doesn’t cut it for all kind of situations it mainly works for me and well many great pictures have been achieved with this lvl of technology so the main upgradable things are still probably my skills :smiley:

I wouldn’t make the same choice if shooting was my job though.


There’s no need to; some vintage lenses go so cheap (especially 50mm lenses), you can try them out for yourself.

With regards to the more exotic (and expensive) lenses, something to keep in mind is their ‘collectability.’ Collectors will tend to pay high prices for other reasons than performance (rarity, history, novelty, etc). I personally wouldn’t pay a lot for a vintage lens without trying it out first — but I’d also say the same of any modern lens.


It’s a rabbit hole!

It’s an issue that you have to chase the lenses you want. This means you have to spend time looking. This time spend looking will expose you to other lenses that might make you curious. Then one of those your’re curious about pops up half price… bought, but you were actually looking for a different lens so you keep an eye out… Repeat.

I’m by no means a gear head but using vintage glass really made me more of a gear head just because you have to get into that world. I think it made me buy new expensive lenses that I wouldn’t have gotten without getting exposed to gearheadedness via vintage.

The main thing about the actual lenses is the manual focus and the look of the results. Some of my personal favourite digital images were shot on vintage glass but the manual focus is limiting in some scenarios. Compared to my good modern glass the main difference, even stopped down, is that dark areas have less detail and are less dark. As if they clip at the black end. I mostly shoot Pentax which has very good coatings even from the 70’s but even so it’s noticeable that contrast is reduced a bit by what I presume is generalized flare. This is a very nice look for some occasions.


In my opinion it depends what you want the lens for. I love my old nikon glass, but not for every purpose. I do use most of the time my lenses with af and image stabilisation. What kind of images do you take and what cameras do you own?


Indeed. Modern lenses may well be a better option if things like image stabilisation and auto focus are important to you. Also, the type of photography you do will be a factor (I shoot street, for example, so neither are of much use to me). Another thing to keep in mind is the camera; vintage lenses are easier to adapt (in general) to mirrorless systems (I own a very modest Fuji X-T10).

I don’t own many lenses in general, and my legacy collection is by no means worthy of note — even so, I find myself using the same two lenses 99.9% of the time. My favourate lens is one that you’ll most likely never have heard of; such is the way with vintage glass.


I like classic lenses - a favorite is my old Pentax-M- SMC 50mm f1.7, but I’ve got a few others too. Personally, I’ll only buy an old lens if it’s considerably cheaper than something new. But that leaves quite a few…

Edit: don’t overlook more recent yet outdated lenses - the Nikon AF-D range from the 90s has some very nice primes, some quite affordable, for example. (assuming they work with whatever system you have)

Edit No2:

Don’t! :wink: Some of it is a lot of hot air, some is very much down to personal taste, and some is valid. Just my opinion.


Some of my vintage glass is very good and very sharp. Some is surprising soft compared to modern glass despite at time of purchase having a very high price. I personally like manual focus for the same reason I like manual exposure…I must be a control freak and want to decide what I focus on rather than what the camera decides. Test the lens before you buy, and take the camera home and check the images on a big screen to ensure the sharpness is what you expect. The camera’s viewfinder or back screen will not be good enough for this purpose.


Don’t tease us, you have to name drop.


I have a Sony a7r3 and mostly shoot still life for leisure, no professional work. Currently am enjoying using an old praktica 50mm f1.4 because of the lens character. I also have Sony AF glass that I take out to use but mostly for night landscapes because the coma is more corrected on those.

No problem; I’ll just go buy few more of them first — because, if I name drop, the price will increase by a million percent over night. :wink:


In 50mm dep I’ve been impressed by the auto-revuenon 50mm 1.4 (very compact and good image quality) and I shoot regularly on a yashica auto-yashinon-DX 50mm 1.7 that is mildly prone to lens flare and have some light swirly bokeh around the edges but is top notch past that.

In the 28mm dep I used a Pentacon electric 2.8/29mm (made in G.D.R) with a very handy close focus capabilities that I unfortunately broke :confused: it had beautifull purple flares too !

Since I replaced it with a 2.8 28mm Yashica Auto Yashinon-DX with OK sharpness, present but minimal barrel distortion but some very present vignetting, average coating (some lens flare) but does the job and makes a nice collection with the 50mm from the same serie.


You could always have a go at fixing it; another great thing about vintage lenses is that they’re relatively easy to repair and service (most of the time… if you have the knowledge and skills… and the right tools).


I tried and I guess it’s possible but it fell down while I was cycling due to faulty back-pack zipper and the external barrel is not exactly round anymore and that makes it very hard to focus it (optically everything seems fine though).
I disassembled it but did not manage to find a good method at that time to correct the deformation so I re assembled it to keep it until I have time an a good idea to finish the job.

It may be worth seeking out a makers community; that’s what I did. They’ll usually have the tools and expertise to do a job like this. I’ve also had a few custom parts made for various things. You may be able to find one in your local area.

Or you could try purchasing a faulty one for a low price (say… one that has a fungus issue or scratched optics) and use it for donor parts (or just swap the glass out).

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Amen to that !

I have a few M42 lenses

Two Helios 44 models for the swirl
An Asahi Lens Co. 400mm which is a whopping 800mm equiv on my micro four-thirds cameras.
And the pride-and-joy Zeiss-Jena 20mm Flektogon which goes nicely with my Sigma SD9.


This really depends on the details: whether you are after some particular feature of a vintage lens (eg a specific optical effect, price), what mount/camera you are using, etc.

Eg if you are looking at the Nokton f/1 family, very few vintage lenses will give you similar specs, and most of them will be highly priced too.

FWIW, I think vintage lenses make sense in two cases:

  1. they are super-premium lenses, very well-made originally, eg some Leicas. in which case there is not a lot of difference between “vintage” and what you could get new, if the lens is otherwise undamaged.

  2. absolute bargains which you can buy for $50–100 and then experiment with for interesting optical effects, with minor regrets only if it does not work out. But note that a lot of manufacturers (TTArtisan and similar) manufacture copies of some famous older lenses in a similar price range.

So, it all depends on what you are after.

If you live in a location where there are camera stores carrying vintage lenses, I would suggest that you walk in and ask for advice, and then try some. I did this and decided not to get into the whole thing, mainly because most vintage lenses are so heavy that they defeat one of the main advantages of micro 4/3 (weight), and the sensor is too small to get the interesting optical distortions (they are on the edge). I learned to produce some of them in software.


Both options seems valuable, thanks !