Vintage lenses make a comeback
So you went out and spent a big chunk of your hard earned cash on a fancy new camera only to realize a few weeks later that is only half the deal, You need lenses and they are not cheap…. and the ones you really want are f2.8 or f1.8 Ooooh the Blurry background or as you now call it shallow Depth of Field you even have a word for the blurriness “Bokeh” but you don’t have the cash or just can’t justify splashing out on a selection of lenses … let’s face it you will need a wide angle for landscapes, a 35mm for your street photography definitely an 85mm for portraits and the sport and wildlife will need a selection starting at 200mm not to mention the fact that you like macro.
Wheather you are just starting out or have been at it for a while a new lens is a terrifying and exciting idea, I bought a Sigma 10-20mm years ago and for the first year I hated it – Whenever I looked through it the world seemed strange and I just could not make a picture with the damn thing – It has since become one of my favourite lenses but I had to use it and get to know that focal length. My point is that it’s only by experimenting with different lenses and the focal lengths they offer that you can find out what works best for your eye.
This is why in some small way we must be grateful to the “Hipster”, Yes many of the items they have resurrected seem strange and alien, mustache wax and monocles but along with all that a need was born to mount vintage lenses on modern cameras and now the internet has a mount for many of the old Canon, Nikon, Pentax and many many more. These old 60’s 70’s and 80’s lenses can be found in thrift stores and car boot sales all across the land and are cheap and I mean CHEAP often still mounted on some old film camera you can grab one for the price of a happy meal well maybe not but €20 or there about’s.
Using vintage lenses has it’s pro’s and con’s and it very much depends on the lens you stumble upon but there are some important facts to note. First of all, you need an adapter, so making sure you can get one is a must otherwise you have a fancy photography themed paperweight ( How hipster is that ) Secondly you lose some functionality – Auto focus is gone, Yep it’s manual focus all the way Baby – Groovy! You can get some chipped adapters that provide auto focus confirmation but they are more expensive, I got a simple mount – all it does is allow my vintage Pentax f1.7 50mm to mount to my canon 7d – I change the aperture with the aperture ring on the lens everything else works as before. Now for some of the purists out there you might say that losing the auto focus function is not a big deal but the truth is I would never use this lens to shoot an event or any fast moving subject but for portraits, landscapes, product, still life and many more styles of photography where you might typically use manual focus, then these lenses are just as useful as their modern counter parts.
The ocean of vintage lenses out there provides a wonderful opportunity for photographers to explore different focal lengths and maybe even get a bit of a retro vibe going in their work – obviously the quality of these lenses varies hugely and you might pick up a Carl Zeiss lens that will stay in your kit for life or just have some fun exploring whats out there.
If you want to see sample images and video from the vintage Pentax f1.7 50mm I picked up watch the video.