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I think most of us who get into camera gear love to go over lens sharpness, handling, aperture, and so on. Most of the good stuff costs way beyond what we can afford. Yet many fantastic lenses exist on now abandoned/deceased camera systems.
I have two legacy lenses: an SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4 (Pentax K mount) and a Meyer-Optik Gorlitz 400mm f/5.5 Telemegor (the beautiful silver-aluminum version in Exakta mount - I also have a 2x teleconverter and a 3x teleconverter, both in Exakta mount as well). I have yet to test the 400mm, but have heard good things about it.
The 50mm is stunning, even when shot at f/1.4. I expected the image to overall have a softness about it, yet even when viewed at 100% (pixel peeping) the amount of detail was incredible. IMG tags aren't allowed, so the best I can do is post a link to a sample. Check it for yourself, if you're interested:
(apologies - the largest that pixel-peepers can see it at is 768x1024; if you want to really examine it, let me know and I can send you the full-resolution version.)
The best part about this? Legacy lenses are cheap! Everyone's focused on digital, and many people are inheriting lenses from deceased relatives and don't know what to do with them.
The downsides? Nearly all legacy lenses are old. The risk of getting an "unhealthy lens" (oil on the aperture blades; damaged aperture blades; scratches on the glass; lens separation; or the ultimate killer: fungus) is relatively high, especially when people who are not knowledgeable (or perhaps just dishonest) evaluate the lens to be in good condition simply because they can see through the lens. All controls are manual, too. While this is fun, it can make you really appreciate autofocus. This is partly because DSLRs were designed with smaller viewfinders than old film cameras. They were practically designed for use with an autofocus system. If you're using autofocus, all you really need a viewfinder for is for composition purposes. It makes sense to cut down on the size of it and thereby reduce costs and the size/weight of the camera, then. But it makes finding that perfect focus much more difficult, especially when you're working with a razor-thin depth of field.
Another technical issue with legacy lenses is that in-camera exposure metering and white balance can go wild when shooting wide open. This isn't a terribly large issue for those of us shooting in RAW or setting our own white balance (and occasionally performing exposure compensation, when needed), but it's yet another "user-unfriendly" aspect of using legacy lenses on modern cameras.
Have I sold anyone on legacy lenses yet? Do you have any legacy lenses you want to blab about? Let's hear it.
Interestingly, the Pentax 50mm f/1.4 is a fair bit smaller than my Zuiko Digital 50mm f/2.0. The ZD is a macro lens, which probably explains it. I'd also imagine that all of the autofocus and automated aperture diaphram contributes to its bulk. On the other hand, the Meyer-Optik 400mm f/5.5 is a monster compared to my Zuiko Digital 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6, even when it's extended to 300mm. It would seem, then, that modern technology provides benefits in certain cases while taking it away in others.
I can't even afford a better lens on mine >.<
So my dream is to drool at the lens I would want to get ^^
Have a couple legacy lenses.
Canon FD 50mm F1.8 S.C. - Well kind of useless with my DSLR since I have the new EF 50mm F1.8II which is superior in all aspects.
Canon FD 35mm F3.5 S.C. - Which is rather good actually. Doesn't actually lose a whole lot to the current EF 35mm F2 lens which costs about 6 times as much and begins to be rather old as well. Though the word on the street is that there's a EF-S 35mm F1.8 coming soon and that will probably be
good and great value for money.
Vivitar FD 135mm F2.8 - I've always claimed this to be Tamron but it isn't.
Anyway. Half decent. Uncoated lenses so performance is a bit so and so.
Tamron FD 2x tele converter - POS can't put it any better than that.
Overall legacy lenses are a bit of a difficult case really. There are some very very good lenses to find for mere pennies and then there's a lot of overpriced crap. Overall I could say that a 20-30 year old top of the range (bloody expensive as new) lenses are somewhat in par with mid range lenses of today but what makes up for it is that you actually can find them with a fraction of the price of the modern equivalent. El cheapo lenses were crap as new and are ever crappier today.
You may hear from the old school geezers that old lenses which were made out of metal and glass are just so much better than the new ones with plastic casings and plastic lenses. Sorry to tell but that's a load of bull. Especially in the last 10 years or so things have really moved on, especially in the field of lens coating which is actually very important factor in lens performance. Coatings in new lenses are extremely good. Even in some of the cheapest lenses in the market.
Overall if you're going for legacy lenses M42 mount is probably the safest bet. First of all it's very easy to make adapters to. since it's very small and has no automatic features what so ever. Usually adapters can be made without extra lenses which is always a good thing because they have a nasty habit of making a hash of things.
To sum up. You need to do a lot of research and then even more digging around to find old stuff worth buying, but when you do, you'll save a whole lot of money.
tests legacy lenses as well if they happen to get their hands on ones so it's worth checking out. Not to mention their tests on the new stuff are one of the best out there.
If you happen to come across Russian military grade lenses from 70's and early 80's they are generally very very good. Mostly telephoto primes though. Soviet army built bucketloads of them to be used in various spying planes etc. and quite many of them were "liberated" from the soviet army's warehouses in the early 90's by strung for cash officers and better yet most of them use M42 mount so adapters are no problem what so ever. A friend of mine when visiting St. Petersburg a few years back found a 1600mm (yeah you read right) F11 reflex tele lens for about 150€ and it's absolutely great considering. As a drawback the minimum focusing distance is 300m though.
Edit: Speaking of finds. Did some shopping today. I ordered Dörr 500mm F8 reflex tele. It's new but the design practically predates the invention of the wheel so it sort of falls into the category. 130€ including delivery. Not bad.
Naturally it has it's drawbacks. Being a reflex lens the draw leaves things to be desired and the aperture is fixed. However as a plus, due to mirror optics there's practically zero chromatic aberration and purple fringing.
Rummaged through my camera stuff put the old stuff through it's paces. And frankly I do have to make some corrections to my previous assessments. Vivitar 135mm is actually very good and the Canon 50mm... I may have been a bit gentle with its valuation. It's absolutely horrid piece of...
Case in point, both pictures are taken in the same lighting conditions and similar crop considering the focal length. Both wide open so aperture value for Vivitar was F2.8 and for Canon F1.8. Only processing made is RAW conversion and setting the white balance to the same values.
A bit lacking in contrast but overall quite good. This was a mid range tele prime back in the day. Would have set you back something like 600-700 bucks in modern money. Considering the overall price range of lenses back in the day would be equivalent to roughly $300-350.
Actually just might be slightly better than my 70-300mm Tamron at the equal focal length and is a tad faster.
Now this was the lens that was delivered with practically everything Canon sold. If you bought a typewriter you got this delivered with it. Wasn't the cheapest of them all but still in the lower price range. 250-300 bucks roughly. Well I think the picture speaks for it self.
Yet even as it's just a steaming pile of ████ I love it. I'd just love to try my hands on portrait photos with that one. Imagine a portrait with that kind of draw and bokeh in black and white with relatively high contrast and a high sepia tint. Would look remarkably like wet plate collodion photo from 1920's.
Granted, stopped down (
) Canon performs much much better. In those lighting conditions, actually very very close with the current one. However in a bit tricky situations the old has much much more flaring and purple fringing. And wide open it's completely useless, for any practical use, no matter how you look at it. And that really is the biggest problem with this vintage stuff. Everything would have suggested that the newer coated canon which is a 50mm prime to boot would outperform the midrange, uncoated, third party, stolen design Vivitar by a mile in a two mile race. I mean 50mm is a tinderbox to the 135mm induction cooker. They've been around longer than the moon. So there's no real reason why not to get it right. Yet still wide open Vivitar would wipe the floor with Canon, if it could be bothered because there's really no need to be. I'm gobsmacked.
The modern rules just don't seem to apply.
Glad to tell Canon did manage to get it right with the current one.
More of the same with EF 50mm F1.8II:
Did slightly more extensive testing on the FD 35mm, FD 50mm and EF 50mm.
Went through the entire aperture range with each one of them.
Half stop intervals for FD and third of a stop for EF.
Aperture range for FD 35mm F3.5-F16, for FD 50mm F1.8-F16 and for EF 50mm F1.8-F22. In theory. Seems that the adapter actually increases the focal length a bit and drops the exposure by roughly 2/3 stops.
Word of warning, if someone here is on the market for Canon FD to µ4/3 adapter,
avoid at all costs the Novoflex one
. It's the most expensive on the market and is too long so you'll not be able to focus to infinity at least wide open. I managed to fool myself into buying this piece of crap. There are many adapters on amazon for third of the price that actually work really well. I bought one of the cheaper ones and it performs like a charm.
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