Using vintage lenses

 Using vintage lenses

For all those filming on a budget, you may have looked into purchasing a vintage lens. Well, at Perspective Pictures it’s something we would definitely recommend. A vintage lens can be a great choice - but it all depends on which lens you go for. Additionally, you should always take your subject into consideration when deciding on a lens.

For example, if you’re filming something high-speed, you’ll need to find a lens that can work well with movement. As Budget Filmmaker says: “Canon EF lenses, while really sharp, are not the best lenses for video. They are made for fast auto focusing, so manual focusing is difficult on these lenses, some like my 100mm f/2.8 has such a short focus throw, it is almost impossible to focus on a moving subject without constantly losing focus.”

The vintage lens is something to be used by a confident filmmaker. You need to know how to work with auto-focus, since you’ll be limited to using it for much of filming. It’s also a good idea to brush up on the fundamentals of using vintage lenses. In this post, we aim to give you a few tips.


Choosing the right lens

It’s never a good idea to just go for one lens. Follow the example of Stanley Kubrick and experiment. For example, buy a range of about three or four and test each one first. With using vintage lenses, the beauty is all in the differing styles they create.

There are hundreds of different models out there to choose from, depending how vintage you want to go. Below, we’ve curated a list of specific lenses that work best for filming.

  • AIS Nikkor Lenses - These emerged in the 1980s. For filming, they offer some of the best results. The build quality is superb and many of these are still manufactured today.

  • Olympus (OM Mount) Primes - A little more expensive than the Nikkor lenses; however, Olympus have always paid attention to the glass. On the market a decade earlier than the Nikkor, one of the best options for a vintage Olympus would be the 50mm, which you can get for a steal.

  • Contax (C/Y Mount) Primes - Contax have produced a rich array of high functioning lenses over the decades, paying great attention to the design and glass they use. Often more expensive, but you’re paying for something that has been a world class lens for many decades.

  • Canon FD Lenses - The FD lenses were developed around 1971 and although proving popular, were replaced by the EOS series. The FD lenses offer a similar level of quality as the Olympus Primes. However, these will require an adapter with an optic to work with APS-C and full frame cameras.

Fitting the lens

Retrofitting a vintage lens to your DSLR is not difficult. Adam Welch, writing in Digital Photography School explains that “for virtually every lens and camera combination there is an adapter that will enable you to use any lens with any camera – regardless of manufacturer.” You can find a range of aluminium adapter rings which can work seamlessly with your camera and vintage lens. Amazon and eBay are great places to start.

The process of fitting the adapter ring is simple. Adam explains: “Just line up the indicator dot with the mounting dot on your camera body and you’re done.”

We hope these tips will come in handy for your next vintage filming project.