Lenses are perhaps the biggest part of any cinematographer’s kit as they have a bigger impact on the look and feel of the image than anything else on set. Even cameras don’t matter all that much relative to the lens they have equipped. Getting a full set of glass is a hefty investment if you are looking at some of the latest releases.
That isn’t your only option. Looking at some older lens options might actually be a better way to go. Filmmaker Matti Haapoja has a selection of vintage glass that are actually quite affordable and have some distinct aesthetics that filmmakers might actually prefer to modern lenses.
Finding good vintage lenses can be tough. You will want to find a reliable marketplace, of which there are a few like KEH, MPB, and the used sections of plenty of camera shops.
1. Minolta 45mm f/2 MD ROKKOR
Made back in the 70s, these used to be fairly common lenses. It is impressively tiny too, almost a pancake. These are easy to adapt to any mirrorless camera. Looks quite nice in the sample footage.
Close focus isn’t amazing but that was par for the course back then. The best part is that it generally only runs around $100 these days.
2. Canon 35mm f/3.5 FE SC
These older Canon lenses are quite well known because they have coatings a look that is similar to the classic K35 cinema lenses. The FD 35mm is a good pick and should come in under $150. Another set of good sample footage with a degree of softness compared to modern lenses can be very appealing. Even though it is a little slower at f/3.5 it still looks great and can get smooth bokeh.
3. Konica 21mm f/4 Hexanon AR
Getting into the more rare and more expensive stuff we have what Matti calls one of the coolest vintage lenses he has gotten his hands on. The Konica 21mm f/4 Hexanon AR will run for around $300 and gets into the wide-angle arena. This is the widest vintage lens in the set.
Sample footage looks good. Perhaps a bit softer than the others which wasn’t uncommon for wider optics back then. It looks interesting when they move outside and get some flare in the shot.
4. Nikon 105mm f/2.5 NIKKOR-P Pre-AI
This is the oldest version of the Nikon NIKKOR 105mm and this has long been a spectacular optical design. It’s getting very old at this point and is going to be a great pick for portraits if that is your thing. Working with older lenses is a huge benefit for portraiture since the natural softness and warmer tones can be very flattering.
5. Tamron Adaptall SP 70-210mm f/3.5
This is the only zoom lens on the list and is a classic take on the 70-200mm. These lenses were incredibly versatile back then and will run only $100 today. It looks okay with perhaps a slightly lower contrast look. It’s so cheap for that range if you are just starting to build your kit.
Keep in mind that all these lenses will need adapters and are manual only. For video it’s usually not too big of deal.
Anything in here you like? Any vintage lenses you swear by?
[source: Matti Haapoja]
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