Building up a (unique) vintage lens set from 24mm to 400mm

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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(This is a double post from TalkEMount but the community here is bigger and more active and I am trying to double my chances for information. This is ONLY for those who have tried the lenses on 35mm FF format because APS-C and Micro Four Thirds vintage lenses have a different rendition and IQ, sometimes better sometimes worse).

I a working up an interest to build a vintage lens set for my Sony a7C. And there are 2 reasons for this: one is I want to have a vintage lens set that I can adapt to any kind of mirrorless system (if/when I change camera brands so I don't end up having a focal range set that I would miss if/when I need to change the native glass) and the second reason is I am looking for interesting, unique, intriguing or fun lens/IQ output that is different from modern glass. So I don't have a priority for the best sharpness (maybe the only exception being a telephoto lens that is decently sharp wide open in the center) or the most optical defect correction (be it flare, lateral, or longitudinal chromatic aberrations, coma, etc). And I am looking for some advice, from your experience only (not what you read somewhere on the interwebs) what lens I should look into or try ... within a budget reason, which is up to 150 £, I know there are a lot better lenses out there with higher costs but I am not willing to pay to much for something that is not a daily driver.
The focal lengths I am looking for are:

1) Maybe Ultra-Wide Angle, something between 17mm and 21mm, I know a lot of vintage lenses are less effective in this range with the technology limitations they had, and getting an interesting look is more difficult, all I would need is to be sharp at around f 8 to f 11 and maybe a warmer color tone for the images.

2) Wide Angle lens, 24mm, pretty much as the one above, not looking for something very fast, maybe between f 2.8 and f 3.5/4 ?

3) 28mm and I have my eyes on Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Lydith 30mm f 3.5 for the potential of soapy bubbly bokeh balls or the Pentacon clone;

4) A Wide-Angle 35mm lens, something around f 2 to f 2.8, something with a character to the rendition of the image or bokeh. I haven't found anything interesting so far myself. Maybe something with very close focusing capability?

5) A 50mm Macro lens, I got enough nifty fifties but a Macro capable lens would be nice, even if it's only 1:2;

6) In the short telephoto I am looking at Helios-40 85mm f 1.5 for the swirly bokeh, which seems to be more intense than (my current) Helios-44M 58mm f 2, and I intend to replace it;

7) A telephoto lens in the range of 100mm to 135mm f 2.8 for portraits, maybe something with a softer/dreamier rendition or just a straight-up sharp macro lens;

8) A 200mm telephoto lens, f 2.8 or something odder like f 3 / 3.3, mostly of portraits and larger wildlife.

9) A 300mm or 400mm telephoto lens, f 4 would be nice for low-light, just of wildlife lens, until next year when I can look into getting the Sony FE 200-600mm f 5.6-6.3 G OSS.

I know prices can vary, especially on evilBay, I may try to stalk some lenses for a while to see if I can catch a bargain. I don't mind any type of brand and with brand variety, I will have more adapters to carry but I won't have to mount and dismount adapters too much. I always wanted to make a collection of lenses based on character and design, grouped as Japanese, Russian and German lenses as they seem to have different philosophies on what rendition of images they want to bring.
 

The Grumpy Snapper

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Tamron 17mm f/3.5 SP
Vivitar 35mm f/1.9
Tamron 135mm f/2.5

Maybe also these:

Vivitar 200mm f/3
EBC Fujinon 600mm f/5.6

I've no idea what the used prices are as I've owned them for decades.

The Vivitar 35mm has weird bokeh that I rather like. I don't know how common they are, they predate the Series 1 Vivitar lenses.

The Tamron 135mm has been a favourite since I was shooting 24 hour endurance races in the early 1980s. A landscape taken with it in 1985 was published worldwide by Olympus Japan a year or so later.

I sold the Vivitar 200mm pre digital but have been looking for a user copy to play around with.

I also sold the EBC Fujinon 600mm pre digital but have been regretting it and looking for a user copy. It had no exotic glass and terrible close focus distance but I had many bird and wildlife images made with it published.

Edit. I didn't bother listing any of the dozen or so OM primes in my collection as there's plenty of information about them already online.
 
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Aviator

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Hi, I have a large vintage glass collection that I like to use with FF cameras.
Since I discovered M4/3 most of my FF cameras are gone (except one), so I don’t use vintage lenses as much as I used to.

I believe I can give you some options that have worked for me and may work for you. I’ll try to post some examples with some lenses, so you can see the results I get with them.

The lenses I’m going to recommend may not be extremely cheap, but I will try to provide cheaper alternatives when applicable.

Since my answer is image heavy I'll split it in 2 parts.

1. Ultra wide angle 17 to 21mm: It may be hard to get a decent cheap lens within these focal lenghts, but a good option that I have is the RMC Tokina 17/3.5, you can search online for multiple reviews of this lens, at F8-F11 the lens performance is decent.

2. Wide angle 24mm: Olympus OM Zuiko 24/F2.8.
The little Zuiko lens is one of my most used vintage lenses, probably the only downside for landscape photography is that vignette never clears up, even at F8 or F11, but this is something that you can fix very easily in post. The second version with the MC engraved in the ring of the lens is said to be the best version.

https://flic.kr/p/2kVX6AL
https://flic.kr/p/2ki83tZ
Cheaper alternative: Ensinor 24/2.8 Macro (if you can find one).

3. 28mm: Vivitar Series 1 28/1.9
Oh boy!, If you are looking for character this is the lens to get. I LOVE this lens, it may not be everyone cup of tea, but I really like it. It is unique…

https://flic.kr/p/2aq2iwX
https://flic.kr/p/PEArzo
4. 35mm: MIR 24H 35/2, Nikon F mount, mine was converted to M42. I don’t use 35mm lenses very often, but this one has a very close focusing distance of 24cm, it is prone to some barrel distortion.

https://flic.kr/p/2geEcqD
Alternatives: Carl Zeizs Jena Flektogon 35/2.4, Vivitar 35/1.9 (similar bokeh to the 28/1.9)
 
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Aviator

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Part 2 of 2:

5. 50mm (Macro): Olympus OM Zuiko 50/2 (1:2) or the old preset aperture Macro-Takumar 50/4 (1:1).

Macro-Takumar 50/4 (1:1) Sample:
https://flic.kr/p/24PobFD
Cheaper alternatives: Olympus OM Zuiko 50/3.5 (1:2), SMC Takumar 50/4 (1:2), Micro-Nikkor 55/2.8 Ais (lots of people speak in very high regard about this one, I have never tried it)

6. Short tele 85mm or 90mm: Olympus OM Zuiko 85/2 or Vivitar Series 1 90/2.5 Macro (1:2) aka “The Bokina” due to its lovely soft bokeh.

OM Zuiko 85/2 on a Fujifilm X-T1:

https://flic.kr/p/2ma16Vx
Vivitar Series 1 90/2.5 Macro on a Canon 5D:

https://flic.kr/p/2c3i3ye
7. 135mm lens: SMC Takumar 135/2.5 Version 2 (6 elements version)
Sharp from wide open! Beautiful bokeh and rendering.

https://flic.kr/p/23WUWjr
Alternatives: Long ago I read somewhere that bad 135mm lenses where almost impossible to make, there are lots of 135mm lenses with 2.8/3.5 and F4 apertures that you can get VERY cheap and that will give you very good results. An example would be the SMC Takumar 135/3.5, don’t get fooled by the F3.5, you will get plenty of bokeh and a lot of bang for your buck.

8. 200mm lens: SMC Pentax K 200/2.5
Although this may not fit what you’re looking for, this is my favorite 200mm vintage lens. The downsides: it is big and heavy, slow to focus, but it is build like a tank and has an integrated hood… the bokeh is lovely, it is sharp.
It has some issues with CA, patience is key with this lens.

Great cheap alternative: Super Takumar 200mm F4, with sample:
https://flic.kr/p/2ki8roX
9. 300-400mm lens: Better get advise from someone else.
 
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Paul C

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If you are looking for consistency - then one piece of advice is to buy a "set of lenses" from the same maker: so say a 24-35-50-135-300mm series from say Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Minolta, or Pentax with a wide to moderate zoom suddenly becomes a logical choice. The colours, rendering, layout and direction of lens controls will have a uniformity that is lacking in the "pick and mix" plan.

By having a plan for your purchases - it suddenly becomes much easier to scan eBay once a week - and the other secondhand suppliers. You get to know the lenses that you want, and know what to look out for and the prices to pay.

Yes - there are equally good "no-name" vivitars, soligors, paragons etc...but they often shine in individualistic ways that works against your ability to deliver images consistently over time.

Buying to a plan and a brand may seem more expensive per lens - but over the years as you build your optimal set, this scheme can save you a lot in avoiding buying "on spec" just to "try it out" (even the worst lens is rated as 10-star on a web-review somewhere!). Furthermore, you save through having only one M4/3 mount-converter (so you can afford a metabones type one) and can buy a narrower rage of filters and lens-hoods that you need to take with you.
 
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L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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If you are looking for consistency - then one piece of advice is to buy a "set of lenses" from the same maker: so say a 24-35-50-135-300mm series from say Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Minolta, or Pentax with a wide to moderate zoom suddenly becomes a logical choice. The colours, rendering, layout and direction of lens controls will have a uniformity that is lacking in the "pick and mix" plan.

By having a plan for your purchases - it suddenly becomes much easier to scan eBay once a week - and the other secondhand suppliers. You get to know the lenses that you want, and know what to look out for and the prices to pay.

Yes - there are equally good "no-name" vivitars, soligors, paragons etc...but they often shine in individualistic ways that works against your ability to deliver images consistently over time.

Buying to a plan and a brand may seem more expensive per lens - but over the years as you build your optimal set, this scheme can save you a lot in avoiding buying "on spec" just to "try it out" (even the worst lens is rated as 10-star on a web-review somewhere!). Furthermore, you save through having only one M4/3 mount-converter (so you can afford a metabones type one) and can buy a narrower rage of filters and lens-hoods that you need to take with you.
That's one idea I haven't explored (or realised) yet but it makes a lot of sense. The first one that comes to my mind (but mostly because of amazing first impressions that I had some years ago) is the Yashica ML series, they are quite forgotten even within the photographic community and some have reputations of real sleepers.
Pentax series lenses have gone up in price after the release of the Pentax K1, even the K and M series which are the most basics of ones.
Olympus Zuiko lenses are quite high on their reputation and quite sought after, though London Camera Exchange seems to keep a decent stock of them in the used section (which they don't do as much for the other vintage brands).
Nikon F is in the same ballpark with the Pentax series, though their E Series are cheaper for their budget nature, though they do have fewer options available.
Canon FD and nFD seem to be the most abundant of them all so this is a very high contender.
Minolta MD seems to be quite plentiful to go around.

On the other side, which is instead of consistently looking for a character it can be more expensive and time-consuming to work towards, lots of research and waiting and looking.
 

alex66

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If considering a one maker route the Fuji X film mount is worth looking at if you can get an adapter for them, another is Konica but they may still be a bit more expensive due to a fandom of them. I have had both at points and have to say I liked the Fuji lenses more especially the 50 (or near) 1.6 that was steller. It depends on what you are looking at in terms of character and image quality though and there was a forum called MF lenses or some such not sure if it is still around that had a lot of info. Pre Ai Nikors are a fair bit less I think also.
 
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