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How to select adaptable lenses

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by ~tc~, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    When I was in Seoul a few weeks ago, I was amazed at the amount of old lenses were for sale, but I didn't know anything about adapters, etc or what to look for.

    In general, if you walk into a camera store and they have multiple display cases full of legacy glass, how do you narrow it down? Are there "go to" brands/lines where you can't go wrong (Leica for example)? Is there an accepted "bang for the buck" lens winner?
  2. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    The first question I would ask is "What do I want to do with it?". Unless you have a plan for the lens then it will just sit on your shelf collecting dust.

    So what do you want to do shoot wildlife? Portrait? Low light? Let that decision drive what you need in a lens then look for lenses that match that specification.
  3. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    there is no simple answer to this question... but maybe there are a couple of things to help you narrow down the choices

    1) Avoid lenses wider than 35mm - they don't work as well with the smaller sensor - the native micro 4/3 lenses will give you better results.

    2) Avoid zoom lenses - they probably weren't that good when they were built and again the native lenses will giver better results.

    3) Don't buy a leica lens unless you have more money than sense or are thinking of buying an M8 or M9 at some point in the future. They are truly wonderful lenses - but as most of them cost at least 1000 dollars, they dont fit into the bang for buck criteria.

    4) Go for the big 'name' brands - Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax, Contax as opposed to the thirdparty lenses like vivitars, tamrons etc.

    5) Personally I would look at spending at least 100 dollars on a lens and probably not more than 250 dollars.

    6) Be clear about why you want a legacy lens... is it for a narrower DOF? .. light gather ....is it for sharpness or softness, do you want a really long focal length?

    Personally I have bought a lot of 50mm's, a couple of 35's, 28's and 24's and a 100, a 105 and a 135

    ones i still use regularly are contax 50/1.7, Nikkor 50/1.2, Nikkor 105/2.5 and OM 24/2 - though I will say I also use these lenses on my full frame Canon

    this flickr set shows some of my legacy lenses
    Legacy lenses - a set on Flickr

    happy to answer any questions you may have....if I can


    • Like Like x 2
  4. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Obviously, I wouldn't just buy lenses to have them, but at the time, I didn't have anything other than the 20/1.7 - there were a lot of things I could use!

    Obviously, I would have to compare the price to what a native lens would cost as a rational test.

    But, for example, say I was looking for a 50 mm(ish) portrait/macro - there are a TON of them out there with prices and availability all over the map. With the selection they had in all the stores, it wouldn't surprise me if I happened on a good deal on a rare lens ... but without spending a lifetime learning all this, how would you know what to home in on?
  5. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    I think Kevin gives some good advice on that front.

    You don't need a lifetime of learning - but you do need some - and it does come over time.

    The 50mm is a good example as there are a lot of good ones out there. Which is the best one? You will get a dozen different answers probably from a dozen forumites here. The question really is what is the best one for you? What is your most important criteria? Sharpness? Color? Contrast? Size? Etc? And a lens that is good for portrait may be a bad macro and vice versa.

    You may want two 50mm lenses. I did: the Pentax 50/4 macro and Pentax 50/1.4. Why Pentax? No magical or scientific reason other than I have been a Pentax user for 35 years and am used to handling them. And they are good all around performers - not necessarily the sharpest or the best bokeh or the best color, but they do well overall. But the Nikon, Canon, Minolta and Olympus glass is just as good and maybe even better. Look at the adapted lens examples here. Talk with fellow forumites here about the specific lenses they own. And use eBay to check prices. And be willing to try them out. I've bought a few lenses and been pleasantly surprised, and sometimes disappointed.

    I would not be concerned about good deals on rare lenses, unless you are interested in reselling find for a profit. Nothing wrong with that as I have done that with more than a few yard sale finds. For these nothing will replace research and experience. There are lots of good books on Leica equipment and other camera guides - I used to own few when I was heavy into buying and selling. Learning from others (including people here like Kevin and Brian and Amin and Sharpshooter and, well dozens of others) is a good place to start. It will take some time.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    i doubt you will get a real bargain at a camera store....its their business to make profit :) 

    1) they probably bought the lens when it was still current and worth something and are still trying to make their money back


    2) they have probably spotted the trend in the interest in these old lenses and have marked their prices up

    the story was probably different a few years back - I did most of my buying about 18 months ago - if I had been buying 5 years ago then there probably were silly bargains around.

    Best bet is probably older relatives who might have an old SLR sitting in the attic.

    As Narnian said it is down to personal taste... for me Nikkors of the 60's 70's and 80's have worked for me along with olympus OM's and the one Contax I could justify - though I am expecting an 85/1.4 contax soon

    others swear by old CanonFD and Konica lenses

    this is a great reference site for some old lenses - Nikon, Canon and Olympus... its not in reference to 4/3 in particular - but has helped me a lot in sorting out the many variations of lenses out there


    happy hunting
  7. deirdre

    deirdre Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 9, 2010
    Initially, I found this page and went for some of the lenses he had (seems logical, right?).

    I decided at one point that I wanted a Leica, so sold off some of what I'd acquired in favor of Leica lenses, of which I now have two.
  8. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Any legacy lens will work, it's just what sort of result you want out of the lens. Many buy lenses that may not be rated the highest quality, purely for the effects that you can get from such leness. Some like to use C Mount lenses even though you get vignetting, because of the effect. That's why some buy Lensbabies, not because you get the best optics in the world, but because of the image effects. Sometimes, you can get very interesting results because you are using the central part of the image circle from lenses designed for 35mm film (or larger). It can be a lucky dip, but the results can also be very unique.


  9. apicius9

    apicius9 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 1, 2010
    Philadelphia, PA
    I sometimes think that my strategy was to just buy all of them and sort it out later - but I would not recommend that... :rolleyes:  You got some great pointers there already. I just enjoyed getting a few similar ones to find out which ones I really like best - and now I am selling off the others (even though I have a hard time letting some of them go again...). Since the prices in general have gone up a bit in the last year, I am not even losing much with that strategy, but it's not the smart way to do it either. The 'danger' is that when you compare a few lenses, it is likely that the more expensive one comes out ahead. For example, I had a Canon FD 50/1.4 which is a perfectly fine lens that would more than suffice considering my meagre talent, but once I used it next to a Leica Summicron R I quickly kept the Leica and sold the Canon.

    I really enjoy getting back to manual shooting with my GH1, and I use manual lenses more than the MFT lenses. My personal strategy at this point is to have one really good one and one really small/portable one in the lengths that I like. I also wanted to minimize the number of mounts but I am still working on that one... My main ones are c-mounts, Leica R and C/Y. But there are also other influences: For example, I have an old Leica LTM 135mm Hektor that was built in the year when my mother was born and while my grandfather worked in the lens department of Leitz/Leica. If I go by focal lengths:

    - For 25mm I use several c-mount lenses despite the vignetting, they are just a lot of fun and very fast. My 'big' one in this category is the 20/1.7 pancake.

    - I like 50mm lenses for portraits, so I definitely wanted to get one or two really good ones here. I am keeping the Summicron 50/2 and a small Kern Switar 50/1.4. I am also holding on to a Planar 50/1.4 because it is different enough from those other two... But I have only heard good things about the Planar 50/1.7, so that would probably be the reasonable choice.

    - For more candid shots, I wanted something fast in the 75 and 90mm range. My 'big one' is a Planar 85/1.4, the 'small one' a Kern Switar 75/1.9 - both of them total overkill but hard to let go once you have used them... More reasonable selections would be the Canon FD 85/1.8 of the Jupiter 9 85/2, both great lenses for a fraction of the money.

    - I wanted one nice macro lens and got my hands on a Leica R 60/2.8 but I am not yet sure whether to keep that or to go for a longer length. This is a very new field for me, so I need to get much more experience before I make any more decisions.

    - Above 85mm the number of blurry pictures rises exponentially for me, this is where monopod/tripod territory starts. Between 100 and 150mm I have a number of c-mounts because they are so much lighter and/or smaller than almost any other lens in that length and some of them are really excellent quality IMHO (like some Schneider Tele-Xenars). For the even longer ranges I have a Takumar 200/4 which I find nice and light, and a Leica Telyt 250/4 which is even nicer but heavy. I am waiting to see more of the Panny 100-300mm and may switch to that one some day (i.e. sell many of the long ones I have), assuming that the OIS really makes it more usable in everyday life.

    So, when I go out to take pictures, I usually take the 'large' set; when I just want to be prepared, I often take the small Domke bag with a set of 3 or 4 c-mount prime lenses and the 20mm pancake; and when I have a lazy day, I just put on the 14-140mm, stick the pancake in my pocket and I am ready to go.

  10. ifixfxs

    ifixfxs New to Mu-43

    Sep 25, 2010
    Santa Fe
    manual aperture

    A mistake I made was buying the eos adapter intending to use my EOS ef-s 60mm macro. I can't stop down the lens. ugh!
  11. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    Double-check how the adapter is attaching. I had a similar problem with an Olympus OM lens and noticed a small tab that had to be up against a small lever on the lens for the diaphragm to work correctly. Yours may be similar.
  12. nolaSafari

    nolaSafari Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 30, 2010
    New Orleans
    I bought adapters to match the lenses I already had. Some Leica, some Nikon, Some Canon, and some who knows what. I could never pass up a cheap camera at a garage sale so had a stack of them in a box. I have never had a camera that I can mount so many lenses on, it is just plain fun.
  13. pdh

    pdh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 6, 2010
    give it time ...
  14. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    LOL you're probably right.... technically, it's kinda already started with having both the 45-200 and the 45/2.8 ...
  15. Gwendal

    Gwendal Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 6, 2010
    Stefan, very interesting to read that - I'm currently considering buying something in that range, currently I'm hesitating between the Planar and the Samyang - the one thing that makes me hesitate about dropping the cash on the Planar is the bokeh - I have found that on some sample shots I've seen, it can be disappointing, I wonder how you like it ? And also how you would compare it to the much cheaper Jupiter?
  16. panystac

    panystac Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 14, 2010
    Tokyo, Japan
    Some of the decisions regarding the selection and buying of lenses has to do with price.
    If they are expensive, then you have to do ALL of your homework. If they are mid priced, then you either have to "know your stuff", or carry a risk.
    If they are cheap, then you have little to lose if you know "roughly" what's good and what isn't.

    For example, I live in Tokyo, and lenses can be VERY cheap here. I have picked up some absolute GEMS for only 1000 yen (about $12 USD).

    Minolta MD Rokkor 85mm F2
    Tamron SP 90mm F2.5 Macro
    (any number of 50-58mm F1.4 lenses)
    Nikon E Series 100mm F2.8
    Tokina AT-X 100-300mm F4

    When buying cheap lenses, you need to know how to check that they are "good". e.g. No fungus, haze, aperture working, etc....

    I use a single LED pocket light (LED torch/flashlight, the ones that run on two AAA batteries). Shine it straight through the back of the lens(try not to blind yourself!!), and view off axis. It should pick up any fungus or haze. Move it off axis, as the haze is sometimes not visible straight through. Do the same from the front.

    Fungus CAN be cleaned off, but if it's inside, you have to disassemble the lens. If the fungus has been there too long, it may have damaged the coatings or the glass.

    To check the aperture blades, change to f16/f22, then flick the aperture lever. The blades should snap back quickly. The more tricky ones are the Canon FD, and the Pentax screw mount, and these need to be "set" before you can do this. e.g. Pentax set to "man." after pressing the TINY button on the base.
  17. apicius9

    apicius9 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 1, 2010
    Philadelphia, PA
    Almost missed that one. Well, of course bokeh is a subjective thing, but I have not seen anything I didn't like from the Planar, and I really like the colors it produces. What I probably enjoy most is the feeling of quality is oozes compared to other lenses. And being German, I want to keep my believe that Zeiss and Leica glass is just 'better' :wink: That said, I also liked almost everything I have seen online from the Samyang lens (but never tried it myself), and if I had to do it again, I would probably buy that one and be just as happy. I cannot imagine that the Planar images are twice as 'good' as the Planar which costs twice as much. The Jupiter is nice but I have used it so little compared to the Planar and the Kern, that I don't want to say much about it. Not sure if that helps...

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