Hey everyone! In this blog I want to talk about mirrorless cameras and how they have brought back vintage lenses. Lenses that were used in the film era were great lenses with superb glass in them. If you have been buying lenses lately, you know how expensive they can be, especially for really good glass. Vintage glass on the other hand can be had for a mere few dollars and can be found in flea markets, garage sales, on eBay, or even your own closet. In my film days I shot with Pentax, so I have some Pentax lenses that I used back then. I've never parted with them, so I have a good variety of lenses. To get them to fit on my Sony, I only had to get an inexpensive adapter that you can get from Amazon or eBay. On the old film cameras that were manual focus, there were aids to help you focus a split screen or a prism that would help you focus, but on today's mirrorless cameras we have what is called "focus peaking." Focus peaking is when you're manually focusing and your camera lets you know where you're in focus at by turning that part of the photo a color like red or yellow so you can see where you're in focus. You can even magnify the image to fine tune the focusing so old eyes like mine can focus manually without too much problem.
Today I went out on a little photo walk/shoot at my local state park and into my town with nothing but vintage lenses and my Sony A6000 just to see how well I could focus with these old lenses. I took four lenses with me to this exercise in photography.
These are the lenses I took. Pentax 28mm f2.8, Vivitar 35-70mm f2.8, Nikon 50mm f1.4, Pentax 80-200mm f4.6. This was truly a exercise in basic photography. This was like when I first started taking photos with my first SLR which was all manual. The only decisions I had to make were what shutter speed, film speed (ASA/ISO), and aperture focus and shoot. The only difference was I could see instant results. I did find that certain lenses I liked better than others.
The Pentax 28mm lens was something I just got off of eBay for 40 bucks (probably paid too much). The results turned out good, but the focal range just wasn't what I thought it would be. It was just in an uncomfortable range for me. The lens was plenty sharp enough and worked well. Solid metal construction. Maybe a good lens for street photography.
The Vivitar 35-70mm lens is one of my old favorite lenses, and the focal length was a great one in full frame. However, with my crop sensor it was a smidge too long. My old faithful push-pull zoom lens worked well, and I used it quite a bit while walking through town. Solid metal construction, sharp lens, worked well.
The Nikon 50mm 1.4 lens is the fastest of my manual lenses and is great for isolation. This would be a great portrait lens for the crop sensor being equivilant to 75mm. Solid plastic construction, very sharp lens, and I can use it with my D800 and D7000.
The biggest suprise of the experiment was the Pentax 80-200mm. This lens was the cheapest build of the four lenses with very inexpensive plastic and with a minimum f-stop of 4.6, the slowest of the bunch. But for sharpness this was the clear winner and will be in my bag for when I need this focal range. Above 100mm I don't use too much, but this lightweight lens will go with me backpacking as well as around town.
Will I be using these lenses all of the time? Except for the Pentax 80-200, probably not. I have auto focus lenses that take me from 15mm to 150mm, and I have a 60mm macro that I didn't mention that I can use on both my Sony and Nikon systems. The overall experiment went well. If you're looking for some different lenses for your mirrorless cameras, start looking at vintage glass. It can be inexpensive (as low as 5 bucks) in a yard sale or bid on one on Ebay or pull some of the old friends out of the closet that you used with film. These old lenses are very high quality and durable (most of them are built like a tank) and very fun to use.