Let's start this topic with one thing: I love the incredibly fast autofocus that is available on today's latest DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. It makes life as an event photographer a lot easier. But, and I know you could feel the ‘but’ coming, I love manual lenses more.
You're probably going to think I'm crazy or stuck in the past, but hear me out a little. Using manual focus lenses on digital cameras used to be considered taboo, or a poor man's choice. That was until the Sony A7s and a bunch of really cool 4/3 cameras came out and paired beautifully with 30 year old lenses and produced amazing results.
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So in a sense, part of the reason for the revival of the manual lens market is filmmaking with DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
But getting deeper into things, manual lenses have a lot going for them. First of all, they are primes, or fixed focal lenses. That means the optical quality is usually top notch and far better than what you would get from a zoom lens.
Second, they are actually faster because they don’t have an autofocus system that has to track the subject and lock the focus. Obviously it takes a bit of practice before you can focus quickly and accurately with a manual lens, but since most of today's cameras have focus confirmation inside the viewfinder, it shouldn't be so hard to learn this skill.
Most manual lenses are built like tanks. In fact, I can't even remember the last time I held a plastic manual lens. They're usually just made of metal and glass. Also, because there are no fancy electronic systems inside, they're usually small in size.
But the biggest advantage of manual lenses in my opinion is the amazing price to quality ratios. Most of them are excellent in terms of optical quality and they are dirt cheap. You can get an incredible 35mm f/1.4 lens for a little over $400. Compare that to what you would pay for a Nikon and Canon and think about what you save with the very small compromise of losing autofocus.
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Here's photographer Mark Wallace explaining the beautiful sides of using manual lenses in this video made by Adorama TV.