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There is no appeal to a seasoned photographer like a vintage lens.
We as humans seem to be drawn to the dawn of the analog age of photography, much like the analog age of music like vintage records and the dawn of the digital age of computers.
Why we are attracted to the best vintage lenses is an easy question to answer - they’re fun, affordable, and they challenge you to learn more about how to use your gear.
But there are a few things you should know about using a vintage lens with your DSLR before you start stocking up on old lenses.
They Can’t Autofocus
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All vintage lenses are manual focus only, and in a world where the casual photographer might not be able to take photos without relying on autofocus, this can pose a large problem.
Autofocus wasn’t created until 1976, and even when Leica released their first autofocus camera, the company didn’t realize how big of a deal it was going to be.
Autofocus wasn’t much of an appeal for camera enthusiasts until the 1980s, although it’s hard to imagine a camera without AF nowadays.
So, before you purchase your first vintage lens, make sure you practice your manual focusing. You can learn how to do so in the video above by CNET.
“Shooting Modes” Don’t Really Exist With Vintage
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This goes along with the manual focusing advice above…
While you have a variety of shooting modes from which to choose when using a modern lens - aperture priority, shutter priority, and program among them - these are not an option when you use a vintage lens (though technically aperture priority can still be achieved).
Granted, being forced to learn how to manipulate all three exposure settings - aperture, shutter speed, and ISO - all on your own is not a bad thing.
In fact, as I noted earlier, vintage lenses challenge you to learn more about how to use your gear, and this is a prime example of that.
Your Lens Can’t Talk to Your Camera Anymore
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This basically rounds-up my advice on how low-tech vintage lenses are.
Even the best vintage lenses for Canon or Sony won’t be able to communicate with your high-tech camera.
Your camera/lens pairing today sends information about metering, aperture, shutter speed and ISO back and forth in an instant, and when you first put your best vintage lenses onto your camera it will appear nothing has changed.
The camera is going to provide all of the information I mentioned above, but the amount of data you receive will be extremely limited. For example, there’s no EXIF data when you use a vintage lens.
You Need to Buy an Adapter
Adapters for vintage lenses are really cheap and easy to use, but if you haven’t been in the business for very long you may purchase a legacy lens without thinking about the ways in which you can use it.
The video above by B&H Photo Video helped me understand adapters, maybe it will help you too.
Where to Buy Vintage Lenses
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There are a plethora of places to find vintage lenses, like eBay or Amazon, but I prefer to purchase my lenses from photographers.
Lensfinder launched back in 2017, and it was created by photographers for photographers. I’ve been ripped off one too many times while trying to buy a vintage lens off eBay, and sellers on Amazon are typically in the game to make money so they may not have any answers to in-depth technical questions.
Lensfinder features an incredibly easy-to-use search system, so you can find the exact vintage lens you need.
Lensfinder is also upfront about their fees (less than 4% on the seller’s side), and allows you to pay with PayPal so you know your purchase is doubly protected.
I recently found the Minolta MC Rokkor 58mm shown above on their site for $350, which was a few hundred dollars cheaper than on eBay or Amazon.
Lensfinder is basically the Goodwill of the camera bargain industry and I have always had excellent experiences as both a buyer and a seller on their site. Give it a try and see what awesome vintage lenses you can find!