Photographer Simulates Vintage Lenses Through Modern DSLR

Photographer Simulates Vintage Lenses Through Modern DSLR

A while ago we wrote about the Kickstarter project aimed at bringing the historic Petzval Lens to modern day 35mm DSLRs. Shortly after another Kickstarter was launched to bring this Petzval to the medium format crowd. While off the shelf options such as these can appeal to the masses there remain a few inventive photographers such as Dr. Dirk HR Spennemann who prefer to mix their passion for photography and history with some good old ingenuity to bring us a project simply called "The Antique Camera Simulator".

Dr. Spennemann has created a personal project called "The Antique Camera Simulator" which aims to replicate the capabilities of classic lenses on modern day DSLRs through a clever use of various spacers, reduction rings, and adapters. Since these classic lenses were developed to cover a much larger area than modern day 35mm sensors these varying combinations of rings and spacers are necessary to produce the images. Luckily Dr. Spennemann gives us an overview of all the components used in each of his "FrankenLenses".  Starting with a Nikon D800 as the camera of choice for his project he has successfully been able to render images using several historic French and Japanese lenses.

 The Hermagis Aplanat No8

Hermagis Aplanat Lens



Wide Angle Rectilinear 4 1/4 x 3 1/4

Wide Angle Rectilinear 4 1/4 x 3 1/4 Lens



Panoramique A J Pipon

Panoramique A J Pipon Lens



Krauss Tessar 180mm Lens

Krauss Tessar 180mm Lens



Make sure to visit his website for more images as well as details about the lenses and their respective setups.

[Via Charles Sturt University]

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1. why is plural form of "DSLR" used with an apostrophy?
2. why is "then" used for comparison ? sentence beginning with "Since"

3. why haven't you put fresh batteries in your vibrator?

Why don't you get yourself a girlfriend?

Oh wow! Vintage lenses used with modern digital camera instead of real large format wet plate camera.... IS SO ARTISTIC!

fred lefeuvre's picture

IMO these lenses definitvely sucks on a sooooo small FX sensor... what is the interest ?

Its a free world so as far I'm concerned people can do what they want.

But it always puzzles me why people want to use crappy lo-fi lenses on the latest hi rez cameras?

I would say it is about getting the lo-fi aesthetic using the equipment or workflow that works best for the photographer.

That aesthetic may not be to your taste, but tastes vary and not everyone worships at the alter of sharpness.

Then use it with a used D300 or something.. not a D800. It is just stupid. I'm usually open-minded, but this is just..

The D300 has a crop factor though. if you want the effect of the lens you need an FX not a DX body

But what if you are going to make large prints or, heaven forbid, you spent all your money buying a D800 and don't own a D300.

Seriously, judging other people's equipment and whether or not they use it "correctly" is the stuff of beginners, low amateurs, and students who are trying to show off.

So someone with a D800 should buy a D300 to use the lenses?

Isn't it a commercial project, advertising over kickstarter? All I'm saying is that there is a huge mis-match between what the camera can do and what this guy is doing with the lens.

You can do large prints with a lesser camera, especially considering how smudgy these shots are.

I reserve my right to criticize, I can't write positively about something I don't like. I generally provide constructive criticism, but wasn't bothered this time.


As an experiment, this is an interesting thing. As an artistic tool, it is astounding. Like it or not we have a visual vocabulary, and included in that vocabulary is the artifacts of old fashioned photography. Seeing a photo that has the look of something much older (whether it looks like it was taken with an antique lens or appears to be Kodachrome) influences how we see that photo. It tells us something different.

People who are confused by how this could be used, or why you would do this, suffer from a severe lack of imagination. An older aesthetic in a modern workflow... I can think of quite a few instances where that could be useful.

I'm just arguing that you don't need a D800 for same result.

It's a great idea. Best of luck to Dr. Spennemann with his project.

On a side note, I've often wondered if photographers would ever be interested in broad and comprehensive digital simulations of various classic and modern lenses. Guitar players have access to amplifier and effects simulations through products like Line6 and Fractal Audio. I've often wondered if photographers could ever make use of a similar simulation device.

Greg Tennyson's picture

VSCO is already doing this with their film presets for lightroom and iPhone.

To be honest I really enjoy more the "Palecwnosie CameraWorks" from Poland - You can see it here:

Still trying to figure out what makes these pics look any different? There is no "vintage lens" look. It can be softer or maybe some other non-sharp attrivbute. But hell... with the popularity of instagram, its hard to tell whats originally a crappy picture and what was made to look like one. I recently shot with a 40 year old lens on a 40 year old camera and the stuff looks as good as todays cameras.

I agree, why would I want a crap lens? the only reason I can think is the bokeh. look at the last photo with the flowers, you simply can't achieve a unique looking bokeh with a modern lens. but that's about it.

I think that if you have a look at the original web link. you'll find that the guy who does plays with these lenses is looking for qualities like that

The problem is that these lenses were designed to produce a certain look on 4x5 or just slightly smaller sensors. Using a full frame sensor only samples the very center of the lens which isn't where a lot of the interesting stuff is happening.

I think this is the sort of result that is intended

or for a portrait

Used on a full frame sensor, the equivalent depth of field becomes a lot less. These were taken on a Zeiss Tessar f/2.7 that covers nearly 5"x7". To get the equivalent depth of field on a 35mm full frame cameras would take an f/0.65 lens.

Interestingly the lenses aren't "crappy" but were designed to have the soft look. Lens manufacturers at the turn of the last century were more than capable of creating very sharp lenses but photographers wanted something a little more painterly (google "pictorialism" for more info)