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5 Reasons to Shoot With Vintage Macro Lenses

Vintage lenses and macro photography? Ok, I'm in.

There are a few areas of photography I love and when they combine, I'm dizzy with glee. Medium format portraits is one, for example. However, two areas I've combined a few times with much enjoyment are vintage lenses and macro photography.

Those of you who know me or my writing will be aware that I love macro photography. So much so, in fact, that it managed to infiltrate my business as a photographer which I wasn't sure would be wholly possible. As Mark Holtze mentions in this video, macro photography transports you into a world with unlimited subjects and angles that many people will have never seen before. The downside, however, is it's usually quite expensive to buy a modern macro lens. Enter, vintage lenses.

I have a dry storage container filled with vintage lenses and cameras. Most of them are average (albeit beautiful) and difficult to get excited about using. A few of them are so unthinkably awful that they are mere ornaments at this point. But occasionally, you'll find some that are brilliant and fun to use. One I would include in that list is a vintage macro lens that — as coincidences go — Holtze uses in this video: the Contax Carl Zeiss 60mm Macro f/2.8. You can pick them up for a few hundred dollars and they are superb. This offers and effective way to dip a toe in macro waters without the financial outlay that might be putting you off!

Do you use a vintage macro lens? Which one is it?

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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Sorry I can no longer watch anything that gives 5 or 10 reasons why I should do, use or buy things.

Kiron 105mm f2.8 1-1 macro (AKA Lester Dine) Panasonic GX85

Vivitar 75-250 f3.8-4.5 macro focusing zoom (I think it goes to 1-4) Panasonic GX85

I got the Micro-Nikkor AI-S 55mm f/2.8, one of the sharpest lenses available. I am not much into macro photography though.


Some of the older macros seem better corrected as well. I work in studios with a bunch of modern 100 2.8 Canons, and they are surprisingly bad. My 1970s 55 3.5 and 105 4 Nikkors are better corrected. If you're shooting mirrorless check out those old Nikkors. They're relatively inexpensive as well. The 2.8 versions are also well corrected, but a bit pricier of course. Check 'em out.

Helios 58 44-2

I use the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 with macro extender as well. Seriously an amazing lens and amazing for portraits. They call it the bokina for a reason.1