Looking for a Cheap Alternative to Add Lenses to Your Repertoire?

Running out of funds this season but still want to treat yourself to an additional piece of glass? Have you considered trying low-cost adapters to use vintage lenses on your modern camera body? Find out how to!

Let me guess, with Christmas approaching, your funds have taken a slight dip, and you may not be able to afford that new shiny piece of glass you have been eyeing, so why not consider purchasing older and cheaper lenses with the additional help of an affordable lens adapter instead? Photographer Mark Holtze, who previously has shown how to give expired film another life, gives us advice on reusing vintage lenses with our current modern digital camera bodies by using an adapter. 

If you're willing to work with a manual lens, the opportunities are endless for you to repurpose old lenses that you will easily find on sale online as well as secondhand buys from people without breaking the bank. In his video, Holtze explains how to purchase the correct adapter for your digital camera body and just how much character you can add to your image by using these older lenses with all their quirks.

Not just that, Holtze adds that purchasing an adapter and a lens this way is a useful and inspiring way to work when you're starting out, not just to save money but also to thoroughly learn how to use a manual lens. Just make sure if you do look for older secondhand lenses on online auction sites that you don't forget to check if they're in a fully working condition. That's a silly mistake I've made before!

Will you give vintage lenses a go?

Log in or register to post comments

17 Comments

Rob Mitchell's picture

Please, a camera lens is not 'A piece of glass'

16mm Camera's picture

What is it then? It's just a slang terms, don't have to be so obtuse.

Gary Eyring's picture

A Nikon Series A 50mm f1.8 lens from the early 80s is a perfect match for a MFT body using a K&F or other adapter. It is wickedly sharp with lots of bokeh.

Anete Lusina's picture

That's lovely! Did you buy the lens second hand or bought it as original in 80s?

Gary Eyring's picture

I bought it from a friend who refurbishes film cameras. But they are fairly available on eBay. I also bought an A Series 100mm f2.8 on eBay. The A Series are simple but very well made lenses. They are typically priced under $100.

16mm Camera's picture

I'm a big fan of this myself, not necessarily because it's cheap, but more because it's FUN. There's a really great supportive community in the vintage camera world as well.

Gary Eyring's picture

It makes me miss the aperture ring that most contemporary non-manual lenses exclude . . . . .

Mark Holtze's picture

With nicely crafted indented f stop numbers :) (love)

Mark Holtze's picture

It's weird how an old lens can change how you take pictures. For me it was a very personal connection to my grandfather's old camera gear (he's since past) and going through his old photographs, my parents at their wedding for example all shot with these lenses. The fact that I can now take those lenses and use them in my photography, there's just something inspiring about that for me.

It's been a journey of discovery ever since, of course modern lenses are also great, but I'm a huge fan of experimentation and being able to experiment with different focal lengths has really helped me discover what kind of photography I like.

Where I find these lenses REALLY shine though is for video.

I might be a little bias though ;)

user-187388's picture

A good article and something I have already explored. Apart from Canon and Nikon cameras I use, and other brands, I started out with Pentax and have many cameras and lenses. I have a Pentax 645 and Pentax 6x7 system and several lenses. I found I could get adaptors to fit these lenses on my Kmount cameras. Film and Digital. Here is a link to an article did about thus on my blog and some sample pics.

https://geoffthompsonsblog.blogspot.com/2017/07/adapting-lenses-pentax-6...

Mark Holtze's picture

This is great Geoff! Thanks for sharing the link! Checking it out now!

Michael Jin's picture

If you're okay with manual focus, then vintage lenses are a great avenue to look into to add some different looks to your lens collection.I think setting expectations is an important thing, though. These lenses are generally not going to be the sharpest and the older you go, the more optical flaws and lower flare resistance you're likely to encounter.

Also if you want to go a bit off the beaten path and check out some of the interesting options from the Former Soviet Union, keep in mind that the quality control was often pretty atrocious so you might find different copies of the same lens to perform very differently depending on how the workers were feeling on a given day. That having been said, I feel that FSU lenses like Helios, Jupiter, and Mir are some of the more interesting ones you can add to your collection.

Mark Holtze's picture

I featured a Helios in the video, VERY reasonably priced lens for their characteristics. The manual focus on that lens needs some attention, it's really stiff. I tested out a Jupiter 85 at a vintage lens sale that was pretty nice, it wasn't cheap that particular one though and I've got a Tak 85 and a CZ 85 so a third given the price might be overkill. I really liked it though!

For me the best balance of optical quality and build quality has been the SMC Takumar's. Apparently out of business because they were competing directly with CZ offering similar optical results and build quality for a fraction of the price.

I'm not sure how accurate that is, getting vetted annotated information on these old companies is somewhat hit and miss. part of the history and story behind the lenses are definitely a big part of what attracts me to them.

Dominik Vanyi's picture

Great post. I may add that using old-glass can also be a great way to improve your photographic skills:
https://blog.usejournal.com/how-manual-focus-vintage-lenses-made-me-a-be...

Mark Holtze's picture

Great read! Thanks Dominik!

One of the things that helped convince me to switch from Canon to Pentax when I was ready to move up to Full Frame from crop sensor, was the ability to use any K-Mount lens made since the 1970s and with an adapter any M42 screw mount lens ever made.

I have only a couple of these vintage lenses, but am always on the lookout for them.

They are not general use lenses right now, but for special circumstances.