Using Vintage lenses on the Fuji X-T3

Lenses are expensive: things like autofocus, modern coatings, and even just the fact that you're buying something new all contribute to the price. When it comes to saving money, vintage lenses are often a fantastic option, generally coming with unique looks that are difficult if not impossible to recreate in post.

While the images you get out of a vintage lens aren't as sharp as a more modern equivalent, they more than make up for that in character. Not every lens has to be so sharp you can cut yourself on it; there is something to be said about something a little softer and dreamier with a defined look being prioritized over absolute sharpness. Heck, Leica sells a Soft Focus lens, the Thambar-M 90mm f/2, for almost $6,500. 

In this video by Tony Northrup, he explores the advantages and disadvantages of Vintage Lenses on the Fuji X-T3. He uses a Nikon-Fuji Focal reducer to keep a near-full frame FOV and compress the image onto the APS-C sensor of the lens. Personally, I would recommend a Canon to Fuji adapter, as this way, you can adapt more lenses (M42, Pentax K, and even Nikon G can all be adapted to Canon with infinity focus, allowing you to widen your options considerably) 

Tony brings up some great points about using vintage lenses on mirrorless bodies, specifically regarding things like focus peaking, being able to look through the viewfinder in black and white, as well as the ability to have real-time aperture priority. While I don't agree with when Tony says that the lenses are only really good for snapshots (I spent the first few years on exclusively manual glass and got some fantastic and sharp-enough images that I've printed out rather large), he does a good job of outlining how to get started with vintage lenses.

On modern lenses, we generally deal with what is called "focus by wire," where turning the focusing ring tells the camera to move the autofocus motor in relation to how quickly or slowly you move the focus ring. On vintage lenses, the focus ring turns a physical helicoid in the lens and moves the elements the same way every single time.

Have you ever shot with vintage lenses? Why or why not? I should give you a warning: with how cheap some of these lenses are, you will find yourself collecting them and hoarding them.

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11 Comments

Rob Mitchell's picture

I sort of get the nostalgia trip thing when using my old Fujifilm S3pro. Which I do often to remind myself how far things have come.

Adriano Brigante's picture

Yep, I shoot only with vintage lenses, because I shoot only with vintage cameras (and I don't really care about sharpness for my style of photography). I think I have at least 50 lenses. My absolute favorites are the Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 and the Olympus Zuiko 28mm f2.8. But there's so many of them, each with their own personality: the Carl Zeiss Tessar 50mm f2.8, the Meyer-Optik Görlitz Domiplan 50mm f2.8, the Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 135mm f3.5, etc...

Tim Gallo's picture

konica ar 50 is the beast! i feel you!

Tony Northup should be being sued for libel right now for attempting to #metoo a celebrated photographer in a disgusting paid self-promotion video instead of being regularly promoted on this website. Exercise a little editorial discretion--please.

Darren Loveland's picture

What'd he do? I don't really keep up with the drama side of things, but this seems worthy of explanation if he's actually done something wrong.

Spy Black's picture

That's how it happened in the Blitzkriegs. Shit blew up, and nobody knew WTF was going on.

I don't know either... :-D

Pedro Pulido's picture

after the incident with McCurry, and even though sometimes Northup does create interesting content, I no longer open any videos made from him. For me, it is a matter of principles. I'm not supporting him in any way whatsoever. His character has been revealed and I do not support it.

Benton Lam's picture

Precisely. I refused to watch his videos to not monetize his channel.

If you want information on vintage lenses, Casual Photophile and 35mmc often talks about vintage lenses. Analog Insights and Matt Day consistently make videos on analog cameras, so why not go with content creators with a longer track record on this?

I shoot with vintage glass on my Fuji regularly. 50mm and 55mm Takumars make amazing portrait lenses on APSC.

Mark Holtze's picture

OHHH I was so wanting to do a video on this !!!! Fuji just SCREAMS that vintage look, coupled with vintage lenses....BOOM....here I was thought I was original ;). Nice video,

I use both Leica M, M39 and Canon FD lenses on the Fuji. Kinda want to get a focal reducer for the FDs and stick a fast 50 or 35 on it ;)