Should You Buy a Vintage Lens?

The Canon L series 24-105.

It’s arguably the most versatile lens you can buy in terms of its price, quality, and focal range. It gives a very clean, smooth and reliable image. But what if you want something with a bit more character? This is where vintage lenses come in.

So why use older, cheaper lenses when you have a relatively new lenses.

Well vintage lenses where used on film cameras and there is something about the look they produce which is so applying.

When you attach it to a modern DLSR or mirrorless camera, it produces a classic vintage aesthetic, getting you closer to achieving the film look. And because it is now in front of a modern sensor, the resolution of the image is not compromised; giving you something both modern and characteristic.

There are two avenues to go down when buying vintage glass.

You can go for something beaten or well loved. A lens which has been used to death or a bit mistreated will give you look that is the opposite of sterile, perfect for a highly-stylised image.

Then there are well looked-after vintage lenses.

You’d think they are less common than those that have collected dust and dirt, but most people take special care of their camera equipment.

The quality of the glass inside most of these old lenses is far superior to the modern equivalent in a similar price range. For a fraction of the price, you’ll get top quality glass.


This Jupiter 9, 85mm f2 lens, which I picked up for £80! I’ve been wanting an 85mm lens for a while now, but could not justify the price of a Canon or Sony version of this lens. So I went with this one as it is much cheaper than the Canon or Sony alternatives, for a lens that will not be used on a daily basis and might just sit in my camera bag until I need it. This is a real benefit of picking up vintage lens.

But be warned! Vintage lenses, even those that are pristine, have some visual characteristics that you will either love or hate.

This 85 has some serious lens flares! But in all honesty, they do look pretty cool!


If there is a light source just out of frame, you get this awesome soft, bright lens flare. Add a coloured gel to your light and you are now shooting some really stylistic stuff. But, if you want to shoot clean, you can always put a lens hood on it or flag the light from hitting the lens.

This 35mm has a heavy vignette. Vignettes are something people add to their image in post-production, so I don’t consider this a downside to the lens. If anything, I quite like the look it gives, as it guides the audience’s eye to the subject. The vignette is very natural as it does it in camera, so there are no banding issues like vignettes applied in post.



So compared to modern lenses, each vintage lens has its own visual style that is unique to each lens.

Back in the day, changing your f stop was done mechanically and not electronically, meaning that adjusting the aperture is done on the lens.

What’s great about some vintage lenses is the aperture doesn’t click – it’s smooth, like a focus ring. This means if you wanted to, you can adjust exposure during the take and it doesn’t jump from f stop to f stop. This is handy if you need to adjustment exposure if the camera travels from outside to inside.

So vintage lenses are a bit quirky, they give something unique, authentic, and just something a bit different. But here’s the downside.

Vintage lenses don’t have image stabilisation. So if you are shooting handheld or run and gun, you’ll probably experience micro jitters. With a modern lens that has IS like the 24-105, it will remove those micro jitters from you image.

Lastly, if you aren’t planning on embracing the quirky flaws of a vintage lens because the project needs a clean look, then you will have to use something like a 24-105.

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