Best Vintage Lenses of 2020 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

Vintage lenses can be hard to come by. They give our pictures a quirky and nostalgic look. Lenses these days are made to give extra sharp, extra clear, and extra perfect images. This can end up making the pictures boring. The subtle vignette, controlled flare, and different colors make a picture stand out amongst others. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Vintage Lenses

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Voigtlander Lens F1.4/35 mm Nokton Classic SC Frame M

  • Maximum aperture is F 1.4
  • The focal length is 35 mm
  • Gives the most stunning images with a vintage look
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Voigtlander Color-Skopar Pan 35mm f/2.5 Wide Angle Manual Focus Lens

  • Focal length of 35 mm
  • Maximum aperture of F 2.5
  • Unique design with greater control
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Helios 77M-4 50mm F1.8 Russian Vintage Lens

  • Best for the money
  • Focal length of 50 mm
  • Maximum aperture of F 1.8
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Voigtlander 35mm f/1.7 Ultron Chrome Aspherical Leica M mount

  • Focal length of 35mm
  • Best vintage 35 mm lens
  • Maximum aperture is F1.7
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Jupiter 9 85mm F2 Russian Portrait Lens M42 Mount

  • Maximum aperture is F2
  • Has a focal length of 85mm
  • Best vintage 85mm portrait lens
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Voigtlaender Ultra Lens 28 mm/F 2.0 Leica M Connection

  • Best 28mm vintage lens
  • Maximum aperture of F 2
  • Has a focal length of 28mm
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7artisans 35mm F2.0 Leica M Mount Fixed Lens

  • Best Bokeh vintage lens
  • Maximum aperture of F 2
  • Has a focal length of 35mm
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Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4 Prime Lens, Fully Cla'ed, UV De-yellowed

  • Maximum aperture of F 1.4
  • Has a focal length of 50mm
  • Best vintage lens for mirrorless
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What is a Vintage Lens?

Vintage lenses are older and used lenses. They all have a manual focus for more control over the composition and a manual aperture ring as well. There are no automatic or electronic components to them. Since they are old lenses, they were originally made for film cameras with a 35mm frame. They are used to give pictures an artistic look. They can be used with modern DSLR cameras with an adapter. Lenses made up till the 1980s are considered vintage.

When Would I Use a Vintage Lens?

There are many different ways and reasons you can use a vintage lens for:

Budget

Good quality lenses these days can be very expensive. It is true that they give amazing results, but when you use a good vintage lens, you don't see a lot of difference. These lenses will have some contrast issues, but that can be easily edited. If you compare the prices of both, those little defects end up being not a big deal. Besides, those little imperfections can be used to be a part of the picture in a creative way. 

Creativity

Instead of taking pictures from modern cameras that do a lot of the work for us, the vintage manual cameras give us a creative edge. These cameras have some flare that can be used to capture beautiful images in sunlight. You, of course, need some practice and experience to get the hang of it. Once you do, the results are beautiful and different from any other.

Manual Focus

Automatic focus does not always help. In fact, sometimes it can be annoying, especially in videos. The vintage manual cameras are great for capturing videos. You can use these lenses with new cameras. These cameras have viewfinders, focus peaking, and focus magnification that makes manual focusing much easier. 

How to Choose a Vintage Lens

Just because you look for some flares and other little imperfections in a vintage picture, it does not mean that the lens has to be low quality. You still need a good quality lens to give professional photographs.

Ease of Focus Ring

Manual focus is good for more control of the image and is usually preferred by professionals. If they are difficult to use, they can be a nuisance, and the scene you want to capture might be lost. The focus ring should be smooth and easily rotatable.

Sharpness and Color

Vintage does not mean low-quality images. These lenses usually give very sharp results. They are, of course, softer compared to modern lenses, but that is preferred by the users of vintage lenses. These lenses don't have as many coatings. The colors look more natural in this lens. The controlled flares and little vignette at the corners can also be used for the benefit of the picture. But too much is not pleasing.

Price

At first, vintage lenses were seen as a great alternative for the more expensive modern lenses. These days, however, they are becoming more and more in demand by not just professional photographers but also Instagram photographers. This results in increased prices and less availability. There are still plenty of lenses that can be found in the lower-price range.  

Review of the Best Vintage Lenses

Here are some of the best vintage lenses you can use. With the following models, you are sure to have the best experience.

Voigtlander Lens F1.4/35 mm Nokton Classic SC Frame M

PROS

  • The lens is small and compact
  • It is comparatively very inexpensive
  • Colors and Bokeh are good for a vintage lens
  • Single-coated lens for a classic look to the images
  • Images are not too sharp and have a glow for the classical look

CONS

  • Barrel distortion is hard
  • There are some problems with exposure

What Recent Buyers Report

This lens has great focus and gives sharp images. People love using it for day-to-day use. It gives images with some character that vintage camera lovers want in their pictures. The handling of the lens is easy. It is lightweight, compact, and pretty strong as well.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Classic lenses are supposed to give a not-so-perfect sharp image. That is the appeal of them. That is exactly what this lens gives. It gives a character to your images. The results are somewhat smooth but still clear enough to give a good image. The build quality is strong.

Who Will Use This Most

This lens is a perfect vintage lens. To outsiders, it might look like a defective lens that does not produce sharp enough images, but for those photographers that appreciate that artistic look, know that it is one of the best. It goes with Mount M.

Bottom Line

This is our top pick for a classic lens. This is a strong and sturdy lens that comes at a low price. It gives a great artistic look. Voigtlander has been in business for a long time and has proven its worth, thus making it a great pick.

Voigtlander Color-Skopar Pan 35mm f/2.5 Wide Angle Manual Focus Lens - Black

PROS

  • It is a lightweight and compact lens
  • Gives sharp results for a vintage lens
  • Comes with a lens hood to protect from flare
  • The pancake design lets it not stand out too much
  • Manual focus lets the photographer have more control

CONS

  • The lens cap is not of good quality

What Recent Buyers Report

The small size and low-price is a great selling point of this lens. Many people use for street photography. The sharpness of the images is great. The coloring is found to be well balanced and natural. The manual focusing is not too difficult.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pancake type lens is extremely lightweight and inconspicuous. It is completely made of metal and is strong and durable. It produces amazingly sharp images. It has a noticeable vignette that can come in handy when going for the classic look. The lenses of this category are usually expensive, but this one comes at a much lower price.

Who Will Use This Most

The lightweight, small, and flat design of this lens makes it perfect for traveling. It does not stand out at all and can be used for street photography as well. The 35mm focal length is good for landscapes and portraits in good lighting.

Bottom Line

The second pick for vintage lenses is again from Voigtlander. Its aperture is not a match for the first one, but it gives very sharp and clear images. Protection from flare and ghosting is great. You get a great deal with the low-price and great quality.

Helios 77M-4 50mm F1.8 Russian Vintage Lens for Canon EOS

PROS

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Bokeh is smooth and creamy
  • Focus ring is smooth and easy to use
  • Images are very sharp at F1.8 aperture as well
  • It has little chromatic aberrations and vignetting

CONS

  • The aperture ring is hard to turn

What Recent Buyers Report

This lens gives a great Bokeh and sharp image. People definitely recommend it for future use. The artistic look to the pictures is a plus for any vintage lens user. The price is extremely low. The build material is also strong and pretty durable even after years of use.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens is strong and compact. It gives sharp images and great color contrast as well. There are no distortions in the images. The wide aperture gives smooth and beautiful Bokeh. The manual focus lets you have more control over the composition.

Who Will Use This Most

50mm lenses are always versatile and can be used for anything from street photography to landscapes. You can use this vintage lens for low-light photography as well because of the wide aperture. It is not too heavy and can be carried around easily.

Bottom Line

This lens comes at a great price and promises sharp and colorful images. The build material is strong and durable. You get a great depth of field and Bokeh for those creative compositions. And of course a smooth and easy to use manual focus ring that any vintage photographer needs.

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.7 Ultron Chrome Aspherical Leica M mount

PROS

  • Good and easy to use manual focus
  • Great aperture for low-light photography
  • Has a black aluminum finish for a vintage look
  • Uses 10-blade diaphragm for a creamy Bokeh
  • Aspherical lens to reduce any distortions and aberrations

CONS

  • It is more expensive than others

What Recent Buyers Report

This lens gives the images a cinematic look. The price is not much of an issue, considering the quality and sharpness of the images. The build quality is also great. People use this with Fuji cameras mostly. It gives great color contrast and a smooth Bokeh when used properly.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The lens is made of metal and good quality glass. It is resistant to any damage. It is a small and light model. It gives some vignetting for a classic and artistic look. Chromatic aberrations and distortions are minimum. Flares and ghosting are very little too.

Who Will Use This Most

This lens can be used for great Bokeh and sun star effects. It can capture good landscape images and give them a vintage look. This is for M mount cameras. The manual focus ring gives you control over the image. 35mm lenses are great for landscape and indoor photography, and this one is no different.

Bottom Line

35mm lenses can be used for many purposes. For a vintage look, you need manual focus, and this one has that. You get good flare control and Bokeh with this lens. It comes in two colors. One is silver with a brass focus ring, and the other is black with an aluminum focus ring.

Best Vintage 85mm Portrait Lens:
Jupiter 9 85mm F2 Russian Portrait Lens M42 Mount

Jupiter 9 85mm F2 Russian Portrait Lens M42 Mount

PROS

  • Made of aluminum that makes it very light
  • 15 rounded aperture blades for great Bokeh
  • Gives some flaring that can be used for vintage images
  • Chromatic aberrations and distortions are not noticeable
  • At wide apertures, it gives soft results that are used in portraits

CONS

  • The focusing ring is hard

What Recent Buyers Report

Russian vintage lenses are always great. This one gives good results as well and lives up to the name. The images are sharp with good Bokeh for portraits. It is light and easy to carry around. Once people get used to the focus ring, there are no other problems found in this.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens has a great build and is sturdy. The circular apertures result in a beautiful Bokeh that is one of the best points of this lens. The images produced have a good color contrast and little distortions. The flaring, when used properly, can give your landscape images a good look.

Who Will Use This Most

85mm lenses are perfect for portrait photography. They give great Bokeh and make the subject of the picture stand out more. This 85mm lens also gives that perfect portrait look. It is not too heavy to carry around either. This long focal length is also great for low-light photography.

Bottom Line

Vintage images always stand out and have a distinctive look. For portraits, capturing that classic quality without making it un-sharp or distorted is important. This lens gives great results in that area. The Bokeh makes background distractions minimum, and the subject stands out.

Voigtlaender Ultra Lens 28 mm/F 2.0 Leica M Connection

PROS

  • A good manual focus ring
  • Can be used for low-light photography
  • 10-bladed diaphragm for smooth Bokeh
  • Minimum distortion and spherical aberrations
  • Comes with a lens hood for flare and ghosting protection

CONS

  • Sharpness at maximum aperture is not good

What Recent Buyers Report

The price is very low. It shoots great night photography. The results are sharp. Some people notice chromatic aberrations at wide angles, but they are usually not a problem. It is not loved by people who want perfect clear pictures. Those who like the imperfect vintage look don't have a problem with the lens.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens uses high refractive index glass to reduce field curvature and any other distortions. The wide aperture gives the images a good depth of field and low-light images. You can get minimum ghosting and flare with the removable lens hood. If you want the creative look from flares, you can remove the hood.

Who Will Use This Most

28mm lenses are wide lenses. They are used for capturing more in the frame. You can use them for landscape photography and indoor photography as well. The good aperture makes it suitable for photographing in different types of lighting conditions. It is not too heavy either, so it can be used for day to day use.

Bottom Line

After the ultra-long focal length lens for portraits comes the ultra-wide focal length for landscapes. This lens is one of the best in that category of vintage lenses. It gives good Bokeh and strong results in low-light. The flares and distortions are also manageable.

7artisans 35mm F2.0 Leica M Mount Fixed Lens for Leica M-Mount Cameras Like Leica M-M Leica M240 Leica M3 Leica M6 Leica M7 Leica M8 Leica M9 Leica M9p Leica M10 - Silver Color (Silver)

PROS

  • Minimum flare and good sharpness
  • Wide aperture for good depth of field
  • 10-bladed aperture for smooth Bokeh
  • Depth of field scale to help with focusing
  • Aluminum and brass material for a strong and durable lens

CONS

  • Does not have weather sealing

What Recent Buyers Report

The Bokeh of this lens is what users like the most. The build quality is strong and sturdy. It is not too difficult to use. It gives sharp enough images. The price is too good to be true and makes some think that the quality is not good. But those who use it report great results.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The aluminum body makes it strong yet lightweight. It has optical coatings to prevent flares and gives good color contrast. The fast and 10-bladed aperture rings give a good Bokeh effect. Chromatic aberrations and distortions are minimum. The manual focus is easy to use and smooth as well.

Who Will Use This Most

This lens is made to be used with M-mount cameras. It is great for capturing landscapes and gives beautiful Bokeh. It is durable and lightweight for all-day use. It can also be used for street photography as 35mm is a favorite of street photographers.

Bottom Line

Bokeh effects are always pleasing to the eye. They give the picture a creative look and make the subject stand out. This vintage lens  is one of the best for Bokeh. It is German-made, and they make some of the best artistic camera lenses.

Best Vintage Lens for Mirrorless:
 Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4 Prime Lens

Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4 Prime Lens, Fully Cla'ed, UV De-yellowed

PROS

  • It is small and lightweight
  • Body material is strong and durable
  • Super multi-coating for reduced flares
  • Fast aperture for low-light photography
  • Images are sharp throughout the frame

CONS

  • Only 6-bladed aperture not good enough for smooth Bokeh

What Recent Buyers Report

This lens is well-built and sturdy. People don't really have anything negative to say about things. Some have found radioactivity in it. But there are non-radioactive versions as well. The images are sharp, and the low-light photography results are also good.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens gives very sharp and clear images. The price is low. It is very lightweight and compact. The manual focus is easy to use, and it has a smooth focus ring too. Flare and ghosting are reduced by the multi-coating. The final images have good contrast and no distortion.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Mirrorless cameras are lighter, faster, and better for videos. They don't have a mirror that throws the image onto the viewfinder. Mirrorless lenses are mostly used by beginners, but professional photographers also get great results. The 50mm lens is not too wide or too long. It can be used for many different types of photography.

Bottom Line

Mirrorless cameras are lighter and faster. They are used by many for videos. This lens is durable and strong. The long aperture makes it suitable for various different lighting conditions. It gives sharp images, and it comes at a low-price.

Pros and Cons of Vintage Lenses

Vintage lenses have their appeal, but they are not suitable for every occasion. Here are some pros and cons of using vintage lenses.

Pros

Let's first quickly overview the pros

Distinctive

As mentioned before, vintage lenses are great for creating unique images. They have produced effects that are not usually found in modern lenses. They are too clean and sharp. People love the old-school classic Hollywood look these lenses give.

Budget-Friendly

Older lenses are cheap but still on par with the modern ones. You get sharp and beautiful results with it. Modern Canon and Nikon lenses can be ridiculously overpriced some times. These lenses come as a lifesaver at that point.  

More Control

With all manual lenses, you get more control over what happens in your frame. This prevents you from becoming too lazy with autofocus electronic cameras. These lenses are also mostly prime lenses that street photographers love. It helps you better understand the focusing mechanism of the camera.

Cons

Meanwhile, the downsides are:

Maintenance

These lenses are old and hence require maintenance just like any other old mechanical device. The focus and aperture rings can become hard over time if not properly cleaned.

Practice

These lenses, though great, need some getting used to. Since everything is manual, new users or novices will find it hard to get good pictures from them. You have to practice to find the right settings for you. 

Conclusion

Vintage lenses are becoming more and more popular these days. It is important to find the right quality lens. This article gives a wide range of lenses to choose from. They are all from top manufacturers.  You should, before buying, keep in mind the camera and mount compatibility. There are adapters available that you can use to attach your lens to modern DSLRs to make these work for you.