Vintage lenses weren’t designed for digital photography; but their effects is one that isn’t often mimicked anymore in digital and that can be very beautiful. These lenses aren’t the sharpest, they don’t have micro contrast, they don’t have the saturated colors that modern lenses have, and they don’t resolve as much detail–but they’ll give you an incredible look that you could be in love with right out of the camera. Indeed, some of these lenses are popular and some aren’t. But in our tests and trials, these are a few that really stand out.
Helios 40-2-85mm f1.5
The Helios 85mm f1.5 is very popular amongst the filmmaker community and it has only really started to gain attention with the photographic community in the past couple of years. The lens offers a beautiful vintage look, metal body, and a couple of quirky features that make it inherently Russian in design.
Want some very creamy bokeh? This is the one to spring for.
Zeiss 58mm f2 Biotar
The Zeiss 58mm f2 Biotar was called the bubble lens; and has more aperture blades than so many modern lenses. It can be adapted to pretty much any mirrorless camera due to the Exacta mount and offers a low contrast look to the images that when saturated looks beautifully lo-fi. This lens also has very beautiful bokeh.
Leica 40mm f2
Years ago, Leica created a camera called the Leica CL. It was discontinued soon afterwards because of its affordability eating into the sales of all the other M cameras. The Leica CL came with a 40mm f2 lens that many photographers love even today when they adapt it to their cameras. On modern Leicas, it is said to offer really beautiful image quality and is still said to be one of the sharpest lenses that the company ever made.
Oh right, and it’s compact. In fact, we’re tempted to call it a pancake lens, but not quite.
Canon 50mm f0.95
Years before they got into the SLR camera game, Canon made rangefinder cameras that we’re pretty darned good. But while many other German companies had much more popular offerings, what partially attracted folks to Canon was their 50mm f0.95 offer. This screwmount lens gave photographers the ability to shoot in little to no light with their rangefinders. This lens is nowhere as good as f0.95 offerings that are made today, but if you convert all of your images to black and white you won’t have a problem with it. In fact, we encourage it.
Nikon 50mm f1.8 D
As one of the more current lenses on this list, the Nikon 50mm f1.8 D is a pretty old lens that was originally made for their film F-mount cameras. The newer lenses don’t have aperture rings on them, but this one does as it was designed to work with many of the older Nikon SLR cameras. Videographers often use this lens on their 5D cameras for the look that it offers over Canon’s own lenses. And who can mistrust what so many videographers are doing?