Six Manual Focus Lenses for Canon and Nikon Worth Mastering

These manual focus lenses can produce some seriously stunning results once you get to know them.

Often, when we go to buy new glass, we are quick to discredit manual focus lenses. That’s a real shame; there are some truly stunning manual focus lenses on the market for both Canon and Nikon cameras. But in a day and age where we expect things to be done for us, these gems often fall by the wayside. Let’s take a look at six manual focus lenses for both Canon and Nikon cameras that are worth spending the money on and mastering.

These manual focus lenses are spectacular when it comes to image and build quality, and with modern cameras, focusing with them is a piece of cake thanks to the 10x magnification and focus peaking functions. Yes, some of these lenses are quite expensive, but don’t let that deter you as you will be getting lenses of the highest quality. On the flip side of the coin, there are also some manual focus lenses listed here that are incredibly affordable but no less impressive than the more expensive options we’ve listed. All of these manual focus lenses will stun you in the best way.

 

IRIX 15mm F2.4 FireFly

 

landscape photography

Here are the pros ans cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Weather sealing
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Accurate focusing depth of field markers
  • Sharp optics
  • Innovative features like the ability to lock the focus with a separate ring

Cons

  • Focusing communication with a Sony FE camera via a Metabones adapter wasn’t the absolute best

Buy now Canon EF ($637.50): Amazon

Buy now Nikon F ($637.50): Amazon

 

Zeiss 35mm F1.4 Milvus

 

manual focus lenses

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Fantastic image quality
  • Such low distortion that it surely can be used for portraits
  • Great skin tone rendition helps this lens work for loads of different skin types and tones
  • Sharp
  • Zeiss micro-contrast will have everyone in shock at how beautiful the images are
  • Precise focusing
  • Weather sealing
  • Solid build quality
  • My personal favorite focal length and aperture

Cons

  • Heavy and big

Buy now Canon EF ($1,593.28): Amazon

Buy now Nikon F ($1,536.55): Amazon

 

Pro Tip: Clean, clean, clean. We preach it often here, but it’s only because it’s one of the most important things you can do to keep your lenses looking and functioning at their best. Clean your glass as soon as you see debris on the front element. The last thing you want is for that expensive glass to become scratched, nor do you want to have to spend extra time in post removing dirt spots from your images. This basic lens cleaning kit comes with everything you need to keep your glass in tip-top condition, and it costs less than $15!

 

Zeiss Milvus 50mm F2

 

manual focus lenses

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Ridiculously sharp
  • Very smooth and precise focusing
  • Great bokeh
  • Weather sealing
  • Not too large of a lens
  • The best colors right out of the camera that I’ve seen with a Zeiss lens yet with the exception of the 55mm f1.4 Otus.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Considering that we hardly ever autofocus when we shoot at macro ranges, the lack of autofocus isn’t as much as a con for us as it will be for someone that is too lazy to turn a ring on a camera lens

Buy now Canon EF ($1,047.79): Amazon

Buy now Nikon F ($1,135.29): Amazon

 

Zeiss 85mm F1.4 Milvus

 

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Only a hair less sharper than the 85mm f1.4 Otus
  • Weather sealing
  • Great feeling in the hand
  • Wonderful, wonderful colors though a bit too saturated for skin tones
  • Zero color fringing

Cons

  • Long focus throw makes focusing very precise, but manually focusing the lens while handheld isn’t so simple due to you actually moving and not staying still. It’s best done with a tripod
  • Quite expensive; $1,799 (at the time of writing in 2015) though that’s cheaper than the Canon 85mm f1.2 L

Buy now Canon EF ($1,373.50): Amazon

Buy now Nikon F ($1,794.49): Amazon

 

Pro Tip: Another great way to ensure that you get accurate focus with manual focus lenses is to use viewfinder magnifier. Magnifiers simply slip over the viewfinder of your camera, and as the name implies, they will magnify the image you see by up to 1.6x. This can make manual focusing a breeze, and you won’t chew through extra battery by using live view to nail focus. This one fits all major brands of cameras, and is very affordable.

 

Venus Optics Laowa 105mm F2

 

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Incredible colors
  • Fantastic sharpness when in focus and using a flash
  • Great for skin tones
  • Excellent build quality overall
  • Feels great in the hand

Cons

  • Considering that this isn’t an electronically connected lens, we’ve got no major issues overall

Buy now Canon EF ($699): Amazon

Buy now Nikon F ($699): Amazon

 

Rokinon 135mm F2 ED UMC

 

manual focus lenses

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Stunning image quality on every front
  • Very precise focusing ring

Cons

  • Kind of big, but that’s natural for a lens like this
  • Rokinon needs a new exterior. We’d pay extra for metal for sure

Buy now Canon EF ($499): Amazon

Buy now Nikon F ($499): Amazon

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.