A guide to affordable vintage lenses for filmmaking and videography
By the time you’ve bought your camera and all the other fancy bits and bobs that go with it, you might find you’ve not got enough of a budget to buy a few necessary lenses. Alternatively, you might just be looking to grow your lens collection on the cheap - either way, we thought it would be a good idea to build a guide of all the best affordable lenses that you can pick up one way or another.
Disclaimer: we do ask anyone using this guide to also carry out their own research before purchasing. Different people are looking for different things and it is on you to do your research to make sure that the lens will work with your camera and will give you the features you want.
You may already know some affordable vintage lens brands such as Helios (44-2 58mm F2 is a popular one… and easy to find… Ebay), but here’s a list of some other known and lesser known brands that have affordable vintage lenses on the market that you can look out for:
- Canon FD
Some of these lenses won’t cost you more than $10-20 but always make sure that you’re not over-paying for them (do a quick ebay search) and also verify the condition of the lens. Sometimes there can be fungus growing inside the lens, or the focus ring may not work properly, so it is worth taking your time verifying these things.
The Dream Starter lens Kit
If you’re after a set of 3 lenses that are affordable to acquire and have a vintage character with lovely flares, sweet bokeh and a low contrast look then keep your eyes out for these:
MIR-1 37mm F2.8
Helios-2 44mm F2
Jupiter-9 85mm F2
You can pick this set up for under $150 and if you’re really lucky (or a skilled bargain hunter with the patience of a ninja) you can find them under $100. I have personally seen the Helios-2 44mm F2 sell for £10 on Ebay before. Albeit rare, it does happen.
The vintage Adaptall 2 lens
The Adaptall 2 lens mount was brought to market in the late 70’s as an improvement upon the original Adaptall lenses Tamron had previously released. Due to the Adaptall 2 lenses being better quality and compatible with more cameras that were on the market at the time, the Adaptall 2 lenses reached a high level of success. That previous success meant that these vintage lenses can be found abundantly in flea markets and on markets online.
The Adaptall 2 lens mount can be adapted to a whole host of different modern camera mounts such as M43, EF, E etc.. The wondrous thing about the Adaptall 2 is that it offers one of the cheapest vintage lenses on the market.
One of the most common “Adaptall 2” lenses on the market is the Tamron 80-200 CF Tele Macro lens. They can be found in flea markets, second-hand stores or on Ebay for as little as $15. It’s not a lens that you’ll be using on a day to day basis but it’s definitely something you’ll want to have in your arsenal of gear for extreme close ups and some sexy macro shots.
Note: Another Adaptall 2 Tamron lens worth keeping an eye out for is the 17mm F3.5 which is pricier than the 80-200mm lens but it is definitely worth checking out.
Looking for a list of Adaptall 2 lenses? Here’s a list of the wide variety of lenses available in this format.
- 24mm F/2.5
- 28mm F/2.5
- 135mm F/2.5
- 200mm F/3.5
- 28-50mm F/3.5-4.5
- 28-70 F/3.5-4.5
- 35-70mm F/3.5-4.5
- 35-70mm F/3.5
- 35-135mm F/3.5-4.2
- 35-135mm F/3.5-4.5
- 70-150mm F/3.5
- 70-150mm F/3.5
- 70-210mm F/3.8-4
- 75-250mm F/3.8-4.5
- 75-250mm F/3.8-4.5
- 70-350mm F/4.5
- 80-210mm F/3.8-4
- 80-210mm F/3.8-4
- 200-500mm F/6.9
Vintage C Mount lenses
There are lenses still being made for the C-mount - mainly for the security camera industry - but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any good C-mount lenses out there. The C-mount by Kodak hit the market in 1932 and was originally targeted towards super 16mm cinema cameras (the ‘c’ in C-mount allegedly stands for ‘cine’) but due to their build quality, super 16mm size and personality, they saw a resurgence among photographers and videographers in recent times. This is because adapters have been created to connect C-mount lenses to modern super 16mm cameras such as Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera.
We’d recommend the Cosmicar 25mm f/1.8 (72mm f/5.2 equivalent) if you’re looking to try out an affordable C-MOUNT lens. It’s worth noting that you’ll need a lot of light to use this lens (as it’ll be at f/5.2) and the crop factor means you won’t be getting any wide angled shots with this lens. But for around $35 (Ebay) you’ll be adding a fantastic vintage lens to your arsenal.
When purchasing a C-mount lens you will need to be sure that it covers the sensor of your camera as some C-mount lenses have been known to cause vignetting as a result of not being able to cover the entire sensor. The original BMPCC had a smaller sensor than the new BMPC4K - so super 16mm lenses will most definitely vignette on the new BMPC4K.
C-mount lens Compatibility list with Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
All of the following lenses have been tested by members of the filmmaking community and can be seen working with no modifications required to the lens. Please bear in mind that you would need to account for your camera’s crop factor when purchasing lenses with different mounts. In this case the crop factors have been calculated in relation to the image sensor of the BMPCC.
- Apollo 25mm f/0.85 - 72mm f/2.4 equivalent
- Cosmicar 25mm f/1.8 - 72mm f/5.2 equivalent
- Fujinon TV 12.5mm f/1.4 - (blurry corners)
- Nikon Cine Nikkor 13mm f/1.8 - 37,5mm f/5.2
- Nikon Cine Nikkor 25mm f/1.8 - 72mm f/5.2 equivalent
- Pentax 25mm f/1.4 - 72mm f/4 equivalent
- Schneider-Kreuznach Cine-Xenon 16mm f/2 - 46mm f/5.8 equivalent
- Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 25mm f/0.95 - 72mm f/2.7 equivalent
- Schneider Xenoplan 17mm f/1.7 - (blurry corners)
- Taylor-Hobson Cooke Kinic 25mm f/1.3 - 72mm f/3.7 equivalent
- Taylor-Hobson 25mm f/1.9 - 72mm f/5.6 equivalent
- Wesley 25mm f/1.4 - 72mm f/4 equivalent
- Wollensak Cine Raptar 12.5mm f/1.5 - 36mm f/4.3 equivalent
- Wollensak Cine Raptar 25mm f/1.9 - 72mm f/5.6 equivalent
The vintage M42 lens
Most of you may already know the more recent M43 (micro four thirds) mount. Especially if you’ve worked with the popular blackmagic pocket cinema camera. However, you may not have known that before the M43, there was the M42. The M42 lens mount was a screw-thread mounting system and was originally introduced in the Zeiss’ Contax S lens in 1949. However, the M42 hit popularity due to the Praktica brand of lenses flooding the market, which eventually led the M42 lens mount becoming known as the ‘Praktica thread mount’. However, as the M42 lens mount didn’t belong to any specific company, other manufacturers began using it too. Pentax popularized the M42 lenses in the United States.
So what does that mean for videographers today? It means that there are an incredible number of M42 vintage lenses available to discover from different brands supporting different qualities. A fantastic M42 lens to get your hands on is the Carl Zeiss Jena. They come in a variety of different flavours but we’d strongly recommend the Carl Zeiss Jena 35mm F/2.4 (M42 mount) or the Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm F/2.8 (M42 mount). Both of these lenses have the incredible image quality that is expected from German manufacturing and they’re incredibly affordable between $65-$120 depending on how lucky you get. In any case, we’d recommend any filmmaker looking to broaden their vintage kit to track down the Zeiss Jena lenses!
What other M42 mount lenses should I look out for?
1. Helios-44: Any of the earlier versions, such as Helios 44 or Helios 44-2. The earlier version Helios 44s have swirly bokeh. The Later versions '-4/-5/-6/-7' are improved for better sharpness but at the cost of the swirling bokeh.
2. Zenitar M 1.7/50: An incredible M42 50mm lens and super cheap, but with an image quality reminiscent of the classic Zeiss Ultron lens. Avoid the plastic -M2 or the square aperture versions. The original is the one you want.
3. MIR-1 or MIR-1b 37mm. A Soviet design with a lovely rendering.
4. Any Takumar in your price range. We’d recommend the 3.5/35mm as it is a small, sharp and well-performing lens.
We’ll be adding more vintage lenses to this guide as we discover them.
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