Vintage manual lenses can give you splendid results in both photography and filmmaking. There are some real gems among them, with exquisite sharpness or crazy bokeh. Filmmaker Brandon Li likes to use a couple of vintage lenses for his videos, and he shares four of his favorite ones and the reasons why he loves using them.
It’s the holiday season and it seems like Christmas lights are everywhere you look. Photographer Mathieu Stern has taken advantage of this and he’s turned those lights into some crazy bokeh. In his latest video, he uses three cheap vintage lenses and turns the Christmas lights into rich, sparkly, “bokehlicious” backdrop. So if you’re planning some holiday-themed portraits, maybe you can look for these lenses at flea markets or eBay.
As my love for photography has increased over time, so has my love for manual focus lenses. Lenses such as the Samyang 135mm f2 provide unsurpassed sharpness and image quality, at a price much lower than its autofocus counterparts. Often you also save weight and size when switching to a manual lens. I switched my Sigma 35mm f1.4 ART for a Voigtländer Ultron 35mm f1.7, and got a lens that was just a fraction of the weight and size while maintaining comparable image quality and low light performance. Not to mention the joy when using manual lenses – the fact that you are forced to pause for 2-3 seconds whenever you take a photo, forcing you to consider the composition for a moment, often with better photos as a result.
Photographer Mathieu Stern is crazy about vintage lenses, and his collection contains some pretty unusual pieces. For his latest video, he chose three vintage prime lenses of different manufacturers and focal lengths. He used them to photograph the same model on three different locations, and you can compare the results and check out how each of the lenses performs for portrait photography.
If you use vintage lenses, you might have heard that some of them are radioactive. As a matter of fact, many lenses produced between the 1940s and the 1970s emit a measurable amount of radioactivity. It comes from the element named Thorium, which was used in the glass elements of the lenses. But should this concern you? Could your precious collection of vintage lenses damage your health? Mathieu Stern decided to find it out. He did some “tests” to check whether the radioactivity of the vintage lenses is harmful to the health, and it seems he even had some serious fun while he filmed the video.
Although new lenses are announced regularly, we must admit there’s a lot of magic in vintage lenses, and many photographers even prefer them. Filmmaker and photographer Mathieu Stern is one of them. He has found another vintage lens that gives great results, yet has a low price.
It’s Konica Hexanon 40mm f/1.8. On eBay, you can find it for under $50. And it can go even cheaper on flea markets – Mathieu got his for the incredible $5. But don’t let the price fool you – with this lens, apparently, you get far more from what you pay for.
If you enjoy experimenting with bokeh shapes, I’ve found a perfect tutorial for you. Mathieu Stern is known for his solutions which are so simple that they are ingenious. In under a minute, he’ll teach you how to create spectacular “bokeh explosion” with a simple modification of the lens.
My collection of lenses grows each month. I’ve recently accepted the fact that I didn’t buy a big enough cabinet to store them all. In an attempt to free up some room I decided to conduct a culling. In the process of getting exceptional lenses, sometimes I have to buy a batch in order to get the one I’m after. Recently, I bought such a box which had one lens I wanted and the rest were all “bonus” junk. One of these freebies was an old Minolta SR mount Vivitar 80-200mm f/4.5. This lens is a one-touch, push-pull style zoom; slide the fat ring of the lens to adjust the focal length and to adjust focus you simply rotate the same ring. The lens’ ring is about as a tight as a 30 year old sock. With even the slightest tilt it sloppily slides forward or backward. There is a term for this condition which is called ‘lens creep’. Usually lens creep just means that the heavy front barrel of a zoom lens slowly drifts forward or backward, depending on which way it’s angled. Mmyeah… on this lens, the zoom ring itself “creeps” about as smooth and quiet as a bowling bowl thrown down a flight of stairs.
The winter sun was low to the horizon as I steadied myself upon a rather uncomfortable wooden perch. My back to the sun and downwind, target in clear sight, I drew in a deep breath then slowly exhaled as I prepared to take the shot. At the bottom of my breath I waited for that brief moment between heart beats as I took up the slack in my finger. Thump thump… Thump thump… squeeze. The sharp report from my mouse-click heralded the confirmation of success. “Congratulations, you won! OLYMPUS OM-SYSTEM S ZUIKO AUTO-ZOOM 28-48mm F/4 MF Lens W/HOOD (HAZE)”.
Mathieu Stern’s at it again with his crazy experiments. This time, he’s taken the lens off a 120 year old folding camera, and attached it to his Sony mirrorless camera. This is nothing new, but what is new is that he’s given it autofocus abilities.
The first autofocus lenses were released around 40 years ago, so this is quite the feat. He used an ingenious adapter designed to give autofocus abilities to manual focus Leica lenses on the Sony A7 range of bodies. Mathieu then modified the adapter to fit this 120 year old lens.