Cheap manual lens? At a time when good lenses cost up to several thousand zlotys, there is still an inexpensive alternative. Old manual lenses cost a penny and can surprise you.

Some know it, others should find out. If you are an amateur who just bought the first camera, you often face this dilemma. It turns out that the kit lens that you got with the camera is not good at all – it does not guarantee you blur the background, and in addition when it is dark it practically prevents taking pictures. That's when you find out that aperture is the key parameter for the lens, i.e. its brightness. You already know that the lower its value, the brighter the lens and the more blurred the background. Then you realize another relationship. The brighter the lens, the more expensive it is. Are you sure? Not necessarily, because by buying an old manual lens you can have clear, good and cheap glass. And that's not all the advantages of this solution.

Old glasses are much cheaper than regular lenses …

fot. Unsplash

fot. Unsplash

The cheapest lenses will be bought for a few hundred zlotys , the better ones can be found for a minimum of 1000 zlotys, often several times more. On the secondary market, however, you will find many old glasses that offer much lower prices by offering similar parameters (focal length and brightness). The classic "fifty", so a 50 mm lens with f / 1.8 light can be bought for less than PLN 100 . There are, of course, more expensive models, depending on the brightness, focal length, quality of the optics – after all, simple Soviet-style glasses are less valuable than Zeiss classics. Anyway, for a few hundred zlotys you can get a really neat lens with good optics.

… and solidly done

Price does not always have to go hand in hand with quality, at least when it comes to lens resistances. Many of the latest mid-range models are very delicate lenses – a fall from a meter can result in damage, especially for zoom models. Lens repair is not cheap, and sometimes it may be slightly lower than the value of the glass.

fot. Unsplash

fot. Unsplash

Old lenses were built with longevity in mind , they do not have delicate electronic parts, so until the fall causes the lens to break down, they will usually remain functional. What's more, even if the fall proves to be "fatal", the loss will not be so great. Due to the solid construction, well-groomed specimens can perform just as well as on the day of the premiere, even if they are 20 years old and older.

Manual lenses are universal …

Due to the fact that manual lenses do not have electronics, they are suitable for virtually any camera. You just need to find the right adapter that allows you to attach a specific lens to the camera. Such adapters usually cost a dozen or so zlotys. Of course, you can also buy adapters for electronic lenses. The difference, however, is that they are much more expensive (e.g. Sigma MC-11 – over PLN 1,000). In addition, they often have their limitations – they do not transfer stabilization, autofocus is slower, etc.

… and teach you photography

Manual lenses, as the name suggests, do not offer automatic operation . So you can forget about autofocus and automatically changing aperture. What will be a disadvantage for many, we can treat as an advantage. At the beginning of the adventure with photography, a manual lens can be very useful. It will teach you how important it is to correctly set the aperture, how important patience is when you want to sharpen the frame properly. Of course, the restrictions resulting from the lack of automation limit the use of such lenses, e.g. in event, sports or wedding photography. However, during sessions, or in other cases of stable photography, or just while learning, manual sharpening will not be a problem, and at the same time teach you patience and accuracy.

fot. Unsplash

fot. Unsplash


Older glasses are great for filming

While manual photography makes restrictions, while manual shooting is obvious. Filming vlogs or reportages will be much easier with autofocus, but on film sets it is sharpened manually. Then you can decide what's in focus and what's out of focus and get the effect of smooth sharpening. Therefore, manual lenses are ideally suited to the filmmaker's hands . For the price of one medium-range electronic lens, you can buy a whole set of good-class manual lenses with bright light that will allow you to get the entire spectrum of viewing angles.

Manual lenses are imperfect

fot. Unsplash

fot. Unsplash

Finally, the last advantage, which can also be seen as a disadvantage – depending on the point of view. The latest high-end lenses offer great optics. This means that they cope with the blinking of light inside, are sharp on the entire surface of the frame, eliminate the phenomenon of chromatic aberration. In many applications such factors are desirable. However, old lenses due to their imperfections can provide a very climatic and characteristic "look" that will be unmistakable. Many filmmakers intentionally use old glasses to get visually interesting effects. The popular glass among photographers is, for example, the Soviet Helios 44, which guarantees a slightly soapy image with a unique "bokeh" effect. So sometimes a disadvantage can be turned into an advantage.

It's also worth reading!

If I convinced you to buy a manual glass, read the text in which I recommend m42 lenses. Take a look at other interesting texts on various photographic issues.

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