Why use 'old' glass?


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 08:30
I have been using a DSLR for several years and as an Olympus E-system user the choice of old lenses was pretty restricted without resorting to adapters. As such I never bothered.
However, having recently 'converted' to Pentax, the choice of 'old glass' is now much wider.
For my normal use of the camera, travel photos, I shall stick to the WR modern lenses but I am interested in what I can gain from 'playing' with older lenses when I'm at home.

What are the advantages or old lenses? Is it just that they are cheap, are they better optically, is it just for the challenge?

So, as the title says, why use 'old' glass?
CaptureLight Ltd
"I carry a camera to capture memories and the occasional photograph worthy of sharing"


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 08:36
It's a bit of everything really - many are real bargains, quality is superb, anything can be used fully if it has an A on the aperture ring (otherwise still can be used with some limitations), it's fun to experiment, it's fun to collect....it depends on your interests.

In a practical sense, maybe I couldn't afford a new macro lens but a manual focus one would be just as good but a fraction of the cost. Maybe I could find an old fish-eye lens to try out. Perhaps a fast 50mm.

Anything not liked or found to be useful can always go back on eBay, with little or no loss in the process.

Win-win really.
Best regards, John


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 08:44
One reason to use older lenses is simply that they are not made in the modern format.

Lenses having a long focal length in particular.

An older Pentax-K 500mm lens will cost a fraction of the current Pentax 560mm lens (when it's actually available).

An unused 1000mm 1:8 lens sold on eBay recently for around 450.00, a DA version of that lens would need a mortgage I think.

I think it's fair to say that some older lenses are every bit as good as their modern equivalent, but at a fraction of the price.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream
Last Edited by Mannesty on 11/01/2013 - 08:45


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 09:30
Some focal lengths just aren't available new anymore, I recently bought a manual focus 400mm f4 very cheaply the modern equivalent in canon runs around 4000ish...

I think that's a good enough reason
PPG Wedding photography Flickr
Concert photography

Currently on a Pentax hiatus until an FF Pentax is released


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 09:35
I have a number of 20 or 30 year old lenses that are pretty much as good as modern lenses but for a fraction of the cost. These include a Pentax M 50 f/1.7, a Sigma 24mm f2.8 Superwide II, a Chinon 28mm f2.8 and a Pentax M 75-150mm f4 zoom all of which I use regularly. In total, I paid around 150 for the lot. How much for equivalent modern glass - ten times are much or even more than that??

Flickr photostream


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 10:52
I'm not sure, I'll give the correct answer to the question "Why use 'old' glass?".
We regard that owners and enthusiasts Pentax, "a little older" cat, who are familiar with the magic of photography long before the advent of digital cameras and also well acquainted with the "old optics."
Personally, I saved all the cameras and associated lenses, which I started using in 1965! Many will not share my opinion, that the advent of digital cameras, all become "photographers"!? Do they really? We got digitizing photographs? Rapid and inexpensive photo! Importantly, we have lost? Several loops in the brain! It is not necessary to connect the logical parameters that draw a good picture?
I very often (not just the home), I use the adapter and M42 lenses Chinon 55/1, 4, 28/2, 8; Helios 58/2, Jupiter 135/4 and quite a few Pentax PK.
If I use my K5 fully manual, and "lose" a few seconds! I get it, photo or soul which are not necessary CS5-6; Lr4, and similar programs, which "scholars photos" enable "stuffing" the above parts of the brain!
Conclusion! I am not an opponent of contemporary technology, (I use the same), but in very small quantities, especially when I surrender control the camera!
Magnum is law


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 11:59
Yeah, I think my answer would be somewhat along the same lines.

The feel of a manual focus lens is part of what makes it worthwhile. The fact that you're having to focus the shot yourself makes you pay that much more attention, and perhaps makes you spot something else that you want to highlight within the frame. Also for me using a manual focus lens takes me back to when I was a kid and my dad would let me have a go with his spotmatic - there really is a thrill when you're working a nicely smooth old lens, and the subject pops into focus before you!

There is also the fact that you can buy manual primes for about a tenth of the price of equivalent modern lenses (if they exist!). A few years ago, when I got my first DSLR, my girlfriend was doing a lot of costume design work. Taking pictures of her creations would have been near impossible without the big aperture cheap primes that I could get on the cheap.

Final reason I can think of, it's a nice opportunity to try out focal lengths/lens types that you perhaps wouldn't otherwise consider. I've got a Zenitar 16mm fisheye, great little lens. If I found that I was using it a lot, then perhaps I'd consider going up to the pentax fisheye zoom, otherwise I can say I've scratched that itch and the Zenitar is enough fisheye for me!

Same at the other end of the spectrum with a 400mm lens - sure, i might use it once in a while, but could I justify a small fortune on a Bigma (or something even more outlandish!) - probably not!


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 12:41
I use old lenses - I bought some them thinking that it would be merely a test to see if the focal length was useful, weight and size etc and then move on - problem is that I like the old lenses so much I have stuck with them (mainly)

I do use af modern lenses but more often than not an mf lens is mounted to my cameras
K10D, K5 plus plenty of clueless enthusiasm.

My Flickr site link


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 13:14
i use a lot of old glass and if your carefull you can pick up some nice lens for not a lot of money as long as you dont mind manaul focus i have some nice tokina & pentax lens in mf that give great results

k5iis k200d
8mm fisheye sigma 15mm sigma 10-20 3,5 hsm
tamron 17-50 2.8 pentax 18-55 al ii sigma 18-125 hsm tokina 20-35 af tokina 28-70 atx pro ii tamron af 90 Pentax A 135 pentax F 35-105 pentax fa 50 1;1;7 pentax 55-300 sigma 70-200 apo ex 2.8 tamron sp 500
kenko pz af 1.5 tele tamron pz af 2.0 tele and a flash
Last Edited by reso on 11/01/2013 - 13:23


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 13:26
Because they just feel right.

Because they are built how lenses should be built.

Because there are bargains to be had. They aren't always cheap but there are always cjeap ones, part of the fun is bargain hunting. Look hard and you will find some gems.

Because it is fun just to experiment.

Because of the intangible character factor that they can give.

Because you pay more attention to camera settings.

Because I can put together a budget lens collection that represents many times the value for money of modern lenses.

Because I can go somewhere a bit dodgy with some quality glass and not worry about it being nicked.

Because some still have advantages over equivalent modern lenses. I have a couple of old lenses that I just haven't managed to get chromatic aberration from.

My favourite old lens is the K series 35mm f3.5 which I paid 30 for. It is a great lens by any standards, old or new. K series are my favourite old lenses. You can find reviews of what Pentax owners think of these and other old lenses with example images here.

My recommendation for a manual lens to start off experimenting with would be the Kseries 55mm f1.8.
You can see some of my photos here if you are so inclined


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 13:31
I agree with everything Dr O said.

My K55mm f1.8 cost 25 euros plus postage. I really splashed out on a mint K28mm f3.5, mind you, at 100 euros, but it is a complete bargain even at that heady price.

I love them.
This space deliberately left blank.


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 13:44
I find autofocus lenses soooooooo..... boring. Could just as well use a P&S for that (OK, not quite )
Pentax K10D + Vivitar 55/2.8 macro + Super Takumar 55/1.8 + SuperMultiCoated Takumar 85/1.8 + SuperMultiCoated Takumar 135/3.5 + SuperMultiCoated Takumar 200/4 + Super Takumar 300/4
Pentax K100D + DA18-55ALII + DA55-300
Pentax K5 + FA31Ltd + M50/1.7 + DFA100WR + M120/2.8 (+ DA18-55WR at occasion)


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 20:23
There are a lot of old manual lenses that are every bit as good optically as their modern AF equivalents. Importantly, they are a pleasure to use, far more so than modern automated lenses. They also tend to be significantly smaller (not so much in Pentax) though not lighter due to their metal build and superb build quality.

I do recommend choosing carefully though because many old lenses, while they may be very sharp, lack in colour and contrast, and give flat images that need boosted in software to look good.
Pentax hybrid user - Digital K3 & K200D, film 645 and 35mm SLR and Pentax (&other) lenses adapted to Fuji X digital
Fan of DA limited and old manual lenses


Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 21:59
A wonderful thread to read and a ringing endorsement of 'old glass'.



Link Posted 11/01/2013 - 22:31
Because they're RIDICULOUSLY cheap. You can walk into a charity shop, ask them if they've got any cameras/lenses, and they'll come out with a crateful from the back. They're usually M42 or K-mount, which is the reason why I chose Pentax as my digital system of choice.

It's ALSO the reason why we need a Full Frame camera so badly; for someone who has a penchent for wide angles, the crop factor is REALLY painful with regards to using older glass; if I was a portrait guy, I'd be as happy as larry... cheap 40mm and 70mm effective FAST (2.8/1.7/1.4 if you're lucky) lenses for a couple of quid? Yes please.

But if we had a full frame body to use them on... jesus christ lol.
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