FunkyKit’s Quick Guide to Vintage Camera Lenses

Mounts

Minolta, Leica, Pentax, Nikon, Canon and so more manufacturers all produced their own different mounts for lens to be used on their cameras. Add to that changes in design over the decades, and you will start to realize just how many different types of lens mounts there are available for you to pick from.

Luckily, most of adapters start off pretty cheap, the are some premium ones available for much higher prices, so sometimes its a matter of finding the right old lens you want and then finding the right adapter to use it on your camera. I refer you to Brian Smith’s guide to lens adapters for Sony cameras here so you can get a deep understanding of just how many mounts there are available:

Ultimate Guide to Sony Lens Adapters

Not very vintage story here but I needed a macro lens for my A7ii to take some close-up shots. For weeks I was researching on the internet looking at Sony FE native macro lens, deciding that they are way too expensive, I started to look at vintage macro lens (and was nearly set on a Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AI/AIS for HK$1200) but then I realized I still had my Canon EF lenses still lying around that did macro shots. The first adapter I got for it was a non-branded one, basically a metal ring, which did not secure onto the camera body properly, so I had to be careful when I was turning the manual focus. So I then bought a slightly more expensive adapter (just over HK$400) which secured properly, and to my surprise gave me the option to use the auto focus again, and let the camera know that the lens I was using was for a cropped sensor, hence the camera auto switching to using a cropped sensor so no vignetting.

M42 mount

Personally, I like to stick with the M42 mount, I like to feel of the way the M42 mount secures onto the adapter and its a way of restricting myself in a very large market of vintage lenses. The M42 mount still had of a lot of manufacturers producing lenses in it, such as Pentax, Olympus, Praktica, Yashica, Zenit, Ricoh and Fujica. As mentioned, even though adapters are relatively cheap, I can do with less equipment lying around….that said I still have my eye on a old Nikon F mount lens…..

 

 

Types

To learn about one particular lens, lets say one from the Takumar SMC range, you will need to read up on some history of the company and how that in turn affected their manufacturing process and in turn what made these lens inferior/superior to ones from the same company. Not knowing the difference between a Super Takumar and a Takumar lens, I was standing outside a vintage camera shop drooling at a rather cheap (HK$600) Super Takumar 28mm f3.5 before I decided to take a step back and use Google on my smartphone.

I managed to find a super informative post on a forum (I can’t seem to find the link again) which basically puts to timeline of the Pentax range of lenses like this:

Asahi Pentax > Takumar > Super Takumar > Super-Multi-Coated Takumar > SMC Takumar

Aside from difference in how the aperture worked, the 3 earlier versions only had a single coating on the lens, whilst the latter 2 (Super-Multi-Coated and SMC) were multi-coated which helped control any haze flare and lets in light transmission. Then there’s the difference between the latter 2 with the Super-Multi-Coated version having a more robust but heavier metal focusing ring, and the SMC with a rubber but lighter focusing ring.

Takumar

And then if you want to really geek out and look out for a batch of the Takumar lenses, there are websites like this:

Takumarology

That’s just some of the Pentax range of old lenses. At this point I got side-tracked as a few other online asked me to consider the Minolta Rokkor 28mm lenses. I got confused half way reading through this:

Rokkor history

I did manage to pick from some forum posts that some MC Rokkor (or was it MD??) used a radioactive coating which over time had tended to turn yellow/tan. Some users have remedied this by putting the lens under UV light which slowly corrects the color taint.

And as if those 2 were not enough of a history lesson for you, grab yourself a coffer and plough though the history of the Zeiss company in Germany, how the World Wars affected them (leaving behind factories in East German where some companies took them over, produced lenses as Zeiss which some will be marked as DDR, country code for East Germany). The reason I touched on Zeiss was because another group of online users recommended me to look at Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon lenses, the Jena series being one of the more cheaper Carl Zeiss ranges, but then some argued that these were in fact made in East Germany as mentioned just above and are not really Zeiss…….

I normally wouldn’t bother about these types of politics, but in the world of vintage lens snobbery that is Hong Kong, it might work in my favour…..

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aka Proplus. Constantly looking for innovative ideas. Prefers tech that doesn't waste time. Gone are the days of overclocking, cascade cooling and watercooling. Gadgets, give me more gadgets!!