Jump to content

Any old lens


Recommended Posts

  • Sustaining Member

Hi folks

It seems that the world is interested in old still photo lenses for moviemaking.

I had the idea of researching a piece on it, with the intent of covering as many of the popular ones as possible, and perhaps some yet-to-be popular, currently-cheap options. I haven't seen every single option out there so it'd be really useful to get some idea if there's something I should be interested in that I just haven't encountered. It's possible I'm mistaking entire ranges for other ones, or overlooking the fact that two ranges have identical glass, or some idiotic mistake like that, so don't take any of this as gospel; I just thought it might be useful to someone at some point.

The best-known stuff seems to include:

  • AI-s Nikkors - possibly the first thing to be widely used in moviemaking. Exist in several incarnations from the 70s to almost the present day. More recent ones tend to be faster.
  • Pre-AI Nikkors. Scalloped grips. Less optical quality but potentially fun. Fast and now expensive.
  • Nikon series E. Better than widely credited; nothing between 50 and 100mm but otherwise good and very lightweight (somewhat plasticky).
  • Asahi Takumar. The originals are almost  unique in that they'll often fit inside PL adaptors. Single-coated and fuzzy but fun. The 85mm is now way too expensive.
  • Asahi Super Takumar and SMC Takumar. Faster, cleaner. Some scalloped, some more modern-looking. Below 35mm is slow.
  • Helios and associated Russian stuff. Helios 44-2 is a 58. Helios 40-2 is a good but expensive 85. Jupiter 9 more affordable. Often used with MIR 1B 37mm f/2.8.
  • A huge amount of stuff under the Carl Zeiss Jena brand. I don't know much about this.
  • Canon FDs. Now hugely expensive; famously provided the glass for at least some K35 PL lenses.

Now the slightly more obscure stuff that doesn't yet seem popular for movies:

  • Vivitars. There's 28/2.8 close focus, a 28/2.5, 35/2.8, 55/1.4, 90/2.8 macro, 100/2.8, 135.2/8 and 200/4. The famous ones are the Vivitar Series 1. Often available in Olympus OM mount which can be adapted to EF.
  • Vivitar Komine may be another manufacturing plant, or just a branding exercise. There's a fast wide, the 24/2, but the range misses out on something in the 50mm region.
  • Olympus' own OM series are excellent and have always fetched high prices. There's a 28/2.8, 35/2.8, 50/1.8, 85/2, 100/2.8 and 135/3.5.
  • Soligor and many associated brands such as Elicar, Hanimar, Pallas, Prinzflex, etc. Often made by Tokina in Japan. Some were even branded "jcpenney!"
  • Meyer-Optik. This was a pre-war German manufacturer which ended up in the East, and was later subsumed into Pentacon. Many Pentacon lenses are essentially Meyer optical designs rehoused in a more modern style. The zebra-striped originals look very 1970s and include a 29/2.8, 30/3.5, 50/1.8, 100/2.8, 135/2.8 and 200/4.
  • Pentacon stuff, which may be Meyer or one of the other East German companies that were unified under the brand. "Pentacon Auto" and "Pentacon Electric" appear to be similar. Versions marked MC or Multi Coating are more recent. Very available and quite affordable.
  • Konica Hexanon. Reputedly good, cheap and available, with a fast 85/1.8, but that's because they won't adapt to EF without glass. Owners of micro four-thirds or E-mount cameras rejoice.
  • SMC Pentax-M, possibly the successor to Takumars after the Pentax name became current. A good range available including 28/2, 28/2.8, 50/1.4, 85/1.8, 100/4 macro, 105/2.8.
  • Fujinon EBCs. 28/3.5, 35/2.8. 50/1.4, 100/2.8, 135/3.5, 200/4.5. Available in M42. Don't be fooled by the tempting (if expensive) 85. It's a special purpose perforated-iris lens. There are Super EBCs too but they get expensive fast.

And things I know almost nothing about:

  • Minolta Rokkor. Often in Leica M mount. 
  • Steinheil. Look very mid-century. Often silver.

There are always more obscure companies to find, but did I forget anything major?

Grateful for any thoughts on any of this.

P

  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Canon FDs. Now hugely expensive; famously provided the glass for at least some K35 PL lenses.

Are FDs really all that expensive now? Or just particular ones? I remember most FD lenses were only $20-60 a pop in 2013.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most of the Deckel mount lenses for the Kodak Retina Reflex S are made by Schneider and are very good. Nothing wider than 35mm, if I recall correctly but some of the longer lenses are very unique. Not much is fast aside from the 50mm f/1.9.

Konica lenses are usually outstanding and if someone were to be willing to spend the money to permanently convert something like a Zeiss Contax lens, then there is certainly a reason to do so for a Konica. The flange to focal distance is 4mm less than EF mount but if it were rehoused, there would be no problem. Konica lenses are insanely inexpensive. I've built up most of a collection of some of the best Konica AR glass just by hunting thrift stores. The 135mm f/3.2 isn't "fast" but it is an amazing shooter. The build quality and image quality are every bit as good as Leica or Contax, and it's a great thing no one cares about this system because they can be had for peanuts. 

Komura was another manufacturer that made some very nice optics in just about every mount out there.

There are a lot of other brands out there that can be tried easily. 

Phil Forrest

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member

Thanks, everyone, that's very helpful.

3 hours ago, Max Field said:

Are FDs really all that expensive now? Or just particular ones? I remember most FD lenses were only $20-60 a pop in 2013.

It can be difficult to assemble a set for a reasonable price, but I guess the larger underlying issue is they're not adaptable to EF. Not that there's anything particularly great about EF, it's just a common enough benchmark. If something's adaptable to EF, it's adaptable to more or less anything else, with the sad exception of PL. Even LPL isn't really as shallow as it probably should have been.

3 hours ago, Philip Forrest said:

Most of the Deckel mount lenses for the Kodak Retina Reflex S are made by Schneider and are very good.

Aha, yes, I forgot to include those. Not that fast, often 3.5 or 4 once you get away from the 50, but I had looked at them with interest myself. Are you thinking of the silver ones that come in those neat plastic enclosures?

Image 1 - Schneider Kreuznach Retina Xenon F1.9/50mm - DKL Mount - Optics Superb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Komura range seems to include a nice-looking 80/1.8 but I'm mainly seeing it in MD mount, which is glass to get to EF. Or at least it sometimes is.

3 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Contax Zeiss and Leica M are a couple of common ones. 

Are you thinking of something that's still in modern manufacture?

I have seen some snarkiness over people buying the Zeiss Jena stuff and assuming it's the same as Contax-branded glass.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quote

Olympus' own OM series are excellent and have always fetched high prices. There's a 28/2.8, 35/2.8, 50/1.8, 85/2, 100/2.8 and 135/3.5.

There's also the even more expensive Olympus OM Zuiko MC f2 series.  They had a whole range that goes from 21mm f2 to 250mm f2.  Zerooptik rehouses them https://zerooptik.com/zero-optik-rehousings/olympus-om

I've got few of the f2 lenses and nothing but good things to say.  I also have couple Minolta MC/MD Rokkor's but compared to Olympus I like the Olympus f2s better.

Also, don't forget medium format lenses.  With a speedbooster you can get the medium format angel of view on 35mm.  Kipon makes 0.7x speedbooster with LPL mount (and other mounts).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
27 minutes ago, Pekka Riikonen said:

Olympus OM Zuiko MC... 21mm f2

Interesting. I wonder how mu...

Yeowtch! You can get a half-decent PL lens for that sort of money!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quote

Interesting. I wonder how mu...

Yeowtch! You can get a half-decent PL lens for that sort of money!

Heh, yeah, the 21mm f2 prices are nuts.  I have 24mm f2 and paid about 350 euros I think, it was a while ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Interesting. I wonder how mu...

Yeowtch! You can get a half-decent PL lens for that sort of money!

I bought one of these from KEH for $800 a few years back and it felt too expensive so I returned it. 😞

But I picked up some super speed FDs the next year so I guess it evens out.

The 21mm Olympus is good. I found the Olympus lenses mixed, mostly good. I think the 35mm f2 or one of them is poor wide open and the rendering is a little different from some other systems or more inconsistent. I kept the 50mm f1.2 for shooting film (stills). 

A while ago I shot these comparisons:

On S35 (EVA1).

If you don't need speed past f2.8 there are still a lot of affordable options. Particularly on full frame, where 24mm feels like 16mm or 18mm on S35 to me.

The Nikon lenses are fine, the Rolleis to me are the best deal as they're small, sharp, easy to adapt to EF mount, and have older designs and coatings with enough character but not as crazy as the early Nikon lenses. But the focus rings are a bit stiff, so maybe after servicing them it's not a deal. I don't really understand why ZF and Rokinon are as cheap as they are. They're mostly fine from what I see.

I found the early multi-coatings on FD lenses (from early 80s or earlier) nice, the newer ones are more boring. Of course it depends on camera, I think the Alexa is already a little more forgiving so you can get away with Ultra Primes or CP2s or whatever and the "vintage" look works better with high contrast natural light regardless of camera, so on a bigger set maybe there's less desire for "vintage." Either that or this is a cinematography forum so naturally we care too much.

 

Edited by M Joel W
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Regarding Deckel mount lenses, these must be the full lens, not just the front optical cell which was used in the Retina IIIC and early Retina Reflex. Both of them came packed in nearly identical plastic bubble containers. The 80mm Retina-Longar may look tempting but it is only half of the lens, as the other half is in the Retina body.

There's also Isco-Gottingen (Schneider,) who made lenses in many mounts, primarily M42 and Exakta. Mamiya made an 85mm f/1.7 in M42 and a medium format 85mm f/1.9 for the 645. 

There is not much in the way of wide lenses which are faster than f/2. Pentax made the 31mm FA limited in K mount. The fastest lenses available are always those close to the "normal" for that particular format, so those which are ~50mm will have the fastest offerings. The Noct-Nikkor is a 58mm f/1.2 but please don't permanently modify this lens.

In my opinion, I think there should be a group of skilled "enhanced interrogators" who hunt down those who permanently modify lenses which were produced in very limited quantities. I can think of one party in particular, who bought up a lot of the market in uncommon motion picture lenses, then hacked the mounts and stuffed them into donor mounts (from other ruined lenses, mostly FSU) so a few folks could try them on their Leica M cameras as a curiosity, then stick them on a shelf because they preferred the utility of their 50mm Summicron instead. Now that digital mirrorless offerings are everywhere, this enables adaptation instead of modification, thank goodness.

Granted, I love my 63mm f/2 Cine-Ektar and I wish I could stick it on a 35mm camera (the circle of coverage isn't big enough,) but using it on my M4/3 camera and on a Filmo has to suffice. I suppose I'll have to find a 65mm ELCAN if I want a rare optic in that focal length...

Phil Forrest

Edited by Philip Forrest
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
9 hours ago, Philip Forrest said:

Regarding Deckel mount lenses, these must be the full lens, not just the front optical cell which was used in the Retina IIIC and early Retina Reflex. Both of them came packed in nearly identical plastic bubble containers. The 80mm Retina-Longar may look tempting but it is only half of the lens, as the other half is in the Retina body.

I noticed this. Is that front end component compatible with the other demoumtable Deckel lenses - could you get the back end of the 50mm and mount that 80mm front assembly in it?

(Non-destructively and reversibly, of course!)

I think that's actually the idea with some of the lenses they made.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

46 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

I noticed this. Is that front end component compatible with the other demoumtable Deckel lenses - could you get the back end of the 50mm and mount that 80mm front assembly in it?

(Non-destructively and reversibly, of course!)

I think that's actually the idea with some of the lenses they made.

Yes, but only the optical modules from the IIIC and early Retina Reflex. They designed the convertible IIIC and early Retina Reflex (pre Deckel) where the lens formulations in front of the aperture were the only part of the system that changed (since most double-gauss are very similar on the film plane side.) It was a smart, unique design but they changed to the full unit focusing, single optical module because there were too many limitations in the design and also some compatibility problems. I don't know if anyone has ever taken the rear cell of a Retina IIIC out and made a whole lens with the front. Goodness knows there are enough broken Retinas of this era to supply a ton of beautiful glass for experimentation.

Phil Forrest

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Are you thinking of something that's still in modern manufacture?

I have seen some snarkiness over people buying the Zeiss Jena stuff and assuming it's the same as Contax-branded glass.

The Zeiss Contax lenses I’m talking about are the C/Y (Contax/Yashica) mount ones made from the 70s to the 90s. They are West German Zeiss designs, made in Germany and Japan. They are from the same design era and have the same coatings as Zeiss Standard/Super Speeds, as opposed to the newer ZE/ZF range.

The history of Contax is pretty complicated, with post-war variations produced in both West Germany and East Germany as well as Soviet Ukraine. The first Contax cameras were produced by legendary German firm Zeiss Ikon in the 30s as a competitor to Leica.

So the first Contax lenses are pre-war, labelled Carl Zeiss Jena as the company was then known. (You can often tell the pre-war Zeiss Jena lenses from the post-war East German Zeiss Jena by the use of cm in the focal length engraving.) These early rangefinder lenses use a complicated double bayonet mount, with 50mm focal lengths using an internal focusing helical in the camera while other focal lengths had their own focusing helical and used the external bayonet. The mount was continued in the Soviet Kiev cameras, which were basically Contax copies. So the mount is sometimes called Contax/Kiev. Hard to find decent adapters though.

The brief East German continuation of Contax introduced the M42 mount, which ended up becoming a sort of universal mount adopted by a number of cameras and companies, including Pentacon and Pentax. So Contax/Praktica lenses with the East German Zeiss Jena label will be M42. 

The Contax name was revived in the 70s by Yashica/Kyocera in collaboration with Zeiss, which is when the Contax C/Y lenses were designed.

21 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Contax Zeiss and Leica M are a couple of common ones. 

Sorry I meant to write Leica R.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking of lenses with non-destructive back-end changes (but without glass) to move between various mounts, nobody has mentioned Kilfitt.  I've managed to put together a couple of them (90/Makro, 600) for my Arri 16S by buying them in the "wrong" mount then getting the Arri-standard mount pieces for the back side.

Duncan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
1 hour ago, Malcolm Ian Vu said:

I'm still waiting for some crazy person to attempt using the Hasselblad X-Pan lenses (Fuji glass) for "large format" filmmaking.

I'm sure most competent directors could make do with 30/45/90mm.

Once again - yeowtch! Mostly people are into this stuff because PL is too spendy!

But on a more serious note, actually having a 90mm is one of the common problems. Many of the ranges we're discussing here don't have anything between 50 and 100, and in some which do - particularly the Takumars - the 85s are outrageously expensive.

Many of them also don't have anything below say 28 or 30, or at least if they do it's very slow, even down to f/3.5.

Are there lower-cost medium-format ranges we're overlooking that could be speedboosted down to something sensible? I assume anything medium-format is going to be expensive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
20 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

The history of Contax is pretty complicated, with post-war variations produced in both West Germany and East Germany as well as Soviet Ukraine.

I found that. There's a certain familial resemblance between some Zeiss Jena branded stuff and the later Pentacon, too. I noticed in almost all East German lens manufacturing, all roads lead ultimately to Pentacon.

I've no idea what you'd search for to find desirable Zeiss Jena stuff. I tried "zeiss jena contax yashica" and discovered one could obtain a set including 28/8, 35/2.8 50/1.5, 85/2 and 135/4. Each seems to go for many hundreds and the 28 is dog slow. I'm not sure if there's anything better in that range but if there is, it's rare as hen's teeth on eBay - and you can get a Distagon T* 28/2.8 for about the same money!

Here's a nice 3.5cm f/2.8 which is going for a lot of money:

Image 1 - Excellent++ Contax Carl Zeiss Jena Biogon 3.5cm 35mm f/2.8 Lens for Contax II

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No need to get an insanely expensive 3.5cm Zeiss Biogon in S mount when you could get a perfectly fine Jupiter 12 (sometimes made from old Zeiss glass but with a different beauty ring) in M39 for peanuts. My M39 (LTM) J-12 is a very early production with coating, and pristine glass. The cool thing about the pure symmetrical formulations like that Biogon is that they have essentially zero distortion. No barrel, no pincushion. 

Phil Forrest

Link to comment
Share on other sites

29 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

There's a certain familial resemblance between some Zeiss Jena branded stuff and the later Pentacon, too. I noticed in almost all East German lens manufacturing, all roads lead ultimately to Pentacon.

The Pentacon name (and symbol) actually derived from the East German continuation of Zeiss Ikon and their development of a reflex Contax - it used a pentaprism to invert the image upright. So Pentacon was really a continuation of Zeiss Ikon (and some other Dresden photographic firms), which was indeed a familial relative of Zeiss Jena.

 

52 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

I've no idea what you'd search for to find desirable Zeiss Jena stuff. I tried "zeiss jena contax yashica" and discovered one could obtain a set including 28/8, 35/2.8 50/1.5, 85/2 and 135/4. Each seems to go for many hundreds and the 28 is dog slow. I'm not sure if there's anything better in that range but if there is, it's rare as hen's teeth on eBay - and you can get a Distagon T* 28/2.8 for about the same money!

I don’t think you’ll find any Zeiss Jena lenses in C/Y mount, since it was a 1970s collaboration between West German Zeiss and Japanese Yashica. Those lenses you’ve listed are pre-war (or WWII era) rangefinder lenses for the early bayonet mount Contax cameras. 28mm seems to have been the limit for full frame Sonnar designs, at f/8.  They are often collector’s pieces, hence the prices (although compared to contemporary Leica offerings, Contax stuff is a bargain!)

The Zeiss Jena lens you pictured is one of those pre-war rangefinder lenses. As I mentioned, the pre-war “unified Germany” Zeiss Jena lenses had focal lengths marked in cm. That one looks uncoated, others had very early coatings, since Zeiss were pioneers in coating technology back then. Their coating tech was in fact considered a war secret, one of the reasons both Soviet and US forces made a beeline for the Zeiss factory once Berlin fell. 

In terms of desirable East German Zeiss Jena lenses, people seem to like certain Flektogons and Pancolars, and of course the high speed Biotars like the 1.5/75mm (definitely not on the affordable list however) or more famous 2/58mm. If you like the Helios bokeh, Biotars are their source, a Double Gauss relative of Cooke’s Opic and subsequent Speed Panchro line. Although not generally a match for West German Zeiss, DDR Zeiss Jena lenses are still genuine Zeiss designs, and can be very high quality. I have read that later lenses are not as good as earlier ones, and some were simply cheap Japanese clones branded as Zeiss Jena, but I don’t really know about that.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I always thought the still lens trend was catering to large format Alexa LF before the forthcoming S35 4k+ Alexa got Netflix approval.

What's wrong with Rokinon? They go fast and wide (24mm f1.4, 20mm f1.8, 16mm f2 for APS-C) and are manual focus. 

What's wrong with ZF? The designs include updated versions of the much-vaunted 28mm f2 and 21mm f2.8 and the coatings match whereas Contax don't match as well?

What's wrong with Zeiss Rollei? The coatings are consistent (single coating in gold I think) and the 24mm f2.8, 35mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 85mm f2.8 are all excellent compact lenses. And I believe they are West German and very affordable.

What's wrong with AIS Nikkor for that matter?

Also, I've read that old coatings, curved glass that can no longer be made, lead glass, etc. were responsible for the old school "magic" but none of this seems to be the case. After all, now we have Cooke Classic lenses that look to me at least close enough to Panchros?

Full disclosure: I'd still go with Panchros and/or K35s given the chance.

Edited by M Joel W
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
7 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Zeiss Jena

I think I'm going to file Zeiss Jena stuff under the general heading of "you could write a book on this." I'm sure I've seen more or less every kind of lens in more or less every kind of mount at every point on the pricing scale, and with varying degrees of wobbliness in the name engraving depending on how carefully they were made.

It's easy to get the impression one is walking a minefield with this stuff in trying to pull together a set that in any sense matches. Even if it's possible to find a set that superficially looks like it's all from the same family, figuring out exactly when stuff was made and to what design becomes a bit of a nightmare. I guess there's no shortcut to this, really.

Some of the zebra-striped Pentacons with the orange and white engraving seem to have Helios-style spherical aberration in out-of-focus areas, which is quite enticing. I don't know if focal lengths other than the 50 do that.

P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
7 hours ago, M Joel W said:

What's wrong with...

Nothing; you can now get reasonably usable PL lenses for around the US$1000 apiece mark which could probably have been used to shoot more or less anything ever shot without anyone even noticing.

I have to say my personal interest in this is not paying PL-glass money for some unicorn piece of early-twentieth-century optical machinery. It's more - what can we do for almost no money?

This is one reason I campaign for shorter mounts on cameras paging Blackmagic because it opens up so many good choices.

P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

...what can we do for almost no money?
 

Well, the Kodak Signet 80 had its own set of glass.  35/3.5, 50/2.8, 90/4.

The 50 and 90 can be acquired cheaply on Ebay, usually on the camera.  The 35 seems harder to come by.

The 50 and 90 are radioactive, so some level of discoloration is present in all examples.

I have no idea how you'd adapt and use these lenses, or if the quality is worth the trouble.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
27 minutes ago, Malcolm Ian Vu said:

Well, the Kodak Signet 80 had its own set of glass.  35/3.5, 50/2.8, 90/4.

And this is why we ask questions on forums, because I'd have had no idea.

Looks like they're 1958; they'd probably be quite entertaining from a flare perspective, although contrast might be absent without leave! Some sources say they're "lumenized," which I guess might be a reference to some sort of coating.

Not a clue what the mount is. Some adaptors available on eBay, but I can't find one to EF.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

Forum Sponsors

CineLab

FJS International

Abel Cine

Tai Audio

Wooden Camera

Metropolis Post

New Pro Video - New and Used Equipment

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Film Gears

VidGear.com - Broadcast Video Warehouse

Serious Gear

Visual Products

Cinematography Books and Gear



×
×
  • Create New...