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Lenses with character


Oliver Daniel
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The nikkor 28 2 is pretty nice but not cheap. It's a typical vintage lens, sharp in the middle, soft in the corners. It has Close Range Correction so it focuses pretty close.

This lens is much better than the expensive 28 1.4 af-d (which is only better at corners and when stopped down to f4)

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The nikkor 28 2 is pretty nice but not cheap. It's a typical vintage lens, sharp in the middle, soft in the corners. It has Close Range Correction so it focuses pretty close.
This lens is much better than the expensive 28 1.4 af-d (which is only better at corners and when stopped down to f4)


Cool! I'm looking to emulate the characteristic of the SLR Magic 12mm on MFT with a close subject in focus, on full frame and Super 35....

...The result is spectacular, very powerful. I'm finding that I'm doing many shots, including close-ups with the SLR Magic 12mm as the look is so unique, and matches the emotion perfectly. You can get SO close and have a wide shallow background.
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The equivalent on Full Frame would be 24 2.8, but for APS-C you would have to go wider, there is a nikon 18 20 1.8, its new and expensive, there is also the sigma 18-35 1.8, but that lens is only for aps-c. Anyway, I think that look kinda got old in 2010 with the 5D and the 24 1.4...

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

After reading how FD lenses are a great character lens option, I baught a 35mm f/2 FD prime. This thing is NOT vintage in image quality! There's nothing vintage or characteristic about it, just tack sharp, contrasty, great bokeh, it looks just like any Canon EF L lens. So turning it back and picking up another FD, so what FD lenses have a vintage look? I am looking for something that's quite sharp but has low contrast, flares excessively, has weird/distored bokeh in corner or so, just anything that gives that dream look. What are you recommendations?

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Helios 44 / FF58.   Full frame is best since it uses the most of the lens's image circle and thus more of the character caused by limitations of the design show up.

 

Canon FD lenses are not characterful at all.  I'm amazed people have recommended them in this topic.  All designed with computers by the best optical designers of the time.  Modern coatings  The whole thing about these japanese lenses was that they were at the peak of technological ability of the time.  Very littler improvements have been made in optical terms since the FD mount was instigated.  - 1971 is modern.  Look at 1950's and 1960's glass.  Anything after that will be clean and boring!

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Look at 1950's and 1960's glass.  Anything after that will be clean and boring

 

There's plenty of affordable glass from the 70's and 80's that are decently sharp but still have lots of flaws/character.  When I want "character" on the cheap, I go to my set of Pentax A110 glass.

 

Some folks just don't like these lenses, but I've been having fun with them and, for me, they deliver on sharpness.

 

DSC03463.JPG

 

I also use weird Russian glass when sharp isn't as important.  The INDUSTAR-69 is cheesy and useful from time to time.  By removing the focus limit screw (a little hardware in the lens) you can achieve some nice macro as well. 

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After reading how FD lenses are a great character lens option, I baught a 35mm f/2 FD prime. This thing is NOT vintage in image quality! There's nothing vintage or characteristic about it, just tack sharp, contrasty, great bokeh, it looks just like any Canon EF L lens. So turning it back and picking up another FD, so what FD lenses have a vintage look? I am looking for something that's quite sharp but has low contrast, flares excessively, has weird/distored bokeh in corner or so, just anything that gives that dream look. What are you recommendations

 

Canon FD prime lenses have a very similar look to Carl Zeiss Contax / Yashica primes , very sharp and warm colour tinge to the glass and very good strong blacks , some of the FD primes are optically better than their new current EF mount equivilants ,

 

Im not sure where you have read FD primes have a vintage look to them? they certainly dont

 

A set of very good cheap vintage looking primes is the Miranda range - low contrast , grey blacks not crushed solid blacks , not tack insanely sharp and they flare like crazy - the Miranda Brand was made by Cosina in Japan - you can get them in most mounts

I have a set they are great of that vintage look. .....and cheap on ebay !!

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/MIRANDA-50MM-F-2-METAL-LENS-FOR-PEXPAX-PK-FIT-FILTER-SIZE-49-made-in-japan-/281306500707?pt=UK_CamerasPhoto_CameraAccessories_CameraLensesFilters_JN&hash=item417f2c8e63

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Well it depends how you define character.

 

Apart of Helios 44M, which was mentioned several times and matches your description, there are several other russian lenses that should give you the look you are after. Or at least close to it. Like Mir-1B 37mm f2.8  designed in late 50ths  and produced from 1958 to 1992. It flares a lot if there is a light source in the frame or close to it. And it's cheap too. You can find many videos shot with Mir-1B on youtube and vimeo.

 

http://www.vintagelensesforvideo.com/mir-1/

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Helios 44 / FF58.   Full frame is best since it uses the most of the lens's image circle and thus more of the character caused by limitations of the design show up.

 

Canon FD lenses are not characterful at all.  I'm amazed people have recommended them in this topic.  All designed with computers by the best optical designers of the time.  Modern coatings  The whole thing about these japanese lenses was that they were at the peak of technological ability of the time.  Very littler improvements have been made in optical terms since the FD mount was instigated.  - 1971 is modern.  Look at 1950's and 1960's glass.  Anything after that will be clean and boring!

 

Cute talent. Bokeh looked a bit odd in some of the frames. I've got the original UV filter for the Helios 44-3 model, and it gives quite an 'extravagant' flare, as expected. Did you use any in those final clips?

 

Oh and speaking of 'modern' 70's lenses, have you by any chance ever tried a Schneider C-Curtagon 35mm? 

 

Not that there's anything special about it, just an old surveillance camera lens or something, and rather small, and as such not too shabby as a vintage 'pocket camera' lens, either. I thought about re-discovering a specimen soon, just for the heck of it.

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After reading how FD lenses are a great character lens option, I baught a 35mm f/2 FD prime. This thing is NOT vintage in image quality! There's nothing vintage or characteristic about it, just tack sharp, contrasty, great bokeh, it looks just like any Canon EF L lens. So turning it back and picking up another FD, so what FD lenses have a vintage look? I am looking for something that's quite sharp but has low contrast, flares excessively, has weird/distored bokeh in corner or so, just anything that gives that dream look. What are you recommendations?


Canon FD has come up because they are cheap and a bit old. Performance wise, they do have a slightly more organic feel to the EF lenses, and are great for colours and contrast. (My FD 28mm f2.8 stinks, the blacks get crushed loads).

Character - they have nothing on my old Russians like Helios, Asahi Pentax and Mir. These guys are lovely and fascinating. The FD's I have do flare a little, but you have to really work hard to make it look decent. The Canon FD 24-35L 3.5 can produce some semi-interesting flares. But mostly yes, they aren't the best for character. Great for usual stuff though!

Rich - your Schidt Optiks (haha) look amazing - seem perfect for my uses. Will have to get some.

With the SLR Magic 12mm MFT look, I think it just might be unique. Can be used macro and flares are insane. As I'm switching to a bigger sensor, just want to find it's equivalent. I love it so much, I cry about it sometimes. (ok, I don't. Just saying though!)
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Cute talent. Bokeh looked a bit odd in some of the frames. I've got the original UV filter for the Helios 44-3 model, and it gives quite an 'extravagant' flare, as expected. Did you use any in those final clips?

 

Oh and speaking of 'modern' 70's lenses, have you by any chance ever tried a Schneider C-Curtagon 35mm? 

 

Not that there's anything special about it, just an old surveillance camera lens or something, and rather small, and as such not too shabby as a vintage 'pocket camera' lens, either. I thought about re-discovering a specimen soon, just for the heck of it.

 

I have a 35mm curtagon, but it's a early 1960's exakta mount.  That has great flare, but it;s very sharp - or as sharp as i expected, and the focus rotation is the wrong way (nikon direction).   I think the later curtagons you;re talking about cover full frame.  they're m39 mount i think?  

 

the old schneider exakta xenon 50mm f1.9 is a killer 'normal' lens with character and sharpness.  can be found in m42 as well

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I've avoided this topic for a while & so am now going to throw a curve ball into the mix - "Meyer-Optik Gorlitz" lenses (M42).

I haven't tried all of them & there is a lot of info out there - some are to be avoided, but the majority are really good. They are often compared to Zeiss, but I think they have lots more character than Zeiss lenses:

 

Orestegon 29mm f2.8 - probably the best, regarded by most as better than a Zeiss lens.

Lydith 30mm f3.5 - lots of character

Orestor 100mm f2.8 - this is my favourite of all lenses (there's an older version called Trioplan from 1938 - more character)

Orestor 135mm f2.8 - the famous Bokeh Monster

 

Obviously, the Russain lenses are a must if you want Vintage lenses with a lot of character:

 

Mir 24M/N 35mm f2 - It is MC but not modern coating, so not to be put off by it, an excellent lens (M=M42 mount, N=Nikon mount)

Mir 1b 37mm f2.8 - Not as good as the 24, but flares are amazing.

Helios 44-2 58mm f2 - the 44-2 has a preset aperture & the zebra version is the best i've tried.

Jupiter 9 85mm f2 - dreamy wide open

Helios 40-2 85mm f1.5 - dreamy wide open & really swirly bohkeh, much better than the Jupiter.

Jupiter 37a 135mm f3.5 - get the non-MC version, sharpish & very low contrast

Jupiter 11a 135mm f4 - not a fast lens but does produce really pleasing images (there's an older 11 version).

Tair 11a 135mm f2.8 - Just amazing & has 20 blades. Simply a must, especially on Full frame with an Iscorama.

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I have a 35mm curtagon, but it's a early 1960's exakta mount.  That has great flare, but it;s very sharp - or as sharp as i expected, and the focus rotation is the wrong way (nikon direction).   I think the later curtagons you;re talking about cover full frame.  they're m39 mount i think?  

 

They do, and they're M42 mount. The lens barrel looks clearly different from the 60's Exakta/Steinheil-style models you mentioned. The lens is 'only' F2.8 but thanks to that it's pretty tiny for a 35mm FF lens. Which would make it an interesting toy/companion for the BMPCC.

My previous knowledge about it is based on photography, though, I've never used one for video. Yet. Suppose that's good enough an excuse to get one at some point. Hopefully it will match nicely with some other focal length lenses I already have.

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Okay so I don't need that 35mm f/2 now (I already have an EF 35mm that's almost identical optically) and the shop only has FD lenses so I will replace it with anything FD, what would you guys think the most characteristic FD lens? Lowest contrast, most flare, distorted bokeh, are there any?

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Okay so I don't need that 35mm f/2 now (I already have an EF 35mm that's almost identical optically) and the shop only has FD lenses so I will replace it with anything FD, what would you guys think the most characteristic FD lens? Lowest contrast, most flare, distorted bokeh, are there any?


Andy recommended to me the Tokina 24-85mm f4, can get in FD mount, very cheap - "the Helios of zoom lenses."

Canon 24-35L f3.5 is a fantastic lens, semi-interesting little flares but it's clinical and warm.

Don't know any other FDs that fit this character category. All mine and sharp, contrasty and warm.
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What kind of result would you get from removing the coatings on an FD lens (or re-applying different ones?)  Would you get a "characteristic" result or just a big bag of crap? 

 the easiest coating to remove it the front element - get some isopropal on a micro cleaning cloth and get busy

 

I just think it will flare a bit more - as for the internal coatings you will have to take the lens apart - Rich is your guy to ask about this as he takes helios to bits and strips off the coatings - ask him.

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