Legacy lenses - what is it about these lenses that makes you want to use them?


betwixt and between
I just spotted a question by TraamisVOS over in the Photography Websites thread. Traamis, I hope you don't mind my picking up on your question and bringing it here. It's a good question and one worth mining, I think.

What was it about the legacy lenses that you liked? I'm still learning about the differences between the brands of lenses, I'm afraid I can't really see the difference yet. I can only assume it's like when I hear the difference between an upright piano and a Steinway concert grand, or maybe even between two very well made grands like say a Steinway and a Baldwin.

I know there are more than a few folks here who are, shall we say addicted, to legacy lenses...so I am hoping they'll share their thoughts here when they have time.

P.S. I will say that from what I have read, a great deal depends upon the lens in question as to whether it is going to "work" well or not. I'll let those who are experienced take over from here on out.;)


Hall of Famer
S W France
put a Contax (Carl Zeiss), Planer T* 45mm f2 on your M43 - it is a "pig" to use and the adapter is expensive and big - but the quality of the image is very good and it has it's own special look and feel

The same would can be said of quite a few RF lenses - M mount and "Leica Screw", (LTM) - the M mount adapters are simple and cheap - but again they produce a different and very pleasing image

Nikon and Canon MF glass if first class and the adapters are simple and good

There are millions of great old SLR lenses out there are very cheap prices

But I like "messing" around and the M43 fomat really have "opened the world" to the use of old "legacy" glass like nothing before - plus you have to salute HK, (the Chinese) for producing (and copying) quality adapters and other accessories at very good prices


Old Codgers Group
I learnt my photography with an old folding roll film Voigtlander where the only focusing aids was the scale on the lens. I learnt about hyperfocal distance and I guess I'm very much from the old school epitomised by Ansel Adams, namely sharp photographs with lots of depth of field. With modern lenses this can be a bit hit and miss, with auto focus lenses it is more miss than hit. I see plenty of photographs with out of focus backgrounds and foregrounds, were they meant to be that way for artistic effect or were they that way because that's what the camera decided they would be. Either way I'm afraid they don't appeal to me.
So one sure fire way of gaining control over the computer that is the modern camera is to fit it with an old manual focus lens marked with the depth of field scale on its barrel.
They are of course also of heavier build, built to last and thus a joy to handle, perspective distortion corrected in the lens design, what's not to like.
Remember the number of iconic images obtained by photographers before the advent of auto focus and image stabilisation, so please don't try and say those features are necessary, they are aids and nothing more.

Laurel, MD
in the good days (meaning 2 or more years ago) vintage lenses were a real bargain as you could shop on the big auction site and find hundreds of older lenses on the cheap.

Prices have been going up quite a bit over the past few years as there are now a lot more people interested in buying them, but they are still a relative bargain.

What I would LOVE to see is someone make an adpater where you could mount vintage single element lenses from small format sheet film cameras and old folders on m43 cameras. This would require a small bellows but would be amazing.

Such lenses give amazing glow and soft focus that would be killer for portraits. Such lenses have built in shutters that are usually broken or slow but that would not be an issue with a m43 camera as the shutter is electronic so you would just keep the lens open

Steve Noel

In Memorium
Casey County, KY
Precision Machinery always appeals to me. Some of the old glass was and remains works of machinery art.
I like to choose exactly where the point of focus will be, that a camera computer would not likely choose (what it "sees" first, may not be what I "see").
I also like to change and "see" the aperture at will.
They, (old glass) just "look and feel Right".
BUT, sometimes I want auto-focus!



Product of the Fifties
My main gallery at ziforums.com.

Zeiss User Forums - Brian's Albums

Legacy Lenses.

One of my favorites, 1937 Sonnar wide-open at F1.5, on theLeica M8.



I do have several Minolta rokkor lenses (28 f3.5 135 f3.5 55 f1.4) the most useful is the f1.4 55mm (110 effectively) I have taken some great shots with it, its a great lens Rokkors always top of the pile.
With a E-P2 and particularly the E-PL1 (max 1/2000) Shutter you need a ND filter if you want to use f1.4 or f2.

In the end beyond novelty value they are not that great no EXIF no body communication no zoom no AF also most don't focus very close (big minus) so if someone gave me some old Leica M lens doubt I'd get all that excited.

The 2X crop factor is also a major disadvantage (Take my old 28 f3.5 and 135 f3.5) 56 f3.5 and 270 f3.5 respectively now what real use are they the 56 f3.5 is slow does not AF nor focus close same for the 270 f3.5 no OIS either Ok IBIS with Oly
Most people want FAST legacy in the range 28 - 100 and with possible close focus hard to achieve with the 2X crop factor eg how do I get 40-50mm from legacy and with f1.4 with the 2X crop factor How do you get a WA 28-35 and fast from legacy with the 2X crop.

Fact is some of the better 43 m43 AF zooms today are just so good optically and so flexible they are a pleasure to use.

Why would I want an old Ford Mustang (some do) when I can zip around in my Acura Honda Vtec sport coupe ;)

Legacy is for some but not me :D


Los Angeles
A couple of unique aspects-

1. Speed- Can find very fast MF primes in a range of formats
2. Size- Rangefinder or C-mount (cinema) lenses can be pretty small, though the crown in this area goes to the Pentax 110 SLR lenses. MF SLR lenses are generally not so compact since you need an adapter with some thickness, but still have the other positive attributes.
3. Fun- It can be fun to try out different lenses. If you have a retro styled E-P1, why not try a retro lens on it?
4. Price (biggest factor IMO)- Even today you can get a nice fast prime for much less than current equivalent.

The Panasonic kit zoom is a really nice lens, but is itself restricting if you need speed.

Also, there still isn't a reasonably priced fast portrait lens for M 43. Instead, you could buy a Pentax 50mm Super Takumar f/1.4 (among many possible choices) for under $100, and have a very nice portrait lens.


Vancouver, Canada
Generically speaking, using legacy lens engages me in the composition process more than a camera with everything set to automatic. After choosing my settings, moving my feet to zoom in or out, and holding very still while pressing the shutter, that's quite a bit effort as opposed to point and shoot :) This statement is situational ie on vacation where limited time is available - automation is king!

With respect to specific brands, I find image quality is relatively comparable with differences in sharpness or contrast or materials to be small. I am finding that ergonomics and cost are the biggest factors for me. I haven't liked the rangefinder lenses that have the focus tab as opposed to a ring and Nikon is quirky with their counter direction lock. I just got my Takumars but I really like the mechanics and feel. I have 6 Russian lenses at an average cost of $25 - they are a kick because of their history as Leica/Zeiss copies so I get to fool myself into thinking I'm taking high quality photos!


Top Veteran
My experience shooting a volcano recently: because of the wafting and billowing clouds, autofocus was completely confused. Knowing how to focus in the dark made it possible for me to get some of the more dramatic shots. Other people were very frustrated trying to get those shots.