The world of vintage lenses can provide a whole new experience to photographers but not everyone knows how to get started. To help others explore the unique characteristics of these decades-old lenses, a filmmaker has shared his best tips.
Mark Holtze is a cinematographer and content creator who has vast experience in working with “dusty old lenses” and adapting them to suit modern applications. Vintage lenses can bring a different look to both stills and video footage, and a lot of times they are sold for a fraction of modern-day lens prices.
Holtze says the first and most important step is to simply to do research before jumping into any purchases. Many photographers will be tempted to go for more well-known brands or pay a higher price tag for them, but there are many lens brands that can be just as good.
Before browsing eBay listings, attending a vintage lens fair or an antique market that could have hidden photographic gear gems, research can help in setting more realistic expectations for the current price market and what to look out for.
Once the buyer has found a suitable lens, Holtze recommends spending some time to learn to read the markings on the lens and to understand the mechanics of handling it. Compared to modern-day lenses, the older ones will often lack autofocus but will have solid features that can enhance the shooting experience but might require some time getting used to.
As an experienced user of vintage lenses, Holtze knows the importance of testing the lens in various shooting scenarios. This allows the user to learn where the lens excels and where it may lack, which can avoid further disappointment.
This ties in with Holtze’s next tip: practice. The more the shooter practices with their new lens, the more they will grow to understand the optics, the mechanics, and any quirks that the lens might possess. He recommends not to give up after the first few shots — which may be disappointing as there can be a learning curve — because the more time is invested, the better results the experience will yield.
Last but not least, Holtze concludes his video with a tip to simply dive into creating art. Vintage lenses were never designed with modern-day cameras in mind, which is why any limitations that this shooting experience brings, can contribute to unexpected results and can help push boundaries that help photographers and filmmakers discover new creative ideas.