Watch this side-by-side comparison of 10 $100 or less vintage 50mm lenses

Tips & Techniques

The ubiquitous 50mm lens has been a staple of photography for many years. And a lot of those older 50mm lenses really aren’t all that terrible – if you’re shooting video or can deal with manual focusing. In this video, Andrew from Danae & Andrew looks at 10 of the most popular vintage 50mm lenses to see how they compare.

While quite a few vintage lenses are starting to fetch some decent money, there are a lot of bargains still to be had, particularly at the 50mm focal length. All ten of the lenses shown in the video cost less than $100. And it might surprise you to find out that some of them actually have a pretty fast f/1.4 aperture.

So, here is the list of lenses in the video…

  • Nikon Nikkor AIS 50mm f1.4
  • Nikon Nikkor AI 50mm f/1.8
  • Canon FD 50mm f/1.8
  • Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 S.C.
  • SMC Super Takumar Asahi M42 50mm f/1.4
  • SMC Pentax-M Asahi 50mm
  • Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm
  • Minolta Rokkor MD 1.4
  • Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm f/1.7
  • Contax C/Y Planar T* 50mm f/1.7

I’m not going to spoil things for you, you’ll have to watch the video to find out which were the favourites and why. The thing with these old lenses is that what makes one good for one person can make it useless for another. It’s all pretty subjective.

I have a couple of the lenses shown in the video. Specifically, I have the Nikon Nikkor AI 50mm f/1.8 and Canon FD 50mm f/1.8, both of which I use fairly often when shooting video. They both have an interesting character that I quite like for certain things. The Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f/1.8 is another one I have that I use quite often. Like the Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 shown in the video, the Pancolar (depending on the year in which it was made) is another radioactive lens, containing thorium-coated elements.

Vintage lenses aren’t going to stand up to modern glass like a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art when it comes to things like edge-to-edge sharpness, vignette, chromatic aberration and ghosting control, etc. But they can offer you a little imperfection that gives some character to your film that you won’t have to fake in post. And it can give it to you quite inexpensively, too, if you shop around.

What’s your favourite vintage lens?

[via ISO1200]

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