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Vintage Lenses Recommendation (Contax Yashica, Canon FD, Minolta MD / Rokkor)
  • Hello camera nerds,

    I need your help. I want to build a lens set from affordable but superb vintage lenses for cinematography. These 3 brands would be adapted via an passive adapter onto my Samsung NX1.

    Focal lengths I am generally interested in: 24 or 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm

    I'll need some experts opinion on which brand to go for. I don't know wether to go for Contax Yashica, Canon FD or Minolta vintage lenses so hit me up with your knowledge and recommendation. It is much appreciated.

  • 24 Replies sorted by
  • All of these will be a good choice.

    I'd say Zeiss C/Y are on top, but price-wise too. There is no 24mm and the 25mm is the weakest of the line (but weak only if compared to other Zeiss). The 28 f2.8, 35mm f2.8, 50mm f1.7 and finally 85mm f2.8 can still be found for reasonable prices with some patience. Their faster counterparts, the 28mm f2, 35mm f1.4, 50mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.4 fetch pretty insane prices these days.

    Minolta and Canon FD are both good, more vintage than the Zeiss and which one to choose is a matter of taste, i'd say. Minolta in particular has very consistent color throughout their line.

    You can find ton of information on Zeiss C/Y here, started by Nick Morrison:

    And on Minolta SR lenses by myself:

    The Canon FD line has a good reputation too, personally I only have (and like) the 35 - 105mm f3.5 zoom, which is really nice for filming with it's two-touch zoom, constant aperture and parfocality (with a good adapter).

  • First of all a big thank you for your reply! Do you talk about about Zeiss C/Y Distagon etc. lenses or where is there a difference to the Yashica ML? Which Minolta lenses would you recommend, or speaking more generally which route would you take if you could't pay more than 120€ (better if cheaper) a lens? Sorry to bother you again, but you seem to have so much more knowledge on this topic than I do. Best regards Jan

  • Maybe look at Lomo lenses. 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm easily found. I believe a 75mm is also available. I like the 1972 versions. Not sure if adapter available for NX1. Good source for lenses is

  • The Canon FD 35-105 f/3.5 is the worst zoom lens I have. Try the Tokina, if you want a nice lens in that range of focal lengths. The Minolta 24-50 is also very nice

    VortekShow, adapters are cheap, so don't feel limited to a single brand or mount. Buy whatever you can find. Each different lens has its own look and feel, so it's hard to generalize by brand. I have Minolta 28/2.8, 35/2.8, and 50/1.4 mm primes, and they're fine.

  • Hey balazer,

    I thought about that too, but does the different characteristics make it harder to cut in between them? Especially on those vintage optics?

  • I have a lot of vintage lenses, but I mainly collect Rokkor/Minolta lenses and i love them all. They are the best bang for the bug. You can get a 50mm 1.7 for under 20 Euros. If you buy old Minolta camera collections on ebay, you coud get 4-6 lenses with a film camera for 60-80 Euros. Often this collections include old unsharp zooms, but also 28mm primes or my favorite 45 mm 2.0 prime lens. The 45 mm 2.0 is small, sharp and still fast enough. Over the years i bought over a hundred vintage Minolta Md/MC lenses, sold the most of them and kept the best. There were also some funky Soligor MD lenses, for example a macro Zoom lens with an icy Color look. I also have Pentax Auto 110 lenses, which i use with my Gh-2. They are extremely small and not the sharpest, but the 75 mm has a swirley bokeh, which you only get for much more money. By the way, i use the Minolta lenses with my Nx-1 and with my Gh-2. Zeiss and Yashica lenses are all in all rumored to be better, but are much more expensive. The price-performance ratio of the Minolta lenses is the best in the camera world. The 135 mm 2.8 MD lens can keep up with the big boys, some say it is one of the best tele lens of all time. The Russian Jupiter and Helios lenses are also pretty good, but have been growing in price and are often 2 times more expensive than the corresponding Minoltas. The only Problem is, that full frame lenses realy shine on full frame cameras. My lenses are noticeably sharper on a A7s than on my Nx-1 and Gh-2.

    But all in all there is nothing you can do wrong with vintage lenses.

    Just try them all.

  • I am a student and I cannot afford to try them all and see what I like most That is why I came here to ask for advice on the affordable cheap, fast, sharp, video ones :D

  • Cheap and pretty sharp: Rokkor MD 45 mm 2.0, Rokkor MD 135 mm 2.8, Rokkor 50 mm 1.7, Minolta MD 35-70 3.5 Macro, Rokkor 200 mm all in all 100 - 120 Euros.

    But never forget: Vintage lenses are cheap and often have a dreamy look, but for example newer Samyangs are affordable and all in all much better.

  • I like my Zeiss. Personally, I have a 50mm and 85mm f1.4. Next will be the 35, then 28mm, then one of the long ones. They really do get you close to the old Zeiss cinema lenses from the same era.

  • I have been using Contax Zeiss lenses for couple of years now. Only problem has been breathing and softness when shooting at <f2. I have 21mm 2.8, 28mm 2.8, 50mm 1.4, 60mm f2.8 macro, 85mm 1.4, 135mm 2.8 and 35-70mm 3.4. All MMJ except 60mm. Most used is 60mm. It's super good with 1:1 macro feature. Declicking is recommended. Samyang set gives cleaner and more modern look though.

  • +1 for @nomad's post. I have the zeiss 28mm f2.8, the 50mm f1.7, the 85mm f1.4 and the 135mm f2.8 - beautiful lenses, and all the f2.8 lenses are available at reasonable prices on fleabay. Get the MMJ versions if you can. They work great with the metabones c/y to m4/3 speedbooster.

  • For beginners considering buying set of old lenses usual advice is the same - if you are doing it for fun or for special purpose it is good idea. If you want in short time get more or less matched lenses and be sure in quality - just buy Samyang cine set. Later you can get old lenses, but slowly and checking condition.

  • Hey balazer,

    I thought about that too, but does the different characteristics make it harder to cut in between them? Especially on those vintage optics?

    If you are cutting between lenses, my experience says that how you use the lens is more important than which lens it is. Perspective, focal length, aperture, lighting - these things really matter. But cutting between a Canon FD 50 and a Minolta MD 28 - that will hardly matter at all. You can't look at the images and say one is a "Canon look" and one is a "Minolta look". Such things do not exist. Every lens has its own look and its own performance characteristics, and the differences are often very subtle. The aperture setting of that 50 mm lens will matter way more than whether it's a Minolta or a Canon.

    Some people claim value in having a matched set of lenses for similar color. But I haven't found that you can match lenses just by brand. Some of my Minolta lenses are 500 K away from my other lenses. Anyway the differences are not huge after white balancing.

  • Well, initially the Minolta lenses were made to match very well in color – remember, there was no Photoshop or Lightroom then, and some photographers used color reversal film. But over time some lenses changed their color (normally to yellow), so the can be quite a bit apart by today. Plus, before you'll achieve such perfect lighting of your scenes that it really matters, you may have bought other lenses too.

    Regarding the Yashica lenses, which were made in cooperation with Zeiss, often have the same optical formula, but they never got the famous T* coating, which is responsible for the colors and lower flare of the Zeiss C/Y lenses. They are quite a bit cheaper, though and worth a try.

  • Hello nomad & co,

    sorry to bother you again but I need you help once more since you are the best source of vintage lense expertise I have come across so far. I ordered the Minolta 28mm 2.8 you recommended in your thread and a Minolta adapter. My question is what lenses to get next for cinematic / video related work. (NOT limited to Minolta but better below 120€, maybe Yashica ML? and if yes which) Should I go with something wider (like a 24mm) or something a bit longer (35mm or even a MC Rokkor PG 50mm f1.4)? Or should I go with the Minolta 35-70mm 3.5 (does MD2 or MD3 make a difference?) instead?

    Thanks a lot for your time and for the advice.

  • My Rokkor 28 is a bit soft, but still usefull. Because you can crop the 4k image of the Nx-1, the next step would be a 50 mm 1,7, the Standard lens. I like the litle zoom lens (35-70), but perhaps it`s better to buy some prime lenses first. The Zeisses and Yashica lenses are better than the Minolta though. But i still recomend buying 2-3 used Samyangs to get the best results. You can get them for 140 to 170 Euros, a 35mm and a 85mm are a good start for cinematic work.

  • Samyangs go for much higher prices here? Any specific Yashica recommendations, since optical quality depends very much on the model.

  • I love my Canon nFDs! 100f2, 50f1.4, 35f2, 24f2. Tack sharp @f2 and very pleasing contrast and color. Only issue is close focus distance.

    Another good non vintage choice to start with is the all round Sigma ART 18-35f1.8.

  • If you have a 28mm, I would get 50mm next, then 85mm. For very wide shots I would later get a 12, 14, or 16mm. It all depends on what you'll be filming/shooting. What are you filming (narrative short films and features, nature, sport events etc.)?

  • Canon FD primes are really fine lenses. But prices are rising.

  • Which lenses have the better indie cinematography look? The Canon FD 35mm /50mm 1.4 or the Contax Zeiss 50mm 1.7? Or is the difference too subtle to notice?

  • How do you define that look? IMHO, everybody would have a different opinion what that really is…

    That said, the Canon FD might be a tad more dreamy / old school and the Zeiss a bit more clinical / analytical. But that describes a lens as well as all the words used to describe a taste. You need to see it!

  • ZeissContax 28-85 is a great lens. It has T* coating and very low distortion. It is sharp but not oversharped and creates a beautiful look. Unfortunately the prices have raised and you probably won't find one in good condition under 350€. You need a good monitor or viewfinder to focus as with all mechanical lenses. It's heavy (900g with Fotodiox adapter) With a speedbooster it covers 20-60/f2.8

  • I second that. It might answer the (in)famous question: "Which lens to take if you can choose only one?" (Well, one and a half with the booster…). Only drawback when filming is the one-touch zoom in my eyes. Oh, wait, it's not constant aperture either.

    So, it's more like a variable prime for me than a zoom, but it's very good at that. It's weight is about the same as that of three of the slower Zeiss Contax primes, like a 28mm f2.8, a 50mm f1.7 and a 85mm f2.8, but if you have some patience you'll still find it for less than or about the same as the sum of those three. I'd say it's perfect if you want to react quickly and need to avoid changing lenses.