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Searching for "artistic" lenses
  • I know everyone is looking for super sharp lenses but I often shoot experimental projects that's why I'd like to find some old lenses with lot of "personality", (dreamy corners, swirling bokeh, flare, etc). I'm not going to shoot everyday with this kind of glass but it may worth a try.

    I already read about Helios lenses, Here is a good example of the kind of bokeh I'm looking for :

    Rokkor This one's pretty extreme

    Totally love the film like softness but i think this effect comes from the DIY adapater used by the author.

    I hope some people are willing to share their knowledge on these crazy lenses ;) Thanks

  • 16 Replies sorted by
  • C-mounts: Fujian 35mm 1.7 and 25mm 1.4 :) cheap as chips and plenty of character!

  • @oscillian : Nice :) I'm not a big fan of c mount because of ETC mode but these two lenses are very interesting !

    I also found Jupiter 9 85mm F2, this one may fits my needs. Here is a video sample

  • Mir 1B (1V) is supposed to be quite artistic (don't own one, but thinking about it).

  • A few quick things, @krotal:

    The C-mounts listed above will work without ETC mode--no vignetting on m43s sensor. I love my Fujian 35mm.

    There are a couple different versions of the Jupiter-9 85mm f/2. The newer black models with the MC are very glow-y wide open, if that's the effect you're looking for. My older silver KMZ model is sharp throughout and a fantastic lens if you want pretty bokeh.

    The Helios 40-2 85mm f/1.5 is a monster (size-wise) with unique bokeh, but you'll pay through the nose for them right now.

  • @hunter : My mistake, i'll definitely check those two C-mounts lenses. They will do the job. Thank you for your insightful precisions on the Jupiter 9, you're right I'm looking for glowy looking corners.

  • @kankala Used to have that MIR. Amazing flares! The Fujian 35mm 1.7 is a must for lo-fi images: Check out Sebs GH1-video. Complete with lens whacking!

  • And I shot this on the GH13 with the 25mm 1.4

    My use of the 35mm 1.7 on GF13 (different crop factor):

  • You never mentioned price so I'll dare to recommend the vintage Angenieux 28-70mm f2.6-2.8 - fetches for at least US$1,000 for good condition. So much so I've called it my "Model Lens" for shooting celebs, models etc. It's a bit cliched but it's a very "organic" yet sharp lens. Seems to make the skin glow (not in an blurry sort of way!). Other than it's optical quality I like how it's nearly parfocal, low contrast (better for grading) no barrel extension or rotation when turning, manual focus ring and metal (740g). Here are some samples I've shot with different cams: 5DmkII


  • I love the Rokkor lenses for soft bokeh. I use them all the time, especially the 58mm 1.4.

  • I agree with all choices presented, I have several Minolta Rokkors, the Jupiter 9, and several Helios 44s .. 7 I think.

    Regarding the Helios 44s .. there are many varieties .. my seven lenses range from an early 1960 model .. silver with a 12 blade iris. To one of the last produced 44m-7 multicoated and sharp as a tack. They're all different .. they're also cheap I didn;t spend more than $50 on any of them.

  • My 2 favorite artistic lenses are the Voigtlander Nokton M43 25mm f0.95 and an old Canon rangefinder 85mm f1.8. The Nokon is my favorite walk around lens as it can be very versatile when you learn how to get different effects from it. Aside from the obvious night photography and shallow depth of field, it's close focusing ability and nice bokeh are good for macro uses. Although the lens is super sharp and high res when stopped down between 8-11, try shooting it at 0.95 in full direct sunlight with some ND filters. It lets in so much light that bright objects, especially in front of a darker background have beautiful dreamy glow.

    The Canon RF 85, 1.8 is my favorite head and shoulder portrait lens on my GH2. Very creamy beautiful bokeh. Stopped down it is a very sharp lens. Wide open has a soft dreamy quality as well. The lens is an early 60's design. Wide open headshots have a subtle early 60's quality in how they render the image.

    The best advice is find old lenses that have some respectable capabilities (sharpness, very fast, or whatever) and then push the capabilities and see what kind of effects the lens produces. Decide how and whether or not you can do something creative with the effect or not. This is why bokeh is so subjective. Aside from whether bokeh is "pleasing" or "not pleasing" the beauty of bokeh depends more on how an artists uses it or doesn't know how to make use of it. It might be a good project to tasks your current lens with the worst bokeh, take exteme bad bokeh shots and then figure out what images might benefit from the less pleasing bokeh. Lens flares can be ugly and ruin an image. However when JJ Abrams was filming the new Star Trek movie, he had his CGI department create a program to create lens flares in the wholly CGI external footage of the Enterprise in outer space. Take the glass you own and intentionally create extreme bokeh, wide open glow, flares, blown highlights, extreme perspective and such. Look at these images and figure out how you can do something artistic with the effect and then take those shots.

  • Nikon 28mm f2 Ai. Used it on two projects. Lovely colors and contrast. Excellent optically and mechanically with very good flare resistance and CA control.

  • Selfmade monokle lense (1 lense only) on GH2 soft due to f number and very nice boken

  • Subtle lenses that I use to impart a look, which are also sharp, are the Vivitar "SMS" 28mm "Close focusing", which is rare but not impossible to find on eBay (not the same as the regular 28mm) and the Vivitar 55mm macro. Both very good for video. I also like the color of the Panasonic 14mm prime, which is slightly "off" but in a very nice way. The early version of the 35mm f/1.4 can produce "ghosts" along with flare.

  • THX to a tip from @DrDave i've just picked up a Rokkor-X 50mm f1.4 and an 85mm f2. I like these old Minolta lenses. I have only been experimenting so far, but hope to film something to show. I can't get over the small size of these lenses, but they have a real solid quality feel.

  • Those are both beautiful lenses. I don't use my 50 as much since I got the Olly 45, but it is a great lens. The 85/2 is very hard to find!