12 Legacy Lenses Perfect For Adapting To Mirrorless Cameras
One of the best things about mirrorless cameras is the ability to use mount adapters in order to use some of that sweet, sweet vintage glass. Some less-experienced photographers may think that if a lens is older, it's not going to produce images as high-quality as the newer lens offerings.
That's just not true, though. For many years, these lenses were the tools that photographers used to create lasting examples of documentation, photojournalism and works of art. Although camera and lens manufacturers won't tell you this, razor-crisp sharpness isn't everything.
Many classic photography lenses can look even better on modern sensors than they did in the past. After all, it's the most authentic way to bring a little more style to your digital photos.
My favorite reason to use older photo lenses on my mirrorless is the lower price point. When I first bought my Sony a7sii, I spent nearly every spare penny I had on the camera body. (That's what I get for buying new.) I didn't have any extra cash left over to buy those fancy Sony E-mount lenses. The next best thing I could think of was to use some of my favorite classic lenses and use a mount adapter.
Typically these vintage lenses produce slightly softer images, giving your photos and videos a slightly low-fi, pleasant analog quality. That's not to say they aren't sharp, but they often have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi quality that's just enough to pull it away from the stark realism of the world and boost it with a little dreamlike quality. In some cases, the out-of-focus bokeh areas may have a tunnel-like appearance, framing your subject beautifully.
The glass coatings on some of these lenses may have been a little less complicated back in the day, giving your colors a slightly warmer glow or producing interesting-looking flares.
In some cases, the vintage build quality is worlds above the new stuff, anyway. The sturdy metal builds and smooth-focusing rings of yesteryear can put some of these plastic focus-by-wire nifty-fifty or kit zoom lenses to shame. In most cases, they'll do this at a fraction of the cost.
Let's get into it, shall we?
While modern-day lens manufacturers have been able to create wider and wider lenses, this 17mm came at a time when most folks expected a 24mm. Even today, most full-frame ultrawide lenses don't match the compact size of this treasure.
Mechanically, the Olympus Zuiko lenses are some of the best-produced legacy lenses around. Miniscule size with wonderful handling, this lens with multi-coating is a joy to work with. It's also available in an older, single-coated version for even cheaper.
An excellent lens for candid, architectural and other photo applications that need something a little wider than the usual. Many legacy Nikon lenses can be modified by crafty and adventurous shooters to have their apertures 'de-clicked' for smooth transitions in video usage.
One of the most popular Canon wide-angle lenses for a reason. This lens offers a wide aperture, light and compact design, and it's wide enough for most standard photoshoots.
Not your typically-sought-after lens mount, the Konica actually has a very short flange distance compared to other 35mm SLR systems. This means that even with an adapter, using this lens allows you to remain super compact while still getting solid image quality. Like some others here, it can be susceptible to flares when wide open which can cause a lack of contrast. Some photographers or videographers would argue that these flares are just part of the magic.
One of our favorites, the Super-Multi-Coated Takumar line of lenses from Asahi Pentax is one of the best deals in vintage lenses. Easily adaptable to most mirrorless and DSLR systems, this 50mm feels wonderful in the hand and looks great on the front of your camera. This model was produced with both the metal knurled focus ring shown above and an alternate rubber grip ring.
A wonderfully lightweight compact lens with tons of flexibility. It's relatively sharp wide open with the best performance stopped down a click or two. With a decent amount of glow around contrasty areas, this lens is a great choice for artistic shots.
Slightly longer than the typical standard lens, this wonder opens its 9-bladed aperture all the way up to f/1.2, giving you superbly creamy bokeh. It comes at a fairly premium price considering that it's fully manual and aged, but it's one of the most sought-after standard primes for adapting.
While this lens's aperture may not blow you away, it's hard to find any argument with the budget price. The pleasing grip and smooth dampened focus ring make this lens feels as though it's found its true home on the front of your camera.
Yep, that Zeiss. This Sonnar lens is designated MC for its multi-coating finish which improves flare resistance and allows for more consistent color rendition when compared to the single-coating predecessor. Excellent for portraits on a budget.
This well-known Russian-made lens was produced from the mid-'50s to the '90s. Based on a Zeiss design, it's available in both Leica screw mount and the pictured M42 screw mount. Popular in the filmmaking community, this lens can have a 'swirly' bokeh effect in busy, out-of-focus backgrounds, giving it an aesthetic like few others.
Let's be honest with each other. This telephoto is not cheap. However, it is arguably one of the best vintage portrait lenses available. It's extra sharp, with smooth as silk bokeh. With a wide aperture, compact design and solid build quality, this one may have to be seen to be believed.
Frankly, adding a section to this post where I suggest which mount adapters to use would drag this on for much longer than almost anyone would be willing to read.
In any case, we have dozens of different types of lens mount adapters for nearly every lens mount to nearly every camera body. Feel free to look through our inventory of lens mount adapters here-
Lens Mount Adapters
If you have any trouble finding exactly what you're looking for, give our experts a call at 1-800-DIAL-KEH or ask in our webchat. We'll be able to find exactly what you're looking for, or even make suggestions if you're not entirely sure what you're looking for. That's why they're experts.
See some of this legacy glass in action
Of course, we have a lot more vintage glass where that came from. Shop all of our easy-to-adapt lenses by clicking here
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