Vintage Lenses on Mirrorless Cameras

March 2017 Featured Speaker

Vintage Lenses on Mirrorless Cameras: They might be old, but married to a modern camera they can still produce beautiful results in ways that modern lenses can’t.

by Alberto Patiño Douce

I think that the soul of a photograph is in the lens that created it. The camera is less important, it is simply the “digital back” for the lens, what we use today instead of film. The camera is a piece of hardware that allows one to get all that a lens can deliver, and to do it in the most efficient way possible. But no camera – no sensor – is better than the lens that one puts in front of it.

Modern digital lenses can be surgically sharp, with enormous resistance to flare and scientifically accurate color rendition. And if they have aberrations or distortions, they are usually corrected by software. In other words, modern digital lenses are impersonal. Because of this, and also because I miss the “slide-rule engineering” that I grew-up with, I have developed a strong preference for analog-era lenses of decades past. I don’t think that modern “digital” lenses can match them in terms of that unique combination of sweetness and sharpness that one associates with great film-era optics.

There is, however, one digital technological development without which old lenses might have slowly died. Mirrorless cameras have given a new life to classic lenses. Just about any analog lens ever made can be adapted to them. Precise focusing and exposure are much simpler and faster with digital mirrorless cameras than they ever were with film cameras. Mirrorless cameras, especially those with full frame sensors, are able to show the qualities and unique personalities of old lenses in ways that surpass anything that film was ever able to do. And, let’s face it, Lightroom is preferable to smelly chemicals in the dark. More than anything else, shooting with old manual lenses is immensely fulfilling and great FUN. Most of my photography these days is done with decades-old lenses attached to mirrorless cameras. I would like to share some of my experiences and show you some of my results. Perhaps I will inspire you to go and try it as well.

All photos ©2017 Alberto Patino Douce