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Thread: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

  1. #1
    panamamike
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    Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    I've reviewed and read a few different threads/articles regarding legacy lenses. It's interesting to see there's quite a bit of discussion and activity regarding the different options.

    I've come across what seem to be two camps.

    1: People very excited with the opportunity to use older legacy lenses, and in some cases prefer them to the newer lenses.

    2: Those that appreciate the old glass, but think if you're starting with no lenses it doesn't make sense in buying the older glass. The older lenses aren't any better than the newer ones and don't support the modern features such as IS or AF.

    I find it interesting because even though they advocate not buying the older lenses, they go through the trouble of using them...

    For me, I'm just looking for the best bang for the buck lens that will produce the best image possible under low light conditions. Yes, some may find my quest a bit silly, but none the less, that's what I'm after.

    Why? My quest started when I learned my wife cannot be photographed using a flash. The flash has the potential of setting off a migraine, and it's just not a pleasant experience. As such, the majority of the photo's I've taken are noisey/grainy and not very sharp any time we're indoors.

    It's amazing how many times low light becomes an issue when taking photographs, at least in my situation. The other thing to note, I wanted the smallest camera form factor I could use. I really hate large cameras, and know I wouldn't use one if it were too large. That gets me to 4/3rds format and quest for a good low light lens.

    I'd like to hear what folks on the board think about the fast legacy lens options vs. new for m43's lenses. AF and IS aside. Are the legacy lenses worth the trouble? Can they produce better results in low light that the available Pannys for similar or lower cost. I think the Panny 20mm might be too wide for an all around lens. Not sure how legacy glass prices/performance stand up to the Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm/F2.8.

    Any input would be appreciated.

    Mike

  2. #2
    Senior Member mathomas's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    I'd say use the legacy lenses if you don't mind the side-effects of doing so. Many of them have spherical aberrations, weak coating, etc. So, while they may have been just "what they had" in the old days, now they are more special-purpose. Some people like them for their very faults.

    In my case, I owned a 1956 Leitz Summarit f/1.5 for my M8, which was beautiful and classic (and would have been really nice on my "new" M2). But honestly, I didn't care that much for a) the handling of the lens and b) the low-contrast photos that I got out of it. I could always adjust in PP when shooting on my M8, but felt I should just stick with a more modern lens.

    For me, the main issue of using "legacy" glass aside from its optical qualities (esp. with the Summarit) is the difficulty of finding, and then affording, accessories (odd filter size and pitch, same for the lens cap and hood).

    The nice thing with older glass is, as long as you don't overpay, you'll be able to recover most of your money should you change your mind and want to try something else.



    Quote Originally Posted by panamamike View Post
    I've reviewed and read a few different threads/articles regarding legacy lenses. It's interesting to see there's quite a bit of discussion and activity regarding the different options.

    I've come across what seem to be two camps.

    1: People very excited with the opportunity to use older legacy lenses, and in some cases prefer them to the newer lenses.

    2: Those that appreciate the old glass, but think if you're starting with no lenses it doesn't make sense in buying the older glass. The older lenses aren't any better than the newer ones and don't support the modern features such as IS or AF.

    I find it interesting because even though they advocate not buying the older lenses, they go through the trouble of using them...

    For me, I'm just looking for the best bang for the buck lens that will produce the best image possible under low light conditions. Yes, some may find my quest a bit silly, but none the less, that's what I'm after.

    Why? My quest started when I learned my wife cannot be photographed using a flash. The flash has the potential of setting off a migraine, and it's just not a pleasant experience. As such, the majority of the photo's I've taken are noisey/grainy and not very sharp any time we're indoors.

    It's amazing how many times low light becomes an issue when taking photographs, at least in my situation. The other thing to note, I wanted the smallest camera form factor I could use. I really hate large cameras, and know I wouldn't use one if it were too large. That gets me to 4/3rds format and quest for a good low light lens.

    I'd like to hear what folks on the board think about the fast legacy lens options vs. new for m43's lenses. AF and IS aside. Are the legacy lenses worth the trouble? Can they produce better results in low light that the available Pannys for similar or lower cost. I think the Panny 20mm might be too wide for an all around lens. Not sure how legacy glass prices/performance stand up to the Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm/F2.8.

    Any input would be appreciated.

    Mike

  3. #3
    panamamike
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Quote Originally Posted by mathomas View Post
    I'd say use the legacy lenses if you don't mind the side-effects of doing so. Many of them have spherical aberrations, weak coating, etc. So, while they may have been just "what they had" in the old days, now they are more special-purpose. Some people like them for their very faults.

    In my case, I owned a 1956 Leitz Summarit f/1.5 for my M8, which was beautiful and classic (and would have been really nice on my "new" M2). But honestly, I didn't care that much for a) the handling of the lens and b) the low-contrast photos that I got out of it. I could always adjust in PP when shooting on my M8, but felt I should just stick with a more modern lens.

    For me, the main issue of using "legacy" glass aside from its optical qualities (esp. with the Summarit) is the difficulty of finding, and then affording, accessories (odd filter size and pitch, same for the lens cap and hood).

    The nice thing with older glass is, as long as you don't overpay, you'll be able to recover most of your money should you change your mind and want to try something else.
    Good points about handling, performance, and accessories. I should have also indicated I'm interested in legacy glass that would be considered the "best fit" or would afford the best performance. I know AF and OIS will be issues for all legacy glass, but I figure there are some favorites out there for speed/sharpness/IQ.

    Mike

  4. #4
    Senior Member Peter Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    How about for fast lenses? The only truly fast lens Panasonic offers is the 20/1.7. If you want a 50/1.4 lens to use as a 100/1.4 equivalent, then a "legacy" lens is your only alternative. I tried an OM 50/1.4 on my G1, and it worked very nicely in a classical concert. Test shots at home show that the Voigtlander 50/1.5 and Leica 35/1.4 ASPH work very nicely, too.

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    Senior Member simonclivehughes's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Klein View Post
    Test shots at home show that the Voigtlander 50/1.5 and Leica 35/1.4 ASPH work very nicely, too.
    I concur on this as I have, and love the Voigtlander f1.5. And if you want faster glass at very reasonable prices, Voigtlander also have a 35mm f1.2 and a 50mm 1.1.

    Cheers,

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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    The Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens works excellent in low light.


    DMC-GF1 - LUMIX G 20/F1.7 - ISO 400 - f/1.7 - 1/30 - 20mm
    First day out with camera stopped to pick up something to eat. Loved the colors - Love the GF1 - No Flash!


    This is a sample of a Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 shot on an overcast day.


    GF1 with Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 - ISO 100 - f/1.5 - 1/1000

    Life is Grand!

    Dan
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    Senior Member bensonga's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    I'm using quite a few Nikkor AIS and Leica R lenses on my Panny G1. None are slower than f2.8, most are f1.4 to f2. I've been getting very good results from all of them, but the lack of AF would slow you down quite a bit....although for my style of shooting it doesn't mater and I enjoy using manual focus lenses.

    If I was looking for one fast lens to start with, it would be the Panny 20mm f1.7 (which I own also).....it's outstanding. Maybe start with that and then add a bit longer MF legacy glass later, if you need the longer focal length. I doubt you would regret getting the 20mm f1.7 lens. Also, keep in mind that the Panny, Voigtlander or Novoflex lens adapters aren't cheap....so you'll have to factor that into the cost of using legacy glass.

    Hopefully, Panasonic will come out with some more fast AF primes in the years ahead.

    Gary
    Last edited by bensonga; 3rd May 2010 at 16:44.

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    Senior Member kevinparis's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    using legacy lenses isn't for everyone - its not as convenient as using native lenses but on the otherhand it is great fun - to me it puts me back in control of my pictures, gives me a deeper interaction with the picture taking process.

    It also can produce images with a 'look' not obtainable with native lenses, whether thats due to DOF or just the characteristic of the lenses.

    all i offer is a collection of pictures taken with legacy lenses - to me they take images that satisfy me - your mileage may vary

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinpa...7622730407793/

    K

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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    I think the 'worth the investment' assessment is a personal one only you can make. For some people it's definitely worth it. The vast majority of camera users don't even know they can use legacy lenses with this system, nor do they know what 'legacy' lenses are. I'd say most posters on this forum fall somewhere in between the types described below.

    Personally I see a few different groups for whom legacy lenses may be worthwhile:

    1. SLR/RF users who still have access to their collection of SLR/legacy lenses. For them the investment isn't very large to get into the m4/3 format (just the cost of a few adapters), so it's an attractive option.

    2. Tinkerers/enthusiasts who like to experiment with various lenses made available by this new format. These are folks who aren't afraid to plunk down some cash to find out what kinds of lenses they can adapt to this system. Most of them look for bargain lenses of all kinds and find a way to get an image out of them.

    3. Connoisseurs/pros who know the value of various legacy lenses, and can afford to buy the best out there. I think of them as enthusiasts with lots of disposable income. To them, price isn't a barrier to owning a Jenoptik/Coastal Optics UV macro on a modified G1 body, or a Noctilux because they know exactly how to get the most use out of them, and they serve a specific purpose. These users can appreciate the character produced by various lenses.

    4. Seasoned amateurs who find the current line-up of lenses lacking, and need to fill specific 'holes' in their toolkit. These users generally look for lens sharpness above all other concerns, and are likely to replace their legacy lenses as soon as a viable native replacement is released.

    Personally I'm a solid 2, with a bit of 1 mixed in (went backwards and got a film camera to augment my GH1), and hoping to graduate to a 3. I also have some 4 in me because once I can afford them I do plan on buying some native lenses and thinning out my legacy collection to just the lenses that bring special character, or have special needs.
    -Dragos
    Panasonic GH1/G1, Canon FTb(n)/F-1, Mamiya C330F/RB67 Pro SD, Chamonix 45N-2, Nikon F5 + Assorted Lenses

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    Senior Member simonclivehughes's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Quote Originally Posted by kevinparis View Post
    all i offer is a collection of pictures taken with legacy lenses - to me they take images that satisfy me - your mileage may vary

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinpa...7622730407793/

    K
    Kevin,

    There are some wonderful shots in there. I really enjoyed looking at them.

    Thanks!

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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Mike, In your case, IMO, it isn't worth it. Although fast lenses and low light are talked about all the time, only with proper techniques one can get decent images in low light.

    Indeed, the m4/3rds system does offer the possibility to use very fast lenses. Most are fuzzy wide open, in low contrast light (low light often translates to low contrast light). The Pana 20/1.7 is good as it offers tons of contrast (it has to as the CDAF focus depends on it).

    I do not see any connection to these and the PanaLeica 45/2.8 which isn't exactly fast though.

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    Senior Member pellicle's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Dear Mike

    I think Kevin has expressed much of what I feel about the system here:

    Quote Originally Posted by kevinparis View Post
    using legacy lenses isn't for everyone - its not as convenient as using native lenses but on the otherhand it is great fun - to me it puts me back in control of my pictures, gives me a deeper interaction with the picture taking process.

    It also can produce images with a 'look' not obtainable with native lenses, whether thats due to DOF or just the characteristic of the lenses.
    As you may know the range of existing m4/3 lenses is quite restricted. If you wanted to to anything with longer telephoto or shallow depth of field then you are really just "s##t out of luck" with the offerings.

    So the legacy lenses offer something to fill a need which may not be filled with the existing offerings.

    Secondly the lenses are poorer in quality. Now I know you'll hear plenty of people say that images that are good enough ... and in many circumstances they are "good enough"

    I bought a 45-200 and used it for 3 months. I sold it again because:

    * the autofocus was not fast enough (I'm also a Canon EOS user and the ring motor USM lenses certainly spoil you for speed). The speed of operation was not in line with my 100-300 USM zoom ... let alone one of the better ones.

    * the autofocus had just as many problems deciding on exactly what in the square to focus on ... sure it focused fast, but not on what I wanted. This can be a non issue in some situations, and a real annoyance in others. Birds in thicket bush were impossible.

    I found myself going back to manual focus time and time again.

    In that situation the performance of my ($50) FD 200 f4 lens was better.

    For instance on my page here I compared those two lenses.



    I found significant vignetting and worse the lens did not transmit as much light at the same f stop as my f4 ... yes, with both at 5.6 there was a full stop less light getting to the sensor. Not uncommon in zooms btw.



    note also the colour differences ... and getting the AF to lock onto the exact part of the grass I wanted to was impossible, it kept locking on to there other areas ... even with a smaller focus point set.

    The OIS of the lens did not help with excessive motion blur of subjects (tried photographing my "floor ball" team) and so the 200 f4 was the winner giving me 2 stops of reality faster than the dedicated lens.

    I love the Olympus 9-18 lens (which I regard as legacy on the m4/3) but would be interested to try out the new m4/3 version which is due to out on the shelves real soon.

    I love my 50mm f1.4 which gives a rendering that no existing micro 4/3 lens can do. I only paid $100 for that too ...

    so for anyone who uses these things and does not need AF (or finds it gets in the way) then the legacy lenses are worth the investment. In fact I would argue that they are an investment, as when you sell the m4/3 lenses (assuming they are operational after 5 years) you'll likely still get your money back.

  13. #13
    panamamike
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Thanks for the input everyone, I appreciate the insight and different perspectives on the subject matter. It's interesting to see the wide variety of opinions on the subject.

    Just from some of the sample photos I've seen, I get the feeling there are some legacy lenses that can do things the standard Panasonics lenses cannot. Though you'll need to be patient to get that type of output.

    I was hoping to get some tips on which bargain lenses might help me address my particular needs. I was thinking some fast, better than f2, might do the trick. ATM I'm going to take a gamble on the Contax G 45mm planar lens. I've been trying to find a 20 something mm to fill out the normal view. However, haven't been able to find any reasonably priced fast legacy wides. I've been somewhat impatient to identify a good lens because the prices seem to be going up quite a bit for the good m43 candidate. I think that's telling in itself.

    I'll have to re-evaluate after I get a chance to play with the Contax.

    I'm also waiting to see if the Monza adapter pans out...

    Mike

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    Senior Member pellicle's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Hi

    Quote Originally Posted by panamamike View Post
    Just from some of the sample photos I've seen, I get the feeling there are some legacy lenses that can do things the standard Panasonics lenses cannot. Though you'll need to be patient to get that type of output.
    not as I see it ... if you've ever used cameras much then its a peach

    the AF lenses are more annoying in the longer end of things.

    I was hoping to get some tips on which bargain lenses might help me address my particular needs.
    which are?

    I was thinking some fast, better than f2, might do the trick.
    Canon FD are great optics and bargain prices because almost nothing else can use them ... seriously good for little money

  15. #15
    panamamike
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Quote Originally Posted by pellicle View Post
    Hi
    which are?
    My needs aren't too complicated at this point. My main need is low available light indoor photography, no flash...This is why I've focused on "fast" lenses.
    Quote Originally Posted by pellicle View Post
    Canon FD are great optics and bargain prices because almost nothing else can use them ... seriously good for little money
    I looked into the Canon 24mm 1.4. May be cheap by overall standards, but still quite a bit of change. Also saw a review indicating it's a bit soft full wide which is what I'd want to use it for...

    Mike

  16. #16
    Ibeti
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    I have to agree with Pellicle above - the Contaxes may be good, but they arent really that cheap.

    I would go with either Canon FD (50/1.4 for example), Minolta MD (again - 50/1.4) or mayby Konica AR (yup - you guessed it - 50/1.4) and the cheapest adaptor you can find.
    If you can get used to the operation with one of these you can consider the more expensive options. Looking on the auction site you should be able to pick up adaptor and a lens for 60 bucks or so (compared to the Zeiss Contax glass that is 200+ not including the adaptor).

    However - you may also want to consider getting yourself one of the Olympuses for their in body image stabilization. That way you can use shutter speeds like 1/50th with a 50mm which is quite exellent for portraits.

    Also - with a m43 camera dont be afraid of iso 800 or even 1600 for smaller prints.

    At the end of the day though - the 20mm f1.7 is pretty hard to beat since it is also shorter. Almost all legacy glass under 35-ish mm will have weaknesses, especially if it is also fast. This is even more true for rangefinder lenses (my Konica AR 35mm f2 is quite exellent even wide open, shorter ones havent yielded very good resaults so far).

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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    Picked up a Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8 that was used with a Contax camera at a one man camera shop, Jim's Camera, in the U. District/Seattle. I already had a C/Y adaptor for an old Yashica 50mm 1.7 so I picked it up.

    Test Shot outside camera store

    GF1 with Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8 -- ISO 100 -- f/5.6 -- 1/1000 -- 35mm

    UW Campus with Cascades in background


    This is a nice legacy lens!

    Life is Grand!

    Dan
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    Senior Member Annna T's Avatar
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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    I'm rather in the group who thinks that legacy lenses are only worth it if you already own them from previous film cameras.

    Unless you have special needs. In your case, you want to be able to shoot pictures of your wife indoors and without flash. There are MFT lenses allowing you to shoot in low light : both the 20mm Panasonic and the Oly 17mm are below F2. The question is : will you need a longer focal length than that ? I'd say, try to set your zoom at these focal lengths and see whether they are really too short for what you want : shooting indoors often request shorter lenses than outdoors. You may be surprised to see that sitting next to your wife indoors, you are only able to get a head/shoulder portrait with a 50mm lense (aka a 100mm in 35mm equivalent). You may also find out that sitting near of your main subject and using a wide aperture makes precision focusing quite difficult, because of very shallow DOF. In other words it won't be easy to use zone focusing and focusing manually may be rather hard if you want candid protraits. So legacy lenses may be more adapted for paused portraits.

    That said, if you finally decide to go for legacy lenses, avoid the Contax G lenses : they were AF lenses at the time and so they don't have native focusing rings; the adapters allowing their use are rather akward to focuse. It's not the best option to try first. (and that is said by someone owning both Contax G lenses and Leica M lenses). Some above advised for a Canon FD or an Olympus OM; I don't know these lenses, but given their prices and the fact that they can easily be adapted, it is probably much better for a first try.

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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    I do not believe that older legacy lenses are any better than native m4/3 lenses. The 20mm 1.7 is just half a stop slower than most legacy lenses. But consider that most legacy lenses are not good wide open so there goes the advantage for legacy lenses. Next the current prices of so called legacy lenses has gone up so much that it is ridiculous. This increase is mostly due to, excuse my words, some foolish m4/3 users overpaying for these lenses, example, 3 to 10 fold increases in Konica AR lenses, 2 to 6 fold increase in Canon FD and Canon M mount lenses, in the last year. But not all m4/3 users are going to pay this inflated prices and even the ones who overpaid cannot sustain the current prices. So it is never going to work as an investment. You might lose badly if you do not time your selling if you ever need to sell.

    If you still want to try legacy lenses try a 40 or 50mm 1.8 lens with relevant adapter. Buy as cheap as possible. You should get this at 70-100 bucks, this way you will not lose much.

    Sven

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    Re: Legacy lenses, worth the investment?

    . . . . . a couple of shots from Legacy lens . . . . .


    Carl Zeiss Contax G 45mm f/2

    GF1 with Carl Zeiss Contax G 45mm f/2 -- ISO 100 - f/2 -- 1/2500 -- 45mm


    Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5

    GF1 with Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 -- ISO 100 -- f/2 -- 1/1300 -- 50mm


    JPEG straight from camera, reduces in size in photoshop, shot hand held.

    Life is Grand!

    ~


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    "legacy lenses" or orphaned lenses?

    I don't understand why everyone is calling orphaned system lenses as legacy lenses.

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