7 Best Vintage Lenses For Capturing Dream-Like Portraits


Does a camera lens coated in dust mean that it isn't a high-quality lens? Today we are talking about vintage lenses for portraits. Modern equipment like a digital camera, has made capturing great photos even easier for photographers. But they can sometimes lack the creative element and feel of vintage lenses. While, there are a lot of filters or editing that can be done to make modern images have a vintage feel, actually using an affordable lens like a vintage lens is the best way to achieve a real vintage style image.

Here are some of the best lenses for capturing dream like portraits with a vintage feel. Most vintage lenses are manual focus with an aperture ring and these older lenses are interesting fixed focal length prime lens and come in various focal lengths and beautiful bokeh, like for example a swirly bokeh or various shaped bokeh due to their interesting apertures and optical design. It is good to use a prime lens for portraits rather than a zoom lens although it can be a versatile lens for other genres.

50mm f/1.4 Asahi Pentax Super Takumar

pentax super takumar
Photo by Jeremy Morris

If bokeh and vivid colors are what you want out of an entry-level vintage camera lens look no further than the 50mm f/1.4 Super-Takumar. In addition to the color and narrow depth of field, the Super-Takumar also has a crisp sharpness even at the wide-open aperture.

This lens was built in two styles, an 8-element, and a 7-element version. Because of the flexibility of the aperture this lens is great for low light environments. This lens is known to have a flare when in direct light that can be used to create unique images.

Another great way to incorporate the uniqueness of vintage lenses is to highlight their different photo effects. Be on the lookout for this great vintage glass that can be found with M42 and K-style mounts.

85mm f/2 Jupiter 9

jupiter vintage lens for portraits
Photo by Marek Syroka

The Jupiter 9 85mm f/2 is a great vintage Russian camera lens that stands the test of time. Designed and built with aluminum housing, this lightweight lens is easy to transport and take with you on the go. Another fast lens with an aperture of f/2 that contains 15 aperture blades that work together to create a beautiful bokeh for any photo. Another outcome of the aperture blades is sunstars. While some photographers, may not enjoy the effect, this is another characteristic that can be used to create dream-like portraits with this vintage lens. Its reputation for vivid color contrast and minimal distortion has landed the Jupiter 9 on our list of best affordable vintage lenses.

35mm f/1.8 W-Nikkor C

vintage nikon camera
Photo by The Blowup

Jumping back in time to the 1950s, the 35mm f/1.8 W-Nikkor C is a wide-angle lens that was perfect for the Nikon S2 rangefinder. Another low aperture lens that will hold its own against modern lenses. This Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 lens is very compact and made with high-quality glass. Like other fast lenses on our list, the bokeh that is associated with the f/1.8 will create a dream-like portrait for any photographer.

85mm f/1.5 Helios-40-2

helios vintage lens
Photo by Fabio Porta

Another lens of Russian design makes our list. the 85mm f/1.5 Helios-40-2 is another 1950s lens that is well known in the camera community. This 6-element Double Gauss design is based on similar lenses for the Pentax M42 mount. What makes this lens extremely special is the swirly

effect of the bokeh. While not the sharpest lens, there are many applications and styles that have made this lens one of the most well-known of its time.

100mm f/2 Olympus OM Zuiko Auto-T

olympus zuiko vintage lens
Photo by Hjalte Gregersen

A great lens for portrait photography, the 100mm focal length f/2 Olympus OM Zuiko Auto-T is a well-built lens with a vintage design that has stood the test of time. A well-designed combination of the sturdy metal housing, ED glass, and smooth mechanics, has created a long-lasting lens for the ages. Featuring great sharpness, vivid colors, and of course a beautiful bokeh this lens is a must-have for any portrait photographer looking to incorporate vintage glass into their collection.

58mm f/1.2 Minolta MC Rokkor

Photo by Dan Gold

While not the lightest of lenses due to the 9-blade aperture system, this lens is one of the most popular from the 1960s. At f/1.2 this is a fast lens that has been a favorite of many photographers. With the wide-open aperture, the lens creates a smooth bokeh that is enticing to vintage lens photographers. Due to the large front element flares and ghosting are a common occurrence with this lens, but used properly can enhance the photo style of any portrait.

35mm f/2.5 Voigtlander Color-Skopar Pan

voigtlander vintage camera
Photo by Rui Silva Sj

A small, compact, and well-built lens, the 35mm f2.5 Voigtlander Color-Skopar Pan is the perfect companion for any street photographer. Overall, very durable from the metal housing, so no concerns about taking this lens to the streets. At f/2.5 this lens produces images that are extremely sharp and delivers the classic vignette that one would expect to see from a vintage lens. Originally it came with a lens hood to combat flares but could be removed to increase the creativity of any portrait.

Out With The New And In With The Old

The list of best vintage lenses for portraits could go on and on as there have been countless show-stopping images created over the years with many different lenses. One thing to keep in mind is that new isn't always better, and sometimes the only way to recreate that vintage feel from the past is to dust off a vintage lens and take it out for a spin. These lenses have excellent build quality as well compared to many modern lenses.

Another great thing about shooting with vintage lenses is the potential cost savings compared to modern glass. Having an affordable lens in the bag that is vintage, can be great during portrait shoots and these lenses can be mounted on to modern digital cameras with various mounts like a DSLR camera or mirrorless cameras using an adapter.

If there are vintage lenses for portraits that you want to try but don't have the right brand of camera, check out adapter rings. Most modern cameras can use vintage lenses simply by adding a ring for mount-type compatibility. So, the next time you see a dusty lens from the past, don't be afraid to attach it to your favorite camera and start capturing dream-like portraits like so many photographers before us. Do you have a favorite vintage lens that didn't make the list today? Be sure to share it with other photographers, so they too can see the awesome imagery that can be created with vintage lenses.

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