vintage gems – vivitar 55mm f/2.8 auto-macro (komine)

If you’re new to photography it’s easy to get caught up in buying the “latest and greatest” cameras, lenses and equipment. If you decide to do some research and head onto the various photography or equipment forums, most of the reviews will be of lenses within a given manufacturer’s current line-up. The newer lenses are great but are also very expensive and it won’t take long to blow a £1k budget. There are, however, in most of the main systems (Nikon, Canon, Pentax etc..) legacy lenses that are real gems to use and can be bought for relatively small amounts, simply because few people know about them anymore. Now and again I’m going to try to high-light some of those gems and give you some tips on great lenses for small money. Keep in mind that just because a lens has, say, a Canon mount, that doesn’t prevent it being used on a Nikon body together with a simple and cheap adapter. You may lose the ability of the lens to electronically communicate with the camera’s computer but if you’re comfortable working in manual mode and don’t need auto-focus and auto-everything else, then these lenses will still provide you with exceptional results. One of genres where these kind of lenses can be easily employed is “macro photography”. Why? Well, macro photographers know that you rarely use auto functions when shooting subjects so small and so close. Focus is critical and you’ll want to do that manually so the focus is on exactly the right place and tack sharp. You’ll often be working on a tripod, too, so you won’t need any of the new-fangled “vibration control” and shutter speed and aperture will all be controlled manually! You’ll know how to do all that because you’ll already have attended one of our workshops, right!!? :)

OK, gem number one is a dedicated macro lens and a very good one. The Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Auto-Macro (Komine) is a cracking lens from the 80s and it’s tack sharp. It can be picked up for around £75 and is sold in various mounts so it’s normally possible to find one that will attach directly to your camera without the need for an adapter. It will still be used completely manually but some of the results with this lens are on a par with the Nikon 60mm Micro series, a lens which in it’s current guise costs over £400! Keep also in mind that just because a lens was designed and marketed as macro lens, doesn’t mean to say it won’t also give stunning results used as a portrait lens! Many of the 105mm Nikon macro lenses are used extensively as portrait lenses and always have been. Don’t been afraid to experiment and see for yourself!

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