Never Underestimate Old Glass


Test image using a pre-AI Nikon 24mm 2.8 lens

As some of you may know, I lead the Advanced Photography Group for the Olympia Camera Club. We hold monthly meetings where we share not only knowledge but images as well. One of the questions that always seems to arise when sharing images is “what lens did you use” for the image being shared. This typically leads to a discussion about some ultra-modern, high end, and typically very expensive piece of glass. The general consensus these days is that if you want a great lens, it has to be new, and has to be very expensive. I argue that simply isn’t the case.

Take the image above as an example. Doesn’t seem very special does it? A black and white image of a padlock on my shed. What I haven’t said so far is that this image was made using a lens that was made sometime before 1977. It was captured with a pre-AI Nikon 24mm f2.8 attached to a Sony a6000 camera. Obviously it was made in manual focus as AF wasn’t an option back on the “old days.” ¬†This is also straight out of camera. I shot JPG with in camera black and white settings as well as being at ISO400. ¬†Absolutely ZERO post processing. The only thing that has been done is that the JPG compression has been set to 75% quality in Lightroom when uploading to the internet.

The next image is a 100% crop out of the above image.


Look at the detail and clarity in this image. By any definition this is a very sharp image, remember, it was compressed to 75% JPG quality when uploaded to my site. This was also manually focused with a 35+ year old lens.

Want to know the shocker of all of this though? This lens, in great condition, can usually be found for under $150 if you shop around. This was a professional grade lens it its day. Today they are all but forgotten because people believe that only the ultra-modern lenses are capable of making great images.

One last thing to keep in mind though, not all camera lines will let you mount old lenses to them. Some Nikon bodies will allow the use of pre-AI lenses, but if you do a little research online you will find lots of compatibility charts that will tell you what is safe and what will work with your camera. There are also lots of very inexpensive adapters out there that let you use just about any lens with just about any camera body, just look around a bit.

This entry was posted in Photography.

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