Fast prime vintage lenses (part 2: from 24mm to 50mm)

The following is a list of fast vintage prime lenses that won’t explode your wallet. All classic lenses have an open aperture of 2.8 or faster, which is a good base for bokeh hunting and should have a price of around or less than EUR 100 in ebay. If you are a friend of the 80/20 Pareto Principle (get 80% of a vintage lens performance for 20% of the price), the list below could be of interest to you. 

Last Update from March-28, 2020:

  • changing the Minolta MC 35mm f2.8 to the legendary sharp MD-II version with 5 lenses in 5 groups

 

This is part 2: from 24mm to 50mm.

For part 1: from 85mm to 200mm, klick here.

Jump directly to the focal length and lens of interest:

analog lens Minolta MC ROKKOR-PF 50mm f1.7 Minolta MC 50mm f1.7

analog lenses zeiss 50mm Contax Zeiss T* 50mm f1.7

analog lens minolta Minolta MD 35mm f2.8 MD-II version (UPDATE)

analog lens pentacon Prakticar Pentacon MC 28mm f2.8

analog lens canon Canon FDn 24mm f2.8

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Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 50mm f1.7, approx. EUR 35 at ebay (2017)

 Minolta MC ROKKOR-PF 50mm f1.7 Minolta MC ROKKOR-PF 50mm f1.7

Specs: 240g weight, 41mm length, 6 elements in 5 groups, 6 aperture blades, 55mm filter, Minolta MC mount

Typical good Minolta color rendering, good sharpness and standard creamy bokeh. Great build quality and really inexpensive for the image quality it delivers. It was a kit lens for the Minolta SRT101. Less character than the Minolta 50mm f/1.4, but not really far away. Better get the MC Version instead of the MD version. Get advice for the right product version here: http://artaphot.ch

Check the excellent image quality of this lens in the 50mm vintage lens shootout: https://tech-reviews.swiss-1.ch/50mm-vintage-lens-shootout/

Minolta analog lens
Click on the photograph to view the neutral “creamy bokeh” shot with the Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 50mm f1.7 lens at aperture f4 in 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixel)

Get more information about this lens here: http://allphotolenses.com

This lens was probably made in 1975. See what else was happening in 1975 here: https://en.iikipedia.org/wiki/1975

 

Contax Zeiss T* 50mm f1.7, approx. EUR 120 at ebay (2016)

vintage lenses zeiss 50mm zeiss 50mm vintage lens

Specs: 195g weight, 35mm length, 7 elements in 6 groups, 6 aperture blades, 55mm filter, Yashica/Contax mount

Not really inexpensive, but probably the cheapest Carl Zeiss lens designed in West Germany that you can get (Contax/Yashica mount). A true performer in sharpness, contrast and flare resistance. So so hectic bokeh with “cat eyes” at open aperture. Chromatic aberrations do almost not exist. If you can`t get hold of this Zeiss, the Canon FDn 50mm f1.4 or the Minolta MD 50mm f1.4 is a good high-end alternative, both for approx. EUR 85 on ebay (2017). The Canon 50mm is sharper than the Minolta MD 50mm f1.4, but the bokeh is better on the Minolta MD 50mm f1.4. Read the review from Andrzej in Canada about this Zeiss lens with some beautiful fotos from Japan on “The Weekend Lens”: http://www.theweekendlens.com

Check the good image quality of this lens in the 50mm vintage lens shootout: https://tech-reviews.swiss-1.ch/50mm-vintage-lens-shootout/

Zeiss analog lens
Click on the photograph to view the so so “hectic bokeh” shot with the Contax Zeiss T* 50mm f1.7 lens at aperture f4 in 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixel)

Get more information about this lens here: http://allphotolenses.com

This lens was probably made in 1980. See what else was happening in 1980 here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980

 

Minolta MD 35mm f2.8 (MD-II version from 1978), approx. EUR 95 at ebay (2019)

Specs: 165g weight, 38.5mm length, 5 elements in 5 groups, 6 aperture blades, 49mm filter, Minolta MD mount, shown with a MD to e-mount adapter (the former owner has colored the front lettering in blue)

The MD-II version from 1978 is optically the same as the MD-III version from 1981. Find detailed information about all versions of the Minolta MC and MD 35mm lenses here, the MD-II version presented can befound in line #79: http://minolta.eazypix.de/lenses/

This classic lens is razor sharp from center to the edge, even with open aperture. Bokeh is so so. Get more information about the MD-III version of this lens this lens here: http://allphotolenses.com

Quote: “The lens performs remarkably well even at f2.8 – we have a very good detail resolution over the entire field and in the Full Frame corners, and very little CAs. … This lens as well waits for future 50 MP full frame sensors …” http://artaphot.ch

Quote: “From the sharpness point of view, Minolta MD 35mm F2.8 … is better than faster and much expensive Minolta MD 35mm F1.8 even wide opened from F2.8 and up to F4.0. … Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2.8 ZA can take the same pictures as Minolta MD 35mm f/2.8. Not more.https://lensqaworks.com

This lens was made in 1978. See what else was happening in 1978 here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1978

 

Prakticar Pentacon MC 28mm f2.8, approx. EUR 75 at ebay (2017)

 

Specs: 240g weight, 54mm length, 7 elements in 7 groups, 6 aperture blades, 49mm filter, Praktica B mount

The Prakticar Pentacon 28 mm f2.8 MC is a wide-angle prime lens with multi-coating, manufactured by the VEB Pentacon Dresden (Feinoptisches Werk Görlitz) in different versions from 1971 till 1991. It is an improved version of the Orestegon 29 mm f2.8 which was sold as Pentacon 29mm f2.8 also. The 29mm lens is inferior to the 28mm and very soft in the corners at open aperture.

See the discussion about this lens and some photographs here: http://forum.mflenses.com

Get more information about this lens here: http://allphotolenses.com

This lens was probably made in 1983. See what else was happening in 1983 here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983

 

Canon FDn 24mm f2.8, approx. EUR 125 at ebay (2017)

vintage lenses canon canon vintage lens

Specs: 240g weight, 48mm length, 10 elements in 9 groups, 6 aperture blades, 52mm filter, Canon FD mount

Sharp from center to the edge even with open aperture f2.8, bokeh is ok but not overwhelming. It’s definitely better than the Minolta MD 28mm f2.8 at the same price level. I had both to compare and returned the Minolta. You can detect the newer FDn lens version by its not having the silver fix ring and no “S.C.” or “S.S.C.” coating marks in the front. All FDn lenses are S.S.C. (aka Super Spectra Coating lenses) without saying so. Keep in mind that a 24mm lens was a form of luxury in the 60s and 70s, and optical build complexity was higher than for 50mm or 135mm lenses. Therefore, the original price and today’s used price is above average compared to vintage lenses with longer focal length. According to allphotolenses, the Canon US consumer price list of January 1986 lists this lens at $287.50 USD. You will hardly find any 24mm vintage lens from Canon or Minolta beyond EUR 100.

An excellent overview about analog Canon lenses: http://camaracoleccion.es
Unfortunately, this website is in Spanish only, but the information is worth translating into English with Google translator.

Get more information about this lens here: http://allphotolenses.com

This lens was probably made in 1982. See what else was happening in 1982 here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982

 

Rundown

I recommend focusing on Canon FD/FDn, Minolta MC/MD or Nikon Ai/Ai-S lenses for buying vintages lenses (mostly). Otherwise, the risk is very high that you will not be satisfied with the lens quality. And yes, prices are still rising for fast vintage prime lenses on ebay and elsewhere, so don`t wait too long if you want to build up a focal length range of fast vintage prime lenses.

Never ever buy lenses with fungus, scratches on the lens glass or oil on the aperture blades. I’ve heard horror stories from people who’ve bought contaminated lenses that, over time, infected other lenses in the camera bag with fungus. Some minor dust inside the lens is typically not so dramatic for optical quality.

Some lenses do not perform well because they are misaligned in optics. The lens might have fallen down or been treated badly. A good choice is to pay a little more on ebay as “instant buy” with the right to return the lens if your tests result in a poor performance. Better do not end like Jan Eufinger with his Hanimex Hanimar 28mm f2.8, “probably the worst lens of the world“: https://www.youtube.com

 

7 secrets to buy cheap vintage lenses online:

 

This is part 2: from 24mm to 50mm.

For part 1: from 85mm to 200mm, klick here.

See my list of recommended zoom vintage lenses here: https://tech-reviews.swiss-1.ch/vintage-lenses-zoom/

Enjoy!

 

Final remarks

Be aware, though, that the classic lenses are fully manual for focus and aperture setting. Also, some classic lenses do not perform well because of fungus, haze or balsam separation, and/or the lens might have been dropped or been treated badly. Look at the Classic Lens Buying Guide and 10-Points Checklist for more details here:

Better not to end up like Jan Eufinger with his Hanimex Hanimar 28mm f2.8, “probably the worst lens of the world“: https://www.youtube.com

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