My passion for Vintage Glass ...

I have a passion for vintage camera lenses from the 1950's to the 80's, could be Leica, Nikkor, Carl Zeiss or old russian glass. I especially like their very unique texture and how they add something to the pictures. Way much softer than modern glass, they tend to be warmer and more subtle than the modern  "cold as ice" look! 

I even do love some of their optical defaults, or what lens specialists might call "aberrations"! It often add a lot of charm and a lot of complexity to the final shot. In a way you can compare vintage lenses to old mechanical whatches against modern "cold as ice" quartz, vinyl records against digital, and so on.... (yeah I know I'm kind a old school fellow)

All of this lenses are part of the History of XXth century, some of them were created during the war effort, some other used by NASA for the Gemini space exploration program, while a huge proportion of them served  during the Vietnam war for photo journalists. All of these lenses did make it through half a century and through the toughest conditions a photo camera could encounter! 

I got to mention that almost all of these lenses have a very unique story related to their manufacturer or to the optical engineer who designed their optical formula! Either they were conceived by Walter Mandler, the genius behind most Leica designs, who invented the aspherical lens element while some other were designed by Carl Zeiss whose optical formulas such as Planar, Tessar, Sonnar and Distagon are more than 100 years old and have been copied by many lens manufacturers.  


Some of the most beautiful lens ever designed. They do really have a touch of magic especially on skin tones! 

Along my Leica M9  which are absolutly astonishing, I also own several Leica lenses. Thoses are definitly amongs the best lenses ever produced and have a very unique feeling. 

My favorite and absolute go-to lens is the 50mm summicron IV from 1971, and I also very often use the 90mm summicron.

I Also own a full set of   Leica-R lenses.

The LEICA-R  were a set of lenses entirely hand made and manufactured by LEITZ in Germany or by ELCAN in Canada. They were mounted to fit the mid 60's Leicaflex SLR body camera. Technically they have more glass elements than the famous M serie for rangefinder camera which gives them more complex design possibilities and thus the ability to handle light effectively better than any other LEICA lens!

But the real magic behind the LEICA-R  is that they used the same glass elements that PANAVISION used in their cinema lenses!

 Here's what Walter Mandler, the genius behind the invention of the aspherical designs, said about these lenses :

 "The Leica-R lenses are for sure the best lenses Leica could ever produce!"

- W. Mandler

Mandler had this statement back in the 90's and it's true that LEICA lenses did had a lot of improvement ever since, especially on their coatings and the aspherical and apochromatic designs. Nonetheless the LEICA-R are amongst the best lens of all time!

My set is from mid 70's to late 80's with matching coatings and they all have been modified to fit cinema camera such as the ARRI Alexa and RED cameras, with complete follow focus gears and standard 77mm filter thread.  

Here is the set I own:

- 19mm f/2.8 Elmarit
- 24mm f/2.8 Elmarit
- 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit
- 35mm f/2 Summicron
- 50mm f/2 Summicron
- 50mm f/2 M mounted
- 90mm f/2 Summicron
- 90mm f/2 M mounted
- 135mm f/2.8 Elmarit
- 180mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Click to visit my LEICA page


Nikkor is the lens division of the famous japanese manufacturer NIKON (formally known as Nippon-Kogaku until the late 1960's due to a lawsuit between Zeiss Ikon and Nikon who tend to both use the "ikon" prefix..) Anyway...

back in the 50's the photography industry standard was the Kodak 24x36mm format and in this domain the Rolls Royce was the Leica M3 (understand every pro photographer had a M3! Nikon such as almost every other companies like Voigtlander, Canon, Zeiss Ikon or Rollei were far behind either in term of quality but even in term of reliability, which is more critical for photo-journalists!

And that is were in 1957 Nippon-Kogaku found  it's way by develloping a very, very robust and reliable 35mm camera : the Nikon SP. But more than anything else what changed Nikon destiny is the 1959 Nikon "F System".

The Nikon F was revolutionnary on many points because it combined all the bests options in one SLR body.

During the next decade in the 1960's, the Nikon F-system was the system of choice for any photo-reporter, especially those covering the Vietnam war. Even the NASA used the F-system to record the lauch of the Gemini and Apollo rockets (just stop and think about it the NASA an american governement agency using some equipement made in Japan who got defeated 15 years earlier, and against which the USA sent two nuclear bombs!! That's how good the F-system was!

"The Nikon F completely eclipsed everything else in its time! Professionals switched from the Leica M's (and everything else) to Nikon F's in legions, and to this day Leica has never recovered."


 Nippon-Kogaku quickly felt the need to develop some high end lenses to fit on this camera! The Japanese firm position was clear: they had to make lens as good as the germans were doing! (understand here as good as Leica and Zeiss). 

Nikon then spent alot in R&D to create its own optical designs and introduced some very innovative technologies and components (like the use of radioactive Thorium for the coating on some very high end lenses, or the Rear-focusing CRC designs that are now very commons on high quality lenses. Well it all comes from that era! In a few years Nikon came out with some astonishing lenses to fit this body, built as rock and ready to rock in the most difficult conditions (think about Vietnam War!)

Some of them being so good they were later adapted  by Stanley Kubrick for The Shining to be mounted on the Arriflex camera and used as Cine-Telephoto lenses.

I own two sets of vintage Nikkors the "Pre-AI" (all from 1969 to 1973) and the AI-S (1977 to late 80's)
 unless specified the lenses below are pre-AI

-  24mm f/2.8 pre-AI
- 28mm f/2.8 AI-S
-  35mm f/1.4 Thorium
-  50mm f/1.4 pre-AI
- 55mm f/1.2 pre-AI
- 55mm f/2.8 AI-S Macro
- 85mm f/1.8 pre-AI
- 105mm f/2.5 AI-S
- 200mm f/4 pre-AI

I also own some more mordern Nikkor's such as

- 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D with Aspherical glass

- 60mm f/2.8 AF-S Macro with Aspherical

- 70-210mm 3.5/5.6 AF-D

Click to visit my NIKKOR page.


Carl Zeiss is one of the most important manufacturer of optical instruments in  history (along with LEICA as far as photography is concerned). 

Either it is for the Cinema industry, still photography, medical or scientific instruments, ZEISS had always produced the finest glass possible and are pioneers in the optical design, innovating with optical formulas such a Planar, Tessar and Sonnar that have been used for more than 100 years and are still copied by many today.

After World War II, the Carl Zeiss company got divided in two different entities CARL ZEISS JENA (aka Jenoptik) for the Eastern part of Germany and the countries behind the iron curtain, while CARL ZEISS OBERKOCHEN (aka Opton) had their factory transfered to the western side of the wall for the european and american markets. 

The division of the company is a very important event in the history of ZEISS because from 1947 until the re-union of the two companies in the 90's there were two companies selling lenses under similar names with similar optical formulas but nevertheless with a lot of differences! (and that makes thoses lenses very particular and very, very, interesting!)

Carl Zeiss lenses were amongst the finest ever made. They equiped every camera ever produced including HASSEBLAD and ROLLEI medium format and were the favorite of many DOP for shooting movies when equiped on cinema camera (against dedicated Cine-Lenses such as Cookes, Bauch & Lomb Super Baltars, Angenieux, that are often ten times more expensive!.

The Carl Zeiss medium format lenses were chosen by NASA to fly into space for the Gemini and Apollo programs. And when NASA wanted to have a very fast lens to take pictures of the far side of the moon who did they come to see? Yeah you got it right : Carl Zeiss Oberkochen to design the famous 50mm Planar f/0,75 that was later used by Stanley Kubrick! 

Aesthetically there's a huge difference between LEICA and CARL ZEISS lenses that we could sum-up as:

"Leica lenses are designed to make the world more beautiful, while Zeiss lenses are designed to make it appear as it is"

I personally own two very different Zeiss Lenses:

- Zeiss-Opton Tessar 80mm f/2.8 

made in 1953 in west germany at 2200 copies and intended to be mounted on the Hasseblad 1600F medium format camera. 

- Carl Zeiss Jena "Biotar" 58mm f/2

My copy was made in 1958 to be mounted on Exakta cameras. It has aperture "presets". This is probably the best lens ever produced by the eastern division of Carl Zeiss (Jena)

Click to visit my CARL ZEISS page


Jupiter-3 50mm f/1.5

This lens was manufactured  in 1957 in USSR in Zavod Factory by ZOMZ (Zagorsky Optiko-Mechanichesky) under the reference PT1650.

It's optical formula is based on the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 and has the particularity to have 15 rounded iris blades, which give a astonishing "bokeh"

Specialists consider this lens as one of the 3 "bokeh monsters" along with the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm that has 12 iris blades  and the Leica 50mm Noctilux (which cost 10 000$)

See my JUPITER-3 page.

Orion-15 28mm f/6

Leica M mount 28mm russian lens with alot of charracter and version special distortion. I love this 28mm even with a f/6 iris this allow the lens to have a astonishing depth of field and some very strange vignetting.

Helios 40 85mm f/1.5

What a monster!! This is hell of a lens, designed in the 50's full metal jacket, almost 1kg. But such a devine smooth bokeh with its 10 iris blade!! Perfect portrait lens! Be aware that the mount is a L39 but it doesnt couple with Leica! (it actually has a longer flange distance!) . Best to be use on mirrorless with L42 adapter.

Industar-61 55mm f/2.8

The industar is a leica M mount standard lens which is actually a perfect "on the go" lens. very well designed

Russar 20mm f/5.6

A nice very small 20mm compatible with the leica M, mid 50 glass with a soft touch and nice vignetting. So small it can go everywhere.

Jupiter 12 35mm f/2.8

Nice small and light weighted 35mm for the Leica. Old glass early 60's.

Rolleinar MC 28mm f/2.8

The Rolleinar's were a serie of lens manufactured by Mamiya to mount on the Rollei 35 SLR camera. Rollei did never develop a design for a 35mm camera as they were mainly focused on medium and large format camera. So in order to create this lens they turned to Carl Zeiss to use their famous "Distagon" design.

Even if the Rolleinar tends to be more platic compare to any of the lenses quoted in this page, they are completely similar in quality and performance to the Carl Zeiss branded Contax -Yashica lenses of the early 80's. The only difference being the Rolleinar has a long 300° focus throw while the Zeiss/Contax has a short one of 170°!

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