Still Think Gear Matters? My Favorite Photographs From 2015 Using Vintage Glass

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I've been LOUD on Snapchat, and by loud I mean extremely active. At the moment most of my audience consist of previous co-workers and friends, but every so now and then I'll get a follow from someone who visit the blog. With that being said I NEED MORE OF YOU TO FOLLOW ME! (@KeenanRIVALS) I really enjoy the conversations I have with you all who choose to engage outside of the blog, the best thing about them is that their personal and I'm able to give advice that I know benefits a particular individual.

A few weeks ago a certain person reached out to me to give me praise on the work I've done on the blog. Like always I was very humbled by the comment, as we continued to talk the conversation got a little more personal. They expressed their desire to want to shoot full time and asked if I made my income solely off photography and the blog. I responded by saying at the moment I do have a full-time job, but for all of 2015, I was strictly freelance and my only source of income were through photography. I encouraged them to at least try and wished him the best of luck with his future endeavors. 

He thanked me and then went on a mini-rant on why he thought the idea only sound good on paper. His first issue was that his gear wasn't good enough... I stopped him right there. I was at work so I didn't have the time to fully explain to him why gear doesn't matter, I simply just said those words. I felt as if I shorted that person in our conversation, so here I am reaching back out to you if you're reading, hopefully, this time with a more in-depth response that not only gives you perspective but hope for the future. I want to tell everyone that great gear is a confidence booster, but it's not needed to produce a photo that a publication will be happy with. In the grand scheme of things, your first couple of paid assignments will be the most boring work you've ever done, with simple tasks, such as taking a picture of a guy standing on a wall, or a woman giving a speech, this requires an iPhone at best.

But I'm not just going to talk your ears off. Recently I did a post on my favorite images of 2015 with the Fujifilm X Series, this time, I'll do something similar, except post my favorite images using vintage glass, all which cost me under $50. If you look to the right of the title, you'll see the price I paid for each piece of glass. For these lenses I used the Fotodiox adapter's to connect the older lenses to my Fujifilm X-Mount, so if you're thinking about adding some of this legacy glass to your collection then remember you need the proper adapter to utilize it. Don't worry, I'll be sure to link you to the proper one for each system.

All images below were shot on the Fujifilm X-T1

Fujian 50 f/1.4 (CCTV) - $30

Fujian 50 f/1.4 (CCTV) | Suggested Mounts : Fujifilm | Sony

Fujian 50 f/1.4 (CCTV) | Suggested Mounts : Fujifilm | Sony

I took this in the summer of 2015, it was pretty windy outside, but a warm day none the less. It took me a while to get the focus where I wanted it, but I loved the effect. I purposely placed her in the middle of both elements, so that the foreground and background could have similar renderings. The bokeh is crazy, and it's unique to a point where it's going to make anyone happy. I picked this image because of the layers it provided, you have the haystack or whatever that brown grass is called, then her hair and then the greenery in the background... I love it! I picked this lens up for $30 and I admit at first it was a bit funky. After a few days of testing it I was finally able to figure out how to get it to work in my favor. The best thing about it is that not only does it take solid photographs, but the effect really separates you from the competition... For the price it's all but worth it.

Related: First Impression: Fujian 50 C-Mount (CCTV) Lens

Super Takumar 50 f/1.4 - $50

Super Takumar 50 f/1.4 (M42) | Suggested Mounts : Fujifilm | Sony

I'll be honest, I didn't use this lens too much, but it's one of the most recommended vintage lenses out there. As you go down this list you'll see this was one of my many 50mm focal length lenses that I owned. At times, it was simply hard to use them all. With that being said I did use it on a portrait session for a client, it was a very simple shoot, but using manual focus and predicting timing made it slightly difficult. It was a sunny day, I think the lens held it's own against the flare, again the image above isn't the best example of what this lens can do, but sometimes work is mundane and these are the type of images you get assigned to. The lens captured the moment, and it did so solidly, that's all that matters when you're taking the picture. For me, this lens was always in the back of my bag, I just wasn't feeling it, the images looked flat and at the time, I was more into the effects that the Fujian or Helios produced. 

Helios 44-2 f/2 - $45

Helios 44-2 (M42) | Suggested Mounts : Fujifilm | Sony

The Helios 44 series is probably the most popular vintage lens out there. If it wasn't so widely produced I think this would easily cost $250-300, much like the 40-2 version. Again the main purpose for buying it was the way it swirled the background. You can really see the effect right above her head. I shot this wide open at f/2 (probably should've stopped down to get her necklace in focus), I love the colors it produced and it was a solid portrait. It was tough trying to get the focus on her eyes, but I got as close as I could in the short time frame that we had. If I still had this lens I'm pretty sure I could create some beautiful photos with it, being that I understand focus peaking a little more.

Related: Creating Swirly Bokeh! Helios 44-2/58mm First Impression

Helios 44-6 f/2 - $Free (Typically $45)

Helios 44-6 (M42) | Suggested Mounts : Fujifilm | Sony

This lens was gifted to me. It took me a LONG time to use it, in my readings, I always thought the Helios 44-2 was the bokeh master and the 44-6 was the less superior unit, having both I used the one that I thought was best. One day I noticed that the focus ring on the 44-6 was super solid, 10x better than the 44-2, so I decided to use it. It literally blows the 44-2 out of the water. It's sharper and the bokeh is just as beautiful. HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, you can find these for $35 if you're patient.

Related: Krissie @ Mies van der Rohe | With the Fujifilm X-T1

Tamron SP 90 f/2.5 - $7

Tamron SP 90 f/2.5 (Adaptall) | Suggested Mounts : Fujifilm | Sony

The Tamron probably shouldn't be on this list, to the fact that I've never seen it sell for under $50 online. But that's the beauty of legacy lenses, if you do the research or stay consistent then you'll find a hidden gem every now and then. I picked this lens up for $7 at the local thrift store here in Michigan. It's probably one of the best portrait lenses I used, a bit inconsistent wide open, but still stellar. Add that to the fact that it's a macro lens and it really provides value, even if you have to pick it up for its typical price of $80. Here is a portrait I did of a friend, as you could imagine I was a bit far away, but it handled itself well in low light... oh and it was handheld. 

Related: $7 Macro? First Impression of the Tamron SP 90

Super Takumar 135 f/3.5 - $15

Back at it again with the Super-Takumar (Hey Daniel reference). I picked the Super Takumar 135 up because when I shot with Canon I couldn't afford the 135L. When I saw the opportunity to pick up a similar focal length lens with a 3.5 aperture at a 10th of the price I figured why not. I knew not to set the bar to high, the Super Takumar obviously wasn't going to be as good optically as the 135L. it for damn sure wasn't going to produce that same creamy bokeh, but I must say it exceeded my expectations. This was my first vintage lens, so for $15 I was blown away. I love this image above, sure the focus is to the right, haha, but you know, you get better with practice.

I know this blog is mainly aimed towards street photographers, so you all are probably thinking... What's with all the portraits? The reason I first got into legacy glass is because I was able to buy fast primes at a tenth of the cost. When I originally purchased my Fujifilm X-T1 the wider angle (street) lenses like the XF 18 or XF 27 were affordable, but portrait lenses such the XF 35 an XF 56 were a bit out of my range. So I used legacy glass for those focal lengths, making majority of the lenses I owned tele styled, which isn't typical for the streets. For those of you who shoot street then there are plenty of lenses to choose from, if you're shooting on a crop sensor like myself then a 24 or 28 focal length is recommended. Here's an older post in which I listed some of my favorite legacy lenses to pick up for street photography.

Related: You Don't Have To Spend Pro Money, To Be A Pro Shooter

For those interested here are some street photographs here are a few I took with the Helios 44-2.

And, yeah, that's it. Hopefully, this response gave the gentleman on snapchat a little insight on how gear really doesn't matter. You can always pay more and get the job done faster and easier, but for less than $300 bucks I can own all the lenses above and if I put in the work come out with some fantastic images. Some of these shots above were rushed, some of them were when I was still nervous, again it takes time, practice, but those are all factors you can live with when you realize how much money you're saving. Chances are if your pictures are out of focus when you use the vintage lenses it's simply because you haven't figure out focusing yet. That image with the Super Takumar 135 is focused to the far right, I probably would've done the same shit had it been the 135L. As photographers, we have to embrace our resources, use what we have or what we can afford and be the best with that equipment. You have to bet on your core strength. Hope this helped, until next time!


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Patreon is a platform allowing you to support creators and artists by pledging a small amount of money every month.

This will make it possible for me to continue to make content and explore my creative ideas.