Thursday, May 2, 2024

The Nikon Non/ Pre AI Series - My favorite vintage pieces of kit

I was experimenting for a long time with vintage lenses to see if any of them would work for my cinematography. Here is what I found:

The Helios is an amazing lens to capture amazing images and the bokeh and flares are great.

However, there is one focal length to choose from, so it's hard to build a cohesive set. 

I do like the Canon FD series. Their look is great, but I've never been crazy about the way that they flare. 

Upon my tests I found one set that I have used extensively on a number of projects, the Nikon Pre-AI series of lenses. 

Most of these samples were shot on either the 50mm F/2 or the 35mm F/2.8. Altogether, this lens set has a very pleases vintage cinema glass look. With a bit of softness and slight color fringing around the edges that give them an almost anamorphic feel. 

The 50mm has some ghosting around the edges at f2, but is usable with a pleasing, circular bokeh around 2.8. 4 for and beyond is razor sharp, but you lose the circular bokeh, which I don't mind because you get a pleasing hexagonal shape versus something like an umbrella pattern. 

The 35mm has the same ghosting issue at it's widest aperture of F2.8, but is sharp and usable at F4 and beyond. This one seemed to be a bit warmer than the 50mm and 24mm.

The 24mm is probably the least impressive out of the group, but like the 35mm is usable at F4. It has very interesting flaring, a blue, anamorphic-type of flare. I've used it for wides and some interesting close ups. 


A nice, fairly-cohesive set of lenses with a vintage cinematic look, and a very smooth, pleasing bokeh. 


The color cast of each lens isn't quite uniform throughout, so a bit of color correction needs to be done in post. 

*A word of caution with the 24mm. The 24mm has a fairly wide field of view, and given these lenses flaring qualities, I would avoid trying any wide shots with a strong backlight or else it will completely wash out the image.

I urge anyone who likes the softer look and imperfections of vintage glass to give them a try. Let me know what you think.

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