Your Guide to Buying Vintage Zoom Lenses

Like if this guide is helpful

Your Guide to Buying Vintage Zoom Lenses

Unlike prime lenses that have fixed focal lengths, zoom lenses provide you with flexibility and allow you to zoom in on your subjects. You can fit your camera with vintage zoom lenses that have proven their quality over time, but before doing so, be sure to learn about their features and choose the best one for your camera.


Zoom Lens Features

The main feature of a camera zoom lens is its variable focal length. Therefore, you can change the angle of view of the camera. As you zoom in, you can bring the objects closer. Thus, the zoom lens is useful when taking photos of distant objects. Compared to prime lenses that have a fixed focal length, the zooms are slightly bigger and provide a brighter view in low light. However, they generally do not provide the same high quality as fixed lenses. Another important feature is the aperture: the bigger the aperture and smaller the f-number in the specifications, the more light the lens can capture.


Types of Zoom Lenses

For general-purpose zoom lenses, the focal length range is typically 28 to 80 mm, while the so-called super-zooms can have a vast range of 28 to 300 mm, thus allowing you to shoot almost anything. Wide-angle zoom lenses offer focal lengths from an ultra-wide view to a normal range, for instance, 16 to 35 mm. Telephoto zoom lenses provide telephoto focal lengths, such as 70 and 300 mm. A long range may be rather tempting because it gives you lots of versatility and is convenient to use, but this also increases the cost significantly. Moreover, a zoom lens with a very long range also loses quality.


Vintage Zoom Lenses

If you choose to use a vintage zoom lens, you need to use manual focus and set the focus for shooting photos yourself rather than letting the camera do it for you. In order to attach the vintage lens to your camera, you often need an adapter ring that you first attach to the lens. There are different adapters for mounting different lenses to different camera brands. For instance, you need a ring for a Canon lens when mounting it to a Nikon camera and a ring for a Leica lens when attaching it to a Pentax camera.


Vintage Lens Compatibility

Not all vintage lenses work with all camera brands due to their designs. Remember this when selecting a lens for your camera.


Camera Brand




Almost all Pentax lenses

Third-party lenses with Pentax mount

Not applicable


Some Minolta lenses

Lenses with M-42 mounts

Not applicable

Olympus and Canon

Most third-party lenses

Vintage Canon lenses


Most Nikon lenses

Most third-party lenses


Before purchasing any vintage lens make sure that the lens fits your camera or that you purchase a suitable adapter.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides