The world is driving us crazy with all the humdrum and rat race. Sometimes, you need to pause, take a breathe, and dive into memories of the past. Vintage Photography is meant for that.
Its solemn purpose is to transport you to the land of long lost history and breathe life into the moments again.
Wouldn’t you like to see yourself smiling and sharing your favorite piece of cake with your beloved in a noir frame? That is where the magic of vintage photography lies; it makes you smile through tears and hug you from within.
Why Vintage Photography In The Recent Times?
Well, Vintage Photography can make you smell the moments. It binds you to the time and never let it slip by. The noir induced frames, the sepia tones in a brownish-yellow tinge, the classic Black And White, the Faded effect on a primary style brings life and movement in the picture. It is as if you are present in it, too.
You are sharing this moment with the art and the artist in their time and space. One of the most potent quality in vintage photography is that it takes a moment beyond the realm of age. The lenses capture the image and etch it to the time, forever.
We rush with our lives, often letting the moments skip. The purpose of vintage photography is to capture the little moments and make it look timeless. The moments are worth it. People want to archive every little joy, achievements, or significant moments in life.
Vintage Photography amplifies that nostalgia by rendering the aesthetic and beauty in looking into the past.
Vintage Photography: An Alternative To Still Photos
There was an era when cameramen had to carry huge cameras with long lenses and an external source of light to take a photograph. With technological advances, we have moved past, and now, modern cameras can produce such images with their limited equipment.
Vintage Photography produces that effect through the use of lenses and applied filters. Thus, retro images are produced. The richness in quality and the results produced through vintage photography escalates the ability to reminiscent and add sheer aesthetic to it.
The Russian cameras were one of the earliest to produce the retro effect in a vintage photograph. The lenses were developed in the Soviet Union and hence, referred to as ‘Soviet Lens.’
Exciting stories are spun around the use of the Soviet lens during the Soviet revolution. Soon after World War II, when the Soviets had taken over the fascist regime of Hitler in Germany, the soldiers of the Red Army occupied the Reichstag and hoisted their Red Flag.
That historic moment was captured by Yevgeni Khaldei, and soon it became a powerful, iconic symbol of Soviet victory over Hitler’s Germany. That powerful image was captured in a Soviet lens, and it is still used as a powerful sign of resistance.
The strength reflected in the photograph was justified by the artist through vintage photography.
The fact that the image is still popular shows that vintage photography runs that extra mile to revive and maintain its hologram.
Many of you are familiar with this epochal history, but the making of history must be remembered as well (Not talking about the revolution alone, the Soviet development is also included)
Looking at personal history, if you take a peek at old photos of your parents or grandparents, vintage photography exalts the simpler times. It grips the nostalgia that is difficult to escape from.
Best Lens For Vintage Photography
While choosing your lens for vintage photography, you should consider certain factors. If you’re a beginner, you must be trying your hand at certain arenas like portrait, landscape, or still photography.
With a vintage lens, you can try them all at an affordable price and create an aesthetic effect using your digital camera.
Here are a top few vintage lenses that you must try –
- 85mm f/1.5 Helios – 40-2
This lens dates back to the 1950s-90s. Made in Russia, this lens is based on a Zeiss Biotar Design of a 6 Element Double Gauss. The configuration has a manual pre-set aperture, found on an M-42mount Pentax.
The lens, however, isn’t very sharp (owing to its primitiveness) when exposed wide, but you can use that feature to create a ‘bokeh effect’ on a natural background.
A revised lens is available in the market since 2013. The distinguishable qualities of the lens remain unaltered, and it certainly produces the retro effect that stands out.
- 50mm f/2 Leitz Summer Lens
This unbelievably fast lens is smooth in the center with rough edges that create fantastic bokeh. This lens can be your go-to for vintage photography if you’re interested in landscape portraits.
At f/5.6, this lens operates quite sharply too. At this focal length, this lens produces moderately contrast images with an effect of “roundness.”
This lens is super fast and is mount on a screw-mount Leicas. This lens was developed in the 1940s and is a must-try.
- 50mm 1.4/f Super Takumar Lens
This lens is made by the widely renowned Asahi Optical Company, known as the makers of Pentax. This lens is immensely sharp and produces remarkable bokeh shots. The color is magnificent and gives a brilliant quality even at wide apertures.
The two varieties of this lens are seven-element and eight-element versions.
This lens comes in various reprised versions like Super Multi-Colored Takumar and Super Takumar, which are mounted on M42 and K. It has the brilliant optical quality and produces superb photographs.
Structurally, it comes in a black matt-finished solid metal body. A bit high on the price, if you’re going for it, know that it’s worth the investment.
- 100mm 3.5/f Canon or Serener
This is Canon’s first 100mm lens. This telephoto Leica/Canon lens comes with a silver finish. Later, it was modified in a black and silver finish under the name of Canon company. It comes in 5 element 4-group telephoto versions of the lens that you can check.
You can blindly trust the lens to perform vintage photography with smooth bokeh and an image with sharp contrast and vibrant color effects.
This lens is popular among vintage photography enthusiasts for it’s intense and luminous image quality. This piece of vintage treasure is portable too!
- Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 L
This multicoated lens is a darling. This 8-element 6-group lens is multicoated, which comes with super shutter speed. This beautiful lens produces very sharp images with quality contrast.
The defining sharpness works even at maximum aperture and in a high focus range.
This lens can give you the desired effect even in low light! The lens is designed with one aspheric element and one floating element to produce optically advanced results.
However, shooting general bokeh at standard background may not give an ideal result because of the aspheric element. Focus on sharpness if you are going for this lens.
The L is used as a marker on its identification ring, and the red band near the focusing ring is the distinguishable marks.
Factors To Ponder Upon For Vintage Photography
The fun fact about vintage photography is that you can mount the vintage lens on your digital equipment to create unique, retro photographs. However, given they are quaint, few things must be considered while choosing a lens from the market.
The lens usually dates back to the 90s when the era of World War II was on. So, they may turn out to be defective. Be careful while you purchase. Always test the lens and cross-check first.
Many lenses are infected with fungus on the glass, which affects images at times. There can be scratches from the past or minor blemishes too.
The uncoated lenses are vulnerable in nature, and you have to handle them with caution. Those lenses are entirely exposed to flare and can ruin your art. Single coated lens provides minimal resistance and isn’t as protective from the blaze as the multi-coated ones.
Another careful purchase is a lens adapter. The lens adapters provide protection and secure the position of the camera and lens. Don’t compromise in their quality. If need be, make some adjustments in your pocket for that!
Always go for high quality and well-built ones. It would be best if you avoided lens with infinity focus, at any cost.
Tips For Vintage Photography
It’s essential to understand why you’re choosing vintage photography over modern, high resolution. Vintage frames speak on their own.
The salient features are high grain, low resolution, noir effect, low contrast, and a high ambiance. The general tone of the picture is brown or fade yellow. That brings the retro impact on vintage photography.
Try to focus on creating non-focus images with a distinct blurry effect to it. Often we use sepia tint in our photo to create a vintage photograph.
As the first cameras often lacked quick shutter speed, the texture of the photo turned out coarse and grainy. That is itself a subjective aspect of vintage photography.
Be Subjective. If you take a look at vintage photographs from the early days, you will see that there is nothing called less. Every expression, every chaos, every movement, every stillness spoke a lot through pictures.
In the case of portraits, they are either full of life or grim, either candid or posey. Either way, vintage photography is very subject-oriented. So, try to have a subject while experimenting.
Use Lightroom. Lightroom amplifies the retro-ness in the subject. Work on the contrast, saturation, and color adjustment of the photo. Increase the grains, Electrolux, and tone of the color, and you’ll see how photographs start telling stories through a filmy, retro frame.
Work on the moods. The moody tones create an ambiance that transports the photo to the older times. Be it wedding or landscape, the photographs with moody tones will surely make you relive in the moments, time and again.
Apart from film cameras and vintage lenses, you can try creating vintage photography by using mobile cameras. With a handful of vintage retro apps, you can make do with your vintage photography. Android apps like VSCO, Huji Film, 1998 Cam, among others.
You can easily make your photos look disposable in an instant. For those using IOs, you can purchase Camera+ for a meager 99 cents and get a wide range of varieties to work on your photos.
Is Vintage Photography Even A Thing Now?
We are living in the age of filters. A million filters to choose from and change your picture into something unbelievable and, at times, unreal. Maybe we are accustomed to that, but the aesthetics that vintage photography impart are beyond all the comparison.
More than 60% of people are resorting to the calm and charm of the old days, the coarse structure of retro over the polished, smooth, brushed up surface of the present.
Vintage Photography screams the drama and character from the frame, which is way more appealing than a photo with multi filters.
Experiment with color contrast on your film camera. Choose your lens carefully while buying. Always test and purchase. You are the artist, and it’s up to you how the photography turns out.
Remember, vintage photography will never run out of fashion and our lives because it is a signature by itself.