Table of contents:

Manual lenses: types, characteristics, tips for choosing
Manual lenses: types, characteristics, tips for choosing

Many people think that manual lenses are some kind of fashion trend that will soon go into oblivion. But there is another opinion. There are people who say that manual lenses are devices for real professionals in their field. Which opinion is correct? In our article today, we will try to understand and understand this issue thoroughly.


Manual lenses do not have automatic mode, they always work strictly in manual. Focusing is carried out by mechanical manual rotation of a special ring on the lens.

Before, there were no other options but manual lenses. Today there are automatic lenses, but there are non-autofocus lenses. And most importantly, these are not only those old copies that have been preserved for a long time, but also modern models that are produced to this day.

The first non-autofocus lenses "Nikon", "Nikkor"

The history of non-autofocus lenses can be seen in various examples. We will stop atmanual lenses "Nikon" and "Nikkor". The Nikon company at one time very actively promoted such lenses. Let's take a closer look at the process of evolution of such devices using the example of lenses for Nikon cameras.

The history of Nikon's non-autofocus mounts begins with the non-Ai model, after which there were two more modifications (Ai, Ai-S). These designations indicate the type of measurement connection between the digital camera and the lens.

The first non-Ai (pre-Ai) Nikkor lens was released back in 1959. "Communication" with the camera took place through a special block. To better understand the situation, you need to fully decipher the name of the lens. Ai is Automaic Indexing. The prefix non is information that the connection is not fully automatic, that is, some manual mechanical movements are required to install the lens on the camera.

It must be said that this same measurement connection block, although it has undergone some changes, has survived to this day. It is installed on rare Nikon manual lenses that are still in production. I am glad that the production still exists, although the choice of models is not very large, as well as manufacturers.

By the way, even on the aperture ring of modern autofocus lenses from Nikkor there are special notches that indicate specially designed screw holes. This means that it is possible to install a measuring connection block even on them. This is done in order to fully work with similar lenses on professionalNikon F and Nikon F2 film SLR models.

Manual lens for Nikon

Ai lens

Such models of Nikkor manual lenses appeared in 1977. The mechanism of interaction with the camera has been changed. Now all the functions of the measuring connection block were performed by a special cutout on the diaphragm ring. In addition, one additional row was added to the aperture ring, which had special aperture values, they were needed to indicate the set aperture in the camera viewfinder (for example, Nikon FM). This novelty was given a special name - ADR (Aperture Direct Readout).

Ai-S (Automatic Indexing-Shutter)

They came out in 1982, they were distinguished from the Ai series by the presence of a special recess (semicircular shape) on the mount. That is, a special additional pin appeared in the mount of the cameras that worked with these new products. It was conceived in such a way that the position of the aforementioned notch would allow the camera to determine the focal length of the lens itself. This feature allowed the camera to choose such correct parameters as shutter speed in program modes, for example.

Nikon Series E

In 1979, the manufacturer introduced to the world its new line of lenses called Nikon Series E. Early models from the line met the Ai specification, and later lenses - Ai-S. These models differed from Nikkor brand lenses in a slightly simplified design. Some of the lenses also had noticeably simplified optics, in addition, these lenses did not have a specialmeasuring connection block, but if necessary, it could be installed as an additional option.

Refining lenses

Non-Ai type lenses can be converted to Ai model. This is done by replacing the diaphragm ring. Such an operation is easily and quickly done by masters in special service centers. A lens with such a modification is called Ai-d. But some craftsmen remake it on their own with a file or machine.

Soviet Nikon lenses and cameras

This scheme of work is possible, it is actively used by amateur photographers of different levels of professionalism. But there are some nuances. For example, if you are working with a Nikon F-301 (N2000) camera and some other models, then you should cover with cold welding (or something else) the slots that are intended for the screws for attaching the lens mount. If this is not done, then the lens may simply jam in the camera mount. This happens due to the fact that the pin of the camera mount (needed to read the information about the focus distance) exactly falls on these same screw slots.

It is important to note that many photographers (even world-class professionals) believe that the best manual lenses were made in the USSR. This is very flattering to hear, and what a pity that at this time there is no production of lenses in Russia or in any other country that was part of the USSR.

The best manual lenses for Nikon

We will list those devices that are worthy of your attention and cost up to ten thousand rubles. Top three manual modelswide angle lenses:

  • Nikkor 20mm f/4.
  • Nikon Series E 28mm f/2.8.
  • Nikkor 35mm f/2.

These lenses all feature a 24mm focal length and CRC (Close Range Correction) system. This system is designed to provide optimal picture when focusing at any distance.

Best manual lenses for Sony

It is worth mentioning the lenses for cameras from the Japanese company Sony. We will also highlight several models that will fit these “DSLRs” and will not hit your pocket too hard in terms of finances.

Manual lens for Sony

If we talk about manual Soviet lenses for SLRs from Sony, then here you need to highlight:

  • "Jupiter 37A" (135/3.5).
  • "Helios 40-2" (85/1.5).
  • Zenitar-M (50/1.7).
  • Zenitar manual lens

There are other interesting models, but we decided to choose these. In parentheses is the focal length of the lens, as well as the maximum aperture value. I must say that we chose these models, but they lose to modern counterparts for portrait shooting. In addition, a special adapter is needed to install such lenses. Because Soviet models are classified as M42 manual lenses. The adapter is not too expensive, and it will be useful to you, especially if you plan to buy several models of lenses from the USSR.

The legendary Rokkor lenses should not be overlooked either. To name the top threemodels for Sony DSLRs, then these will be:

  • MC Rokkor 58 f/1.2.
  • MD Rokkor 135 mm f/2.
  • Rokkor 17 mm f/4.

I would like to add Rokkor 7, 5 mm fish-eye to this list. Very interesting option.

Rokkor manual lens

Non AF lens for Canon

It would be wrong if we lose sight of a manufacturer like Canon. Therefore, we present the most interesting non-autofocus lenses for this manufacturer.

But first I need to say that in order to install a manual lens on Canon SLRs, you need to find out which mount your non-autofocus lens is designed for. Usually it can be either an M42 thread, or an H mount, or in the rarest cases, an M39 thread.

For M42 threaded lenses, you will need an adapter from M42 to Canon EOS. The adapter is threaded. With its help, it is screwed onto the lens. After that, the lens can already be easily installed on the camera.

With the H mount or M39 thread, you need to act in the same way, that is, buy the necessary adapter. To mount H-mount lenses, you need a Nikon Mount F to Canon EOS adapter. No need to be surprised because the H mount is exactly the same as the Nikon camera system. For the M39 thread, you will need an M39-EOS adapter or two M39-M42 and M42 adapters - Canon EOS, which are installed in series. It is noteworthy that there are two types of lenses with M39 thread. These can be lenses from SLR cameras and lenses from mirrorless cameras. Normal operation on the systemCanon will only be with lenses from SLR cameras with an M39 thread. It's worth knowing.

Manual lens for Canon

Interesting non-AF lenses for Canon:

  • "Helios-44m-X".
  • "Mir-47N".
  • "Jupiter-9".

It is worth saying that there are many worthy excellent expensive lenses. An ordinary amateur photographer will have plenty of those that we have reviewed in this article. If these lenses are not enough for you, then you are a professional, and then you already know everything yourself.

Manual lens Mir

How to shoot

The peculiarity of shooting with a manual lens is only in its manual focus adjustment. Everything else is very normal and familiar. That is, any photographer can master shooting with a non-autofocus lens in just a few minutes. The result depends only on your skill. It can be ordinary, or it can be very impressive. Can you find something through the camera that is only available with a manual lens? Only you, your eyes and hands, know the answer to this question.

In any case, everything will come with experience. Even if you take pictures very decently with a regular (automatic) lens. You need to get used to the manual, gain relevant experience and learn all the nuances regarding how to shoot with manual lenses.

Manual lens

Where to see

They can be seen at any photographer. Also, such lenses are found in some photo studios. Withsuch lenses work everywhere. One category of amateur photographers loves such lenses. The other part tries to avoid them.

You can buy such lenses on thematic forums, various resources with ads, in thrift stores or directly from amateur photographers. Currently, a fairly large number of manual lenses are on sale. This applies to both Soviet models and foreign ones. As a rule, there are no problems if you want to find the necessary lens for yourself.

Sometimes the problem is such that the seller and the buyer cannot agree on a price, but that's a slightly different story. In any case, there are a lot of offers on the market, for this reason you can find the option you need at an affordable price, but sometimes it takes more time than originally calculated.

Lens features

If you look at the question from the outside, then there is nothing special about old lenses, except for the fact that many models are extremely cheap. On the other hand, there is a category of professional photographers who believe that older lenses were more alive. Now these are no longer made. And the best shots of professionals, according to them, are made with non-autofocus lenses. Perhaps there is some truth in this.

But out of a hundred people with SLR cameras, only twenty are photographers, and out of those twenty, only one will be a professional. But a manual lens will be available to more than half of these hundreds of people with a camera. It turns out that non-autofocus lenses are a tribute to fashion andhype? This is a rhetorical question, and each of the hundreds of people with cameras in their hands will have their own hundred answers to this question and one hundred reasons to buy a manual lens.

How to choose a lens

You need to choose based on your requests and needs. All parameters are always indicated on the lens. It is difficult to advise someone, for example, a wide-angle lens when a person is looking for a fisheye.

Professionals believe that manual lenses are best suited for the role of "portrait lenses". But this opinion is subjective, albeit competent. After all, maybe you are a novice professional, and you will find something of your own in non-autofocus lenses and show it to the whole world through your photography. And soon your opinion will be authoritative. Do not get hung up, photography is an art, and in art, the rules are kept to a minimum. We have listed the most popular and purchased models of manual lenses above, the choice is always yours.

The only thing that can be advised is that if you choose a similar lens to save money, then keep in mind that the price of the device is not the final expense, you will still need adapters if your "SLR" is not from era of Soviet lenses. The number and type of adapters will determine the final cost.

You can also advise before buying to watch video reviews on the lens you are interested in and see examples of work that was done using this model. This will help you form an objective opinion about a particular lens. Good luck and great shots!

Popular topic