Rediscovering the magic in your old lenses

Rediscovering the magic in your old lenses

We’ve all been there. The gear closet, the dusty drawer, that forgotten corner of the shelf. In this photographer’s purgatory, lenses we once loved slumber, collecting more memories than megapixels. But listen up, shutterbugs! It’s time to give those old gems a second chance. Let’s face it, photography is a love affair, and sometimes, rekindling an old flame is the sweetest capture of all.

Why the nostalgia trip?

Modern lenses are marvels of technology, but there’s a certain magic to the oldies. They might not autofocus with lightning speed, and their sharpness might not be award-winning, but they have character. The imperfections become a signature style, adding a touch of vintage charm to your shots. Or maybe they aren’t even that old, just fallen out of favor for a while? Remember that dreamy bokeh of your first prime lens? Or the way that telephoto compressed the background, making your subject pop? Or perhaps it’s the creamy bokeh of a creative artistic lens? Those forgotten features can become the foundation for a whole new creative approach. For me, it was rediscovering my Lensbaby lenses.

Use it or lose it (Those skills!)

Let’s be honest, our photography muscles get lazy with the convenience of modern cameras. We rely on auto everything, forgetting the joy of mastering aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Dusting off that old manual lens forces you to slow down, to truly understand the exposure triangle. It’s a crash course in the fundamentals, a return to the core of photography that will make you a better photographer, even with your new gear.

The unexpected gems

Remember that weird wide-angle lens you bought on a whim? Or that telephoto you haven’t touched since your bird-watching phase? Here’s the beauty – sometimes, limitations spark creativity. That wide-angle might be perfect for capturing the chaos of a child’s birthday party. The telephoto could be your secret weapon for street photography, letting you capture candid moments without being intrusive. Experiment, explore, and rediscover the hidden potential in your lens collection.

Discovering lost loves

I discovered Lensbaby lenses just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and they were a saving grace during our extended lockdowns. Four years on and I barely look at them. I’m not sure I’ve even shot with them on my Sony A7RV and I’ve had that nearly a year! But the other day I was looking for something and found them in the cupboard. I smiled, “Gee I loved those lenses, I should use them more often.” So I did. I had some friends come over, which I hadn’t done for a while, and we played with some still life setups. OK, it took a moment to remember what I was doing, but it didn’t take too long to remember why I adore my Sweet 80 and Velvet 56! I guess I hadn’t even really been photographing much still life either, so it was a double joy for me to just tinker and play.

The new old project

So, dig deep, grab that lens bag from the back of the closet, and give your old friends a good cleaning. Maybe it’s time for a dedicated “old lens” project. Pick a theme that suits their characteristics – street portraits with your 50mm prime, abstract close-ups with your macro, or a landscape series with your wide-angle. The limitations will push you to think outside the box and create something truly unique.

Remember, photography is a journey, not a destination. Revisit your past, rediscover the tools that sparked your passion, and fall in love with the art of capturing light all over again.

Now get out there and shoot!