This is a collection of good manual lenses which are available for less than $100, it is meant as a resource for photographers who own a Sony a7/ a7r/ a7ii/ a7rII and want to discover the world of manual lenses without breaking the bank.
To learn more about a lens please check one of my reviews or follow the linked test. You will find the average price for a copy in good condition in the description for each lens.
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You can find this article in German on phillipreeve.de.
Canon nFD 2.8/24
Olympus OM 3.5/28
I haven’t used this lens myself (yet) but going by other photographers results it delivers a very even sharpness across the frame. It is also small and very affordable.
Minolta MD 2.8/35
Canon nFD 2.8/35
165g | $50 | sample images
Canon new FD 1.4/50
At f/1.4 it is the sharpest ~50mm lens I have used so far. I think it is a very good lens to get started with. The field of view is handy for many applications and the fast aperture allows you to create images with very little depth of field. Bokeh is okay but not great and you need to stop down to f/5.6 for very good corner sharpness.
Minolta MC/MD Rokkor 1.4/50
Not as sharp as the Canon at f/1.4 but I think it has nicer bokeh at f/2. The older MC version is heavier and feels more solid than the younger MD versions. There are three optically different versions but the differences are not big enough to worry about them. Weaknesses are only six aperture blades and you need to stop the down to f/5.6 or better f/8 for very good corners.
Minolta MD 2/50
I haven’t used an affordable 50mm lens with more even sharpness than this, the corners at faster apertures are much better than with other versions. My choice for a hinking lens when a small size and good sharpness matter. Built quality and bokeh are okay but not great.
Sigma 2.8/50 Macro
About any manufacturer like Minolta, Canon or Olympus sold a 3.5/50 Macro back in the day and any of those is a good buy. The Sigma is in the same league optically but it is a bit faster and most importantly it does 1:1, not 1:2 like all the other macros. The build quality is clearly worse than that of the major brands.
310g | $45 |sample images
Minolta MC Rokkor 1.7/55
Not the sharpest lens but sharp enough and it has very nice character and build quality. My choice when I want a small normal lens with good bokeh.
Minolta MC Rokkor 2.5/100
Great bokeh and good sharpness at f/2.5 make this a very enjoyable portrait lens. Built quality is great and it isn’t too large. The only real weakness of this lens is that it is very sensitive to flare.
Minolta MD Rokkor 2.8/135
It doesn’t set any records but it is a solid lens very well suited for portraits.
535g | $60 | sample images
Canon FD 2.8/135
395g | $50 | sample images
Minolta MC Rokkor 4/200
I was surprised how sharp this lens is across the frame from f/4, a great solution for landscape photography. The lens feels very solid but the rather stiff focusing ring makes it less ideal for moving subjects. I also don’t care for the very obvious CA outside of the focal plane and it’s proneness to flare.
520g | $35 | sample images
Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 Macro
A useful focal range and a handy 1:4 macro-mode make this a very vesatile lens. In the 40-70mm range it is as sharp as a good prime lens at f/8, only at 35mm the corners are a bit soft. Contrast and bokeh benefit noticeably from stopping down to f/5.6 and distortion at 35mm is a bit high.
Minolta MD 4/75-150
A small tele-zoom which is as sharp as the corresponding primes, only at 150mm it get a little softer towards the corners. Weaknesses are some distortion and CA outside of the focal plane.
445g | $30 | sample images
How a lens gets onto this list
To make it into this list I must have either personally used a lens or someone else must have published a well done test and some full resolution images.
I will only add lenses which meet my subjective criteria for a good lens and I want to avoid having too many very similar lenses in this selection.
If you think I have missed a lens please tell me about it! But don’t forget to link to meaningful tests and full resolution sample images.
- To learn more about manual lenses please read my introduction to manual lenses on the Sony a7 series
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