Most Intriguing Used SLR Lenses

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I thought it might be fun to compile a list of the ten most intriguing used SLR lenses currently available. By “intriguing” I don’t necessarily mean the best ten lenses or the ten lenses I would most recommend. In fact, this is not a recommendation list. I have not used any of the lenses on this list, and probably couldn’t afford all but a few of them in any case.

These lenses are listed entirely in random order, with no special significance given to where they fall on or within the list:

  1. LEICA APO-TELYT-R 560mm f/6.8. Okay, I know Leica made better super-telephotos for their R system. But this is still an intriguing lens. It features only two elements! Yet it’s still supposed to be pretty sharp, and it would be fun to use it.
  2. Fisheye-Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 AI-s. Sure, I know, this is a pure “stunt” lens. It serves no practical purpose. Nikon made this lens merely for the bragging rights of producing the lens with the widest FOV: 220º. It’s a ridiculous lens, as seen from the photo above. And rather pricey, with a used market price of around $30,000.
  3. Micro-Nikkor AF 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6 D ED. While all kinds of zoom lenses claim to do macro, this one is the real deal and highly regarded by the handful of Nikonians who tracked one down.
  4. Nikon Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 AI-S. Nikonians rave about this one. Provides an artistic, dreamy rendering when used wide open. Routinely sells for around $3,000 on the used market.
  5. Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM. Canon makes great telephotos, and this may be their masterpiece. Sharp, fast, and expensive on the used market.
  6. Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 125mm f/2.5 SL macro. A copy of this lens sold for over $2,000 on ebay a few weeks ago. This was a lens that was selling new for under $1,000, before Cosina inexplicably terminated production of it. Perhaps the best SLR macro ever made in its focal range.
  7. SMC PENTAX-FA* 1:4 200mm MACRO IF & ED. I’ve seen copies of this lens sell for over $3,400. In the 2004, when production of this lens was terminated, new copies could still be purchased for around $2,000. Why the jump in price? Easy: it’s considered by collectors the best macro in its focal range ever made.
  8. Canon FD 5200mm f/14. Utterly absurd and impractical. It weighs 220 pounds and sells for well over $50,000. But wouldn’t you like to shoot with it at least once? On digital, would have to be used on a mirrorless body with adapters. There apparently is only three of these in circulation.
  9. SMC PENTAX-FA* 1:5.6 250-600mm IF & ED. Not many wildlife photographers know about this lens, as it was built for a platform not well-liked by critter photogs. But this is one of the great all time wildlife lenses. It’s sharp wide-open with great colors and it focuses to ten feet!
  10. SMC Pentax 85mm f2.2 soft. Soft focus lenses enjoyed a brief vogue in the eighties and early nineties. This piece of glass was one of the stranger soft focus lenses available. Only two elements in one group, place at the end of the lens. The soft focus effect could be adjusted through the aperture. At f2.2, the soft focus effect was overwhelming. By f8, the lens behaved like a normal piece of glass. In the hands of a talented photographer, this lens is capable of extraordinary results.