I often visit an antique shop that sells gadgets like old cameras, equipment and lenses. I'm particularly interested on buying an old macro lenses from Sigma, Ricoh, and Nikkor. I would expect the following conditions when purchasing an old lens:

  1. Manual Operations
  2. No electronic contact
  3. Compatibility issues (which I am aware of)
  4. Manual Focus (not an issue since I'm targeting a Macro Lens)
  5. Dusts inside it (since it has no electronics, I guess just cleaning it will do, professional service maybe)
  6. On a Positive note, the build quality is arguably better since most of it is Solid.
  7. Cheaper

So what should I do whenever I purchase old lenses from 1980's to "Restore" (if that's the correct word) the whole item? If there's anything that I should checked before purchasing it, what are those? Thanks!

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ #5. You'll want to find a way to re-align the lens if you do disassemble it. There are some toys to have handy when you do. One is a collimated light source that will set you back several month's pay if you don't want to have a fixed focus "lens baby" as a result. Maybe cross off #5 until you have an optical bench. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stan
    Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


I have bought a few old film lenses and they are great to use! BUT, there are some things to consider first. Mine would be:

  1. What will it be used on? - There are many bodies out there and some just will not fit. Mirrorless cameras are great for these old lenses due to the flange distance and there are many adaptors out there for different lenses. Know that the lens and body will be compatible.

  2. Operation: Move the aperture/focus rings. Are they stiff/smooth? Do the blades get stuck? Check the aperture leavers? Do they get stuck?

  3. Condition: Does it have internal fungus? You state that you'll restore them so I'm not sure if you know how to dismantle and clean them with the appropriate solvents?

  4. Adaptors: Once you know the compatibility of them, some adaptors won't let the lens focus to infinity. Sometimes modifications are needed to have the lens fully operable on a different body it wasn't designed for.

Other than that, researching the mounts of the actual lenses before hand and see what are compatible. Wouldn't hurt to ask the store owner, they might know something. Research should probably be number 1 but that isn't always definitive so I left it till last.


So what should I do whenever I purchase old lenses from 1980s to "Restore" (if that's the correct word) the whole item?

The easiest way is to know a good CLA/repair guy with reasonable rates.

Otherwise, you'll probably need a good service manual (or at least a youtube video), the right tools, and the right touch. Some lenses are easy to self-service, others are a bear, and you can easily damage/destroy a lens if you don't know what you're doing, or don't have the proper tools.

Hang out on vintage lens collecting boards, google a lot, and watch a ton of youtube videos, and get a sense of what's involved if you've never done it. This can be something similar to watch repair or restoring a vintage car, and you are talking about delicate glass and metal bits. How many small spanner wrenches do you own? Are you used to DIYing your own tools? Have you ever done any other type of vintage repair before?

If there's anything that I should checked before purchasing it, what are those?

  1. Check whether the lens is compatible or adaptable to the camera you want to use it on. (See: Can I use lens brand X on interchangeable lens camera brand Y?).

  2. Check the overall physical condition of the lens: how battered is it? Does it look to be in good condition? Is anything missing, loose, or damaged?

  3. Are the rings smooth? Is the manual focus working? Is the aperture action clean and snappy? Does the aperture work correctly both in changing the aperture setting, and in open/closing for taking the image? Old lenses also mean old grease going gummy and sticky. This is the main reason older disused lenses may require disassembly and reassembly--to clean out old grease, particularly if it's causing the aperture leaves to stick.

  4. Is there fungus in the lens? Fungus is typically seen as "totaling" a lens. Fungus waste product tends to be acidic, so it will etch its way through the coatings given enough time, so the element may need to be replaced, or re-polished and re-coated (likely to cost far more than the lens). Minor fungus may be cleanable and acceptable, but in general, fungus is one of those things you don't want to mess with.

  5. Is there element separation? Elements are sometimes glued together, and that glue can yellow or weaken over time. Separated elements are going to be as bad as fungus when it comes to totaling a lens.

For more purchase advice, see also:


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