Is "Freelensing" Trend the Death of Vintage Equipment?

Once my youngest son graduates from high school this spring, my wife and I plan to move to a smaller home in another town. As such, some downsizing of our household items will need to happen. This included editing my large camera collection down to size. So I've set about selling the less-desirable bodies, lenses and other stuff through Craigslist.

I recently sold a nice couple of lenses to a young local photographer. She specializes in portraits of pets. Very nice person with a good eye for making images. I extolled in excited tones how sharp the Canon 200mm f4 FD telephoto was and how she could detach the Tamron Adapatall 2 interchangeable mount on the 28mm f/2.5. I thought she was after crisp images with old equipment. Nope.

She gently and politely informed me that for her personal shooting she likes to disassemble (permanently) old film lenses and hold them with one hand in front of her lens-less DSLR for what she termed "freelensing". Said the out-of-focus effects were outstanding. I had not heard of that. A quick Google search revealed that, indeed, many new folks are attracted to this style of shooting as they can produce interesting and very pronounced selective focus this way.

A part of me was happy with the idea that old optics were soldiering on with new uses, and a large part of me (maybe larger) was horrified that to do that my precious top-brand stuff was about to be, well, forever mutilated. The optics these folks perform surgery on are absolutely irreplaceable. At least to me. Severing the mount from the body just to take a few mostly blurry photos seemed too drastic a course to achieve a simple effect; a mechanic hack job done out of not knowing any other alternative, or out of a lack of respect for the amazing skills of the lens designers and manufacturers. And hey, why not try Photoshop first, people!

Then I took a deep breath.

Gotta let it go. Vintage camera collecting is a dying hobby as most of us collectors are "aging out" at a corresponding rate. In a few decades the actions of corrosion, gravity, metal fatigue, mold and moisture will have pretty much ravaged all those film cameras and their lenses either now proudly displayed on shelves, still forgotten and stuffed in closets. Why not get those lenses out in the sunshine again, even to make decidedly fuzzy images? Let the kids freelens all they want. Better that an old lens gets used for the what is was made to do than to ride the pine on some dusty shelf.

It's a new year. So, OK, out with the old and in with the new. I'll hold on to a few Nikkors and such out of my own nostalgia and sell the rest to people who are unencumbered with perhaps an outdated loyalty to dead brands and a forgotten medium. It's all good. I guess I now know how the old photographers in my day viewed my generation's experimentation with photo gear. What goes around . . . 


  1. I'm glad you figured out how to be okay with this, but I'm still horrified. I get it, I guess: one man's treasure is another man's trash.

    1. Yeah, I'm OK with it, but just barely. But sometimes you just have to turn the page.

  2. Hi, thanks for your comments on my mainly Minolta collection [now over 500 items] on minolta4me-kevin flickr account. Just discovered your blog and am horrified that "freelensing" has progressed from simply uncoupling your lens and holding the lens at a slight angle pressed up to the body.... to this destruction of old lenses. My only hope is they do it to the multitude of "has some haze/fungus" lenses from ebay, not good working examples. Far better to TtV than this !

  3. My Canon lens was tack before I freelensed, but after freelensing, I noticed that the focus was off in a few photos -- front/back focusing. I'm not sure if that's because I'm using a small aperture and the subject moves, or that it's front focusing. Several shots I have my subject still and the focus is still off. Can you break your lens freelensing?

  4. Great blog you have here - market is very slow - Hopefully things will begin picking back up
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  5. Spot on with this article, I really think this website needs more attention. I'll probably be back to read more, thanks for the info.
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  6. These old lenses are finding new lives attached to digital cameras. The price for adaptors for these lenses has gone down and the prices for some of these old lenses have gone up. I only buy Vintage lenses now for my digital 4/3 cameras. Cell phones, seem to be replacing so many cameras. It is gettng harder to find anyone who does not use their cell phone to take their pictures. Still, there is still life in these old camera lenses.


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