|My prime lenses for my Spotmatic cameras. M-42 Super Takumars - 17mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, 200mm, 100mm macro, 55mm macro (non Pentax)|
When I first started getting serious about photography, I owned a Pentax ME, a 50mm f/2 Pentax M lens, and a Pentax 135mm f/2.8 short telephoto and a 2x teleconverter. That was before the millenium! I used that camera and the two lenses (oh yes, as well as the TC) for 17 years, until I started on my photographic journey 22 years ago. Despite the limitations, I did okay with what I had, but after I acquired a used 28-80mm Pentax zoom in 2000, I saw how much more I could do with that particular lens. I’ve already described in my previous post, how I have decided that the 35mm focal length has become my choice for the normal lens. But this post is not about a particular focal length. There certainly is something to be said for using a particular lens for all of your photography. If you only use a twin lens reflex, then the 75 or 80mm permanently affixed to your camera is the only lens you need. Or perhaps you have a fixed lens 35mm camera such as a Canonet QL-17 or Yashica Electro 35. If a fixed-lens camera is all you need for whatever photographic work that you do, then the rest of this post won’t be as useful to you. A great many photographers excelled with nothing more than a Leica with a 50mm lens. However, if you have an SLR of any sort, then you have very likely considered using other lenses with it besides whatever came with the camera.
|For many years, a 50mm normal lens accompanied most SLR cameras.|
Back when magazines like Shutterbug and Popular Photography were well, popular, I would peruse the back pages to look at the ads from places like 47th Street Photo, and see all those inexpensive Spiratone lenses, or new/used stuff from Adorama or B&H. Digital had not yet taken over photography, and even used lenses were still not "cheap." It was a time when camera swaps/shows were still common, and eBay had not achieved its preeminence in the used marketplace. Lens reviews on youTube were unavailable, as that had not even been invented yet. So, one relied on camera magazine reviews or books, or word of mouth about any particular lens before plunking down some cash. Today, the price of lenses on the used market can bring all sorts of bargains to your door without even leaving your house. Whether you buy from a reputable seller like KEH, or go the eBay route, or a (gasp!) camera store, many lenses (except those with the word Leitz imprinted on them) are a fraction of the price they originally sold for. No matter what SLR platform you use, you can now acquire a stable of lenses for a few hundred dollars that will last a lifetime.
|Spiratone ad from 1966 U.S. Camera|
Why more than one lens?
If you are using a 35mm SLR, a single lens will limit your ability to make the most of the format and capabilities of the camera body. From fish-eye to normal, to super telephoto, to ultra macro, a 35mm SLR can do many things, and different lenses allow you to explore and create images that you cannot get any other way. Depending on the SLR body, you’ll find just about every kind of lens imaginable - and where to start? If a "new" camera can be a thing that gets your creative juices going, imagine how much a "new" lens can change your photography. Sometimes, a different focal length can be just the thing to make you see things anew. For example, if you have never used a 200mm macro lens, or a 24mm wide-angle, just putting on a such a lens will open new worlds to you. I’m not suggesting that you buy more lenses willy-nilly, just to "have them all," but to have a set of lenses that will provide the kind of tools that you need for most of your photography. You can always rent a lens to determine if you really need it, or if you need it just for a special project. A lot of pros rent lenses just for a special need. To be more precise, what lenses do you need? Since not everyone has the same needs, you will have to figure that one out for yourself. However, I’ll start with a series of lens types, and you can go from there.
|The Helios 44-M 58mm f/2 - a great lens for its specific properties|
Although I am primarily a Nikon user, my experience over the years with just about every SLR system made has convinced me that most of Nikon’s bodies remain the best constructed, and most reliable with age. Minolta made excellent glass, but their SLR bodies have not aged well. Pentax has a bad track record with their electronic bodies (such as the ME), and nothing they have made since after the Spotmatic days has really aged as well as the Spotmatics. The vaunted K1000 may be fine - as long as it wasn’t made in China at the end of the run for that model. Canon, with its various mounts - FL, FD, EOS, produced good lenses, but the bodies ran second-fiddle to Nikon. It was not until the EOS system that Canon was on par with whatever Nikon glass and bodies were produced, and it vaulted past Nikon because of the EOS Rebel. However, the bad news is that many of those old EOS bodies have shutters that are getting gooey with age, so you have to look out for that. Olympus OM-series glass is also fantastic, and many of the OM series bodies continue to work pretty well. The other SLR manufacturers - Mamiya, Exakta, Topcon, Rollei, Miranda, Zeiss Ikon, and yes, even Leitz do not have the lens offerings that Nikon and Canon produced. However, within those other systems are notable lenses, all with their own unique characteristics.
Over the years, I have used many, many lenses, and sold some that I now regret. I’ve also gotten rid of lenses that were definitely not so great. So, no matter what 35mm SLR system you are using - I’m not going to delve into rangefinders or medium format - there will always be a lot of choices one might make in the lenses that they use. In addition, modern DSLRs are sold with kit zoom lenses, and for many beginners, a zoom makes a great choice, because you only need to carry around a single lens, maybe two, for a lot of photography. Some photographers prefer prime lenses, some prefer zooms, some prefer wide-angle zooms over telephoto zooms, etc. No single lens can be expected to do everything, though in the days before auto-focus, a 50mm lens was considered the every-day do-it-all lens, with your feet becoming the zoom.
|With a prime lens, your feet do the "zooming."|
Lens selection really depends on what you photograph and your working methodology. There are some street photographers that use only a 28mm lens, others that feel that the 35mm focal length is their forte, and some that like a longer lens to close the distance - say, 85mm. Landscape photographers may like the 20-24mm end and the 300mm end. It really is a very personal choice, and most of us get a lens that we think we’ll use for a given purpose. I happen to like Lensbaby lenses, so of course, I have three different models, each with its own characteristics.
Since I do love prime lenses, I have a suite of primes - some that I use often, others that have only special uses. I also have various zoom lenses, and I’ll discuss what I use and why.
Primes are single focal length lenses - 16mm, 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 55mm, 85mm, 90mm, 105mm, 135mm, 180mm, 200mm, etc. Primes go from fisheye to long telephotos, but most of the primes I see in use are in the 24-135mm range. I consider 24mm the best alternative to a slightly less-wide 28mm. However, 28mm lenses typically have less distortion than anything wider. In my own inventory, I have 16mm, 17mm, 19mm, 20mm, 24mm, and 28mm wide-angle primes. If I have to choose what to take in one bag, I almost always choose the 28mm.
|You can't go wrong with this one.|
|or its manual version|
35-58mm are the "normal" lenses, and there’s a ton of them. If I’m not carrying a 35mm f/2, I am probably using a 50mm f/1.4 The number of 50mm-ish lenses out there are staggering, and for good reason. Not all 50mm lenses are equal, and some have far different and pleasing bokeh than others. You don’t need a high-priced Zeiss lens on your Nikon to take great images -- the modest 50mm f/2 Nikkor is one of the best lenses ever made for 35mm cameras. But even within that "normal lens" genre are legendary optics among SLRs. The 58mm f/1.4 Minolta PF Rokkor is a lens that you should have if you are using manual Minolta SLRs. The 45mm f/2 MD Rokkor is a great pancake lens. If you are shooting with Olympus, then of course, that 50mm f/1.4 Zuiko lens is a sweet one. With Canon FD mount - the 50mm f/1.4 is also a favorite, but that 50mm f/1.8 is also excellent. In the screw-mount M-42 world, there are lots of great normal lenses aside from the 50mm f/1.4 SMC Takumar. I’ll bet there are more varieties of 50mm M-42 mount lenses than any other lens mount. There is a lot of love for the 58mm f/2 Helios 44 from Zenit - and there are several iterations of that, from the early pre-set versions to more modern auto-diaphragm versions. I could probably make a list of some of the "best" nifty-fifties in M-42 mount, but that’s an article all by itself.
|Tamron Adaptall-2 17mm lens|
Back in the old days, you bought an SLR and it most likely came with a 50mm lens, and that’s the one that you used the most. Today, lenses that were too expensive for many of us back then are sold for a fraction of what they are really worth. But even then, there were budget brands like Spiratone (the most affordable), Vivitar, Albinar, Tokina, Tamron, Makinon, Promaster and others. Of those brands, there are some gems in the Vivitar line that were made by Kiron, and I don’t think people today appreciate the longevity of many Tamron Adaptall-2 lenses. Change your camera system? Just get a new Adaptall-2 adapter for the lens. The Tamron 90mm Macro has had several iterations, but the last manual version is the best. Now, you can buy on eBay pretty much any Tamron or Vivitar lens ever made for a fraction of what they originally sold for.
With the advent of autofocus SLRs and then the DSLR explosion, zoom lenses became the norm for most photographers, and the typical zoom for a kit was something in the range of 28-80mm. That range covers many photographic needs, but also at a cost of being slower, with a smaller maximum aperture, and a variable one at that. Typically, a variable aperture zoom of 28-80 equivalent would be f/3.5-5.6. Meanwhile, a 50mm f/1.4 becomes a game-changer for someone that’s only used a slow zoom! So, as the market has evolved, we are seeing really expensive niche AF lenses for DSLRs and mirrorless systems - lenses that often negate the smaller mirrorless body advantage. At the same time, there are many new manual lenses coming from Chinese manufacturers (7Artisans, TTArtisans, and others) that bring back the simplicity and advantages of fast prime lenses at an amazing low cost to consumers.
|Nikon 500mm mirror lens|
|front view of the 500mm Nikkor|
|A T-mount 500mm mirror lens|
Catadioptric, or mirror lenses are yet another attempt to make a low-cost high-magnification telephoto. Using a system of mirrors and refracting lens elements, they are similar to a Cassegrain astronomical telescope. A 500mm f/8 mirror lens doesn’t weigh much, doesn’t cost much, and doesn’t get used much. If you get one, you’ll probably play around with it for a bit until you realize the images generally are not great. The donut-shaped circles of confusion are not attractive. One good use for these lenses would be photographing the moon. Just about every major camera manufacturer made a mirror lens, some with 1000mm focal lengths. Today, new ones are usually T-mount, meaning you’ll need the proper adapter for your SLR system. In addition, with no electronic contacts, you will need to use one in manual or aperture-priority mode. Since they are more compact and lightweight than the equivalent all-glass lens, they are easy to carry and if you like the results, well, good for you. Used mirror lenses generally are inexpensive on eBay, and if you buy one that is a T-mount, make sure that you have the right adapter for your SLR.
|Vivitar Series 1 90mm macro lens with 1:1 adapter|
Macrophotography is another world of special lenses. While many zoom lenses have a "macro" setting, it’s just close-up photography, and not true macro. Macrophotography is typically making something life-size on the frame (1:1), or larger than life size. A true macro lens will have 1:2 or 1:1 on the lens barrel to indicate that. Depending on your SLR system, macro lenses are almost invariably more expensive than normal lenses of similar focal lengths. Since I use Nikon most of the time, I am familiar with what has been available for the F-mount over the years. I’m not going to cover modern lenses made for DSLRs or mirrorless systems. However, the older classic lenses still work great with film, and in most cases, digital bodies. My all-time favorite is the 90mm Tamron macro lens. It’s had several iterations as an Adaptall-2 lens, as well as mount-specific AF versions.
- 90 mm f/2.5 Tele-Macro with 49mm filter diam. - the earliest version, 1:2 without an extension tube or diopter.
- 90mm f/2.5 Tamron SP with 55mm filter ring, 1:2, 1:1 with matching extension tube. I have had this lens for over 20 years, and with the adaptall-2 mount, it has been used on various SLR systems.
- 90mm f/2.8 Tamron SP AF Macro. 1:1. The filter ring is 55mm, and at 1:1 the closest focus distance is just under foot.
- 90mm f/2.8 Tamron SP Di. The latest version of this lens, presumable optimized for digital SLRs, it still does exactly the same as the previous version, but seems less plasticky-looking and operates more quietly.
|Nikon's 55/2.8, 55/3.5/105/4 and 200/4 macro lenses|
The most common macro lens for Nikon is the 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor, which was produced virtually unchanged, for both non-AI and AI versions. With the matched M-ring, an extension tube made especially for that lens, you get 1:1 reproduction, otherwise, it’s 1:2. That lens was replaced by the 55mm f/2.8. However, that lens has a reputation for some batches being nearly unusable over time due to the helicoid seizing up. I have seen many of them in various degrees of stiff focus, to being nearly unusable. A trip to a repair technician can cure the problem. If you have one that focuses smoothly, it’s a great lens that can be used as a general purpose normal lens as well as a macro lens. The PK-13 Nikon extension tube is used to bring it to 1:1 reproduction.
One lens that is also a favorite, but I have not owned in a long time is the 60mm f/2.8 AF-D Micro-Nikkor. It focuses from infinity to 1:1 on its own. It’s very likely the best Micro-Nikkor made, and whether on a film or digital body, it gives great results. I used that lens quite a lot in my work in the Museum of Zoology at the Univ. of Michigan.
Next, is the 105mm f/4 Micro-Nikkor, which has had several iterations, but because of its longer focal length, provides a better working distance (subject to lens) than the 55mm Micro-Nikkor. Without the PN-1 extension tube, it provides 1:2 magnification, and 1:1 with it. It has a built-in lens shade, and a 52mm filter ring. To be honest, I prefer the Tamron 90 over this lens, but it can be a general-purpose short tele as well as a macro lens. There is a newer version 105mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, which is reputed to be a much better lens, but I have no experience with it.
The 200mm f/4 Micro-Nikkor is a lens that I’ve had for 20 years, and it’s different from the other macro lenses listed here because the lens barrel length does not change while focusing, as the internal elements move, so it’s called an IF lens (internal focus). Without an extension tube, it goes to 1:2, with a working distance of 20 inches. It’s a great lens for a lot of larger insects, flowers, nature, etc., and yet it is also a very good 200mm telephoto. Add an extension tube or diopter, and of course, you get greater magnification. With the f/4 maximum aperture, it’s a versatile lens and easily hand-held.
|Minolta macro lenses are among the best.|
There are other single-length macro lenses out there for just about every SLR system, and while a 50mm macro lens is going to be the most common, I suggest looking for the Tamron 90mm Adaptall-2, since you can find an adapter to use it with just about any 35mm SLR system. With that maximum f/2.5 aperture, you have a macro lens, a portrait lens, and a short tele. For greater magnification, you can use extension tubes or a bellows, and there is a whole world of special lighting, clamps, and lenses for extreme macrophotography, that is beyond the scope of this post.
Wide-angle lenses are sort of niche, in the sense that REALLY wide lenses go all the way to fish-eye lenses. A semi-fisheye lens will have barrel distortion, and a full fish-eye lens will be a full circle on the film (or sensor) plane. Fish-eye lenses have their use, but in my opinion, they can easily be over-used because of the novelty. Really wide lenses such as 16mm can be pricey, and of course, will distort the image. I have found that the 19mm Vivitar f/3.5 wide-angle is one of the better wides available in any mount. It’s almost pancake-like. Next would be 20mm, and there I have some favorites. The 20mm f/3.5 Nikkor-UD with a 72mm filter ring is a non-AI lens is truly great. It’s worth getting one converted to AI-mount if you can. However, if you have a Nikon FM, FE, or F3, you can release the metering tab on the body and use the non-AI lens in stop-down mode. I use mine on my plain-prism Nikon F and really enjoy that combination.
|The well-regarded Canon 24mm f/2.8|
|Four different Nikon 28mm lenses|
|Six different 28mm M-42 mount lenses|
|The Vivitar 28mm f/2.5, shown in M-42 and Nikon F-mount. |
One of the best third-party 28mm lenses.
However, the 20mm f/2.8 AF-D lens is certainly an excellent lens that is a lot of fun to use, and I recommend it for anyone using an AF Nikon. It’s 62mm filter thread is certainly easier to deal with than the monster 20mm non-AI lens. A 24mm lens in any mount will be a very good choice for a lot of wide-angle photography. Of course, the various 24mm Nikkor lenses are my first choice, but I have used the 24mm f/3.5 Super Takumar, and it’s a very good lens on my Spotmatics. Although 28mm lenses are common as can be in most SLR systems, don’t knock them. A 28mm lens will often surprise you with the lack of distortion, and if you are just starting out, it’s one of the focal lengths that I think belongs in everyone’s bag of prime lenses. If you are looking at M-42 mount lenses, there are many 28mm lenses available - most of them pretty good.
|The excellent Canon 85mm f/1.8 portrait lens|
It seems that everyone thinks 85mm is a portrait lens on 35mm SLRs, and they would be right. The little extra reach allows you some space between you and the subject, and since many 85mm lenses have wide apertures of f/2 or larger, you can have shallow depth of field, dropping out the background. However, it’s not the only focal length to consider for portraits - 90mm (as in the Tamron lens mentioned previously) and 105mm are also considered to be good for portraits, and in 105mm, there are a lot of choices across the many lens mounts. Yes, the Nikon 105mm f/2.5 Nikkor is a favorite, but so is the SMC Takumar 105mm f/2.8 lens, which by the way, is about half the weight of the Nikkor lens. There is also a 100mm f/2.8 Series E Nikon lens, which ain’t bad. All of these lenses should be used with a lens hood to keep extraneous light away from the front element. Many photographers use the 105mm lenses with extension tubes for close-up photography, and the 105mm Nikkor was a staple for a lot of nature photographers. The shallow depth of field at f/2.5 again works well to isolate the subject from the background, as does the focal length.
|135mm lenses - Nikon, Olympus, Pentax M-42, Minolta MD|
Now, I’ll discuss the orphan lens of the 1970s and 80s, the 135mm telephoto. At one time, the 135mm lens was almost always in a camera bag, often with a 2x teleconverter (a short magnifying lens that couples to the back of the 135). They were the the most affordable telephotos, as short as they were, and were really common in T-mount with an adapter to fit your camera mount. A 135 mm/2.8 with a 2x teleconverter basically gave you a 270mm f/5.6 lens. Today, 135mm lenses tend to be overlooked, but among them are ones that are bokeh monsters - especially those lenses that were pre-set with a maximum f/2.8 or f/3.5 aperture. (See my post on pre-set lenses). These were low-cost lenses labelled as Spiratone, Vivitar, Soligor and others. They are compact, cheap, and the multi-bladed apertures are circular. I highly recommend them if you are looking for something a little different. Otherwise, all the SLR manufacturers sold perfectly good 135mm lenses, usually either with f/3.5 or f/2.8 maximum apertures. Some focus closer than others, and yes, they can be used for portraiture as well as landscapes.
The Nikon 180mm f/2.8 ED telephoto is a great manual lens that is tack sharp, and yet could also be use for fashion photography and landscapes. I once had one, but found that I rarely used it, so I sold it. I should have kept it!
200mm telephotos are plentiful and inexpensive today. Aside from the common Nikon versions, there are many to choose from in M-42 mount, some a bit faster at f/3.5, but f/4 is the typical maximum aperture. The 200mm f/4 Super Takumar is an excellent lens. Just about every SLR system has a 200mm prime lens, and of course, there are many third-party options available.
|The 300mm f/4 AF-D Nikkor|
As far as telephoto lenses go, it really comes down to what you need that determines what you get. At one time, just about everyone wants a big telephoto lens of 400mm or greater, but unless you really need to haul that thing around for nature photography or sports, a tele zoom of 80-300mm is going to be the better choice. Fast telephotos are of course, very expensive and very heavy. Sports photographers and bird photographers will have those - and big apertures mean BIG pieces of glass, which also means $$$. However, if you just need a decent telephoto of 300mm for high school sports, etc., the 300mm f/4 AF Nikkor is still a great lens that sells from $250 -$400 used. Meanwhile, the manual focus 300mm f/4.5 Nikkor sells for about $150 or less. I have both of these lenses, and I rarely use the older manual lens, but the newer one has had a fair amount of use over the years, especially with an extension tube for insect close-ups.
|The Kiron 70-200mm f/4 zoom in OM mount|
Zoom lenses have become a fixture and just about every new digital camera, whether fixed lens or a body with the ability to change lenses, comes with a zoom. In the days of auto-focus film SLRs, zoom lenses became the standard as film speed ratings of 400 ISO and higher allowed the proliferation of f/4.5-5.6 slow zooms with a typical range of 28-80mm kit lens. That trend continued into the DSLR era with the 18-55mm lenses for APS-C sensors. Back in the late 70s to late 80s, the typical zoom was a 70-210mm in any mount, but there are some surprises, such as the 1970s Vivitar Series 1 35-85mm f/2.8 zoom. That lens was available in all popular lens mounts, and while it is getting on in years, it still outperforms many modern short zooms. It’s a short beast of a lens with a 72mm filter ring. Soligor’s compact 28-55mm f/3.3-4.5 variable aperture is a well-made short zoom that is excellent for wandering around with a camera. It has a close-up feature that lens you get to 1:3 reproduction. Yet, the lens isn’t any larger than a typical 55mm prime lens. In my opinion, one of the best manual zooms made is the Kiron 70-200mm f/4 macro zoom. It comes with a locking tab that keeps it at the desired focal length, and for a push-pull zoom, it’s still an excellent lens that’s available in popular lens mounts, and was also sold by Vivitar as a Series 1 lens. It’s a handful of lens, to be sure. There are many other Vivitar 70-210mm zooms, but only the Kiron-made model with the zoom-lock and 62mm filter size and a fixed f/4 maximum aperture is the one to get. Another odd zoom is the Chinon 40-15mm f/3.5. It’s not a push-pull zoom, but a two ring zoom, with the lower ring rotating for the focal length. In addition, the macro ring allows it to close focus at any focal length, up to 1:4 close-ups. It has a nice bokeh, and a 67mm filter ring. It was available in popular lens mounts. It’s not a tiny lens, by any means, but certainly worth a look.
|Not the best - the 43-86mm Zoom-Nikkor|
|One of the best - the 80-200 f/2.8 AF-D Zoom Nikkor|
|43-75mm Fujinon Zoom|
|The Minolta 28-85 zoom|
|A monster - the Tamron 35-210mm zoom|
|The Tamron 28-80 zoom is a good buy.|
Some of the really old zoom telephotos are massive, heavy metal beasts with so-so optics. I’d stay away from those 100-500mm f/8 zooms that look like a mortar on the front of your camera. However, you can often pick up some interesting old zooms for less than $20.
With prime lenses, you can usually get a faster lens at a given focal length than zoom lenses, and if you want fast zooms, be prepared to spend money. Back in the previous century, a fast zoom would have been the Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8. Still, an amazing lens, but expensive and heavy. More likely, you would have the Nikkor 80-200 f/4 - which is a fantastic lens all around. Cheap manual zooms from the 1980s such as an Albinar 70-210 would typically be a variable zoom of f/4.5-5.6, or even f/6.3. In today’s market these old zooms sell for a few dollars, if at all. They are not necessarily bad, it’s just that there are much better lenses out there for not much money. When 200mm seemed ho-hum, lens manufacturers then went to 70-300mm zooms, and in the AF world, they are now commonplace. The Tamron 70-300mm is a lightweight and impressive AF zoom that has a 1:2 macro setting that really is quite good for a lot of nature photography.
|Nikon's best all-purpose AF zoom|
Within the Nikon universe, I have a few favorite zooms that I use regularly:
- 24-50mm f/3.3-4.5 AF Zoom Nikkor - great city street lens
- 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF Zoom Nikkor - excellent range of focal lengths - a "one lens" for travel
- 80-200mm f/2.8 AF Zoom Nikkor - fantastic lens
- 70-210mm f/4-5.6 AF Zoom Nikkor - the old standby
- 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor - pretty decent range, sharp
- 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor - one that I have carried along the most
- 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E Zoom Nikkor - one of my favorite lenses, by the way!
|The Nikon Series E 75-150mm f/3.5 - a favorite lens|
Care of your lenses
Some advice for your lenses - don’t store them in the OEM lens cases, no matter the SLR system. Over time, these lens cases become fungal breeding grounds. Depending on their age and construction, deteriorating foam within a case can coat your lenses with a layer of black dust, so throw those old grungy lens cases away.
Lenses should be stored where they won’t be subject to moisture, and never in a closed plastic container for any length of time. Yes, use silica gel to keep lenses free from moisture - only when necessary. Store them with the rear lens cap attached as well as the front one to avoid damaging the surfaces, and to keep them free from dust.
Some people keep a skylight filter always attached to the front of a lens - not a bad idea when you are worried about damaging the front lens element when out shooting an expensive lens. However, I rarely have done that myself. I do use various filters when necessary, so the additional layer of glass from a UV filter really doesn’t warrant its use.
Clean the lens surfaces with a blower or lens brush and a microfiber cloth when out in the field. I always use lens tissue and an optic cleansing solution when I am cleaning lenses at home.
There is a misconception that any flaw in a lens is something serious, and that it makes the lens nearly worthless. I can tell you that if you have ever looked at older lenses from before the 1960s, you will find some with a tiny bubble or two in the glass of some of the elements. That’s not a problem. A tiny scratch or "wipe mark" on the front element isn’t a problem, either. Interior dust in a lens usually is not a problem, either, and almost any telephoto zoom will have some. Some people obsess so much about perfection that those are treated as if they are big problems. They are not. Fungus and haze are problems, for sure. So is delamination of lens elements where the balsam cement has degraded. However, I once tested a 100mm Series E lens with a fair amount of fungus against the same lens model that was pristine. There was loss of contrast in the images made by the fungused lens - and somewhat softer image - but that didn’t make the lens unusable. If you have a nice lens that gets spots of fungus, or buy an expensive lens at a really low price because of the fungus, have it cleaned by a repair professional. While old lenses can often be disassembled and cleaned if you follow instructions and have all the right tools, modern lenses should go to a repair shop for cleaning and lubrication.
As the old Stone’s verse goes, "You can’t always get what you want..." but persistence and sometimes a bit of luck will get the lens you need. Sometimes it might take some time with a lens to really get used to the potential it offers. Other times, you’ll be gob-smacked immediately with it. The best thing is that the prices for older manual lenses makes it easier to acquire them and build a collection of lenses that become tools to work with. Just like a craftsman always has a box of different screwdrivers, that box of lenses will have something for almost every situation. After all, no matter what SLR system you are using, it’s just a holder for a lens and film. Have fun exploring with other lenses and see which ones become your favorites!