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Vintage M42 Camera Lenses

After you master the kit lenses that came with your digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, one of the joys of photography is discovering the most up-to-date lenses to hit the market, as well as old vintage models that are out of production. When you want a vintage aesthetic or to experiment with different manual controls, old lenses are an affordable and fun way to go. M42 screw-mount lenses are one style of camera mount system that garners interest, invented in the German city of Jena back in 1938.

What Is an M42 Lens?

M42 is a standard of screw thread mounting system used to attach M42 lenses to some 35mm cameras, with the majority being SLR models. In some cases, they require adapters to be compatible and function properly, particularly when you're not shooting with an M42 camera body.

  • An M42 more accurately features a metric screw thread that's 42mm in diameter and a 1mm thread pitch, which differs from the T mount, which has a 0.75mm thread pitch.
  • Some often refer to it as the universal thread mount or the universal screw mount. In some instances, it's also referred to as the Pentax thread mount as this was the brand that popularized it in the United States.

What Should You Consider When Buying an M42 Lens?

Production of the M42 mount cameras largely stopped in the early 1980s, so the majority of M42 cameras and lenses on the market are secondhand vintage models. As with all old camera equipment, it's important to check for any signs of damage on both the exterior and interior, as well as any accumulation of oil.

  • One of the most important considerations when buying an old lens is its compatibility with your camera body and how automated its features are, otherwise you may need an adapter.
  • When pairing an M42 lens with a non-M42 camera body, you may need to purchase an M42 camera adapter. Whether it's possible to use an adapter or not will be determined by the distance between the film plane and the top of the mount on the camera body, as well as the width of the non-M42 lens mount.

Which M42 Lenses Are Available?

As with most lenses, M42 screw-mount lenses are available as both prime and zoom lenses, and with a wide range of different apertures.

  • You can find 50mm portrait lenses with wide apertures for creating beautiful bokeh effects, together with 28mm lenses for capturing wide-angle landscape shots.
  • For photographing from long distances, consider a 100mm or 135mm M42 screw-mount lens with a lens hood to prevent sun glare.

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