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Low Budget Filmmaking

The 4 Best Lenses for Amazing Lens Flare

On 28, Sep 2013 | 12 Comments | In Low Budget Filmmaking, Photography, Tests | By vashi

Love them or hate them…lens flares have been trending non-stop over the last several years. You can find them in every J.J. Abrams movie, car commercial, wedding video, print ad or recent independent film. Lens flares are caused by the scattering of light and the reflection/refraction of light within the various glass elements of the lens. Flares manifest in two ways: visible artifacts of various shapes or a haze across the entire image. Modern lenses have multi-coated glass that remove almost every trace of lens flares…and software/CGI is used to add these analog aberrations back into the image.

I love the visual character of old lenses and have chosen my favorite four low budget lenses that create beautiful and dramatic lens flares. These lenses are inexpensive, readily available and can be mounted on a RED Dragon or a $500 DSLR. Take a look at the striking results possible with a Canon 5Dmkii, these four lenses and the sun…

4 best low budget lenses to create lens flares

Pentax, Nikon, Mir and Helios lenses.


PENTAX Super-Takumar 28mm f3.5

The 2nd version of this Japanese lens was made from 1966 to 1971. There are three variations of this lens and this was the last one to not have multi coated optics. The Super-Takumar has an orange tint to the glass and creates crazy orange pentagonal flares and a full frame orange haze when pointed into a strong light source.

Orange flares from the Pentax Super-Takumar

The orange haze and flares are specific to the Super-Takumar


HELIOS 44-2 58mm f2

This lens was produced in the Soviet Union from 1958 to 2001. There were 7 variations but I prefer the 44-2 (8 aperture blades) with the single coating on the front glass that allows for an abundance of flares. This lens used at f2 creates a soft haze across the entire frame that can look very appealing.

Helios 44-2 has a soft full frame haze

A full frame haze and large round flare is common to the Helios.


NIKON 43-86 AI f3.5

This Nikon zoom was made from 1963-1976. It was voted the worst lens ever created by Nikon and I love it. The flares run a long orange stream of shapes when pointed into the sun. I think they are beautiful, distinctive and elegant. To replicate this look in post would take a very long time and never come close to the authentic flavor of this amazing lens. The weird zoom range only makes it more appealing! BTW…$100 on eBay.

This Nikon 43-86 is my favorite low budget flaring lens

The Nikon is my personal favorite lens for beautiful flares that flood across the image.


MIR 1B 37mm f2.8

Based on the Carl Zeiss Flektogon, this Russian lens won the 1958 Brussels World Fair “Grand Prix” prize. When shot against a bright source in a dark room or low light…it creates a beautiful and huge blue flare that fills the frame. It’s one of the only lenses (short of a Panavision Anamorphic) that brings out this much blue flares. Here is an example of the blue flare in a dark room. In sunlight the blue blends into the sky…but believe me, it’s in there!

The Mir 1B has a distinctive blue flare color

The Mir 1B has a distinctive and very rare blue flare.


My quest of capturing compelling and distinctive images always returns back to finding the right lens. The camera bodies continually change and improve but a lens can be used forever. The Canon 5Dmkii I used to shoot these images just turned 5 years old and is considered by some to be a dinosaur. It still serves me well and will be in my arsenal for years to come.

A demonstration using the 4 lenses mentioned above:


A new cinema lens can cost $40,000…but does that mean it delivers the look you were going after? Only you can answer that question. For each project you will need the right tools. The four lenses above can all be bought for around $100. That’s insane. Some are over 50 years old and are still capable of producing spectacular still and motion images. We use software now to take the edge off the super-sharp digital imagery we capture. Sometimes…the craftsmanship of the past along with their perceived flaws can manifest themselves into beautiful images. Who am I to argue with that? I love the flaws, distortions and the unapologetic chaos of older lenses. To each their own…


To learn more about old lenses and lens flares…a quick list of sites I visit:

Dog Schidt Optiks allows you to customize an old Russian lens to deliver the exact flare color and amount you want.

Vintage Lenses for Video – Alan provides a great resource for low budget lenses.

MkCine has a wonderful Vimeo account that demonstrates the flare on almost a hundred lenses.

Nikon Lens Survey and Subjection Evaluations – Bjorn Rorslett examines almost every Nikon lens in extreme detail.

Timur Civan is a wonderful DP who has an extensive knowledge of lenses and tools for creating stunning images.

Ferling Digital Works – Pete Ferling reviews several lesser known vintage lenses you may not have even heard of.

Matthew Duclos – The Circle of Confusion blog covers higher end lenses and is a wealth of information.


Technology has always and will always be moving forward. We embrace it with open arms…but never forget where it came from. Old School has it’s benefits, it’s distinctions and it’s advantages. “Visual Nostalgia” garnered from using older lenses gives me something I latch onto and enjoy. It helps me tell the stories I want to tell. Maybe it can help you too…

What are your favorite vintage lenses? Do you have a super-flaring lens you want to add to my list? Please let me know in the comments below.

Until next time…

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  1. Hi there,

    And what do you know about putting the Mir 37mm on a 5DMK3?
    i’ve read somewhere that the mirror hits the rear of the lens…

    thanks for this post!

    • vashi

      Thanks Adro for the question. I know it works on the 5DMK2 and I have seen footage with the MIR 37mm and 5DMK3 on Vimeo. I think it depends on the adaptor used and the specific version of the lens. I will check around and post here you if I find a definitive answer.

  2. Great review! I can recommend the supercheap Canon 50 1.8 as well (the older the better) though the Nikon and Mir have unbeatable flare.

  3. Alan has a fantasic site! A lot of my “dream” lenses are on there, and a lot are within my reach!! This was informative. Thanks Vashi

  4. Really into flare! Have been for as long as I can remember. Thank you so much about the info! I have just started looking into lenses that flare better than standard Canon lenses (I have done alright so far but I would like to expand). IR converted cameras flare great!!

    Here is a link of my flare shots:

    A contest I am putting on for Flare:

  5. Hi Vashi, thanks fot this article, just one question, all this lens works with CANON 5d mark II?
    With adaptators? you dont get any crop in the image?
    Because I tried to put some lenses but doesnt work with the 5d mark ii just works with cameras with apsc sensor…

    greetings from chile

    • vashi

      Greetings in Chile and thanks for the comment Tomas. I shot all 4 lenses on my 5Dmkii by using Fotodiox adaptors. The lenses are all 35mm still lenses that completely cover full frame sensors. What you saw in the video is the 1920×1080 image…no cropping in post. These older manual lenses predate the APSC cropped sensor so you should have no problem. Hope that helps!

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