The 4 Best Lenses for Amazing Lens Flare

There are many reasons why I love vintage lenses. Their character is much more obvious than on most modern lenses with lens flare being one of the most distinctive characteristics of such lenses. In fact, one of the main reasons why Helios 44-2 is one of my favorite lenses is because the flares this lens produces are absolutely amazing.  Not many lenses come close!

Below a talented editor, filmmaker, blogger & of course vintage lens fan Vashi Nedomansky is sharing with us his top 4 vintage lenses with amazing  flares.  All 4 are very affordable and can easily be bought for under $100/£50, some even for under $50/£25.

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…

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.

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.

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.

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 and very rare blue flare.

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 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…

Thanks to Vashi for sharing his point of view. As always it’s great to see different perspectives on vintage lenses. His top 4 is actually very similar to what my top 4 would be, with Helios 44-2 & MIR-1 definitely in top 3 for me.

Makes sure to visit Vashi’s website for many other useful and informative posts on aspects of filmmaking. Original blog post can also be found here.

I try my best to make this website a great resource for people interested in vintage lenses for video use, so I hope you’ve enjoyed this & other posts. I sure hope they will help you save some money on your future lens investments too. I’ve joined the ebay affiliate program to help me run this website, fund my tests & lens giveaways, so if you find this content useful and would like to help me produce more similar content, please use the links in this post if you’re planning to buy one of these lenses or bookmark and/or use this link if you want to buy anything else on or this link if you shop on You will not be spending a penny more using these links, while still helping as eBay will pay out a small percentage from any purchase or successful bid, which in turn will support new content on Thank you.



6 Responses to 4 Low Budget Lenses for Amazing Lens Flare

    • They have different construction, and I’m guessing optics are slightly different too, at least the coating. The 44M is very nice, but I prefer 44-2

  1. I have a 44-2 and a 44m-4 and both they dilver a similair result, I can not see anny diffrent. but i like the body of the 44M-4 more so I always end up using that one. sometimes I use my 44-2 the pro is that it has a preset function so i can limit the aparture. both lovely lenses and nice to have.

  2. Is the Nikon lens the first version or the second one? Ken Rockwell says that only the first version of the lens (the one with lettering inside the filter ring) is bad.

  3. The first one seems to be the non AI version. The link is also the for the non AI lens so who knows. Hopefully the author will help us otherwise we don’t even know what adapter to buy. AI non AI?

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