Friday, March 26, 2010

Sacrilege!! (or not)

I MAY be about to engage in sacrilege.
I have an opportunity to trade a piece of spare radio gear for a Nikon D70 with the stock 35-70 and 70-300 lenses along with a wicked nice 60mm Macro f/2.8D.

I HAVE a Canon Rebel XT with the stock 28-90, a Tamron 70-300, Tamron 17-35, and a 55-250 with IS.
What are the opinions on Canon vs Nikon at this level? (6-8 MP)

Let the holy war begin!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

No, I haven't given up (yet)

Sorry it's been so long since my last post. This whole job thing keeps interfering...

I have just finished some test shots with a pair of M42 tread mount lenses I have. I made an interesting discovery, my eyes SUCK!! All this time I have been getting what APPEARS to be good focus to my unassisted eye, and when I look at the result, BLEAH!

It seems the diopter adjustment on my camera is nowhere near strong enough to allow me to do naked focus. Fortunately, there is a remedy for this, I have ordered and await delivery of a pair of adapters that will activate the focus sensor in the Canon.

In the mean time, I am drafting up a post on the M42 lenses as far as basics...

The Vivitar
85-205mm two ring f/3.8 (constant)

From Old Glass

A (blurry) test shot with the big Vivitar

From Old Glass

The Yashica Yashinon-DS
50mm f/2

From Old Glass

A test shot with the Yashica 50mm f/2

From Old Glass

Monday, March 1, 2010

The challenges emerge...

I have now had a chance to take some of these lenses into the real world and see how they perform. The answer is, it's not so easy as I thought! All the older lenses I have been testing were designed to be used with SLR and rangefinder cameras that have analog focus assistance built right in. Split prism, micro prism, even the two arrows and a light system in my old N2020 are all sorely missed now.

This is an example from the 135mm Jupiter-11

From Old Glass
Not so good with the focus, eh?

This is from the Nikkor 50mm

From Old Glass

Again, not so good. It LOOKED good in the viewfinder, but a Rebel XT doesn't exactly have a huge VF... clearly I need a focus assist.

Finally, from the Vivitar 85-205 f/3.8 with a 2X teleconverter

From Old Glass

Again, it looked good in the VF. And I KNOW this lens is sharp when it's in focus.

Apparently, there are adapters that have a circuit built in that will enable the built in focus assist on a Canon EOS body. Not cheap, but I will be trying to raise the funds to grab one and try it on.

I'll try and have a review of the Vivitar M42 lens yet this week. It rocks, WHEN you can get it in focus...

Also, if anyone else is experimenting with this type of thing, and would like to contribute, PLEASE let me know, more information is a good thing!



Funds running short...

So my funding for this project has run dry, so it's time to start putting things on the market to finance my research!

First to go is the Rollei RF 35 with the Leica Summicron f/2 50mm, LTM to M adapted and the Jupiter-11 135mm f4 (scale focus only on the Rollei)

Asking $450

Pictures are in this blog.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Well I suppose I was due for disappointment...

From Old Glass

The second Russian showed up while I was in LA/San Diego... It seems I need to pay a LITTLE more attention to the entry in eBay. I thought a Kiev 4 used LTM mount lenses, but alas I was mistaken. The ad even said it was a Contax III type mount. It came with what looks like a REALLY nice f/2 50mm Jupiter-8M lens, but I can't USE the bloody thing because I don't have that converter. When I went to price one, the $250 price tag (!!!!!) sorta scared me off.

From Old Glass
"OK, so this fabulous lens came attached to a mediocre camera. You say that the technical quality depends more on the glass than the camera, right? So shoot some film with it and stop griping!"

Well, yeah, when the camera it comes mounted to has all it's parts. Sadly this nice little number is lacking the ubiquitous "take up reel" that the early Contax/Leica/Kiev/FED camera's depended on.


SO I have a nice camera, and I am going to order a $2.00 part from Latvia or Ukraine or some other post Soviet republic, pay the $12.00 or so shipping, and wait another freaking month to try this thing.

From Old Glass

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's sort of like Ellis Island around here, just with ancient camera gear...

From Old Glass

The first of my Soviet Bloc adoptions arrived today (pictured above with the M39 to EOS adapter and the lens caps). A serviceable Jupiter 11 135mm f/4 Leica Thread Mount. $29.05 total from a nice gentleman in Ohio. Upon ripping the thing out of it's packaging, I met with my first disappointment; on the Rollei I will be stuck with scale focusing. No cam driver to couple to the rangefinder mechanism.


I dug out the adapter plate I procured from and mounted it up to the Canon. OK, MUCH happier now :) While focusing is a bear, especially with my old eyes and no focus indicator, once you get the fool thing on the spot, it's sharp as nails.

This is a shot of my backyard, I try to use this as one of my examples for each lens...

From Old Glass

"...yeah, that's not mine, I'm just holding it for a friend..." :)

From Old Glass

Using it on the Rollie is clearly going to be a challenge, but I think I can adapt on the Canon.

Time will tell...

Time to get back to work I suppose. I will post more samples this weekend.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!!

From Old Glass

A few months ago, I got my hands on a Rollei 35 RF Rangefinder 35mm camera. It's really a rebadged Voigtlander R2 with a silver body, which makes it a variant of the Leica school of design. The original came with VERY nice Zeiss lenses in Leica Thread Mount (LTM) and an M Mount adapter because the body is Leica M mount. It is difficult to find these with the original Zeiss lenses, and when you do, they tend to cost close to $1000. You can find just the bodies, which run from $200 to $500 on eBay. The reason being that most of them have been snatched up by Leica heads for the Zeiss optics, and the the bodies thrown back into the sea of collectors at a decent price.

This particular example I found on eBay for a decent price, but without a lens or adapter. M mount lenses are not the cheapest in the world. A majority of them are (or were) made by Leica, Voigtlander, Zeiss, and other high end optics company. I once heard a line about "A rich man's new car should never be a poor man's used car" seems to sum up cameras as well. I set about locating a lens to use, and fell upon a Leitz Wetlar (Leica) Summicron 50mm f/2.0.

From Old Glass
From Old Glass

Famous lens, wicked good reputation, with one flaw... The coating on the front element was very soft. So soft, in fact, that you were NOT supposed to wipe the dust off with a cloth as the fibers in the cloth, combined with the motes of dust, made the equivalent of 100 grit sandpaper to the lens!! This makes it difficult to locate a perfect, or even reasonable Summicron from before the mid 60's. The one I found was from the soft coating era. The seller was honest enough to note that there were "Slight cleaning marks on the front element". Right. What was once a beautiful and remarkably sharp example of high quality German optical design and manufacture is now on (barley) useful for "soft focus" portraits. Bummer, $200 and change for a functionally useless lens.

Interesting thing about the Leica M design, you can, for a reasonable amount of money, obtain an adapter which will allow you to use the older LTM lenses. The cool part about this is that the format has been in production since the early part of the last century! Now the Russians were pretty upset with Germany in the post WW-II era, and to help sooth their jangled nerves (that's their excuse at least) they absconded with a couple Leica factories, along with the designs. Once they had these plants and designs, they proceeded to "Soviet things up a bit". (Think Volga, Trebant, "Five Year Plans.) On the UPside, they left the lens designs alone and did a much better job producing these than they did with the bodies. (Think Stolichnaya, Kalashnikov, MiG.) The lenses are mostly either Contax/Kiev mount or LTM/Fed mount, and can be had for a SONG. The risk lies in the source, of course. While there are many reputable purveyors of these lenses in the old Soviet countries, there are also some serious scammers. Well, I now have one of the adapters for the M mount, as well as one to allow me to put LTM lenses on the Canon EOS body. Additionally, I have a pair of old Russian Leica knockoffs in LTM that I bought from (you guessed it...) eBay. One for $22 from Ohio, and the other for $15 from Canada that happens to have a Kiev 4 RF camera attached. Still a bit leery of buying something like this from the old Soviet Bloc.

So lenses are on the way, and once I have them, you can look for some test shots and results.

I am also thinking about getting a Contax/Yashica to EOS converter plate as well as one for M mount to EOS.

More to follow...


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

From Old Glass

From Old Glass

As my first experiment in grafting old glass on new body, I obtained a converter plate from, slapped my old Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens on and it just freaking worked. Now, I don't have Auto Focus, nor can I use Shutter Priority or Program/Automatic, but then I learned photography on a Pentax k1000 and a Canon TLb... I was happy to even have a meter on the camera in those days!

Focusing has proven to be a bit tricky, especially when the aperture is cranked wide open. With a lens that bright, the DoF is so shallow, even the slightest bit off with the focus blows the whole shot. The Canon EOS Rebel (or any other digital SLR) offers no usable focusing aids like split screen or micro-prism. Additionally, because the body has no control over the aperture, you have to frame with the diaphragm cranked wide open, then stop down to where you need to be. On the upside, you always have DoF preview.

From Old Glass

The pluses? Damn this thing is sharp!! Big glass rules!

From Old Glass

So my total effective investment? You can find the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 on ebay for $30 to $60 depending on condition, and the adapter plate was $10. Under $100 and you have a lens that will match or even BEAT the quality of a new Canon 50mm EF f/1.4 costing over $300.

Next up... QuantaRay NF Autofocus on a Nikon mount...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

...and so it begins...

From Old Glass
Well, I am home from SFO, and by lucky chance, my new adapter plates were waiting! I will begin attaching the various old lenses I have laying around and post the results. This picture was taken using the Nikon to EOS adapter on my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4. Check out the seriously shallow Depth of Field (DoF) in this shot!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mamiya C220 with a Mamiya Sekor lens

Another batch of Old Glass from the collection. Mamiya Twin Lens Reflex, and the only line of TLRs that allow you to change lenses. Great results if you have the patience to learn how to use the camera. Can be found on ebay for ~$150. Takes both 120 and 220 format roll film.

The included photo is from a night time shoot I did in Columbus, OH back in Feb 08. Strange weather, with severe thunderstorms in the middle of winter.

From Columbus OH on Film

Konica C35

This was shot with a Konica C35 "Point and Shoot" that my father-in-law was kind enough to give me.

I apologize for the artifacts in the scan, I had some issues with development. This is a good example of how sharp an old lens can be when it was purpose built and tuned for the body. Because it's a fixed lens, Konica was able to optimize the setup. It's a great slide camera too. You can find these for CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP on ebay and

From konica roll

Bronica shots

One example of old glass... This was taken with a 1980's vintage Zenza Bronica medium format SLR. the lens was an f/2.8

From UP Falls Full Resolution

Links to current works...

Here are links to my currently posted work.

I will be adding my test photos to the Picasa site as I complete them.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Glass... In photography, there is no substitute for glass. Vibration Compensation, Image Stabilization, ultra high ISO, none of these can completely replace a big chunk of melted sand for focusing and reproducing an image.

Take the most advanced sensor based Image Stabilization body, and put a "kit grade" lens on it. Compare the quality of photographs with that lens against those taken with the same body, IS turned off, and a fixed focal length prime lens. The prime lens will always produce a better image.

Naturally, any good prime lens built for todays DSLR (or traditional SLR) costs a serious amount of money. The best available Canon 50mm EF L f1.2 lens costs more than $1200 today. MORE than the bodies most of us using consumer or pro-sumer grade paid for our whole kit. I am not sure about you, but until I can convince someone to actually PAY me for my art, I won't be able to justify a purchase like that for some time.

That brings us to the purpose of this blog... how can I get that kind of quality on the cheap? The answer lies in Old Glass. There are mountains of old SLR and viewfinder lenses still out there today that have plenty of life left in them. The trick is, HOW can we use them on modern equipment? Enter the adapter!

Through the course of this blog, I intend to document my attempts to improve the technical quality of my photography by finding creative ways to re-purpose older equipment.

I have some equipment on order that will allow me to attach some of the older lenses I have to my Canon EOS system, as well as to actually USE the Rollei 35 RF I recently purchased, and as it rolls in, I will update this blog with my results.

Stay tuned for more!!