Using classic Camera lenses
In the world of Digital photography it feels like a new bit of equipment is released almost every month, new Camera bodies, lenses, flash guns etc….
In the last few years however the image quality of digital cameras has begun to reach such high standards that its hard to see as bigger need than every before to keep upgrading your SLR camera body. I remember so clearly the day I first purchased a digital SLR, it was a Nikon D100, a body that was very closely based on the Nikon F80. I also remember reading sometime later that for a digital Camera to match the print size of 35mm film you would need 24 million pixels, a target that was reached sometime back in the Nikon range and surpassed with the 36mp Nikon D800.
Looking back at Film cameras, most of the end print size and quality came from the type of film you selected to use. The camera bodies themselves offered different levels of capture capabilities, some bodies offered all you needed to take landscape images while other more advanced bodies allowed you to capture fast action activities such as sports.
Once you had the camera body that you needed, for the type of photography you worked with, there was little need to upgrade until you had almost worked your camera into the ground.
Today in 2017, it is a very legitimate question to ask if at last after many years of the megapixel race, have we not now reached the point that you can purchase a camera body and keep it for life or until you finish it off by using it so much ?
What about Lenses ?
In the first years of digital SLR cameras it was not always possible to use all your old lenses with your new wonderful Digital body, Many Cameras would only for example allow you to use the latest Auto-focus lenses.
Over time the manufacturers started to launch bodies at the top end of their range that allowed you to use many older lenses including Manual focus lenses. Once this happened many photographers started to look backwards at the classic lens market, to workout what lenses from the past still offered great performance on modern cameras.
Personally I love using classic lenses and the Tarmon Sp 35mm-210mm F3.5-4.2, is one of the lenses I love using the most, produced by Tamron in Japan in the early 1980’s and only ended production in late 1987, it was available new well into the 1990’s.
This lens is one of the best made Zoom lenses of all time and even includes a Macro mode, offering a close focus of 11.8″ (0.3m), for a zoom lens this is very good. It is also very fast and falls into the professional level of F3.5 at 35mm to F4.2 at 210mm, on a current Digital slr with its low ISO noise this speed is excellent. It also has some amazing Lens flare that when used in video mode is amazing !
For times when I can use manual focus and want a zoom lens that has a great focus distant range and is fast, I am more than happy to have this lens with me. Its sharp at all F-stops, feels just amazing to use and can take any kind of usage in any type of conditions.
I will let the images below do the rest of the talking here, its fair to say however that not all old camera equipment is outdated and not worth using anymore. Great Lenses like these ones, if looked after last for ever.
When new this lens would have cost top money and for a reason!
Its a while since I posted anything about photography equipment, even though I do keep one eye on making sure I have what I feel to be very good cameras and lenses (Mainly Nikons) , I don’t feel that equipment is what photography is really all about. To me photography is about capturing the world around me and so long As I feel my camera can still do this I am very happy.
At the Same time some of the lenses I have, have been with me for many years and I have used then with many subjects and at many locations with both film and digital cameras.
My MIR 37mm f2.8 lens, I have had since my very first SLR camera back in the 1980’s and I still have complete confidence in it 🙂 even using a Pentax K3 24 megapixel SLR.
Why Pentax ? , The lens is an M42 lens which means that it connects to a camera body using an adapter and the best camera bodies on the Market for using these lenses are Pentax SLR bodies as they only need a metal lens mount adaptor that allows the lens to function without any changes in focus distance, basically all the lenses setting and scales work as they were originally intended to.
There are many things I love about using this lens. the focusing is manual as is the setting of the lens apertures but however the dials used for both these settings are just perfect in operation, no modern plastic jumpy manual focus rings here- just smooth and perfectly controlled movements. One thing also great about this lens is the fact that there are no click stops for the aperture blades , there are marking that show ” f 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8. 11 and 16″ but you can set the blades to any setting in between, this is a huge help for video !!
Another great thing for Video is that this lens is 100% silent , simply no noise feeds back through the camera body !!
The back of the lens shows depth of field and focus distant marks, its not a macro lens as its closest distance is only .7 meters so Landscapes only here !
The production of this lens originally started all the way back in 1954. It was manufactured in USSR (along with my favourite Helios 44-2) and was mainly made in 2 mounts, M39 and more popular M42 (although both are adaptable to modern cameras). The design of the lens was based on Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f/2.8 and unlike Helios 44-2 was not a complete clone, but using same optical formal as Flektogon 35mm f/2.8, which is definitely a good sign considering how much more affordable they are than just about any Zeiss glass.
In 1958 Mir-1 received a prestigious Grand-Prix Award during the Brussels World Fair. Russians were probably so proud of the award that every Mir-1 lens produced since the 1958 World Fair, sports the “Grand Prix Brussels 1958” inscription on the side of the lens, so don’t mistake these lenses for some sort of special/limited edition.
Another great asset of this lens is the lens flare it can produce , this link shows some lovely deep spherical Studio flare results 🙂.
Compared to other Classic M42 lenses and modern lenses.
MIR 37mm f2.8 Gallery
The following are some local Kilkenny landscape images that I feel show just how good this lens still is at capturing some great sharp and contrasty black and white images , even with 24 megapixels to expose any defects!
Yashica DX 35mm f2.8, M42 Lens
Over the years I have collected a few classic camera lenses, the Yashica f35mm f2.8 m42 lens has to be one of my most valued and liked.
Back in the 1960’s this lens would have cost a good amount of cash as it was at the top of Yashica’s Slr lens range, the main reason for this being that it had the then New DX coating and a 35mm focus length was becoming very valued for 35mm film camera.
I use this lens a lot, not all the time but its always at hand if I need it, I think you can see from the images below why.
If I use it on a dx sensor camera it provides for a 50mm focus length, a length that I like a lot for framing landscapes. As for the famed DX coating, well I think that you can see form the images below that it still works very well. The colors and the contrast in these images ( taken last week ), are just great. The images taken facing right at the sun show just how little flair this lens produces.
SMC Takumar 50mm f1.4, classic lens
Over the last couple of months I have posted a little about the quality of older lenses and uploaded some sample images. These post have included a review of the ( 28mm HMC Hoya m42 lens and the Tamron 24mm f2.5 lens).
One other much loved lens I have been lucky to find in great condition is a SMC Takumar 50mm f1.4 M42 Lens. I have owned this lens for a good while and still use it from time to time.
Firstly what is an M42 lens , well this wikipedia article describes these very well, basically they are lenses with a mount to a camera body that was designed to be universal, as to fit any camera designed with an M42 mount.
The stand out feature resulting from this mount is that they use a manual method of control for their aperture blades. Many of these lenses have a switch that can be used to keep the aperture blades wide open when manually focusing the lens then close them down to the required aperture during taking the image, as the view finder maybe to dark to focus otherwise.
I can hear many people asking “Why then would you want to use such a manually controlled lens ?*
Since M42 lenses, lens and Camera manufactures have put much work in-to the development of, firstly Auto Aperture lenses (Apertures controlled by the camera body) then Autofocus lenses with an ability to focus on up-to fifty focus points with an ability to selection from one of them in an image being framed. These developments have opened up a new world to photography, such as sports images that have very quick moving subject in perfect focus.
However there is still a place for old lenses, Landscape or portrait photographs for example do not automatically need auto focus.
Older lenses also offer abilities and features that have been lost in an age of autofocus cameras, abilities such as using hyper focus control for example (Lens Hyper-focus), a method of using lens apertures and focus distance to make sure that a pre-set amount of subjects in your image will automatically be in focus at any given distance range from the lens. In an age of high ISO performance, digital technology, this method is more usable than ever before as you can use Higher ISO settings and ever slower F-stop numbers such as F11 (Thus have a larger depth of subjects in your image in focus) and still achieve fast shutter speeds to capture clean usable images.
As you can see from the images of the Lens above manual focus lenses all contain much needed details such as the aperture being used the focus distance and the depth of field for each aperture.
The two other features that I really like about this Takumar lens are the construction and image quality.
The focus control on the lens is a pleasure to use it is very smooth to turn and wonderful in comparison to even my Pro level Nikon autofocus lenses.
Even though it may appear that this lens has been left behind some as far as new lenses are concerned, the image quality is hard to beat. You can see from the images below that there is no lens flare even when pointed at the sun, the images are sharp from about F2 upwards.
One feature that I feel could be the case is that when these lenses were developed, Black and White film photography was very much still being used as much as colour film was. The coatings on these lenses I feel thus gives a wonderful contrast and deep colour to digital images along with being perfect for great contrast in black and white images.
SMC Takumar 50mm f1.4, Gallery
Using Old M42 lenses on a digital SLR
Over the years that I have been taking images using SLR cameras both film and now Digital, the items that I have always show the most interest in are the lenses I have Purchased.
These days lenses are usually purchased as a secondary item to the camera body, with all the dazzling features and technology that goes into cameras and marketing them, it is easy to forget just how important an item a lens is.
It is the lens that produces the image, the camera just records this image and if its a great lens then your image stands a good chance of being so too.
Something that becomes very clear to you, the longer your into photography is that for the most part, lens technology the parts of the lens that really create the image, has been very good for a long time. Little development is needed with the type of glass and the coatings that are used on the lenses.
Most of the development today is with adding lens features such as image stabilisation, the process of moving some of the lens elements to allow for any movement in the camera while it is being held in your hands and help produce a stable image.
So just how far back do you have to go to get a good if not great lens ?
Hoya is a lens filter and lens coating company, they have done huge amounts of research and development over an very long period of time. you may know of them mostly through their UV filters that are attached to a lot of peoples lenses.
Back in the 1970’s along with a lens manufacture Tokina they also sold a limited number of great lenses, I am lucky enough to own a Hoya 28mm f2.8 M42 lens in very good condition, it cost £50 in 1975. I have used this lens for many years for Landscape work and have always been very happy with its results.
This is a fully Manual lens , No auto focus, no stabilisation, No auto exposure and just perfect for Landscapes.
I feel that landscape photography should take a little time and the fact that everything is fully manual with this lens, just adds to this experience. You have to think through all the settings and this extends into your thoughts about what your taking images of.
I feel that this Hoya lens is one on the best I have for reproducing great colours, contrast and sharpness.
The Gallery below is just a quick sample of some very recent images taken using this lens.
Hoya M42 28mm, f2.8 lens gallery
Tamron Adaptall 24mm f2.5 lens
Two Locks one lens many years of enjoyment
For some 40 years I have been taking Landscape photographs in both the UK and Ireland, one of the very first lenses I purchased when I first got a Nikon 35mm film SLR, was this 24mm F2.5 Tamron, wide angle Lens, purchased in 1987.
The images below are from a visit I made to Top side lock, near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire in the south of England a wonderful old lock with a lock keepers house. The second image is from Ballyellin lower lock on the river Barrow, County Carlow , Ireland, taken in January this year.
Sometime keeping a hold onto equipment that you like using and that work very well, is far more important that searching for the new. Endlessly upgrading equipment has become the norm, we live in an age of none stop upgrades yet now and again it is still possible to keep a hold of the old and trusted things.
This lens works very well and in many cases even better now that its used with a digital camera body.
It is a manual focus lens yet because it contains all the focus and aperture details on the lens barrel it is very easy to use, you can set it up for what is known as Hyper-focus and shoot all day like this.
I just love using this lens and get a real kick from the fact it still works so well.
Top side lock , Grand union Canal, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Ballyellin Lower lock, County Carlow, Ireland