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Old lenses for dummies

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Reading the other threads in this section I have started to thinking about getting some old, cheap lenses

in flea markets here in my city, to play with. But since I am a total noob in the topic I thought it will be nice to have a place here

on the forum where people can post and read of hints & tips about the second-hand lens's market.

 

For example what you need to check before you buy an old lens, what types of adapters or other stuff you could need,

if some lenses need to be modified in order to be used on a digital fuji and other thigs like this.

 

Feel free to recommend some lens you love or that has a strange special effect you like, maybe adding some hints on the price

to expect and some photos taken with it.

 

Your experience will be really usefull to many of us

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So far I'm using a lot of old Pentax K-Mount lenses and a few M42 (screw mount).

 

I'm definitely in love with the russian Helios lenses, the Helios 44 has this wonderful swirly-antique effect (it's based on an old pre-war Zeiss design) and comes in many variations, some older ones with more (13 or 8) aperture blades, newer ones with 6 blades (but those are sharper). Most sought after are the Helios 44 M-2 (13 blades), M (8 blades), M-4 (sharp), M-6 (sharper). They can be found for 20-30 Euros on ebay, it's also worth searching for an old Zenit camera which came usually bundled with a Helios. The 44 M-2 is a bit more sought after, also the lenses with a lot of zeros as first digits in the serial number are rumored to be better and more expensive. But I'm quite happy with my regular ones. 

Anyway, they are mostly made with the M42 screw mount, a simple dumb adapter for Fuji-X will cost you about 15 Euros on ebay. Adapted, the 58mm F2 turns into an almost-perfect 87mm portrait lens. There are also Metabones Speedbooster and cheaper chinese "Lens Turbo" adapters which turn it back into it's original 58mm focal lenght and add an extra stop of light. 

 

Other than that, I recommend experimenting. Pentax K lenses around 50mm are good and usually not as expensive as vintage Canon/Nikon lenses. Third-party P-K lenses can be found very cheap, I got a lot of "Auto Revuenon" lenses for almost nothing, apertures down to 1.7 are usually very affordable (based on your luck 10-30 Euros)- only the 1.4/1.2 lenses are quite expensive in comparison. A good alround lens I liked very much is an Auto Revuenon 50mm f1.9, got it for my girlfriend for 17 Euros and it's sharper than my own f1.7 version.

 

I'll have to look if I find some photos I can share, so far text only. 

 

Edit: Here's a pic taken with the Helios 44 (M-6 I believe). The swirly effect is quite visible, even with the crop sensor. I plan to get a Lens Turbo soon for the full effect.

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Edit: Here's a pic taken with the Helios 44 (M-4 I believe). The swirly effect is quite visible, even with the crop sensor. I plan to get a Lens Turbo soon for the full effect.

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Nice. Very nice. I love the background effect.

 

Mike

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts and pic! Just ordered a like new Helios 44M-6 for 60 €. I am totally curious how good it will be!!

 

For 60€ it'd better be good. I got mine for half of that, not like new but in very good condition (and with a functional Zenit 12xp attached to it.

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Anyway, I'm sure you'll have fun, at the moment this is my only portrait lens. I recommend trees, forest, grass, dead leaves as background for the swirl, but I like the creamy bokeh without it too. 

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I have mixed feelings about digital photography and adapted lenses.

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I understand that, especially in this thread, my stance won’t find much sympathy since the participants are obviously enthusiasts, so go easy with the flack! Exchanging opinions is the point of a forum, not being right or wrong or winning arguments.

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Using adapted lenses somehow makes me think of having a formula one car with the parking brakes slightly pulled while racing  (  

/uploads/emoticons/default_wink.png">  there is no parking brake on a formula one and for a good reason!).

 

You have a camera capable all sorts of functions ( which you no longer have ) implying a communication between camera and lens ( including some software correction of the specific lens that we are using as opposed to a more “ general” one” chosen when you tell the camera which adapted focal length you are using, so the camera applies a general, un-targeted, correction).

 

All of this produces some limitations ( ok, I respect your choice) and might have some ill effects on maximum achievable quality because the lens is not specifically corrected by the camera software ( it does so also on raw files not only jpeg’s) also because the lenses used weren’t made for the specific digital photography use and weren’t optimized for the sensor that you are using.

 

It I have tried several lenses on my X-E1 ( and have my thoughts on this having been the cause of some dirt on the sensor)  but the Helios 58mm, the Takumar 50mm and the Chinon 28 that I have used didn’t impress me.

 

Yes the helios bokeh  

/uploads/emoticons/default_rolleyes.gif">  was fun for a couple of shots but then it became and end itself and not a means to an end. Clearing the radioactive Takumar was also interesting but the pictures were no better than with other lenses. The Chinon was not much of a muchness anyway.

 

Anyway, I understand this is fun and games and that there has to be some form of satisfaction in using these lenses that I am not really understanding.

 

 

About buying them.

 

 

Despite the fact that now many people are aware of the fact that lenses which were useless until not so long ago have been resurrected and all seem to have a market now, it is still possible to buy for very little money these lenses at car booth sales.

 

In my experience spending 60€ for an Helios is ... a lot of cash! If adaptive photography is thrifty as much as a good deed celebrating the “ legacy” lenses, you can do a lot better than that!

 

Anyway, in answer to OP:

 

 

Check for grease or oil on the aperture blades or in the lens. Cleaning it is NOT always necessary but it is NO fun!

 

Check for fungus ( looks like cracks) in the glued element of the lens.

 

Check for dust particles most old lenses will have some unless they have had a VERY protected life.

 

Check that the focussing helicoid is smooth and doesn’t feel “ gritty” or has any hesitations in the action.

 

Takumarks ( and other lenses) might be yellow because they contain radioactive elements which get yellow-brownish in time.

 

 

It takes a bout two days with an IKEA special led lamp to clear them or very long exposure in the sun (if the lens becomes too hot the glued elements might detach)

 

Adapters can be cheap or expensive, your call, the turbo adapters make you lose definition (!!!) but give the same look in terms of their nominal focal length on a reduced size sensor ( so a 35 stays a 35 and doesn’t become a 50).

 

Turbo adapters CANNOT be used with all type of lenses. Those which protrude inside too much cannot be used with those adapters!

 

 

Remember that long adapted lenses will have thick lens elements which add a lot of dispersion that is not beneficial to the quality and contrast of the images.

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I have mixed feelings about digital photography and adapted lenses.

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You're making some valid points, and adapting lenses - especially the cheaper non-Leica ones - isn't for everyone. My usual always-on lens was the Fuji 35 1.4, until someone stole my camera and I had no money to buy all my stuff back.

Of course you have a super-sharp autofocus glas of much better optical quality. One should never assume to be able to outsmart the market and get something as great as a new Fuji lens for almost nothing. 

However, first off it's of course a matter of taste. If you're looking for technical perfection, tack sharpness, optimal lens correction, just don't. 

 

However, if you want to do some artsy stuff, play around, look for a vintage look, there's not much keeping you. I did it for fun first until my Fuji glass got stolen, then I also used adapted lenses more and more for everyday stuff (the only Fuji lens I still have is the XC 16-55 which is just not much fun to use). But after a while I started asking myself if, for my kind of photography, I should really buy the Fuji lenses back because I got so used to the old glass and it's more fun. 

 

Some more personal points: I'm perfectly used to manual film cameras and was never happy with speedy DSLRs, the X100 was the first digital camera I loved shooting with - because it was like my old film cameras and I understood it immediately. So manual lenses are also very natural to me. Not to mention that even the Fuji lenses were more reliable in manual focus during low light/concert photography. 

 

Another thing - I personally think the trend goes too much towards over-sharpness. Everyone with their DSLR want their photos to look like medium format with Contax lenses used to be, unnaturally detailed and super professional. I'm not looking for that really, I always liked photos that are a little more "down to earth", natural, not really perfect. As for sharpness, I guess the photo I posted above is pretty much the max I need, it's of course shot wide open so I could maybe get a little more out of the Helios, but to me it's just fine especially for a portrait. If I was into architecture I'd never touch this stuff.

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Anyway, I'm rambling. I'd always recommend a good Fuji lens first, but if you have a few coppers left - go to ebay, have some fun, just don't spend and expect too much. 

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For me adapting (old) lenses makes totally sense!!! I'm no portrait, model etc. shooter so about 1000 € for the XF56 or the XF90 is too much for me (because I use that focal length too rarely). I shoot everything like many others here. If I want good quality shots I use the XF35 or the XF18-55 which are great! And if I ever take a portrait of a person (and SOMEtimes I actually do) then I use a cheap old lens that gives the pictures a very special character especially cause of a nice bokeh. The old Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 is very sharp I think even wide open. Like Casa mentioned before sharpness isn't everything!!! I take pictures cause of the picture itself. I will never say: "Look at this totally ugly photo it is sooooo incredible sharp! Sharper than in real! Wow!" It's the same like the megapixel war! But that's a different kettle of fish.

Here are three pictures (click to enlarge) taken with different lenses and I think they are all very sharp (enough sharp). The first one was taken with a 135mm at 1/80s. Look at the micro (focus point) it's sharp (and it isn't even the full resolution)! And that with a 40€ lens!

Up by KwyjiboVanDeKamp, auf Flickr

Bright-eyed contentment by KwyjiboVanDeKamp, auf Flickr

Whistle by KwyjiboVanDeKamp, auf Flickr

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I am afraid that I like sharp pictures when they have to be or not when they need not being, but I think that there are 1000 and one manners to unsharp sharp pictures an not one to sharpen and unsharp photograph.

 

But it is not only about sharpness, there is more to it.

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I agree with you milandro, if one is looking for best performance and best of the tecnology this is not what will

make you happy.

 

For me at the moment it is just a cheap way to try to experiment with ma X-T1 since I am a student with no money XD

 

Want I to buy the incredible 16mm f/1.4 or the 35? YES totally

/uploads/emoticons/default_sad.png"> but I have 25 € to buy one of

this old lenses that wouldn't give me the great performance of fuji glass, but will deliver some nice shot till I wait for a job and more

money and I got that going for me, which is nice [cit.]

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By the way... today I went out for shopping and found this beauty in a flea market, zenit 12xp + helios 44M-4 for for a really cheap price

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tried it with bulb pose and both seams to work, at the moment I am not very interested in the camera, so I will probably sell it soon and

get an adapter for the lens.

 

By the way, maybe it's a stupid question but, why adapters M42 to fuji X are so thick with respect to other adapters?

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Cheers, there is nothing wrong with saving money these days!

 

The Zenith E was my first 35mm camera ( Before I had used my fathers’s Voigtländer Bessa 6 x9 and a Diana Flash ( plastic) 6 x 6 )  and this one you have is one of the newest. If the lens is clean it is gonna perform well and cheaply for all your portraits.

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Cheers, there is nothing wrong with saving money these days!

 

The Zenith E was my first 35mm camera ( Before I had used my fathers’s Voigtländer Bessa 6 x9 and a Diana Flash ( plastic) 6 x 6 )  and this one you have is one of the newest. If the lens is clean it is gonna perform well and cheaply for all your portraits.

 

Thanks

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By the way, maybe it's a stupid question but, why adapters M42 to fuji X are so thick with respect to other adapters?

 

Don't know if this helps: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flange_focal_distance

 

M42 has a flange focal distance of 45,46mm. The Fuji-X of 17,7mm. So the difference is 27,76mm. An adapter (M42 to Fuji-X) always has to have this thickness.

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M42 has a flange focal distance of 45,46mm. The Fuji-X of 17,7mm. So the difference is 27,76mm. An adapter (M42 to Fuji-X) always has to have this thickness.

 

After posting the question I made some research by myself and came on the same wiki page.

 

I think you are right, because searching for an adapter on amazon I see that, for example FE to FX or PK to FX are much more

narrow, and in those case the difference is only 0.3mm and 10mm respectively

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By the way... I opened this thread not only for me, so if someone want to share suggestion on other lenses he's wellcome

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Lens adapters will always introduce extra points of error. Due to tolerances the lenses will seldomly be 100% correctly aligned. Roger Cicala of LensRentals wrote some nice article about the subject http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2013/09/there-is-no-free-lunch-episode-763-lens-adapters

 

However, I am not always interested in the utmost sharpness. Looking at my skills, there are usually worse imperfections in my photos than slight decentering... :-)

I like the slowing down that manual lenses bring, not quite unlike listening to LPs rather than mp3s.

 

Also, do not forget one can use the imperfections to one's advantage as well. In low light, manual lenses tend to hunt much less than AF ones *grin*.

 

So, for a couple of tenners you're ready to go. And you can make it as expensive as you like, but be careful for GAS.

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I decided to use Canon FD lenses on my X-T1, I only have the 50mm f1.4 using the metabones adapter without AF but the results are just stunning, tack sharp if you get used to using MF but all the options on the camera help a lot, focus peaking being my fave. Canon FD lenses can be bought brand new old stock from ffords photographic at decent prices although my 50mm was from a German seller on ebay, I paid £100 for a minter.

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@sir_c

I read your link only today, and it has some interesting poins I didn't know about before.

 

That said I knew that an old lens would have been a compromise and didn't expect fuji IQ, but I see your point.

Probably if one is searching for a good landscape lens or overall good quality without compromises, 25€ lenses + 11€ adapters

aren't a good choise XD

 

When my adapter will arrive next week I will see what this combo can deliver

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A Speed Booster can fill the gaps in the X-mount lineup. This is specially true if one has legacy lenses. I really like the 105mm focal length, and bought Nikon's f/1.8 back when I was doing a lot of shooting for the music industry. It is highly corrected for wide-open photography and with the Booster becomes an f/1.2 with the full 105mm coverage, as if it were on a full frame camera. The Speed Booster acts like a tele-extended in reverse. Imagine the 56mm Fujinon as a 70mm f/1.2. I also have a 28mm PC-Nikkor shift-lens that works fine. The 105mm was the primary performance lens since I was able to work within the barrier, but on occasions where I needed a longer lens I covered it with a Vivitar f/3.0 200mm Series 1—again sharp wide open—with a lovely f/2.2.

 

On the other hand, I just bought a Samyang 8mm fisheye. It does come in an X-mount version, but I chose it in an F-mount with a removable hood. On my D700, it more than covers the frame vertically, but lots of space on each side of the circle horizontally. Most of the time, I will choose the X-Pro1, but the D700 is also an option. I was delighted to find that the X-Pro1 in Panoramic mode fully corrects for fisheye curvature and the resulting image is spectacular. The Speed Booster duplicates what I get on the D700, so is not terribly useful.

 

The fisheye was so wide that I could not help but include my shadow.

 

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I stole borrowed some ideas from Bill Fortney's blog (www.billfortney.com) and purchased an old (1980s) Nikon 300 f/4.5 lens.

 

Works great with focus peaking and a $25 Fotodiox adapter.  Gives me a 450mm FOV and more reach than my 55-200 can achieve. Not perfect as my MF skills are lacking - but with decent DOF it's possible to get some good shots.

 

I'm looking forward to Fuji's 100-400 offering next year but until then this works. I'd love to try the Nikkor 400/3.5 but don't want to spend $1000 right now.

 

Couple of photos with zero artistic merit as I sat on my back porch playing with the lens and X-T1.

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I have a question for you guys... I noted that my adapter comes with four adjustments screws. They are meant to do fine

centering of the lens in the adapter.

 

How can I know if it's something I need to do and in what kind of effects can a non-centered lens incur?

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I bought a Nikon 300 4.5, same/similar to the one Jeff Kane uses. With focus peaking it works very well and I'm satisfied with the results. However, manual focusing has climbed my list of things to improve because of that lens...

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