Monday, October 13, 2014

How to Mount the Xenon 50mm f2 from Diax IIb to NEX

macman asked how the Xenon 50mm f2 is adapter to the NEX in the last post so I have decided to write a post on how it's done, which is extremely simple.  This approach is applicable to the Retina-Xenon 50mm f2 I wrote about it here, once you have taken it out of the camera.

To use the lens, you will need the following:

  • Focus Helicoid, or an extension tube of about 35mm with a 52mm opening.  Since the lens has it's own focusing mechanism, the focus helicoid is useful to make focusing closer than using just the extension tube, but is not necessary.  However, for the Retina-Xenon, you will need the focus helicoid since the focusing mechanism is not there anymore.
  • A 52mm filter with the glass removed.  This filter ring will be glued to rear of the lens, which in turn will be screwed onto the focus helicoid or extension tube.
  • Epoxy of some kind.  I use J-B Kwik since it's strong enough, but if reversal is needed, I can cut the filter ring and the glue will come off with some force.  J-B Weld is much stronger and harder to remove later.
The 52mm filter ring is just slightly smaller than the rear of the lens.  You will need to sand off about 1/2 a millimeter inside the filter thread, like the picture below:

Sand off the threads inside the filter ring.  Click for larger.

Once the filter fits over the rear of the lens, apply epoxy in the inside of the filter ring, and then fit the filter ring over the rear of the lens.  Be sure the filter ring sits evenly.  Let the epoxy set.  If done correctly, it should look something like the picture below:

Filter ring attached.  Cick for larger.

Once the epoxy is set (I usually leave it over night), you can then mount the lens to either the extension tubes, or the focus helicoid:

Lens on Helicoid.  Click for larger.

The lens is now ready to use.  Mount it on the camera and enjoy!  If you have any questions, ask it in the comments section below.  I will answer as best as I can.

Ready to shoot.  Click for larger.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f2 from Diax IIb

Funny how things sometimes come together.  Today I was at the antique market and saw this rangefinder with the mount semi-detached, but on it is the Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f2 lens, just like the one from the Kodak Retina Reflex, except this one can be removed from the camera.  After some price haggling, the deal was done at $30; cheaper than the Kodak Retina.

At first I didn't know the lens was removable but a bit of Googling told me more about the Diax IIb. The camera body was in very bad shape, but thankfully the lens is great condition. After removing the lens from the camera, I mounted the lens the same way I did with the Retina-Xenon; with a 52mm filter ring at the rear, and then attached to the Yeenon 18-33mm focus helicoid.

Diax IIb with lens detached.  Click for larger.

Brothers: Retina-Xenon on the left, Diax IIb Xenon on right - Click for larger.

I briefly tested the Diax IIb Xenon 50mm f2 this afternoon, and I am overjoyed. This version of the lens is even slightly better than the Kodak Retina version.  At f2, the lens is sharp corner to corner, with just a bit of loss of contrast. One stop down, it's excellent.  As expected, there is just a bit of vignetting wide open but not worse than modern lenses. A nice bonus, the lens comes with a 14-blade (could be 13, couldn't count) aperture, whereas the Retina version has only 5 blades.

Like the Retina version, this lens renders bokeh with such silky and exquisite smoothness that I am quite enamored of. This could become one of my favourite lenses.

All pictures below were shot with the Sony A7 and the Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f2 lens from the Diax IIb, at f2.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wollensak 75mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar - Sample Pictures

I feel like a little kid in a candy store lately, because I have gotten quite a few lenses from the camera show and the antique market to play with.  Today I went out and shot with the Wollensak 75mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar lens.  This is a very small lens but like all Wollensak lenses, it's extremely well built. The lens has a 30mm thread size on the rear and I mounted a 30mm to 52mm step up ring, along with about 5 52mm filter rings on the Yeenon 18-33mm focus helicoid, it just attains infinity and yet provides a relatively close focus capability. So, close up is still possible to show off its pretty nice bokeh.  The near circular aperture should provide nice bokeh even when stopped down.

I expected the lens to be sharp, and it is, but the edges do not compare to something like a Schneider-Kreuznach Componen-s 80mm f4, or a Rodenstock equivalent. At about f11, the edges are very good, and wide open the centre and most of the frame is very sharp.  For $5, I think it's an excellent value. I certainly am not complaining :)

Bokeh - Wollensak 75mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Rope - Wollensak 75mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar & Sony A7. Click for larger.

More rope - Wollensak 75mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Rust - Wollensak 75mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Toronto Downtown - Wollensak 75mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f2

I have read a lot of good things about the lens used in the Kodak Retina Reflex, and the later Retina models, the Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f2. I bought a non-functional Retina Reflex from the last camera show and removed the lens to be used on my Sony A7. The whole process was not as hard as I thought and the lens was quite modular and easy to take apart. A 55-52mm step-down ring was nearly a perfect fit to cover the back of the lens, which in turn mounts to my favourite Yeenon 18-33mm focus helicoid.

There is only one problem: the shutter and the aperture are synchronized. I can not keep the shutter open AND change the aperture. I can have the shutter open, but only with the aperture wide open. All the pictures you see below are shot at f2. Eventually, I will open the lens to remove the shutter blades so that I can change the aperture, but for now, I am enjoying it at f2.

The lens is very sharp at f2 and renders pictures with lovely tones. Its bokeh is beautiful. It totally deserves all the praises it has earned. I do wonder though, if the later versions of the Retina cameras, like the IIa, IIc, etc, have the same lens design.

Match made in heaven?

Gardiner Expressway - Sony A7 & Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f2 @ f2

Dare to be different - Sony A7 & Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f2 @ f2

Full blossom - Sony A7 & Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f2 @ f2

Mellow Yellow - Sony A7 & Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f2 @ f2

Bokeh - Sony A7 & Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon C 50mm f2 @ f2

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Photo Set from the Meyer-Optik Primoplan 58mm f1.9

I have only used the Meyer-Optik Primoplan 58mm f1.9 once on the Sony A7, and very briefly. Took it out again the other day and spent a couple of hours shooting around the neighbourhood. This exercise brought back some pictures that remind me how good some of these East German gems are.
The Primoplan has a very beautiful and interesting bokeh but I don't think it justifies how much people are paying for one on eBay now. It's total insanity. I wouldn't buy one at these ridiculous prices but if you already have one, take it out and take some awesome pictures!  Just remember that this lens has very soft coating; be sure not to rub it too hard.  All the pictures below were shot wide open at f1.9 with the Sony A7.

Black & Yellow - Sony A7 & Meyer-Optik Primoplan 58mm f1.9. Click for larger.

White on Green - Sony A7 & Meyer-Optik Primoplan 58mm f1.9. Click for larger.

Red, White & Green - Sony A7 & Meyer-Optik Primoplan 58mm f1.9. Click for larger.

Punk garden gnome - Sony A7 & Meyer-Optik Primoplan 58mm f1.9. 

The Primoplan. You can see the coating is starting to go in the picture.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toronto Camera Show - September 2014

Went to the Toronto Camerama Camera Show today, which is basically a used photographic equipment flea market.  There are few of these shows each year with most of it near the end of the year. The show changed venue again but still hosted in a hotel, and it was just as crowded and difficult to move around as the last show.

I was hoping to find some interesting German glass to play with, but no luck, and ended up with half dozen Japanese lenses. Nothing against Japanese lenses, but they are just too common. Scored a Canon FD 35mm f2 S.S.C for a very good deal ($40), and I found out that this version is different than the one I already have. This one has a more normal convex front element, whereas the one I have been using has a concave front element, and very yellow, an indication that it might use radioactive elements in the glass. Will be interesting to see which is better.

FD 35mm f2 SSC Twins - the one I got today is on the left.

From the fun department, got a couple of Wollensak 75mm f4.5 enlarging Raptar lenses and a Commercial-Astragon from Russell, who owned a camera repair business before. I tried one of the Wollensaks today and it's very sharp wide open, as expected from an enlarging lens. I love the Wollensak lenses! The large format 210mm f6.3 lens, which has a German shutter but Japaness glass. I do look forward to trying it out but it will look huge when the lens barrel and focus helicoid and a hood is added.  $35 for the trio. So much fun for so little :)

Wollensak 75mm f4.5 enlarging lens and a large format 210mm lens from Russell.

I did find something that I wanted; a Kodak Retina with a Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f2 Xenon lens, though I was hoping for a later version.  I was happy to have found this one relatively cheap at $50. The winder does not work. I have full intention to remove the lens from the camera, but now I am hesitating because the camera is so beautifully made and in great shape. Maybe I will leave it the way it is.  Got enough lenses to play with anyway :)

The original Kodak Retina with Schneider 50mm f2 Xenon lens.

Another trio of lenses belong to the Takumar family.  I started my manual focus lenses with Takumars on the digital camera and they always have a spot in my heart, as my first SLR was a Pentax Program Plus :)  I have owned the Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 135mm f2.5 and the radioactive 50mm f1.4 before and they are very fine lenses. I didn't intent to buy them again, but the price seem reasonable (all three of them are $40 each). You will notice the 135/2.5 has a "huge" scratch on the front element. That's why it's so cheap and seemingly nobody wanted it. But from my shooting experience, and I had used lenses with worse glass condition but with pictures turned out fine, I bought it, because I know there won't be a noticeable effect, if any, and it came with original hood and case. Now I have two copies of the 105mm f2.8, but that's ok, it's an investment, like I have been telling my wife :).  Lots of people prefer the radioactive version of the Takumar 50mm f1.4 over other versions. I guess it's because the use of thorium in the glass usually makes the lens sharper? I don't know, but I know I won't be using often,

S-M-C 135mm f2.5, Super Takumar 105mm f2.8 and the radioactive 50mm f1.4.

There are couple more lenses I got from the show: Nikkor 105mm f2.5, non-AI version, which is in great shape but has some dust at the rear elements. Not enough to be concerned about. And the last lens is a Kiron 28mm f2 in OM mount.  I already have a few of these in various mounts. But I pick them up when it's cheap.

Another show next month, but I hope I will find something more interesting.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Some Images from my Favourite Wollensak 209mm f4.5 Raptar Copy Lens

The Wollensak 209mm f4.5 Raptar Copy Lens is one of my favourites enlarging/copy lenses.  The bokeh is pleasing, silky, and beautiful. Image quality is exceptionally good even wide open at f4.5.  I used to have a problem with it having hazy, white spot in the middle of the image, and it has been resolved by a foot-long hood.  The whole lens is about two feet long with the hood.  Looks very imposing, but works wonderfully.  I added a helicoid to the lens barrel to make it focus closer.  Here is how my first version of the lens look like.  Works nicely on full frame.

All pictures below were taken wide open at f4.5.

Curiosity - Sony A7 & Wollensak 209mm f4.5 Raptar Copy Lens. click for larger.

White Fence - Sony A7 & Wollensak 209mm f4.5 Raptar Copy Lens. click for larger.

Transformation - Sony A7 & Wollensak 209mm f4.5 Raptar Copy Lens. click for larger.

Dance of the Colours - Sony A7 & Wollensak 209mm f4.5 Raptar Copy Lens. click for larger.

More Bokeh - Sony A7 & Wollensak 209mm f4.5 Raptar Copy Lens.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2 Silver [M42]

I have two versions of this lens, the original 5.8cm f2 in Exakta mount, which I covered here, and here, is smaller than the silver, M42 version, which I had a couple of sample images here. Not really sure why, but I have been shooting with Carl Zeiss Jena lenses for the last couple of weeks, spending most of my lunch hours at the Toronto Music Garden.

The Biotar 58mm f2 is a wonder lens with silky, exquisite bokeh.  All the pictures below were shot to showcase how nice the bokeh of the Biotar is.

Pretty In Pink - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2. Click for larger.

Busy Bee - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2. Click for larger.

Young Leaves - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2.

Bokeh - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2.

Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2 with Cousins. click for larger

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Thought on the new Canon 7D Mark II

I briefly owned the original Canon 7D.  It was great camera for action, but unfortunately the image quality let me down and eventually I got rid of it, and replaced with the Canon 1D III. The new 7D Mark II looks like an impressive upgrade for the 7D.  The auto focus system seems to be greatly improved, and of course, that is one of the most important features for the camera of this kind. I think it's a worthwhile upgrade and will make a lot of Canon users happy.

Even though I don't use the 1D III all that much, but I can't help by thinking that maybe it's time to do the reverse; replace the 1D III with the 7D II.  Crazy, no?  One thing I am not too convinced is the image quality from the 7D II.  The sample images look impressive, but it's out of camera jpeg; what it looks like from RAW is still remains to be seen.

I am sure some people will complain about this camera without 4K video, but I don't believe this camera is aimed at the video segment. I just hope that the sensor will be much improved from the original 7D.

Afternoon reading -- Sony A7 & Voigtlander Velostigmat 10.5cm f4.5.

Monday, September 15, 2014

For the Love of Pancolar

I have been checking out some of the pictures taken by Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolars on Flickr, and that re-ignited my love for the pancolars. The last few days I was shooting with both the Pancolar 50mm f2 and the 80mm f1.8. For some reason, I like the rendering style of the Pancolar 50mm f2 better than the 80mm f1.8. The 50/2 has more distinctive rendering and is very sharp when stopped down just a bit. I wanted to get the 50mm f1.8 Pancolar for the last few years but that proved to be an illusive lens. There are couple of camera shows coming up so hopefully I will find one there, if not too expensive :)

Dreamy Yellow - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f2. Click for larger.

Empire Sandy - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f2. Click for larger.

Bokeh - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Monarch Butterfly - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Faded Beauty - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f2.