Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lens Bubbles Is Moving

This will likely be the last post I write for my blog on Blogger.  After about 8 years, and 1327 posts, I have to say goodbye to Blogger and move on to my new home at www.lensbubbles.com.

It has been my goal to have my own domain and web site that I have more control over how I want to setup the site, and I finally ran out of excuses and did it. This is part of my plans for 2017.  The new site is not completely done and because it's my first time setting up a "real" web site, it will be a constant trial and error, but at least the blog section is up and running :)

I hope to see you at the new Lens Bubbles home at www.lensbubbles.com.  All future blog posts will be at http://lensbubbles.com/blog.

Candy Coloured Bokeh - Minolta Rokkor-QF 40mm f1.8 on Sony A7 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Home Brew Focus Helicoids

For a die-hard DIY lens fanatic, focus helicoids are indispensable.  I have written a few posts on this subject, and a DIY post on converting the Vivitar 2X Macro Teleconverter to a focus helcioid here. Since then, I have made a few more and I would like to share some thoughts on these.

Some home made helicoids

The Vivitar 2X Macro Teleconverter -- This is by far my favourite and most used focus helicoid. It has good extension at 17mm, and depends on how it's converted, the minimum thickness can be from 35mm (35mm- 52mm) to 52mm (52mm - 69mm) with my own conversions. The smoothness of this helicoid is unmatched by the cheap dedicated helicoid on the market.  Of course, due to its very thick nature, it's not usable on all lenses, but because the opening is large at around 55mm, and the inside diameter of 46mm, quite a few lenses can go through the tube and get very close to the sensor. The Kowa Prominar-16 50mm f1.2 projection lens is one example. This allows the lens to focus extremely close, and yet can achieve infinity focus. I have since acquired a few of these Vivitar converters. Shown below are some examples.

Vivitar 2X Macro Teleconverters in various configurations. Note the top left one is the most recent and the thinnest. These have different openings from M42 to 55mm to accommodate different sized lenses.

No Name 3X Macro Teleconverter -- This is my least liked helicoid. Technically, it's not really a helicoid. Instead, it uses a zooming mechanism and as a result, the smoothness is not quite the same. Another negative is that this helicoid does not extend; it's an internal focus type which limits its usefulness.  Consequently, I rarely use it. Not recommended as a frequently used tool but if you get it for a few dollars, by all means, add it to your tool box.

Converted to Sony E-Mount

Note the helicoid has an internal focus type. The lens you want to focus must be smaller than the diameter of the helicoid. This particular helicoid has an M42 mount on the front.

Yashica 50mm f2 -- This one is converted from a Yashica 50mm f2 lens. The kit lens that came with the Yashica FX and other entry level cameras. I have had a few of them and I have one converted just to see what it can do, and I like it quite a bit. The focus is very smooth, with a 52mm opening and relatively thin at 29mm when retracted. The extension is 7mm, is is a good compromise. So this one is 29mm-36mm helicoid. This is a good lens to use as a carrier for enlarging lenses. I originally planned to use it permanently for the Dallmeyer 50mm f3.5 enlarging lens, but I saw that it can be used as a general purpose helicoid, so I will be doing another one for the Dallmeyer lens in the future.

I modified the opening of the helicoid to accept both 52mm and M42 threads. Picture #2 below has more details.

Here you can see I have started to use screws to secure the mount in place. Sometime it works out really well, like in this case, but most of the time, it's nightmarish to get the holes aligned. 

This helicoid can take either 52mm or 42mm lenses. The 42mm thread is 5mm deeper into the helicoid and therefore won't accommodate all lenses, but for smaller lenses, this makes for, roughly, a 24mm-31mm helicoid.

Hanimex 28mm f2.8 -- I really like this one as it's so smooth in focusing, and it's the thinnest home made helicoid at 25mm. The extension is only 5mm so it's a bit of a disappointment. It won't allow very lose focusing, unless the lens used already has its own focus mechanism. Currently, the opening is 49mm as I have not modified it. Eventually it will have an M42 opening. The inside diameter of the helicoid is quite small at 36mm. This one is brand new and not yet used to take pictures yet.

Working on -- These two are being worked on. On the left is a Pentax-M 50mm f2 with glass already removed and ready for conversion. On the right is another Yashica 50mm f2 and it will have an M42 mount at the rear. This lens was taken apart years ago and I need to find the rest of the parts, especially the focus ring, otherwise I will have to make it myself.

In the queue for conversion.

To recap. Focus helicoid from lenses are a compromise. Most have very short focus travel (extension), and therefore won't allow very close focus, but the smoothness of them is their most alluring quality, which really adds to the enjoy of taking pictures.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Toronto Camera Show - Winter 2017

We are blessed that there are quite a few camera shows in Toronto every year. I try hard not to miss any, although sometimes I intentionally do not go, depending on the gear lust level. The show mostly about old camera gear, which is what I like best. In recent years, price of old stuff has gone up quite a bit, and many vendors are selling their stuff at eBay prices.  Despite all that, sometimes interesting items can be had, even cheaply.

Yesterday was another of these shows. Ever since I got my lathe, I look forward to these shows, as it's the good source of oddball lenses, rangefinders that I could get to hopefully convert to use on digital. I was hoping to find some broken, cheap rangefinders with large aperture lenses, and found exactly none, exept the Kodak Retina IIIc fitted with a slow Schneider-Kreuznach 80mm f4 lens. I am extremely happy as this particular model has been the object of my search for quite some time. The front cell of the lens on this camera has is interchangeable; by replacing the front lens group, one can put on another lens with different focal lengths, like a 80mm, or 35mm. I have a Rodenstock Heligon 90mm f4, which can be used with this camera (or the lens on this camera), which I have been dying to try out. Now all I have to do is to remove the lens from the camera and make it work on my Sony A7.

Zeiss Ikon with Opton Tessar 105mm f3.5. A beauty, no?

Another find from the camera show was a Zeiss Ikon folder with an Opton Tessar 105mm f3.5 lens.  I really hesitated on this one because it was quite expensive (for me) but the lens proved to be irresistable to my already weak will power so I gave in to my temptation. The camera is not really in working condition, but the lens is in beautiful shape, which is primarily what I am after. I have an Opton 75mm f3.5 which I really love, and I don't have a Zeiss Tessar in the 105mm focal length. It will be interesting to compare this one with the Ross London Xpres 105mm f3.8.

Very beat-up Retina IIIc with Schneider Longar 80mm f4. Note the rust but the lens is in very good shape.

Converted. The lens will be mounted on a 12-17mm focus helicoid. The lens itself has focus mechanism, so this lens can focus very close by using both focus.

Got a few old other folder camera lenses, including a Plaubel 18cm f4.5, a Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 105mm f4.5 (my third Radionar. The other two is 50mm f3.5 and 75mm f2.9).  Couple of large format Kodaks, a 6 3/8 inch f4.5 and a 7 1/4 f 4.5. Other misc bits include a few enlarging lenses and a Voigtlander Talon 100mm f2.8 projection lens, which I have already converted and is now mounted on my Nikon D810 :)

Best bargain of the day was a box of M42 2x teleconverters for a $1 each. No, I didn't buy these to use for taking pictures.  I bought them to use the mount for lens conversion.  I have already used two of them: one for the lens above, and the other is for the Voigtlander Talon 100mm f2.8 projection lens.

Overall, I think it was a quite a productive day. Enough toys to experiment until the next show in March :)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ross London Xpres 105mm f3.8 Nikon D810

One of the nice things about larger format lenses like the Ross London Xpres 105mm f3.8, is that their flange distance is often longer than most SLR camera mounts, and this makes them adaptable on DSLRs, even on Nikon cameras which is usually the least adaptable mount of all D/SLR cameras. This particular lens, having a very long flange, is even usable with the Vivitar Macro 2x Teleconverter helicoid.  I have a number of these Vivitar macro teleconverters, and I used one of them for the Nikon mount.  Even with the Vivitar focus helicoid, a 10mm spacer is required to make the lens focus to infinity.

This lens has one nice feature on its shutter: T setting. This setting allows you to trip the shutter and it stays open until the shutter is tripped again. This makes it unnecessary to remove the shutter blades in the lens, but at the same time, the shutter is easy to trip so often I have to re-cock the shutter and make it open again before use. A small inconvenience I can live with.

Ross London Xpres 105mm f3.8 on Nikon D810

I am not a big fan of using adapted lenses on DSLRs, having done that with the Canon for many years. They are nowhere as convenient as using an EVF on mirrorless cameras. But the Nikon D810 has a very nice optical viewfinder, and I find that I don't have much trouble getting critical focus, even with slower lenses. The non-swivel rear screen is still a big negative for some low angle shots. That said, I kind of enjoy using the D810 with some of the manual focus lenses. Aside from the nice viewfinder, the image quality is the biggest attraction.

Winter in the city - Xpres 105mm f3.8 on Nikon D810

Miss Toronto - Xpres 105mm f3.8 on Nikon D810

The Xpres 105mm f3.8 lens works really well with the D810, despite the high density sensor. So far, I am really, really liking this lens and how it renders pictures, even though I have only used it a few times. The bokeh is especially smooth and beautiful, but the lens is also quite sharp.  One thing that I have noticed, and that usually does not happen with the Sony A7, is I get more blurry pictures with the D810, even though I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/125s. This camera requires a much higher shutter speed to get sharp pictures.

I am looking forward to using this lens more, especially in the spring when we have more colours to fill the camera sensor.

Bokeh Samples - Xpres 105mm f3.8 and Nikon D810. This pictures need to be viewed at large size to appreciate the details.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

When Lens Conversion Goes Wrong, or Why Lenses with Auto Aperture Control Suck

I was somewhat encouraged by the semi-successful conversion of the Vivitar 40mm f1.7 from the Vivitar 35ES, so I ventured on to start another rangefinder that did not have aperture control: the Minolta Electro Shot.  This camera has a 40mm f1.8 lens but much larger than the Vivitar 40mm f1.7. Well, things didn't turn out as well as the Vivitar conversion.  The Electro Shot does not have separate shutter and aperture blades, like pretty much all other rangefinders from that era, but it employed a single shutter/aperture system. I didn't know this until the very end.

Lens Conversion Gone Bad

As I assumed the shutter and aperture blades were separate, and from experience that I gained, the shutter mechanism is usually accessible from the front. But when I disassembled the whole front, there was nothing.  All the controls are from the rear of the lens.  Long story short, in the process of trying to find the mechanism for aperture control, I mistakenly loosened three screws on top of the lens from the rear, and this caused the aperture/shutter blades to fall out of the lens :(  The timing and shutter/aperture control system is very complicated and I decided to just give up on aperture control. After some more thought, I further decided that I should make another Borg lens, with a Steampunk look.  Incidentally, my first Borg lens was also a Minolta.

From now on, I will stay away from rangefinders that have no manual aperture control on the lens. It's just not worth the trouble, unless the camera is dirt cheap or is unusual.  Of course, this could change if I gain enough skill to make more complex parts to enable the aperture in the lens.

Wilted Rose - Minolta Rokkor-QF 40mm f1.8 & Sony A7

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 - A Few Thoughts

2016 has seen the fewest blog entries since I started blogging a few years ago, but at the same time, I took a record number of pictures in the same year, mostly with my Sony A7.

Looking back, I did not spend any money on digital camera bodies in 2016. For some reason, I didn't have the urge to upgrade the cameras like I did in previous years.  Perhaps I have come to the realization that my Sony A7, Nikon D810 and the Olympus EM5 are still great cameras. The Nikon 1V I got was given to me in exchange of some work I did for a friend, and I really do not like that camera at all, for manual focus lenses.  Nikon has castrated the very feature I need, mainly, auto exposure for manual focus lenses, and I can't see myself using manual exposure for every freaking frame I take.  It's just not happening.  That's the reason I have not even bought any adapters for it. Really don't know what to do with the camera.  A shame really, as it has so much potential for small format lenses like D-Mount, C-Mount, and half frame lenses.  As an AF camera, it's quite nice, dynamic range of the sensor not withstanding.

The best thing I did in 2016, was the purchase of the micro lathe.  It has been only a short time, and the lathe is not perfect, but I got a taste of what I can do with such a machine, and I am hooked.  I really look forward to adapting more lenses with it.  In fact, I have a plan which I will talk about in another post :)

Last year also saw me amassed a large number of non-standard lenses and (mostly dead) rangefinders. My goal was to buy enough of these things for me to practice on, to make myself a more skilled lathe operator. So far, I have done about a dozen conversions, mostly on slower rangefinder lenses or on lenses that are already manually converted but with less than satisfactory results. The only thing that slows me down is the lack of time I have available. I think for simple conversions, I can do a pretty good job now.

I fully realized that my blog has become more niche and covers mostly non-standard lenses.  This may turn off some readers who may expect me to cover conventional mount lenses, but I find it in my interest to discover and try out these gems.  Sorry if this is not your cup of tea.  There are so many of these lenses out there and as many people don't realize they can use them on digital cameras.  If I can provide enough information to make some of these lenses live a second life, my goal is accomplished.

Photographically, 2016 was not a bad year for me.  No, my pictures have not improved,  but I enjoy taking them nonetheless.  Hopefully 2017 will be even better!

Streetcar on Queen St. East. Vivitar 40mm f1.7 & Sony A7

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Vivitar 40mm f1.7 from 35ES

I got this Vivitar 35ES rangefinder, rumored to be the same camera as the Minolta Hi-Matic S7 II, to see how hard it is to convert the lens which has Automatic aperture control to be used on the Sony A7.  The aperture is not manually adjustable, obviously, but it is not controlled by a geared motor like modern lenses are.  The aperture is still mechanical and I was able to link the aperture to the ISO Shutter Speed ring on the lens. Not perfect as there is no indexing, but it allows the aperture to be controlled.

Tried it out today and I am very happy with how it renders images.  More to come.

Vivitar 40mm f1.7 converted to Sony E-Mount

Delicious bokeh - Vivitar 40mm f1.7 & Sony A7

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Beauty Biokor-S 4.5cm f1.9 In Use

This lens turns out to be quite nice.  I mounted it on my A7 for about a week and shot a few hundred frames. I enjoyed it as a walk-around lens.  The Pentax helicoid provided a very versatile focus option from extreme closeup to infinity, all without having to add extension tubes.  The funky looking honey-combed defuser panel for the light meter cell adds a touch of vintage charm.  The only negative is the sticky aperture ring, and I did have to use it a few times for some pictures with a bit more depth of field.  Not a big deal, but an annoyance just the same.

I like the smooth bokeh from this lens.  Some very slight swirl when pictures are taken at certain distance, but overall very pleasing.  It flares quite easily, like most old lenses.  A hood helps a bit but not at all situations.  Overall, I think it was worth the effort of the conversion.  This lens produces nice results.

Reflection - Biokor-S 4.5cm f1.9 @ f1.9 & Sony A7

Slightly Swirly Background - Biokor-S 4.5cm f1.9 @ f1.9 & Sony A7

Nice Smooth Bokeh - Biokor-S 4.5cm f1.9 & Sony A7

Flare - Biokor-S 4.5cm f1.9 & Sony A7

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish my readers a very Merry Christmas!  Hope you have been good all year and Santa has brought you shiny new toys, hopefully with multi-coating :)

Have fun with family and friends and be safe!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ross London Xpres 105mm f3.8 from Ensign Selfix 820

I have heard/read about Ensign cameras, and how much the owners praise them, and how much would-be owners curse them for their relatively high price compared to others.  For me, I don't particularly care about the Ensign cameras, since I don't really shoot film, especially medium/large format film, but I have always been a big fan of Ross London lenses.  I have a couple of Xpres Wide Angle 5 inch f4 large format lens which I absolutely love; its lovely and unique bokeh and rendering sometimes leave me weak on my knees :)

Ross London Xpress 105mm f3.8

The Xpres 105mm f3.8 is another lens I have been eyeing for a while, but Ensign cameras are not common in Canada, at least I don't see it often in the used market/camera shows.  But, one finally showed up at a reasonable price, so I grabbed it, along with another folder camera sporting a Schneider-Kreuznach 75mm f3.5 Radionar (Triplet) lens, which we will talk about in another post.  The Ensign is in reasonably good condition, but as with most very old folder cameras, there always seem to be some problems, usually with a worn bellows, or slow/jammed shutter, as the case with this Ensign.  The camera is an impressively built beast.  Hefty and solid, that almost gives you an urge to pound nails with it :)

Xpres 105mm f3.5 and the Ensign Selfix 820

The camera/lens is obviously well used.  The previous owner(s) probably used it until it no longer works, as in its present condition.  I like well used camera/lenses; one must love the camera enough to have used it again and again.

The lens is easy to remove since it is held in place with only a retention ring. Despite the age, the optic is near perfect, except the rear element has a few scratches.  No haze that I could see, and the lens is coated, though probably not multi-coated.  One word of caution when setting the lens down, the rear element is not guarded and the glass will touch the surface.  Perhaps that's how the scratches on the rear elements came about.  So, put it down on the front, not the rear, if you don't want the rear elements scratched.

So far, I have not mounted the lens on the camera yet, but I am uber anxious to try it. The flange is long enough to be used on my Nikon D810, so perhaps I will be using it on the Nikon as well as the A7.

Stay tuned for further development :)