Gear down, gear up.

(Note: through dint of major effort I am avoiding commenting on life in general at this moment and instead concentrating on just one of my many problems.)

For the sake of argument let’s say my Nikon P610 no longer works at all. This is not yet true, but like the Kodak P850 and V1003 before it the Nikon’s functions have become erratic and the resulting images less than ideal. It is inevitable that it will fail altogether at some point. I already can not rely on it, which is a shame because it is an excellent camera. Was.

So, what to do about losing my #1 piece of equipment?

First of all the key reason why the P610 took so many pictures for me: the fantastic zoom range. My photography involves me being out and about and seeing things near and far. Often very far. As such I need to be able to switch from close up (not just wide-angle) to telephoto quickly. I can stand in one spot and see a butterfly on a flower right in front of me and a bird in a tree yards away. Thus the extreme zoom lens is an important feature for me.

Right. So replace it with another comparable camera, yes? No. Why not? Three reasons:

1). There aren’t any exact matches. The newer versions from Nikon are ridiculous in their zoom ranges, larger and heavier, and burdened with extra features which add no functionality. Other units from Canon and Panasonic have less zoom but as much ‘technoglitz’ and none have a guarantee of lens quality. The ol’ P610 quite spoiled me for its lens and newer offerings, even more expensive ones, have not shown to be as good quality.

2). Prices are nuts. The P610 cost roughly $400 new and whereas we can expect a bit of inflation the P1000 replacement is 4X that price. The Canon SX70 is 2X. The only thing comparable is the Panasonic FZ80, and it has other faults.

3). “To thine own self be true” – Polonius. In researching dealing with this problem I naturally turned to my current arsenal of cameras to see which had the best potential for stepping up to the plate to pinch-hit for the Nikon. The truth is none of them quite cut it, but there was a recurring theme among certain ones; namely the EVF models wherein even the best (Sony a6000) is difficult for me to use with my failing eyesight. The optical finders are much larger and brighter and easier to see, so buying another camera with an EVF would be like pretending I haven’t got a vision problem.

How bad is that problem? There is currently an optical puzzle making the rounds of the Internet where you’re supposed to read the number in a swirled pattern. My left eye can see five of the seven digits. My right eye can not discern any one them. Yes, it’s that bad. I have taken to ‘resting’ it with the eye patch as much as possible so that when I do need depth perception or increased peripheral vision it can be used. This is incurable and only goes in one direction. It does not help that most cameras are made to be used with the right eye. The DSLRs are a little easier to switch with owing to the finder being basically in the middle of the camera instead of on one side.

Now the interesting thing is that the Panasonic FZ80 is available for <$400 right now. But see problems 1, 2, and 3 above. Only the price and my boredom caused me to look at it at all. Anyway I can’t afford even that.

So I’m back to trying out my existing cameras. None of them has the ultra-long telephoto ability. Going back to #3 I have to wonder if that matters since I can’t spot those far away birds now anyhow. Mostly I triangulate on the sound and then scan the trees where I think one is for movement to zoom in on. Usually by that time the bird has flown off, and so have its descendants.

Objectively the Sony a6000 isn’t suitable even if I spent $1,000 on a long lens for it, which I’m not going to do. Good though the camera is I have troubles using it beyond just the EVF issue as outlined above. It’s a shame because it is a good camera and I like it save the few operational flaws (which are more problems with me than with it).

The Lumix ZS60 is out because of the EVF, the short focal length range, and the poor quality lens.

I like using the Olympus E410 but guess what? There are no lenses available for it because the four-thirds format was supplanted by the micro-four-thirds system. So I should go out and buy an OM? Not too bloody likely that would happen! Besides which changing lenses out is not as convenient as simply zooming from one extreme to the other.

Of course the Canon G11 and 1Ds aren’t at all suitable for daily use as the former is fixed lens with a limited range and the latter weighs nearly as much as a compact car as well as not having a long focal length lens.

This leaves the Canon T100, which also lacks telephoto lens range. That costs a ton of money, and again this is a compromise because even with it you don’t have that wide-to-telescope-like focal length range.

If only they built a DSLR with a 1/2.3″ sensor! But they don’t and won’t so that’s the end of it.

Oh I didn’t mention my Pentax K100Ds. The reasons why should be obvious.

Since the equipment can’t/won’t/doesn’t exist the only choice is to compromise on style. I already find it frustrating when I go out with the ‘wrong’ camera and see something that it can’t get an image of (the other day it was a pileated woodpecker on a power pole when I had the G11 which doesn’t have a long enough zoom). Now I’m going to have to give up on shots because I can’t change lenses fast enough and don’t have long enough focal length.

This is a problem that has no solution. Just like all the others.

Frustration. (Olympus E410)

Low-cost lens cavalcade BONUS!

This is not one of the lenses from the Great Deal. I bought this off ego-Bay before they branded me Public Enemy Number One and forbade all interaction. It wasn’t as cheap as the deal lenses on an individual basis were, especially not after having to buy an adaptor for it. What is it? It’s a Super Albinar 28mm f2.8 in Canon FD mount:

Odd lens out.

This is one of those “store branded” lenses made by who-knows-whom, in this case for photo retailer Albi’s. I originally got it thinking it could be adapted to the Canon T100, but to do that correctly requires an expensive adaptor with a piece of questionable-quality glass in it to get the focusing re-aligned to where infinity isn’t 2″ away. So I ponied up another $20 to fit it to the Sony and tested it alongside the other lenses.

As a ‘scene lens’ it does alright. Try to ignore the recurring spots on the image sensor.

I usually do not shoot with wide-angle lenses. Yet I seem to have collected up two 28mm ones, an M42 mount and this one in Canon FD, as well as a 24mm Vivitar. All three, it turns out, are perfectly good lenses. That’s the thing with store-branded equipment; you never know until you try it if it is any good. It could be made by a quality company but the price-point demands of the retailer can compromise performance. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.

Nothing to complain about here.

In this instance the luck is with us. Nothing wrong with the colour or contrast, and the controls work fine (even though the adapted mount is fiddly and you have to check to be sure everything is locked and the aperture actually stops down properly when you turn the ring). But is it sharp?

Full image
Crop 640 x 427 from 100%
Larger than life.

Uh, I think we’ll take that as “yes it’s sharp”.

Under some circumstances there is ‘fringing’ and other signs of chromatic aberration. But it is not a dominant characteristic that shows up all the time.

Odd tracks.

Over-all I’d rate this lens as very good and even though it’s not a focal length I typically use I have got some pretty good pictures out of it – some more of those coming later. Of course I’m going to keep it, because I can’t actually unload any of my surplus equipment now (thanks ego-Bay, may you rot in hell).

I would like to do some more ‘testing’ of some of these old lenses, but circumstances right now are extremely limiting and the future isn’t looking very good either.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #10

Now we come to the last of the ten (usable) lenses I got in the great deal, the Asahi Pentax Super Takumar f3.5 135mm.

Saving the best for last.

This is a lens I’ve wanted for a long time: it is the ‘missing’ member of the ‘standard trio’ of lenses for my Pentax Spotmatic 1000. Back in the day when I was using this as my main camera I managed to obtain a (radioactive) 35mm Super Takumar wide-angle to go with the 50mm standard lens, but could not afford the 135mm version. Instead I purchased a much cheaper 135mm f2.8 Vivitar, which I still have. Now through the good fortune of one deal I have the Pentax telephoto. There are longer Super Takumar lenses, and shorter ones too (I also have a 28mm), but the combination of 35-50-135 was considered a ‘proper kit’ of lenses in that age of film SLRs. There is also an f2.8 version of the 135mm, but that is not the one I have found.

So let’s see how well it works.

Duncan in the snow. What a 135mm lens is meant for.

The next photo was taken on a cloudy day, yet contrast and colour are good. Sharpness is nothing to complain about either, and no sign of chromatic troubles. But let’s push the limits.

The full view.
640 x 427 segment of the upper chickadee.
640 x 427 segment of the lower chickadee.

Now when we do the digital zoom thing we see sharpness falling off and chromatic troubles arise. Not as bad as some of the other lenses recently tested, though. But is this how the lens would typically be used?

The neighbour’s house.

If you don’t zoom in digitally everything is fine, especially in bright light when you can stop down to f8 (the ‘non-existent’ sweet spot for this lens). I shot quite a few ‘standard’ pictures and found it to be more than adequate under normal conditions.

The lens can do quite well.

Although 135mm is quite short for my usual photography I can see there are times when this lens would be just the right thing.

When all the elements come together …

I rate this lens as very good. Even though the performance has some shortcomings, they only appear when it is pushed to perform under less-than-ideal conditions. What’s more the actual handling of the lens (focus and aperture rings) is the usual high-quality of Super Takumars, so I have no complaints on operation.

Well that’s the last of the ‘deal lenses’. Of course they were not all the equipment I got in the deal, but much of it really isn’t of any use to me. The question remains: was all of it together worth the money?

Notice I haven’t yet revealed how much I spent.

What did I get that I will continue to use? A couple of cases and three lenses: the 28mm Vivitar, the 58mm Helios, and this 135mm Super Takumar. Now, what is a lens worth?

One of the on-line sources I follow has posted a list of “the best M42 lenses for $150-$300”. That’s per lens, and even the low end is expensive by my standards. Okay, I’m a cheapskate. So what would you be willing to pay for any one of those lenses (assuming you wanted one of them)? Half the ‘starting price’ mentioned in the article (i.e. $75) perhaps?

How about $60 for the whole boiling?

Come to that, I’ve probably had that much money’s worth of fun playing with the lenses and other things.

And I intend to have more fun with some of it in the future.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #9

Here we are at one of the most hyped lenses in all of photographic history: the 58mm f2 Helios M44-2!

Is it as good as the tales it generates?

I say “most hyped” because it is all over the Internet in its many incarnations to the extent where it has become legend. Or perhaps myth. You see the history behind its legend includes a certain factor which is largely ignored these days, if not edited out completely: it’s cheap. The truth is this Biotar-based design was churned out in the Soviet Union for years in large numbers, making it highly available and, originally, not very costly. So we start with a good lens design, make it in vast quantities over a long time, and the next thing you know word gets out that you can get the equivalent of a Zeiss lens for pocket change.

Yeah, well … currently there are three available near where I am and the asking price is anywhere from $90-$150. Not exactly cheap for a 50-year-or-so-old lens of dubious quality and origins. Fortunately mine came at the bottom of the lens deal box so I was not out a lot of money to try it. I would have been sad to pay today’s asking price for one of these. Honestly they used to be offered up for like $10.

But is it worth any price at all? Good question. Setting aside the fan-base hyperbole and the coolness of having a “commie lens” (not so cool in the post-USSR era which has made Russian goods more readily accessible), just how good is it? (We must also ignore the manual-only aspect because that is part of why you get this sort of lens in the first place.)

Full disclosure: my example, built in the KMZ factory and thus supposedly one of the superior editions, is damaged. Some previous idiot stored it with no rear cap and so there are a couple of quite noticeable chips on the rear element. As you probably know a small fault on the back of a lens turns into a bigger problem than it would on the front because of the ratio between the two ends. Mine is also stiff to focus to the point where it has a tendency to unscrew in its mount instead. There is also some oil visible on the diaphragm blades.

Nevertheless, it shoots pictures.

Snow on trees scene.

At 58mm on the Sony a6000 it’s the equivalent of 87mm full frame, which is not a focal length I typically use.

Better close than far.

With good lighting conditions the contrast and colour are pretty good. As light falls off the rendering is not so spectacular. So how is the all-important sharpness?

The full image.
Cropped segment of 100% image.

Not bad, especially considering the damage. It’s no Super Takumar though. Nor is it a real Zeiss Biotar (yes I have used one). With certain lighting conditions you can see some chromatic problems, despite the fact this thing has a ‘built-in’ lens hood due to the deeply recessed front element.

Just a ‘snapshot’.

It’s clunky to use, make no mistake. Not smooth and the rings are no pleasure to handle either. With the mount adaptor it’s quite a handful of lens. Over-all it has a sort of “arty” aspect to it, albeit not one that I find particularly pleasing (especially not given the quality of operation). No, I did not even try to judge the you-know-what cliché effect because I’m not interested in that. Such would be akin to evaluating a flare filter or something, and not in keeping with the straight-up lens testing I’ve been attempting here.

Artistically viable.

I’m giving the Helios 44-2 a “good” rating, and would not be surprised to find that other copies of this same lens might rate very good as it has potential (a number of sites have mentioned some significant variations in performance and quality depending on the place and year of manufacture as well as the actual changes made).

Right now it is sitting with a front and rear lens cap on, tucked into a hard leather snap case in a drawer. I probably won’t be using it much, but of the ten lenses I acquired in this deal it is definitely one of the better ones. And if the current asking prices are in any way based on reality it’s one that makes the whole purchase worthwhile on its own.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #8

If anyone ever listened to my advice I’d probably tell them something like “don’t spend a lot of money on old telephoto and zoom lenses”. The reason for this is that lens design has improved greatly over the years, and the longer focal lengths have benefited the most. For example this entry’s test subject is an old Vivitar 300mm f5.6.

One long and heavy lens.

This is a large lens. It weighs in just under two pounds and does quite a job on the tripod trying to hold it steady. If this were mounted on the Canon 1Ds it would be an unmanageable 5+ lbs. of equipment. It is also a ‘slow’ lens at only f5.6, but at 300mm it’s the kind of focal length that is suited to much of my photography. By the way the “P&B” on the front of the lens is for Ponder & Best, the ‘maker’, who started using the Vivitar name in the 1960s – when this lens probably dates from given its design. In fact their equipment was made by other companies under license. I have a Vivitar 135mm f2.8 lens that is excellent, and also a 24mm f2.8 (acquired in the same deal as this long lens) which also performs very well. This 300mm, however, is not as good.

A “medium shot” of the Nissan.

Sharpness is lacking, contrast is low, colours are dull, and chromatic aberration shows up too often. Despite this it is possible to get decent pictures with it, but you need just the right conditions – such as bright light so you can use f8 and a tripod because hand-holding this beast is a challenge.

Full image of a black-capped chickadee.
100% segment of the last image. Cute little bird (with a sunflower seed in its beak), but the detail is fuzzy not feathery.
With some effort it can render a decent image.
A cap wearing a hat – of snow.
With enough light, a tripod, and the proper alignment of all the stars in the universe …

Although it is possible to get a good picture from it, most of the time it fails. It’s hard to use too, due not only to its large size and great weight but also looking through a maximum aperture of only f5.6 is difficult for my fading eyesight. I have a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 that is smaller, lighter, sharper, and has better colour & contrast. Over-all I can only rate this lens as “fair”. It doesn’t even have any particular characteristics that make it interesting, unless you like schlepping around a lens that can double as a piece of weight-lifting equipment.

A few words on lens extenders

(This in an age when people can’t understand the concept of effective focal length and wonder why their lenses aren’t physically that long, and “professionals” declare there’s no such thing as depth-of-field or aperture sweet spot.)

Three of a kind: various lens extenders in M42 mount.

The lens extender is a laughingly simple concept: stick a magnifying lens on the back of your regular lens and voilà – you have a longer focal length!

They were very popular back in the film SLR days because they were the cheap alternative to buying a medium telephoto to complete your ‘kit’: you bought the camera with its ‘normal’ 50mm lens, a wide-angle lens of usually 35mm, and finally either a 135mm telephoto or for a lot less money a 2X lens extender that magically transformed your 50mm into 100mm. (Hey you could buy the 35mm lens, a 1.5X extender, a 2X extender, and a 3X extender and save even more money. But I guarantee you wouldn’t like the results at 315mm equivalent.)

This works, after a fashion. But as simple as the concept is there are some obvious built-in flaws. Obvious if you understand the basics of lens design, that is. For one thing the added magnification also increases any flaw inherent in the base lens. More so than if the same flaws were present in a lens manufactured as a longer focal length to begin with. For another the extenders add in their own flaws, both in terms of the quality of the product and the inescapable problems of their functional design.

Let’s discuss those. To start with they ‘use up’ light. Everyone knows that as you move a lens away from the image plane the amount of light available there decreases. You can demonstrate this with an extension tube. The principle can be expressed as the difference between an f stop and a t stop; with the tube or extender the f stop remains constant (focal length divided by aperture diameter) but the light on the film or sensor is less intense so compensation must be made. You see the opposite effect with so-called “speed boosters” which in essence are the inverse of an extender (a concave lens as opposed to a convex one) because they concentrate the light on the image plane. (Note you also don’t see the compounding of other problems with the speed boosters because they operate in the opposite direction, as it were. I should also point out that the purpose of speed boosters is mainly to reverse the “crop factor” effect of using less-than-full-frame sensors.)

The other major problem is that extenders refocus light that has already been manipulated to fall on the image plane in a certain way. As such the effort that went in to edge-to-edge sharpness in the lens is now challenged by being redirected in new pathways. This gets complicated because how severe the affect is on the final image depends not only on the quality of the extender itself but on the design and quality of the original lens. Thus extenders work better with some lenses than they do with others. For best results you’d use a high quality lens and extender from the same manufacturer that were meant to be used together. Even then “best results” may not be as good as using a lens that is the equivalent focal length in the first place.

Amongst the selection of accessories I recently acquired were two lens extenders (see first picture). One is a 2X Royal brand (on the right) which I never heard of, and the other is a 2X-3X Vincor brand (center) which I also never heard of. It doesn’t matter much because not only did I already have a 2X Vivitar (on the left) of fairly good quality but I don’t bother to use even that one due to the poor results as outlined by the above description of extender function.

The thing is, that 2X-3X Vincor is intriguing. It has a dial on it which shows the f-stop equivalent in a little window for a given aperture. It is not a fixed chart, but a stop-by-stop conversion shown one at a time. Odd, that. Odder still is that I can not see any way of shifting between the two magnifications. The lens within is spring-loaded and moves back to front and pops back instantly, but there is no apparent ring or lever or whatever to bring about this effect for when it is in use on the camera; it can not be made to stay in 3X mode. Either I am missing something obvious or it is. I would think it should be the one twist ring, but that has no means of affecting the position of the glass inside. In fact the scale revealed through the window changes to a different one for the 3X compensation when you move the lens, but not the other way around. I’ve had it apart and can see no sign of what mechanism is supposed to be employed to bring about the change in magnification.

Not that it matters as I’ll never use it, I’m just curious as to how it was supposed to work.

(By the way I had a 1.5X extender for my Exakta equipment. It too saw little use.)

This has nothing to do with the post; it’s just a leftover image that I like. Sony a6000 and Vivitar 135mm f2.8 lens.

Miscel-LENS-eous

Dear Folk;

The weather here remains abominable. We had more snow on Thursday and now the total is around 2 feet (about 60 cm). Temperatures remain below zero Fahrenheit (less than -18 Celsius). By the time you read this I will either be dead or out shooting more pictures. I sure haven’t been doing much photography in this weather! As such the lens testing series is on hold, which is a shame as it’s nearly complete and I’m sure you’ll all be glad when it’s over.

Bleak. Very bleak.

To kill time, then, I have been watching Youtube videos on various things, including photography. I always have an interest in what other people use and what they do with it. There have been some interesting finds, such as confirmation of my evaluations of certain equipment I have – some of which could have saved me money if only I’d seen them before purchasing. In one case this has worked because the other people’s testing of the Sony 55-210mm lens confirms it is not right for me. Others confirm the the much more expensive 70-350mm would be more suitable for my purposes. Oh well. That purchase isn’t going to happen.

While I’m going on about lenses, one recurring theme was people testing ‘very fast’ lenses, many of which produced the same disappointing results. The reports went along the lines of “here is the new [brand name] 50mm f1.1 lens!” (In some cases the maximum aperture was less than 1.) Followed by “wide open it is unacceptably soft.” One manufacturer even says in its promotional material that the lens will be soft at maximum aperture and better results will be obtained at f2.0 or smaller.

Well, then, what is the point of making it with a larger opening?

Understand the “f” value is a calculation of focal length divided by aperture diameter. In theory you could build a lens with a negative f value simply by making the lens hugely round and very short focal length (not really, of course; this is a joke). The “why we don’t do this” is hinted at in a lot of wide-angle lenses that are made.

But the point is, the whole reason for promoting a lens as “very fast” is to have a lens that is usable at such a low f value. If you have to stop your f0.95 lens down to f2.0 anyway in order to get a minimally acceptable picture, then putting that extra large diaphragm in it serves no function.

No, I tell a lie: it does serve a function. It fools people into thinking they are getting a better lens than they actually are. It’s hyperbole. It’s marketing. It’s organic fertilizer. Very much along the lines of “more megapixels = automatically better camera” and used in conjunction with the urban mythology that if you simply buy the “best” (i.e. most expensive) equipment your photography will magically improve.

Nope. Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. No way José. That’s not how it works.

While I’m ranting about lenses, can we please stop the pathological obsession with background blur? You know the word I mean. I won’t use it because it has not only become a cliché, but an unhealthy fixation wherein it is perceived as the be-all and end-all of lenses and images. Give it a rest. The function is a secondary aspect of composition, not the primary one.

Torn-down Tokina; it’s hopeless.

Another thing I want to rant about is a certain photography couple who have a lot of money and even more arrogance (hey, I am allowed my arrogance; it comes built-in with my French heritage) and almost enough knowledge to know what they are talking about. Let’s say self-deprecating humour is not their strong suit. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were right all the time or even if they were wrong all the time, but they manage a mix-up with no apologies which grates across my nerves.

From these two we get such amazing revelations as “there is no aperture sweet spot” (something disproved by thousands of lens tests and which anyone can evaluate for themselves) and “there’s no such thing as depth-of-field”. Wow. Why did manufacturers put those little lines on all those lenses decade after decade then? And how come we can actually see the effect in our images? Come to that, I must be a sorcerer because I actually use this non-existent phenomenon to make sharp pictures at fixed focus points. Perhaps what they mean is “it’s not depth-of-focus” which is correct – and I have heard many people over the past half century inaccurately call it that.

To be fair, perhaps the whole problem is that this couple aren’t always expressing themselves clearly. Just to give them the benefit of the doubt. Anyway their style too is irritating to me, but if you like them by all means enjoy. And no I’m not just jealous because no manufacturers or anyone else is handing me free equipment and/or gobs of money. If you recall, I sort of did that the other way ’round myself a few years ago.

Are there any of these photography videographers that I like? Yes indeed. Here’s my top four:

Dave McKeegan Accurate, not annoying, and a nice Lancashire accent which some of you may have trouble with. (I don’t because I married a Lancashire Lass.) Seriously: this one.

Christopher Frost Nice, soft-spoken gent who knows his stuff and has a pretty wife to boot.

Arthur R A bit more raucous than the others, but not to his discredit. I appreciate that he uses a Sony a6000 often so there’s a bit of “common cause” for me. Also has a pretty wife.

Simon Another English gentleman with a real handle on classic lenses and their usage. Lots of info on the old glass.

There are quite a few others which are worth a look-in on occasion, including one lass who quite swiftly skewered Youtube videos in general and their absurd click-bait headlining nature. You know the bit: lots of superlatives, absolutes, exclamation marks, and exaggerated claims meant to get you to watch the video. I see these as a sort of warning to prospective viewers: if it says “TOP SECRETS YOU’RE DOING WRONG THAT THE PROS DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT!!!!!” that’s a sure sign it’s not worth watching.

Would I ever do videos? No. Can’t see it happening. Not even with a ton of up-front money. Besides which they are all pretty much lost in the vast sea of so much to see. As such there is little chance of success. And any that do manage respectable viewership numbers also get trashed by certain other (jealous) ‘channels’ out there that seem to exist just to try and make traffic off lies like “WHY THIS TOP YOUTUBER IS BEING SUED!!!!!” and “HOW MUCH MONEY SO-AND-SO REALLY MAKES!!!!!”

Yeah, bugger that for a noise.

It’s getting warmer. No, really it is.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #7

A new year and a ‘new’ lens. This time it’s the Vivitar 24mm f2.8:

Uh oh, it has fungus.

Yes it has fungus. That’s worrying but it isn’t on the glass and there’s no sign of it affecting the images. Yet. Someone skilled with lenses could no doubt take this apart and clean it up quite easily. That someone is not me. I’ve made some recent ventures in lens repairing and … best if I just leave this one alone.

This lens gets some ‘extra’ display shots here because it has some curious ‘extra’ controls which I can not figure out how they function. On the bottom is this tab with markings that doesn’t move even when you push the metal button in:

What is this for? How is it used?

And then the aperture ring has an ‘extra’ set of markings mirroring the f stops but all in green:

Probably some kind of camera-specific auto aperture control.

This is one of those lenses with the tiny button on the back that needs to be pushed in to get it to shift to ‘manual’ if you don’t have it screwed in to the right kind of camera body. (I think this is the Pentax ‘SE’ edition of the M42 mount.) I got it shifted (which means it can also work on the Canon, by the way) and took some shots.

Wide-angle it is even on a cropped sensor camera.

Oh look: I finally got the spots off the sensor! For now anyway. Speaking of it being wide-angle:

The mighty Nissan. This close you can just see some distortion.

Colours are spot-on and contrast is good with no sign of chromatic aberration. Let’s see how sharp it is:

Wild rose full size.
Cropped segment of the full image. This lens focuses to 9″!

That is a very sharp lens. The biggest problem I had was not being able to see well enough to focus at very close distances where depth of field dwindles at f2.8 – even on a 24mm lens.

To ‘correct’ this shot I would have had to adjust the trailer.

Despite the fungus this lens gets a ‘very good’ rating. If put up against the Super Takumar 28mm you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. The only things against it are that I rarely use such wide-angle lenses and it has that ‘extra’ control function. Neither of those are a fault with the lens. I think this may be good for landscape shots if the 50cm of snow ever melts around here. Hey it warmed up above zero Fahrenheit for the first time in many days! Maybe there will be a Spring.

Spring? Not yet.

In other news it will be a few more weeks before my wife will return, unless they cancel that flight on her as well. Meanwhile I’ve got more medical tests to take, and the temperature is supposed to go down yet again. With more snow. No, we’re not quite to Spring.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #6

This entry is about a lens I’ve already had one of before. (Wow; that was an awkward sentence.) Back in the good ol’ days when film was the only option I had quite a kit of Exakta cameras and lenses, including an Exakta VX500 – which was the ‘low price’ version of the VX1000 – and it had one of these lenses on it: the Meyer Domiplan 50mm f2.8.

Meyer Optik Domplan 50mm f2.8

As such I thought I knew what to expect from this M42 edition, which was “not much”. The one I had on the Exakta was not particularly great, although in fairness that was in comparison to other lenses such as a Zeiss Tessar and a Meyer Primoplan (the one lens I regret not stuffing in my pocket and bringing home with me in 2018).

This one is noticeably better than the first one I had. Hurrah for that, eh?

Full image.
Cropped segment.

Although obviously not the sharpest lens in the arsenal, it is certainly better than several of the others. But it is unspectacular. The contrast is a tad low, but the colour rendition is accurate and there’s no sign of chromatic aberration.

Oh look: spots on the sensor I just cleaned.

Over-all I’d rate it as “good”, but not “very good” – especially considering its small control rings are something of a pain to work. It is also an “automatic only” lens, meaning it won’t function properly on the Canon adaptor.

Used Car Lot.

Right now it is serving as a “body cap” for the Pentax Spotmatic as I’ve confiscated that camera’s 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar for my shooting arsenal. But with a little effort it can make a decent photo:

Straight out of the camera.
Reworked for artistic purposes.

(I’m not trying very hard with the photos because hey, it’s -35C and there’s 38cm of snow on the ground.)

In other news my wife is apparently stuck in England for a couple more weeks at least – we don’t know for sure as it is impossible to get a definitive answer about anything from anyone. She spent over 9 hours on hold with the airline one day, until she fell asleep. Other contact attempts have included her being cut off and her being hung up on. Gee, Westjet, you’re really helpful. Our government here has issued Orders, but no directions as to how they can be complied with. The province is at capacity for testing and can’t promise anything. Worst of all, everything is subject to change without notice.

They also serve who sit and wait.

But they get sick of it.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #5

Are you tired of reading mediocre reviews of mediocre lenses? Well I’m tired of writing them too! Fortunately there is hope for us all as this time I check out the Pentacon Electric 50mm f1.8.

The normal lens for the Praktica LLC.

It is my understanding that this lens is based on the Meyer Oreston. Meyer made many great lenses, and also a few mediocre ones. The Oreston was one of the greats, and this copy is no slouch either.

The Nissan before it got buried under the recent snowstorm.

The colours are not over-saturated and the contrast is also good, rendering realistic reproduction. Chromatic aberration is not in evidence anywhere and sharpness is top-notch. No doubt this is due to it having been constructed in communist East Germany where the quality control manager had the authority to send any slacking workers straight to the gulag.

Good detail in the branches.

If it seems as though I’m obsessed with sharpness, there’s good reason: not only that 100+ years of optical endeavor has gone into making lenses as sharp as possible and any example which falls short of being the best it can be is a betrayal to all who worked so hard, but my own actual eyes are lacking in such quality so trying to see a fuzzy image with fuzzy eyesight is doubly annoying, as well as irritating mentally and physically.

Small but sharp.

Just how good can it do? Take a look at this tree:

A tree with something extra.

Now look at a 640 x 427 segment cropped out of the full size image:

Almost hidden downy woodpecker.

Yes indeed, this lens can make good use of the Sony’s 20MP for some close-up imaging. It can turn out some very nice artistic images too:

Before the deep snow came.

What does the future hold for this lens? It will be staying with the camera it came on, the Praktica LLC. Why? For three reasons: 1). it is the Electric model, made specifically to work with the camera’s metering system (and does not work with my Canon’s adaptor); 2). I don’t use 50mm lenses often, and when I do; 3). I already have the excellent Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 which is still a better lens than this.

Despite that fact the Pentacon earns a ‘very good’ rating. There’s little to complain about in its performance, only slightly less competent than the Takumar but a bit more difficult to use owing to smaller control rings.