Item #3: Lens Adaptor

(In case you forgot, #2 was a new battery for the Olympus E-410.)

One of the goals of my Plan was to make more use of the cameras with optical viewfinders, which includes the Olympus that just got a new battery. But what is a camera without a lens? The two ‘kit’ lenses that came with the E-410 are somewhat unremarkable, and other lenses for it scarcely existed even when it was a new camera.

Of course if you’ve already got a bunch of M42 mount lenses, including some Super Takumars …

Taken using the Vivitar 24mm f2.8
Taken using the Super Takumar 50mm f1.4
Taken using the Super Takumar 135mm f3.5
Taken using the Super Takumar 135mm f3.5 and Vivitar 2X extender

Okay I didn’t try it with the 35mm Super Takumar or the 28mm Super Talumar or any of the ‘lesser’ lenses … except one (so far):

Taken using the Vivitar 300mm f5.6

That’s about the best picture I’ve ever got out of that long Vivitar lens. Frankly it’s not much good.

However for using good old lenses in broad daylight when I just want to have some fun shooting pictures, this is a viable setup. Notice that the 24mm Vivitar is about a ‘normal’ lens on the 4/3 format (2X crop factor so 48mm equivalent).

I do have trouble seeing to focus with these lenses, and every aspect of using them is a bit slow (focusing, adjusting aperture, changing lenses) but … slowing down is one of the things I have to learn to do. So naturally I’ve been working out some ‘preset’ arrangements to speed things up, such as using Shutter Mode for telephotos to reduce shake (focal length X2) and letting the ISO ‘float’; there’s not much depth of field on a long lens anyway. For ‘wide’ lenses I can preset the aperture for maximum D-O-F and use it like a box camera. Not every shot is successful of course, in fact there are a large number of failures, but that’s just something I have to live with now.

I doubt there are any other adaptors that will work with this camera. Then again I haven’t really got any other lens mount types I want to try on it. Why use this old Olympus for ‘classic’ lenses? Well, why not? It works well in this application (basically replacing the Sony a6000) and it means I won’t have to take the Canon off ‘automatic duty’.

Still finding my way in the semi-darkness.

Switching to plan … what comes after ‘Z’?

Preview of things to come.

Believe it or not, it’s been about a year since I first started out on this journey of trying to find a way to fulfil my photographic desires in the light (ha, ha) of my fading eyesight. I’ve evaluated all my old equipment and reviewed potential replacements, all the while trying to stay within the constraints of a fixed-income budget and rampaging inflation. Not the easiest mission to accomplish, to say the least.

After exploring innumerable possibilities, all of which have flaws, I’ve come up with a plan I can follow. It is not the best plan, as there probably is no “best plan”, but rather the only one that meets any of the necessary criteria. Therefor it entails using existing cameras and a minimal expenditure on new equipment.

Mysterious equipment.

The goal first of all is to make best use of my cameras with optical finders as the electronic ones, even the best ones, are nearly useless to me now. In fact I had occasion to try the P610 in monochrome mode and – I could see no image at all. By the same token, even the Canon’s external LCD is nearly invisible in daylight (to me anyway) and so it’s optical finder or nothing at all. (I can see myself collecting additional optical finder digital cameras, if I’m not careful.)

The second important factor is to make as much use of automatic functions (including focus) as possible because, guess what, in addition to not being able to see sharp focus all the tiny little symbols and letters on the controls are becoming invisible to me. As mentioned above this includes the EVF/LCD displays, which is a bit of a problem when using either aperture or shutter preferred mode (never mind full manual) unless I pre-set it before venturing out. Fortunately I’m quite comfortable with Program Mode most of the time.

What the future looks like?

So optical finder and automatic settings to do … what? Well, make up for the incredible focal length and focusing ranges of the Nikon P610 (65X) mostly. This means the need for an extremely long zoom lens, and possibly a better mid-range one as well (the Canon lens is good, but not great). Plus some method of switching to close focus in the field. That last one is difficult as it involves either using diopters, extension tubes, a lens-reversing ring (the cheap solutions), or a macro-capable lens (the expensive solution).

On top of this I want to press the Olympus E410 into service again in some way, so that it is not wasted sitting in a drawer. Despite what some of the eBay listings would indicate it really is not a highly valuable camera due to its extreme lack of range in lenses. However, I believe I have found a way around that (albeit in a limited capacity). Thus the camera selection will be the Canon T100, the Canon G11, the Canon 1Ds, the Olympus E410, and yes even the Pentax K100 Special on certain occasions.

All of which means purchasing some new equipment, but not a lot and not all at once. Stay tuned!


Whither the thirty-fives?

While going over my collection of lenses I could not help but notice I have a dearth of 35mm focal lengths. In fact I have one, or two if you count the odd Soligor 28/35 ‘switchable’ lens. I have two 28mm, at least three 50mm (ish – you know, +/- a few millimeters), and likewise three 135mm. But only one 35mm? At least it’s a good one: the radioactive Super Takumar f2.

Taken with 35mm Super Takumar on the Sony a6000

Now this is stranger than it seems for two reasons: first of all, 35mm was the standard ‘wide-angle’ for 135 film SLRs and second, it’s about the right focal length for ‘normal’ on a modern APS-C digital cameras (1.5X crop factor = 52.5mm equivalent = close enough). And yet … even new 35mm lenses are not in ready supply. You’d think the camera makers would offer some primes of that size for the APS-C cameras, but it seems to fall to third parties like Sigma to fill the gap (they have a 30mm which is nice for the Canon @ 48mm equivalent).

Oh there are a lot of 35mm manual lenses out there, most of them Chinese-made rubbish which can be purchased fairly cheaply. But at this time if I wanted to spend roughly $100 on a manual lens I’d pony up for another good ol’ used film camera unit rather than a questionable-quality modern version. After all, how much would you expect from a lens called “Brightin Star” (which is apparently the same as Pergear)? Some of them don’t even have the facade of a ‘name brand’. A couple of them have now famous ‘brands’, although from some reviews I’ve seen the terms “boutique” or “art” lens are sometimes synonyms for “lousy”. (I should do a demonstration on how to get a good lens to render poorly; it’s not hard).

Taken with the Soligor 28/35mm (at 35) on the Canon T100

Scrolling through listings of (inexpensive) lenses I find a lot of 25mm units meant for APS-C cameras. (Oh I see Fotga makes a 36mm lens. Well that’s unusual.) This is of course wide-angle-ish @ 37.5mm or so for them. There are even very wide-angle lenses, such as one 18mm with fixed aperture and focus that turns your very expensive camera into the digital equivalent of a box camera. As someone who has trouble seeing the controls as well as the image, I can sort of appreciate that. But I can also duplicate the effect with the lenses I already have, which are of better quality.

The most interesting one I’ve come across is the ‘Risespray’ or ‘Rise Spray’. I can’t imagine the quality is any good, but they do come in anodized colours! Instead of plain black or chrome you can have a red, gold, or blue cased lens! Fancy that! Almost worth the $50+ price. Well, maybe not.

Truck waiting for Spring. (Soligor on the Canon)

Perhaps manufacturers reason that the short-range zooms cover the ‘normal’ focal lengths and therefor one does not need a prime lens in that area. I think a lot of photographers would disagree with that reasoning. In fact it often seems to me that camera equipment in general is designed without input from photographers; obviously it’s easier to get marketing to sell people whatever you’ve got rather than build what they need or want.

Marley has had enough. (Super Takumar on the Sony)

I’ll need a lime and a coconut

Or; staving off a GAS attack.

All full, and it’s not all. Believe it or not.

I don’t know how this happened. I seem to have accumulated some camera gear over the years. One of those cases has only lenses in it, by the way. But not all the lenses or even all the cameras are represented here!

In my never-ending search for a way to compensate for my fading eyesight, I keep coming up with different ideas. So far none of them have worked, but hey … you never know, right? I’ve always had this condition: the notion that any problem can be solved if you just think about it enough. This isn’t true, by the way, but I keep trying it.

Unfortunately along with that effort can come an attack of Gear Acquisition Syndrome, partly because I like camera equipment. I’ve had quite a lot of it over the years and still have a fair bit of diverse stuff, albeit nothing like the 1,000-ish cameras and related items it used to be.

The path of reasoning, such as it was this time, went something like this:

I should get an adaptor that would allow me to use my Canon EF lenses on my Sony a6000, thus increasing its level of practicality. Sounds sensible so far, right? After all, Sony lenses tend towards the expensive and I’ve already got the Canon lenses. Okay, adaptor = either a no-name Chinese-made probably-won’t-work-at-all for <$100, or a name-brand still Chinese-made but just-might-work for >$200. A gamble either way. Do some research on the best ones and … make that >$800. That’s a lot of money.

Okay, if we’re talking that kind of dough maybe I should replace the a6000 with a different camera which would be more practical. For example, an Olympus OM-D. Same sort of money, albeit without a lens. Never mind; I have two Olympus four-thirds lenses that, with an adaptor, will fit to the micro four-thirds mount. Plus I could get an adaptor for the Canon EF lenses too, for less than the EF to E-mount unit. This gives the advantage of extra crop factor to extend the telephoto aspect even more; 2X versus 1.5X. Great! All in for … uh, a lot more money.

Hey, you know what would be nifty? A Canon brand micro four-thirds camera! Too bad there’s no such thing. But there is the low-end mirrorless M50 model which is less money than the Olympus and takes the EF lenses with an adaptor which is included! Oh, they don’t include the adaptor anymore. Rats. But still, having all Canon equipment would be nifty, even if it’s not all as compatible as it should be. I mean I’d have the G11 for every day carrying, the T100 for more professional shooting, the 1Ds for special circumstances, and an M50 for … er … adapting lenses to?

Hi there. It’s me; your conscience. What lenses do you need to adapt?

Well the EF lenses of course …

You mean the ones that you already have two cameras that they can mount to?

Um, yeah. But there’s also the classic Super Takumars …

You mean the ones that you already have an adaptor to fit to the T100 and 1Ds? Not to mention the Sony a6000 and Pentax K100.

Yes but …

What other lenses do you need to adapt?

Well, I’ve got one Canon FD mount Super Albinar.

That’s all? Just one other lens?

For now yes, but I might get something else later.

So you expect to spend more money on old lenses you have to pre-set focus and aperture on because they aren’t automatic and you can’t make out the controls?


And you want to buy a new camera and several new adaptors just to use lenses you can already use?

*more silence*

How is a new camera of any kind going to compensate for your failing eyesight? Especially another one with another small, dim EVF?

Suppose my eyesight gets even worse; I’ll need a more advanced camera to …

No, if your sight gets worse you’ll need something like a Pentax K-70 with its bright, 100%-sized pentaprism viewfinder as the last step in seeing the world through a lens before you no longer can.


Also it could take the M42 screw-mount lenses with the adaptor you already have for the K100, and it’s about the same money as either the M50 or OM-D.

*even the crickets go silent*

So you don’t really need a new camera at all, do you? Use what you’ve got.

Oh how I hate it when logical reasoning ruins my mad scientist plans! Besides, I like playing … er, experimenting with different equipment.
Of course what I could use to further compensate for not having the Nikon’s range of function would be some automatic extension tubes for close-ups. Hmm, let’s see what they’ve got in those …

A choice of five.

Stay tuned to find out what happens!


Revisiting old equipment, okay? In this case a couple of dreadful lenses. One is the 200mm f4.5 Cunor M42 mount I got in the big lens deal. Let’s have a look, shall we? (The camera is the Sony a6000.)

Okay, they don’t look that awful. So how did we get there?

Step One: Reduce image quality in camera to 12MP. Hoo-boy! I already knew from previous experiments that the high resolution sensor does a fine job of picking up every flaw in the lens, so losing some detail on purpose reduces the flaws as well. Albeit at a cost of sharpness.

Step Two: Apply sharpness filter. Now wait, didn’t we just reduce sharpness? Yes, but not on purpose. Time to make up for that.

Step Three: Decrease image size. Hold on, that sounds like a repeat of Step One! Well, yes it is but in this case it’s to get the pictures down to ‘Internet size’ (i.e. 1280 x 853 – ish).

Step Four: Apply sharpness filter. Whoa! We just did that in Step Two! This whole process sounds like a series of repeating the same thing and expecting different results! That’s the definition of insanity!

Yeah, but it works. The issue is: who wants to do all that work just to get some mediocre snapshot-quality pictures? Oh I forgot to mention the part about setting it at f8 because that’s likely the sharpest aperture point and fixing focus at infinity because I can’t see to focus this lens at all. Somewhat limiting, to say the least.

Next lens:

A little fuzzy

For those pictures I let the camera do all the work of focusing and exposure. The first one is blown out, the second was in shade and needed bringing up, the third required only some contrast enhancement. All of them are cropped and re-sized.

So what was the lens?

The stock Sony 16-50mm f3.5 kit zoom.

Frankly Sony should be ashamed of themselves for sticking such a poor quality lens on any camera. It’s frustrating that the best way of using the a6000 is with old manual lenses as its autofocus is the best I’ve seen. The exposure, on the other hand, is not very accurate compared to my other cameras (save the Lumix, which is really terrible). Since I rely on auto everything these days when those functions don’t function it’s truly exasperating. I may as well use the little Fuji, point it in any direction (since I can’t make out the screen), and hope for the best.

I could become famous as “The Blind Photographer”, if only I could produce acceptable shots with greater frequency than one wins the lottery.

And I’m not yet embracing the “Lomography” field of purposefully bad images promoted as ‘art’.

Little is big

This past weekend’s ‘Full Snow Moon’ was a “micromoon” because of its distance from Earth.

Looks big enough to me.

I’ve been toying with some old equipment in the apparently never-ending search for a solution to my photography future. This including some shots with the Olympus E410 …

Marley, up to her knees in snow.

… and the Sony a6000:

Duncan, getting a move on.

The Olympus is of course an ‘orphaned’ camera now, with fewer than 50 lenses ever made for it and (as far as I know) no adaptors. Even trying to search for four-thirds lenses brings up micro 4/3 results instead. It’s a pity, because that is a nice format for my kind of work – if only they made the equipment affordable. Anyway, the battery is dead; it takes seconds to recharge and minutes to discharge.

I clear the drive, the plough fills it in again. (E410)

The Sony has lens issues too, mainly the affordability factor. As in even a mid-range zoom costs 3X what I paid for the camera, never mind a long one. I thought about getting an adaptor for the EF lenses, but that’s almost as much money as buying the camera again. Besides which it is still difficult for my eyesight to see the EVF. Why can’t they make a big, bright finder? Actually they can, so the question is “why don’t they?”

How is this comfortable?

In an age when butter is $9 a pound, what hope is there? Interestingly it seems prices only go up on things we need to buy every week, like food. And every week the prices go up. Let me check the map again and see if I’m living in Ukraine. Nope; still Canada. Artificial shortages and all-too-real price hikes. Gasoline is back up to $1.69/Litre. Good thing I’m not going anywhere for a while.

Last week was a painfully interesting one, and I’m glad it’s over. Over for now anyway. No word about the future. That’s always the problem, isn’t it? Can’t even get an accurate weather forecast for tomorrow, never mind anything else.

Plans? What are they?

Right. Had it all figured out. Monday, mow lawn before it starts raining Wednesday.

Er, starts raining Tuesday.

Uh … didn’t even get the mower started before the sunshine turned to dark clouds and the rain began – on Monday.

So much for plans.

Now for other things.

Pileated on a poll. Nikon P610.
Same spot after bird flew off. Canon T100 & 250mm.

This is the reason why I looked into longer lenses for the Canon (more on the Nikon at a later date). I had some fun looking at ‘bargain’ long lenses, reading and watching reviews. Well what do you expect from a $150 lens? Right. While the reviewers put their best faces on and try not to say anything bad … well one of the lenses bent noticeably in the middle like a wet noodle. Yeah, that’s quality build! *LOL* Some of what I looked at were mirror lenses. I had one once. Guess what? The laws of physics haven’t changed since then.

The apologetic reviews were about how you can fix the flaw in post, ’cause you know everyone is willing to spend hours correcting images that took a fraction of a second to make. Hmm. Might be easier to just draw the scene by hand on a piece of paper with a pencil.

Anyway … no new lenses. Oh and from when I started looking a week or so ago until this post the prices on every one went up about 33%. I make that 1700% annual inflation rate. You know, every time I go to the store at least $100 disappears and yet even in my feeble state I have no problem carrying the bag in.

Never mind. At least it isn’t snowing. That’s scheduled for tomorrow.

Canon 1Ds & 300mm

Could see the full moon eclipse Sunday due to clouds. This is half a moon taken with the big camera. Another reason why I want a longer Canon lens.

Leftover winter shot taken with the Olympus E410.

So it’s “play it by ear” from now on as I try to sort the many little and some not-so-little jobs of Summer into a scheduled fraught with rain.

Analysis Part 2: lenses

The second subset of the Nikon replacement problem is a Duesy! The P610’s lens not only has incredible zoom range, but incredible sharpness as well. It can go from this:

Ice Bubbles (cropped close up)

To this:

Tangled Tree at full telephoto

In one go without changing lenses. There are about four new cameras available that can manage that, and two of them are Nikon’s ‘replacements’ for their P610 model. Both of these are fraught with problems, including having too much zoom – and too much price.

Honestly if I were to design a replacement for the P610 I would have made improvements like better manual focusing and a larger (not necessarily higher resolution but 20MP would be nice) sensor. Think about it: the P1000 has the equivalent of a 3000mm lens on it. Now if they were to use a 2.3 sensor (6.6 x 8.8) instead of a 1/2.3 sensor (4.55 x 6.17) that would still give 1500mm equivalent telephoto (much like the P610’s 1440mm) but double the sensor size (in square area) meaning it would be better in low-light conditions – even with more pixels on it. Oh I’d certainly also do something about that tiny, dim EVF as well. Imagine the marketing: “largest, brightest viewfinder yet!” Or something like that. Really, somewhere between the LCD panel which can’t be seen in broad daylight and the tiny EVF which I can’t see in any light there has to be a spot where there’s a way of viewing the scene properly under normal shooting conditions. It’s an electronic image; it can technically be any size and brightness you want it to be. One thousand pixels stuck in a hole 10mm across is not the answer.

Anyway with the P1000 and P950 dismissed, the other two new camera options are the Canon SX70 and the Panasonic FZ80. The latter has a touch screen I dislike and the the former is about 2 times the money. Both have their other flaws as well. You’re not getting me to part with hundreds of dollars for a camera that falls short of my needs, no matter how many cup holders it has. What is the point of buying any camera that is, to put it bluntly, unsuitable?

So let’s look at my existing cameras and lenses instead. They also fall far short of my needs, but the money has already been spent.

Canon 75-300mm EF. Good thing I only paid $50 for it.

This one is obviously soft. On top of that, 300mm is short for bird photography and in no way close to the Nikon’s telescope-like abilities (even after the crop factor of 1.6). I could buy another of these lenses for about $150, but would it be any sharper? Maybe, but it certainly wouldn’t be any longer. There is an IS version as well which might help some with blur, but that one is $600+. If spending that kind of money I might as well get the Canon SX70 and have the truly long zoom range (65X), even if the finder is not as bright.

Canon 55-250mm EF-S. Sharper, but not longer.

Focal length is the main issue here. It has got IS and does a good job, but even with the crop factor it’s only 400mm equivalent and that’s 1000mm shy of what the Nikon can do. Add a 2X lens extender you say? Forget it: that’s reduced resolution, more money spent, and 800mm still isn’t 1440mm. Again better to buy an entire new super zoom camera.

Olympus 55-150mm.

This is not as good as it looks. Mainly because it’s a cropped segment of the full image (at 100%) and because I was maybe 15 feet away from that bird. On the Olympus, 150mm is equal to 300mm for a full-frame camera because the 4/3 size sensor has a 2X crop factor. There is a longer zoom available for it, with maximum 300mm which is like 600mm. That might just about do it – for $400+ and the hassle of importing it from Japan. The Panasonic FZ80 is about the same money without the import issues and has longer range. What’s more, the E410 is an out-of-date camera with a fairly ‘low’ resolution of 10MP (making cropping problematic at times) and the lenses are not really, shall we say, ‘Nikon-sharp’. It’s a pity because there are things I like about this camera. If only Olympus hadn’t fallen for the bean-counters’ insistence on mirrorless designs they might today be building a modern 4/3 DSLR that would be worth buying.

If you’ve read enough of my posts you know I have a few ‘classic’ long range zooms from the film camera era as well. You also know that they are very large and very heavy – and not all that sharp. Probably the best of them is the Hanimex which is a Pentax K mount, meaning it only fits on my Pentax K100Ds – which has the lowest resolution sensor of all my cameras. None of these old lenses are a practical solution.

What is, then? Well, maybe this:

Not a drawing.

What on Earth is that? Me playing around with things: a totally different genre/shooting style that owes nothing to my wildlife photography but is far easier to achieve within budget (as in it costs nothing).

Not sure I like the prospect of no more long telephoto shooting.

No, I definitely do not like that prospect.

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.