Archive for the ‘zenit’ Tag

New use for old glass

You are on a budget so, much though you might love to, you can’t buy all the new lenses you’d like. Sure the new 24mm Sigma lens looks cool but you have enough bank loans already and one for a camera lens might just break you – what do you do? Simple, use old lenses.

Chances are that if you are an obsessive budget photographer you probably already have an old film SLR or rangefinder and a collection of lenses. If not, go out and get one, they can be had very cheap. My own film SLR a is a Zenit 122 with an M42 mount, you can pick up M42 mount cameras for next to nothing and there are hundreds of lenses out there. I’ve got a Hanimex MC Auto 28mm, a Helios 44-4 58mm and a Jupiter 37A 135mm – all very cheap.

Of course the first use you should put all of this kit to is film photography! So go ahead, I’ll wait . . . still shooting? Ok, come back when you are done . . . good to go? Great.

Now for the other use you can put the lenses to, making your digital photography more interesting. Now, I have a Nikon D70 SLR but the focus screen is terrible for manual focusing – seriously, it is light years behind the Zenit for this. Instead I have a Samsung NX100 (bought cheap on eBay as it had no lens with it) that has a focus peeping (zoom) feature that makes manual focus a hundred times easier. It is possible to get better focusing screens fitted to modern DSLRs but for the price you can probably get different camera that will do better. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my D70 but it is only going to be used with autofocus lenses from now on.

But how can you use an ancient M42 mount lens on a fancy-shmancy digital camera-thingy? I hear you ask. Well by using an adapter of course! Some lovely people make adapters that allow the mounting of old lenses on new cameras, isn’t that nice of them? Of course they do charge for them, but as I got mine for £4, including postage, they don’t charge much.

Old film lenses are meant for what is now called ‘full frame’ when talking about sensor sizes so (depending on your sensor) you may have to do some recalculating to work out what the crop factor does to the focal length. To be honest, this doesn’t really matter all that much. Look at the image on the screen and you will soon get used to what each lens gives you.

If you are obsessive about your images being pin-sharp at all times then old lenses may disappoint you unless you use the smallest apertures at all times. Then again if you are obsessive about pin-sharp images you should probably save all you can and go for the newest and most expensive lenses. However, old lenses have a remarkable thing many modern lenses lack – character. If you use the same colour setting on your camera each lens will render the colours differently, there will be differences in the levels of contrast when shooting black and white. Also, as your old lenses are far more likely to be prime lenses than zooms the chances are they will have much wider apertures than your modern lenses. My two Nikon zooms have minimum apertures between 3.5 and 5.6 depending on the focal length (I also have the 50mm 1.8 but it is the only modern prime I own), my M42 lenses go from 2 to 3.5 as a minimum. Even at 3.5 there is a world of difference in terms of depth of field and bokeh.

Sometimes I am looking for a pin sharp image so I use my D70 and modern glass, it does the job great. Sometimes I am looking for something different though, and that is what old glass offers – some of the quirkiness of film photography with the convenience of digital.

http://www.flickr.com/archerctb

Real budget photography – why ‘under $500’ isn’t the same as ‘budget’.

In the leadup to Christmas and over the course of the New Year sales there have been a lot of articles about buying ‘budget’ photography equipment. I consider myself to be a budget photographer but most of this ‘budget’ equipment is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of my price range. Under $500 is not ‘budget’, under $50 maybe but not under $500. So, I think it is time to promote and talk about REAL budget photography. I am going to try, there will be more posts about this but here’s the start.

First of all this is going to mostly mean used equipment and not very new used equipment at that. It is also going to mean any good, new equipment is probably a gift. At the moment I am a student (ok, as I am nearing forty I should probably say ‘mature student’) so I have got no money but even before that I did not have huge sums of money to spend on my hobby. And, yes, it is a hobby. I have no desire to be a professional wedding photographer – based on the sheer volume of articles about how to become a professional wedding photographer this must put me in a very tiny minority!

So, what equipment do I have? Less than I used to for a start. Being unemployed for almost a year and then becoming a student means you have to get money where you can. Anyway, here is some idea of what I have at the moment.

Zenit 122 – A film SLR from the old Soviet union, with an M42 lens mount, made while I was still at school. Bought from eBay for under £20 including delivery. I’ve got a 28mm Hanimex lens, a 58mm Helios and a 135mm Jupiter 37A to go with it, none of which cost over £20.

Nikon D70 – A digital SLR (about 6MP) bought from eBay for about £30 including postage. These were introduced in 2004 and were replaced by the D70S in 2006 so it isn’t exactly cutting edge. I have a Nikkor 50mm 1.8 (cheap due to a broken filter ring), a Nikkor 35-70mm that came with it and a Sigma 70-300mm that is my most expensive piece of camera equipment as I bought it new for about $150 while on holiday in Florida. I’ve also got a cheap Holga lens that fits it that I haven’t really managed to get to grips with.

Lomo LCA – A film point and shoot that I love, probably my favourite camera. Another eBay purchase for around £20 becuase it was listed as the shutter being stuck. Once I replaced the batteries and freed the shutter by poking it with a biro while travelling on the bus (true) it worked and has been reliable ever since.

Samsung NX100 – Around £30 on eBay because it had no lens with it. A digital mirrorless camera (about 14MP) and my newest. With the addition if a £4 adapter it now works with my M42 lenses!

Polaroid Land Camera – Takes Fuji peel-apart film. Free! Found in my mum’s attic having been unused since the mid-70s, worked fine straight away – even the battery still had power.

Fujifilm Instax 200 – £10 in a charity shop in full working order, what a bargain! Yes, it is one of the ugliest cameras ever made but it is fun.

Lomo Konstruktor – This year’s Christmas present, a film SLR you put together from a kit. Built only last week so untested yet.

Coronet box camera – Takes 120 film, fun to play with and less than £10 on eBay (and most of that was postage).

Digital is nice and cheap as you just download the images but film can be cheap in black and white too, if you develop it yourself in caffenol. So, all of this equipment has been bought over the course of a couple of years keeping the budget fairly low. If you want to get an idea of the results check out http://www.flickr.com/archerctb