Adopting vintage lenses to modern digital cameras.

November 11, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I have a penchant for vintage lenses and more particular vintage soft focus lenses.  My collection has been growing and I enjoy exploring the pictorial possibilities and creating art with this vintage glass.

In most cases I use a large format camera to shoot with these soft focus and other vintage lenses but I've adopted a select number of these for use on Medium Frame digital camera as this fits my workflow well.  In my particular case this is a Mamiya 645 AFD II for travel or the Phase One 645DF in studio in combination with a Leaf Aptus 10 digital back.  The latter covers 36 x 56mm and yields 56 megapixels in a 1:1.55 format.

Adopting a barrel soft focus lens involves mounting the lens on a suitable helicoid for manual focusing and fabricating a method to fasten the lens to the said helicoid at the proper lens-to-film-plane distance.  The helicoid in turn has to fit the lens mount of the camera ... of course ...

Not necessarily an easy task but there's however a fairly, be it somewhat expensive, solution.  There'a a popular (discontinued) helicoid on the market from Asahi for the Pentax 67 camera.  The Pentax 67 camera lens-mount-to-film-plane is the largest of all popular film cameras.  This a good start as it gives me a lot of room to work with.  Adaptors for the Pentax 67 lens mount to any other imaginable film camera are available.  I have an adaptor for the Mamiya 645 and an adaptor for the Nikon F mount.  As such I can uses any lens configured through this method for my Mamiya/Phase One also on one of the many Nikon 35mm or "full frame" cameras in my toolbox.

Mounting the lens itself is easily done using a Pentax 67 body cap fitting the Asahi Helicoid.  The body caps are made from a resilient machinable plastic and work quite well.  A Pentax 67 macro tube system is used to properly space the lens from the actually film plane.   Alternatively a macro-bellows set-up could be used.  The macro extension tubes make for a very portable solution and one can stack them theoretically at infinitum.

Below is an image of my growing number of lenses adopted as such for MF camera/digital back use.  Also shown is an adaptor to mount the Pentax 67 body cap to a Linhof Technika IV camera.  This adaptor can in turn be adapted to my Sinar view camera.  With a Phase One sliding back on the SInar, I can use the Leaf Aptus digital back with a tilt, shift and swing options from either view camera.

Amedeus Photo 510-520-5477

Lenses in above image, left to right, top and down: 

  1. Pulligny Adjustable Landscape Lens in Pentax 67 macro bellows.  This lens is installed on metal 67mm lens cap on reverse macro adaptor.  Challenging to use !
  2. 200mm Rodenstock Imagon on Rodenstock helicoid and Pentax 67 mount
  3. 250mm Fuji Soft Focus lens in large helicoid and Pentax 67 mount.
  4. Second row back.  Mamiya 145mm f3.5 Soft Focus lens.  Modern Soft Focus lens, complicated in use
  5. Aluminum Laverne, Panortoscopique No 0bis.  On Pentax 67 body cap in professionally made adapter for Linhof Technika IV.
  6. Ralph Golson 5x7 landscape meniscus.  Retrofitted with iris and Tiffen filter holder.
  7. Hermagis Eidoscope #4 (190mm, f4.5)
  8. Kalosat 1A with Tiffen filter holder. (171.5mm, f4.5)
  9. Darlot pill box landscape meniscus with washer stops.
  10. Bottom row, back.  Pentax 120mm f3.5 Soft Focus lens.  Great modern soft focus lens, similar to Wollensak Verito.
  11. Unmarked landscape meniscus, wide open.
  12. 120mm Rodenstock Imagon.  Mounted on Asahi Helicoid and the Pentax 67 adapter to Mamiya 645 lens mount
  13. 125mm SOM Hermagis Cine lens.  Petzval design, swirls on 645 format
  14. Lancaster landscape meniscus with iris.  Mounted on 67mm metal lens cap, fits on 67mm reverse macro adapter.  Compact.
  15. Unnamed landscape meniscus with iris.

Where possible I adjust the lens spacing for infinite focus.  For the longer focal lengths I often forego infinite focus as we're dealing with soft focus lenses and it really doesn't matter to me if the horizon at infinite is perfectly sharp.  Actually, I prefer soft.

In following blog posts I'll be demonstrating the results of a select number of lenses I've repurposed using the above method in the hope that this is a stimulus for fellow photographers to share their efforts.

Peace.

Amedeus.

 

 


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