Simon Hawketts

It’s been a hot day here today and I’ve been out with my macro lens trying to get some interesting insect pictures.

Although it is hot, almost as soon as I got to Priors wood (where I usually go to get insect pictures) the sun went in and the light levels dropped quite a lot. Although that didn’t make it in anyway impossible to take pictures, it meant about 3 stops less light, so most of these were taken at a higher ISO or with less depth of field than I would have ideally liked.

All of these pictures have been processed in Lightroom using my normal post processing techniques.

Butterflies and other insects It’s been a hot day here today and I’ve been out with my macro lens trying to get some interesting insect pictures.

This is a review of my Takumar 135mm f/3.5 M42 mount lens on my Sony Nex 6 camera.

Description

This lens is an M42 mount lens made in about  1973. It has an aperture range of f/3.5 to f/22 and a closest focusing distance of about 1.5 meters, or 5 feet. The aperture ring is controlled by a small pin protruding from the bottom of the mount, and there is an Auto/Manual switch fitted to disable the pin and make the aperture controllable by the aperture ring. I bought my copy from eBay for £26 and I paid another £3.50 for an original Takumar screw on lens hood to match it. The takumar len range was produced by Pentax for their M42 spotmatic slr range before they moved to the K mount bayonet fitting when they changed to using the Pentax name. They have the reputation of being exceptional lenses, and some examples, like the 50mm f/1.4 carry pretty high price tags.

Usability

Compared to a modern telephoto lens this is a nice lens to carry and use because it is lightweight. Obviously it doesn’t have some of the features of a modern lens such as an autofocus motor or image stabilisation, but personally I find manual focus with focus peaking faster and more reliable than autofocus and image stabilisation, although nice, adds considerably to the cost.

On my Nex the lens is quite long with the adapter, lens and hood fitted. The focus ring on my example is perhaps slightly too well damped; It certainly wouldn’t slip out of focus, which is nice, but it can take quite an effort to move it and it would be difficult to rapidly change focus. This could be completely down to my example of course, but all the other takumar lenses I have are also on the well damped side so I suspect this is typical. The actual adjustment range is good, taking about 3/4 of a turn from infinity to closest focus point and the machined grip is easy to grasp with a gloved hand. The aperture adjustment is a click-stop ring with half stop click from f/3.5 to f/16 then a full stop to f/22. The aperture auto/manual switch is positioned at the top of the lens to make it easy to operate, but on a modern digital camera like the nex the lens is left in manual mode because there is no pin actuation machanism to stop the lens down as the picture is taken. If I use the lens on my spotmatic however it is easy to set it to manual from the normal auto setting.

Bokeh

The background bokeh on this lens will not have the perfect circles of a lens with more aperture blades (this lens has 6 blades) but being a telephoto focal length means it will be pretty easy to get background de-focus effects. These are often used to good effect in portraits to isolate the subject, so I’ve included a few samples below of a couple of concrete bears which sit in our garden taken at different apertures. These images are all straight from Lightroom with no post processing other than the white balance.

Definition

I have found the definition of the lens to be very good – certainly exceeding the quality I would expect of a modern kit lens. I think some of the sample pictures below show this.

Macro use

With the lens fitted to the camera using an Nex to M42 adaptor it is not very effective as a macro lens because the close focusing distance is too far away. However the addition of a short extension tube can make a world of difference and turn the lens into a pretty effective macro tool. The shots in the gallery below were all taken with this lens and a 10+17mm extension combination at a variety of apertures and although they don’t have huge levels of magnification, they are still well defined close up shots, if not true macro.

Video

Whilst I was out taking the pictures for this post I also took a short video clip which may be useful to some people who like to use manual lenses for video work.

Some other sample shots taken with this lens.

These are all shots taken with the takumar 135mm f/3.5 over the course of the last few days whilst I’ve been preparing this post. They have all been post processed in Lightroom to try to show the lens off to its best.

All in all I think this is an excellent quality lens which is well worth the price I paid for it and a useful addition to my Takumar family.

Takumar 135mm f/3.5 on Nex This is a review of my Takumar 135mm f/3.5 M42 mount lens on my Sony Nex 6 camera.

In a similar post to yesterday’s post which published the remaining pictures I took at Kentwell Hall, this post is a collection of the pictures I took during our holiday visit the the National Trust property at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. It is mostly a family holiday post, but anyone who is considering a visit may find it interesting.

All of these pictures were taken with my takumar prime lens kit which I took on the holiday.

Sutton Hoo Pictures In a similar post to yesterday’s post which published the remaining pictures I took at Kentwell Hall…

As I have mentioned in a previous post we went to a tudor day at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk in April this year and I’ve posted several pictures which I took that day, but I still have a large number which I wanted to publish so I’ve collected them all here in a large gallery.

I can thoroughly recommend the Kentwell Hall tudor day if you are in the area or would consider travelling. It was the best day we had during our holiday both from an entertainment and an educational point of view.

Kentwell Hall, Grounds, Interiors and characters

Kentwell hall Tudor day pictures As I have mentioned in a previous post we went to a tudor day at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk in April this year and I’ve posted several pictures which I took that day, but I still have a large number which I wanted to publish so I’ve collected them all here in a large gallery.

This is a short pictorial review of the Pentacon 29mm f/2.8 Multi Coated manual lens on the Sony Nex 6 camera.

This is another M42 mount lens which represents incredible value for money if you are prepared to do a little more setup and manual intervention in your photography. You won’t get lots of automatic settings, but you can get some brilliant images if you just apply a little thought and can use the focus ring!

The normal cost for one of these lenses ranges from about £5 to about £40 on ebay, depending on when you buy it and who you buy it from. You will normally pay less for an example bought in an auction rather than with a ‘buy in now’ offer, but I doubt you would pay over that range for a good example.

On a crop sensor camera like the nex the lens is an equivalent focal length of 43.5mm, so a widish standard lens.

I used this lens on my Nex 6 to take some pictures about Stevenage today in Jpeg+Raw mode. Normally I would only shoot in Raw mode, but this gives me the ability to show the ‘out of camera’ performance which may be useful to some people.

From Camera JPeg Pictures

The camera jpeg images were on the most part slightly over exposed. On most of these shots I had to reduce the exposure by about half a stop when I produced the Lightroom Processed version. Other than that, the images show a tendency for softness in the corners when wide open but this reduces as the aperture is stopped down. The CA seems pretty well controlled and being a prime lens there is little if any distortion.

Once the raw pictures had been processed, there were a few images which I would be happy to use, although this lens is certainly not of the quality of a takumar 28mm f/3.5. As well as adjust the overall exposure, in many cases I reduced the highlights, boosted the contrast and added a bit of midrange definition with the clarity adjustment.

Processed in Lightroom Pictures

In conclusion this is a reasonable lens which is good value for money if you can find one, as I did, for a few pounds. It is not of the quality of the takumar 28mm f/3.5, but will provide reasonable image quality if you shoot in raw and put a little effort into processing your shots.

Pentacon 29mm f/2.8 lens on Nex This is a short pictorial review of the Pentacon 29mm f/2.8 Multi Coated manual lens on the Sony Nex 6 camera.

This is another camera which I inherited from my Father – a Lubitel 166b Twin Lens Reflex.

This is the only twin lens reflex camera I own. It’s a very fragile looking, tin plate and plastic affair which looks pretty poor quality, although if I look on Flickr for example pictures taken with this model of camera, it was obviously capable of some very good results. As you can see from the pictures above the top lens, which was used for focusing the picture, is very dirty and if I try to compose a picture with it now it actually difficult to make out the image for the dirt. I don’t know if this could be removed and cleaned, but the light seals look shot and I doubt that this particular example will ever work again.

Still, from an historical point of view it is interesting because, in the same way Zenit opened the door for many people to 35mm SLR photography, this camera made medium format photography an affordable hobby for many people.

The camera takes 120 film which is loaded into a reel in the bottom of the camera and runs over the back of the camera to a take up spool sitting in the top. I was a feature of 120 film cameras that once the film was exposed you take the bottom reel off and place it in the top as the take up reel ready for the next film. There is no film counter or wind on ratchet system to make sure you wind the correct amount of film between exposures – the film had a backing paper which had numbers on and you wind the film until the next number shows in a small red window in the back of the camera. On this camera there is a small blanking plate over this window and a little knob to move it out of the way when you are advancing the film.

Once the camera was loaded, the picture was composed on a glass screen fitted in the top of the camera which you view by looking down on it from above. One advantage of this is it encouraged images taken from a lower level than eye level finders. I quite often try to take pictures from a lower height to improve the interest so in that way this camera has an advantage.

There is a non-removable lens fitted to the Lutitel 166b – although some TLR’s had replaceable lenses, this model didn’t. It is fitted with a 75mm f/4.5-f/22 picture lens and a coupled viewfinder lens of f/2.8. The two lenses are coupled by a gearing arrangement which keeps them in sync, and of course the aperture only applies to the bottom picture lens, so the picture you view and focus is always at maximum brightness. This arrangement is very good as long as you aren’t too close to the subject when parallax error would start to come into effect.

The shutter is a very odd arrangement. There is a small lever on one side of the lens which is brought down and when it clicks in place the shutter is ‘cocked’. There is then another lever underneath it which is pressed to release the shutter.

The aperture and shutter speed are set using small levers mounted around the lens. The range offered is

  • B, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 sec
  • f/4.5, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22

Other features of this camera are a tripod bush on the bottom, a ‘cold’ flash socket on the side with a sync socket fitted to the lens and a self timer mechanism.

I know my dad was a camera collector like me and I believe he bought this second hand when it was quite old. Unfortunately I can’t get him to confirm that now, but I’m sure he had some fun with it and that in itself is a good enough reason to buy it.

 

Vintage camera collection – Lubitel 166b TLR This is another camera which I inherited from my Father - a Lubitel 166b Twin Lens Reflex.

This is a short post about a 35mm viewfinder camera I bought this week – A Beier Beirette model 11.

This is different from the cameras I usually buy because it is a simple viewfinder camera with a non-removable lens. I normally buy cameras with a lens which will be useful on my Nex 6 but in this case I bought the camera because it is similar to the first ‘proper’ camera my Dad owned in the mid 1960′s. In fact the model he bought was a Boots Beirette, which was a version sold by the well known chemist shop in the UK, and he used it for a good number of years until he upgraded to a Zenit B.

It’s a very simple camera. There are just 3 shutter speeds 1/125, 1/60 & 1/30 and then a B setting. The aperture is continuously adjustable from f/2.9 to f/22 and the focus is adjusted by setting the distance on the lens. I remember my Dad had a rangefinder unit which he fitted to the hot shoe which allowed him to find the distance and then transfer the reading to the focus.

There is a cable release socket fitted above the shutter, and a flash sync socket fitted to the side of the lens unit and that is about it for connections.

The film wind on is odd because it doesn’t have anything which stops you winding on frame after frame and it isn’t coupled to the shutter. This means you don’t ‘cock’ the shutter – it will fire as many times as you push the button. This is very useful if you want to make multiple exposures, but you would need to have a proper mental system in place to make sure you always know if you ‘wind and fire’ or ‘fire and wind’. Of course it could be that my version is broken and there should be some mechanical stop on this action.

The film chamber is also different from any other I’ve seen. The pressure plate which keeps the film flat is not fitted to the camera back but hinges down from the top of the chamber. To insert a film you would lift up to pressure plate, thread the film through and drop the plate back down, then refit the back of the camera which is a separate unit on this camera.

All in all this is a simple 1960′s camera which I wouldn’t normally buy but because of the connection to my Dad I got it. This is made more poignant by the fact that we lost my Dad to cancer last week.

Vintage camera collection – Beier Beirette model 11 This is a short post about a 35mm viewfinder camera I bought this week - A Beier Beirette model 11.

These two camera’s are a new addition to my camera collection which I bought primarily for the Helios 44M lens which was attached to each, however they are still historically of interest to me because the first ‘proper’ camera I owned was a Zenit E, and my Dad had one for a long time too.

Although these camera’s are slightly different from the Zenit E I owned, the differences are fairly minimal from memory. I certainly remember the substantial ‘clunk’ as the shutter is released and the weight of these beasts!

In terms of these two cameras the 11 seems slightly more ‘feature rich’ than the EM. The 11 has a hot shoe fitted and a slot on the back where you can put the index card from the film fitted to the camera. It also has a slightly nicer shutter adjustment dial and the addition of a second tripod bush on the bottom of the camera only slightly off-centre. If that sounds a funny thing to write, it’s nothing like as funny as designing a camera with the tripod bush mounted on one side, but that is exactly what both these camera’s have – a tripod bush under the film advance lever!

One slightly rare feature of the Zenit EM is that it is an olympics special version with the 5 inter-joined circles on the prism housing. Mind you, having written slightly rare, I’m not sure it is – there seem to be plenty on ebay with that insignia so perhaps there were a lot made.

Description

I’m going to write one description for both camera’s because, as I’ve implied above, they are more similar than different.

They are 35mm film SLR’s of a fairly basic design. There is an in built light meter for measuring exposure, but it isn’t a through the lens recording of light – this is simply a selenium cell fixed above the lens mount and a dial fitted around the rewind crank. To make a reading you point the camera at the subject and then turn the dial until a small circle lines up with the meter needle. You can then read the exposure from the scale fitted above the dial and apply those settings to the shutter/aperture. It’s a simple system, but from what I remember it was remarkably effective and easier to use than having to carry a hand-held light-meter.

The range of shutter speeds is limited to B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 & 1/500 with flash sync is at 1/30. With today’s camera’s offering typically from several seconds to 1/4000 or 1/8000 that seems a very limiting range of values, but again at the time it seemed fine. I remember that I always though I could freeze motion at anything over 1/125 !

Both camera’s have essentially the same focusing screen fitted which consists of a matt fresnel screen with two circles in the centre to assist but no split rangefinder style circle. The eyepiece has a knurled ring round it to allow it to be corrected for the users individual eyesight. On my EM model there is a slightly darker brown line down the middle of the focusing screen which I think may be inside the prism housing. I certainly can’t see anything on the mirror or the focusing screen itself.

Both camera’s have automatic lens aperture stop down, provided by a metal bar which pushes the pin on the lens as the shutter is released. This mechanism also allows the lens to be stopped down as the shutter button is half-pressed.

Other features which are essentially the same is the frame counter round the film advance lever, a self timer fitted to the front plate, a flash sync socket fitted at the top of the front plate and strap lugs fitted to the front.

In all these are simple cameras and not at all sophisticated, but they are an important part of camera history. There are innumerable photographers today who started their photographic careers  with a Zenit because they provided good quality and a reasonable feature set at a very reasonable price. I certainly count myself in that band and I know my Dad did too.

Vintage camera collection – a pair of Zenits These two camera’s are a new addition to my camera collection which I bought primarily for the…

I recently acquired a couple of these lenses when I bought a Zenit EM and a Zenit 11 35mm SLR which had these fitted as standard lenses. They are very useful lenses to own for portrait work. They have a great reputation for producing wonderful swirly background bokeh  which can be very effective and considering the cost of the lens, (I paid a total of £6.50 for both cameras) it’s the sort of lens which every photographer should own!

Why did I buy two ? Well, they were both on ebay and at the time the auction finished I was going to be out so I couldn’t follow my usual procedure of biding at the last moment for something. So just before I went out I put a bid on both of them in the hope I won one of them and as luck would have it, I won both!

Both lenses are of a similar vintage – in fact the serial numbers are quite close together 7843975 & 7856998. Both lenses also suffer from the same problem; the focus rings on them are quite stiff and also non-uniform when they are turned. This is a classic sign of the grease used to lubricate the focus helicoid being old and turning plasticky.

One of the lenses also had a sticky mark on the inside surface of the front element, so I guess at some point someone has had that element out and left a mark. When I looked at that example in more detail, it turns out that the aperture adjustment ring has had the ball-bearing which makes the click-stop work removed, so that the aperture is continuously variable, which also points to some ‘owner adjustments’. I think I’m going to leave that as it is however, because that will make the lens useful for video (which was almost certainly the reason the mod was made, unless someone lost both ball-bearings).

Anyway, back to the repair. I’ve fixed a couple of lenses with sticky focus helicoid, so I decided to have a go at cleaning and freeing them up and cleaning the front element on the one that needed it.

First I had a look on the web to see if I could find any instructions but for this particular version I couldn’t find anything. I did find some generic instructions for a helios 44 style lens which said that the helicoid could be cleaned by lubricating with lighter fuel and cleaning the gunk off that way rather than by totally dismantling, so I thought I would bear that in mind when I got the helicoid exposed.

Getting to the helicoid turned out to be relatively easy. There are three small screws on the focus adjust ring which I loosened just enough for it to free up and then it pulled up over the top of the lens. With the focus adjust ring off it’s possible to just see the helicoid under the black cylinder which forms the filter ring of the lens, so I guessed that needed to be removed next. I also noticed that the brass ring had small holes where the focus adjustment ring screws sit, this will be useful later!

Looking down from the top of the lens the ring with the words “HELIOS-44M” on has two small holes in, so I tried turning that with a lens spanner and it started to unscrew in an anti-clockwise direction. With it fully removed there are three small screws which need to be removed to lift the filter ring off the lens and the helicoid can then be seen (actually I left the screws in place because it’s easier to relocate them later).

At this point I considered the advice I had seen on the generic cleaning instructions, but it didn’t look to me to be too easy to get the helicoid threads clean with lighter fuel. I also guessed that would also lead to a large quantity of messy, semi-liquid grease floating about which is not ideal near optical elements, so I decided to carry on striping the lens down to do a proper job.

So the next thing I did was turn the lens over and remove the bottom of the lens by unscrewing the three screws in the bottom plate which hold it in place  (careful here because there are 4 screws – the one directly under the auto/manual switch holds it in place).

Once the bottom was off the aperture adjustment mechanism also came away (careful of the ball-bearings if fitted) and then it was possible to fully unscrew the helicoid out of the top of the lens. When the helicoid was out I could clean it’s threads with some cloth and use an ultrasonic cleaner to cleanup the brass focus adjustment ring, the outer focus adjustment ring and the lens body. Once they had been through a couple of timed cleans in the ultrasonic bath I dried them off and gave the focus ring and the helicoid a thin coating of lithium based grease to lubricate it all.

After a few turns of the helicoid to get the new grease distributed, I got ready to re-assemble the lens. As usual this is the fiddliest part of the operation – not difficult but quite often this part will need to be done several times to get the parts in correct alignment.

These are the steps I used for re-assembly.

I took the lens body (which is the metal ring with the depth of field scale on and the two slots for the helicoid to drive against) and put a small amount of lithium grease in the two slots.

I then screwed the brass focus ring onto the lens body all the way down, backed it off a quarter turn and placed that on the desk with the brass side down.

Then I dropped the helicoid lens unit into the lens and started to screw it down anti-clockwise until it hits the lens body and can’t turn any more. At this point, if you look down on the lens you can see the two metal tabs attached to the helicoid, and the two slots in the lens body. These two tabs need to align with the slots so the focus ring will push the lens elements in and out. The other thing to remember is that the long pin which adjusts the aperture needs to be on the side of the lens body which has the two screw holes for the lens bottom. This is the fiddly bit where you need to turn the focus ring and hold the back of the lens element against the turn so the tabs pull into the slots. Once they are in I turned the focus all the way down (to minimum focus setting) and temporarily fitted the focus adjustment ring on the brass ring to see if the screw holes lined up with the small screws in the adjustment ring. You see why this is fiddly?

If you do all this and the holes didn’t line up you need to unscrew the helicoid and turn it until the next helicoid thread lines up and try again. This can take many attempts before it all works properly, but once the screw holes and screws line up you should be ok. At this point I screwed the focus adjustment ring on but only did the screws up enough to hold the ring in place (be careful, they are not very strong screws!).

Next the aperture actuation ring fits on the lens, with the thinner side away from the aperture pin. Then the aperture adjustment ring fits on so the two slots in the ring fit over the two pins which protrude. Make sure it’s on the correct way round so the numbers line up with the red mark. As I said, one of my lenses didn’t have ball bearings fitted on the aperture adjustment ring, but if there are, they will need to be fitted as well at this point.

Getting near the end now – I just re-fitted the bottom plate on the lens, lining the auto/manual switch actuation arm with the aperture pin as I did it and screwed the bottom plate down. It’s easy to see if this is working by setting the aperture and switching the auto/manual switch before you do the screws up.

I then had the problem of the top lens element cleaning so to remove the top element I used a lens spanner to unscrew the inner ring of the lens block. Once I did this all the front lens elements fell out as I turned the lens upside down! So I cleaned each element, reassembled the front element block and re-screwed the inner ring. I think I will need to do this again later because I don’t have any lens cleaning fluid and had to just use a lens cloth.

It was just a question then of putting the filter ring back on, screwing it down and refitting the name plate. Once all this was done the focus is quite easy to adjust and I can try to see the sort of pictures it can achieve, and that’s the subject for another post.

 

 

 

 

Helios 44M focus thread cleanup I recently acquired a couple of these lenses when I bought a Zenit EM and a Zenit 11 35mm SLR which had these fitted as standard lenses. 

This is a brief post about my Canon T70 35mm SLR, which I purchased from eBay UK for £11.50 about 9 months ago.


Description

This camera was the second in canon’s T series of manual focus 35mm SLR’s following on from the T50. It was introduced by Canon in about 1984 and was considered to be an advanced camera in it’s day being one of the first cameras to include a micro-processor to control the cameras functions. It’s a typical 1980′s design – quite blocky with push buttons to change the modes and settings and also quite heavy. There is a power winder built into the camera, so there is no film advance lever and the whole camera looks quite minimalistic, especially if compared to a modern DSLR. Power is provided by two AA batteries located in the hand grip and accessed via a small lockable door in the bottom of the camera. A standard hot shoe is fitted above the prism housing, and a tripod bush is fitted to the bottom of the camera in line with the centre of the lens.

The lens fitted to the camera is a Canon FD mount 50mm f/1.8. It looks a nicely made lens, with a metal mount and smooth focus operation. As well as an ‘A’ setting, the 5 blade aperture ring has half stop click stops.

Exposure modes.

I suppose the really novel feature of this camera is the automatic exposure modes it has.

The camera has program mode auto exposure where the shutter speed and aperture are automatically set for the correct exposure – nothing particularly unusual there. What is unusual for the time the camera was made is the fact that you can alter the program for particular types of shooting. This is what we would call ‘program shift’ these days. There are two different exposure modes called ‘Program Wide’ and ‘Program Tele’ which alter the selection the camera makes. Program Wide will keep the aperture smaller to keep more in focus for landscapes, and Program Tele  will keep the aperture wider to make the shutter speed shorter. These are the start of the modern day ‘Scene modes’.

As well as the Program modes the camera also has Tv mode (shutter priority) where the user sets the shutter speed and the camera selects the aperture. In this mode it’s also possible to switch to fully manual exposure by moving the lens from the A setting and on to the lens aperture yourself.

Viewfinder.

The viewfinder is typical of 35mm film cameras – large,  bright and with a split focusing circle in the centre. There is also a microprism outer circle to assist focusing.

The exposure information is shown down the right hand side of the screen. When the camera is in Program mode this consists of the letter P at the top and the aperture the camera has selected below. At the same time, on the top plate LCD the shutter speed is shown. I checked the shutter speed/aperture combination and confirmed that when the program mode is changed the shutter/aperture selected is shifted by about 1 stop. I only tried a relatively simple test though – it’s possible it could shift further in different circumstances.

If the P in the viewfinder is flashing, it means there is not enough or too much light to take the photograph.

If the camera is placed in manual mode, the P is replaced with a letter M and the aperture required for the selected shutter speed is shown in the viewfinder.

Camera Specs

  • ISO range 12 – 1600 not DX coded
  • Split image and microprism focusing
  • Self timer mode
  • Auto film advance
  • Powered film rewind
  • Shutter Priority auto exposure
  • Exposure preview button
  • Shutter speed lock button
  • Program mode auto exposure (tele, normal & wide)
  • Manual exposure mode
  • AE lock
  • Viewfinder aperture display
  • Averaging or center mode exposure
  • 2sec to 1/1000 sec shutter speed
  • Self timer
  • Hot Shoe flash
Vintage camera collection – Canon T70 This is a brief post about my Canon T70 35mm SLR, which I purchased from eBay UK for £11.50 about 9 months ago.