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Saturday, 07 January 2017


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Last year Mike wrote ...
The key is to be clear and forthright about your taste, your prejudices, and your own needs, and then to go ahead and write or perform the review as if you were yourself.

Today John Lehet wrote ...
This was new for me, to pick one lens over another for something so subjective.

... proving Mike's point.

It's the pictures.

You have to love the old legacy lenses. It was also my path back into photography and can vouch for the off brand 90mm macro lenses. I grabbed this photo with another favorite - a Nikon 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E AI-s. It was getting ready to sell it, took a sample shot for the sale and it went viral (at least for me) on flickr. Shot at 3.5 of a flower in our garden.

Nikon 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E AI-s

[Nice one. That's another honey of a lens. As famous as that lens was--it was very popular among some very high-end fashion photographers for instance--I've always wondered why Nikon didn't just reissue the exact same design in an AF mount. --Mike]

John, congratulations on the print sale! I'm glad I got my Bokina before this article came out, as I suspect its price may be going up because of this post. I love it for portraits on a DX crop camera, and landscapes on an FX camera. And as you know, it holds up well even when used on a modern small-pixel pitch camera such as your A7RII.

Here's one sample from a D810 and probably stopped down to f/8. Ignore the weird EXIF information: the D810 doesn't seem to believe that 90mm lenses exist!


A lovely photo and a lovely lens.

Over ten years ago a photographer named Todd Owyoung wrote an extended review of this lens under the moniker of "tao.design." It created quite a stir among Nikon users at a time when the dramatic shift to digital led many photographers to replace their older lenses with AF-based designs.

I, too, would not be surprised to see another burst of interest of interest in this lens amongst photographers now.



An interesting parallel to my adventures in FF Mirrorless and old/odd lenses.

I didn't enter through the gate of high res, though. I'd been playing with lenses that make images often far from sharp contrasty and clear, off and on, going back to film days. I'd been getting some good images on µ4/3, but felt limited. The lenses I had already and those I wanted to try were really FF lenses, and not as "good" on µ4/3.

As neither resolution nor IS were of great importance, I bought a used A7. I've used it exclusively for my alt.moose work, staying with my conventional gear for regular photography. I've made a lot of images I like, although I have much more to learn.

Like you, I've had to take a lot of sample shots at various apertures to get a sense of what these lenses do.

The main menagerie is smaller than yours:

Tamron 28/2.8 T-mount
Super Lentar 35/2.8 T-mount
LensBaby Velvet 56 56/1.6
Holga 60/8
Minolta Varisoft 85/2.8
SIMA Soft Focus 100/2.0 T-mount
Sankor 135/2.8 T-mount
generic Pinhole

The early, pre computer design lenses do some interesting things at larger apertures. This with the Sankor 135/2.8

With digital, it's also possible to combine effects, as with the old SIMA Soft Focus 100/2, at three of its Waterhouse stops.

Then there's the local club of LensBaby Optic Swap System lenses, with straight and bendy mounts. I don't like the kind of images they tout, finding them mostly tedious, but find they can do other very nice things.

I still have my whole line of OM Zuikos from 18 to 500 mm and many other old MF lenses in OM or Tamron Adaptall mount.

Most of those won't end up on the A7, although the 500/8 mirror just did. The last version of the 50/1.4, for example, is indeed an excellent lens, but doesn't fit my purpose there. I'll just use the Panny 42.5/1.7 on an E-M5 II.

I'd like to state a contrary view on using legacy lenses. Since moving from Pentax to Fuji x I feel simply relieved about the relative lack of choice. I've got my home, for me, focal length covered (30mm approx), the rest I make do with using a 16-55 zoom. I find it hugely relieving.

to Nigli, Yes, I totally understand the relief of "lack of choice" I sort of do it both ways. When I've got a new prime, it's usually glued to the camera. I use it and use it and use it until I see through it. However since I've done this with my other lenses, I can also see the frame through them. It's like being clicked into one view of the world, but then I can also sometimes, even with a new-old lens glued on there, click back to one of my other favorites. Also there is only so much I can carry, and especially since I'm carrying the infrared camera. Usually for the FF it's just three primes, maybe four.

Also to give some credit in my alt-lens exploration, I started out heartened by Brian Smith's web pages. He gives a lot of advice about adapting lenses for the Sony, very generous -- but he is mostly talking about adapting modern AF lenses.

And then a lot of credit also goes to Phillip Reeve, who published lots of thorough and beautifully presented info on using inexpensive MF lenses. I didn't stumble on Phillip's great site until I had already made the plunge into Sony, so he helped me with the shift.

Oh, and one bit of pith instruction: the A7Rii has IBIS, of course. With these lenses the camera will not know the focal length of the lens. You must set this for the IBIS to work properly. Trust me on this. When you set it, of course, the IBIS works beautifully.

If you have one alt lens, it's no big deal: you set it, and then your modern lenses will take over when they are on the camera. If you have more than one alt lens, the trick is to set up one of the function buttons to bring this option up, and then you turn the dial on the camera. The only trouble is remembering this, but one (usually) gets used to it.

This inspires me to get out my old OM / Zuiko macro set and play with it on a 5D. I'd always intended to but never got round to it. (20mm f3.5 / 80mm f4 / 135mm f4.5).

I still use the 50mm f3.5 regularly but it doesn't need the bellows/extension tube

Love my old lenses but unfortunately, for me a lot of the magic is at the edges of the frame - all that "terrible" vignetting, softness and distortion - and hence they're never quite the same affair on a crop sensor.

I've been using legacy Pentax lenses on my K1 and finding the occasional gem. But for some reason the best ones seem hard to find on Ebay these days. Sony has long tentacles. : ).

Good luck with the sale.

I've been shooting with a Sony A7r mounted onto a Cambo Actus "mini view camera." My lens kit consists of Rodenstock Rodagons (APO 80/4 N, WA 60mm/4, 135mm/5.6), and an EL-Nikkor 105mm/5.6.

The results are fabulous. The image circles of the above mentioned lenses allow for generous movements along the back standard of the Actus (rise/fall and shift). The front standard is great for extending depth of field.

The enlarger lenses are sharp, contrasty (later MC versions), and virtually free of CA and linear distortion. They employ 5-6 aperture blades.I can't comment about bokeh, as I like everything in the frame to be razor sharp. Surprisingly, they are relatively flare resistant. It's important to remember to cover the aperture windows with black tape to avoid light leaks.


re. vintage lenses: Almost two years ago, I switched from a Nikon D90 to a pre-used Nikon D800. My main motivation was to be able to use prime lenses; I always work in terms of projects, and prime lenses help to keep the perspective consistent. Like you, I photograph the landscape, so precise focussing and depth of field control is essential. I found AF was more an impediment than a gain.

Since then, my main lens is a 35mm f/2.8 AiS PC-Nikkor. I take about 90% of my pictures with this lens, the rest with a 50mm f/1.8 Ai Nikkor (not the pancake). Manual focus and DOF preview is not a problem using the excellent live view of the D800, and the pre-exposure histogram makes exposure easy.

As I was used to the 16-85mm Nikkor zoom I used on the D90, it took me a bit of time to accommodate myself to the different look of these old lenses. They are less 'punchy', have less saturation, contrast and microcontrast, but stopped down they are easily good enough for 36MP. If one wants more 'punch', this can easily be added during post processing ('punch' is actually easier to add then to remove).

I came to actually prefer the look of these old Nikkors. The prints look very nice, less digital/clinical, more 'organic'. Currently, I feel no itch to purchase modern AF lenses.

Best, Thomas

I too have been using adapted lenses for as long as Sony have been shipping the NEX family of cameras and I've probably had all the successes and frustrations we read about. Most of the frustrations I've experienced are traceable to the quality of the adapters. I own way more Sony/Nikon adapters than I'd like to admit and I've found a few I like but it surprises me that with all the bandwidth dedicated to the pros and cons of an adapted approach we see very little discussion of which adapters are working well and which just don't make the grade.

The real hidden gem there, is, as you subtly mentioned, the OM 90/2.


Never done this before but I'm trying to embed an image taken with a Sony A7r and an Olympus OM Zuiko 135mm f2.8 lens.

I've found that the ability to adapt lenses to the A7r has breathed new life into my collection of OM and M lenses. I find them much more pleasing that modern AF designs.

Interesting re John Lehet's last name pronunciation. Absent that footnote, I might have said "le-HAY"

I've had my name mispronounced my whole life, except in grades K-5, where the parochial school teachers were all Polish-speaking nuns. No, my name doesn't have strings of Z's and S's and C's bunched together, or weird accent marks, isn't very long, and doesn't end in "ski."

[Funny story along those lines...when I lived in Chicago my brother and sister in law's cleaning lady came to my house one morning a week, the only time I've ever had cleaning help. Her name was Maria Kwasnica. Anyway one time I was sick and needed to call her to tell her not to come, so I called my sister-in-law, who is first-generation American born of Polish parents, to ask for the proper pronunciation of her last name. It was close to "kvash-NEETS-ah." Anyway, freshly coached, I called Maria's number, and her husband answered, and when I asked to speak to her, he began speaking to me rapidly in Polish! When I told him I spoke no Polish at all, he was astonished and couldn't believe it at first.

It turned out that in all his years here he had never heard an English-speaking American pronounce his last name correctly, and when he heard me say it right he just assumed I had to speak Polish. :-) --Mike]

I was a late adopter of digital because I was wedded to a lovely Tokina 17mm lens on 35mm. I sold it on eBay with sob in my heart. The new owner emailed me a few weeks later saying it was a lens that made him want to go out and take pictures. Yes, I agreed, lots of character! :)

Cheers, Geoff

I'd say my only complaint about my Fujifilm cameras is the lack of IBIS so that legacy lenses, especially longer focal lengths, get that extra little crispness help. On a tripod my Rolleinar 85mm f/2.8 is stellar. At lower ISOs, handheld, not so much.

Ahhhh, legacy glass. That's the pretentious way of saying it these days, but I love the idea of being able to adapt lenses to my camera. I loved my A7R the most for that reason, and never understood the "no lenses" nonsense---there were hundreds of them!....and then ironically partly gave it up for that reason. I traded it (and more stuff in) for a Pentax K1, on which I'm using a bunch of....legacy glass. But this time w/o adapters.

And that was the awkward thing about the A7 series, that the adapters were either literally awkward (for, say, Contax G lenses...I had 2, and they were great)or kinda big (for my Tamron 28-75 A mount, or my Pentax lenses). So a lot of the compactness of the A7 series cameras was wiped out, and I was left with....a cramped UI.

So, on to a 645Z, which is big and heavy (try it one handed while holding a flash out at arms length!) but oh so wonderful UI wise, just an excellent size with plenty of room between buttons. And legacy glass: I only have one new lens for it, and that one I bought used, and everything else is older or just plain old, and works marvelously. Thank you backwardly-compatible Pentax! Both of your flagship cameras work with your whole lens lineup back to screw-mount.

Old lenses rule.

This is obvious and familiar to many no doubt, but I have been surprised to find that several lenses whose character on film left me cold, despite their sterling reputations, became absolute gems when used with a digital camera. A couple of years ago, I bought a new Nikon d7000 at close-out ($450), and after going through my cupboard of Nikkors, discovered that the 105/2.5 (Planar) and 45/2.8P (Tessar) rendered beautifully on that camera's sensor, while the AF85/1.8 and AFD180/2.8 whose character on various film emulsions I admire did indifferently (and this is not just a reflection of cropping). No doubt there is the issue of unit-to-unit variation, but above and beyond, I now assume that occasionally there will be serendipitously outstanding matches between lenses and sensors (including emulsions), and there is no substitute for testing in the field with specific cameras(films) and lenses.

This post really makes me miss manual focus lenses. I like adjusting the aperture ring and focusing myself just like I enjoy having a manual transmission in a car. Even if I am a poor photographer at least I'm having fun taking photos and I feel like I have some input in the process. I just wish someone would make an affordable Pentax MX digital full-frame - manual focus but full frame so the "legacy" lenses can be used the way they were designed. While I am wishing, I also wish I could take photo like Philip Reeve!

I remember reading great things about this lens but mostly as a macro and not related to the bokeh. Now I want one but hopefully the price will come down a bit. Speaking of price, I'll only ever use the lens on a film camera since the full frame Sony costs mucho dinero!

I'll point out that Tokina also manufactured this lens for Vivitar, who called it the Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 macro. I owned a copy some years ago (without the 1:1 converter) and I concur it was lovely. However, at the time I also owned the Sigma 90mm f/2.8 macro and the Tamron equivalent (both in AF mount). In a burst of common sense I sold the Tamron and the Vivitar, because "who needs 3 macro lenses of the same focal length?".

To this day I regret selling the Vivitar Bokina, and I bet it would've worked beautifully on my new Fuji X-T2. Sigh...

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