If you like what you found here :

If you like this blog and if it was useful to you, I would like a small retribution in form of a charity donation for one of these animal shelters. They're awesome people and really need help specially in the pandemics days. Thank you !

Lakeroad Ferret Farm Shelter
West Michigan Ferret Connection
Ottawa Ferret Rescue
Ferret Dreams Rescue and Adoption

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Icarex 35 and 35CS


Icarex 35CS

This is a quite neat camera from the mid-'60s made by Zeiss Ikon, but the project was originally from Voigländer. Some people say that this camera is not so reliable, but mine is working perfectly except for the light meter.

It's a bulky and heavy all-mechanical camera with a very good viewfinder. Not exceptionally large but very, very clear and it has a 45 degrees split image focusing aid and a plain mat area.

The shutter speeds are from 1/2s to 1/1000s and it's very smooth and reliable compared to the Contarex and Contax rangefinder cameras from Zeiss. It's simple and less prone to jams. 

The Icarex was sold with finder options: A plain waist-level (like the ones found on TLRs), a simple prism and the dreaded CS. The last one has a so-so CdS light meter very prone to problems. The exposure setting is very awkward. First you need to set the speed on the top dial of the prism assembly and set the same speed on the shutter speed selector. Then you need to step down the lens by pressing the DoF/iris button near the lens mount and adjust the aperture until the light meter needle stays at the center. Not very practical. To make things even stranger the meter needle is at the TOP of the viewfinder area, along with the aperture number. At its top, we can see an exposure guide calculator. It uses a dreaded PX13 (625) mercury battery. Do yourself a favor, forget about it and use a handheld meter.

I prefer it with the simple prism (no meter).

Icarex 35

Note that the Icarex 35 and the 35CS are the same camera. The difference is the detachable prism model.

Icarex 35 with the standard prism

At this time I have three lenses:

- Skoparex 35mm F3.4
- Dynarex 90mm F3.4
- Super-Dynarex 135mm F4

All are single-coated and designed by Voigltänder. They take a very odd filter, Icarex B50 (different from Hasselblad's B50). They quite sharp but flares like crazy. A light hood is a must.

Now I'll start my hunt for a decently priced 50mm F2.8 Tessar and that's it. No need for more lenses for this camera. Wider lenses for it are rare and expensive, I can live without them.

To be honest the greatest complication for this camera in the present time are the accessories. They are not very rare but they are odd. The lens mount remembers a cross between a Canon FD (lock) and an M42 screw mount (pin) ! 

Icarex camera lens mount

Icarex lens mount

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Photo Supreme Version 6 just launched !

 IdImager just released Photo Supreme version 6 with many improvements and bug fixes.

Worths a look if you need a professional-grade DAM

Download the test version here

This is, to my taste, THE best DAM available.

* This blog does NOT monetize or profit from any software or equipment maker

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Updates on some topics and pages

 Hello everybody !

Some topics and pages may be missing for a while. I'm making some revisions and updates.

Stay tuned !

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Zeiss Contarex 35 Electronic and 35 Mechanic

The Zeiss Contarex 35 Electronic was probably the most sophisticated camera of its time and was supposed to be an engineering marvel from Zeiss.

It's a massive, chrome-plated beast that impresses, at least looking at it. But it's very rare to have one working properly. This camera is a mechanical and electronic nightmare. It's extremely complicated and you should not try to repair one unless you're from a very specific guild of repairmen.

The camera has a huge, very bright optical viewfinder that accepts interchangeable focus screens. The standard one is a fresnel-type with a micro prism collar and split image focusing aid. The viewfinder also shows the light meter and the shutter speed readings.

Ergonomics? What for? Just a very heavy brick-like body with a strange control layout. The focusing control is standard, but the aperture is linked to a wheel at the camera's front, near the prism box. The shutter speed control is around the counter, film advance, and shutter release button. This is a terribly complicated setup in terms of mechanics and a nightmare to CLA. Do not try to CLA it unless you're a very experienced technician. This camera demands a true expert for this.

Contarex 35 Electronic

The shutter is electronically controlled and this means that the camera needs batteries to work. It uses a strange choice, two "N" batteries, being the original mercury ones. But you can use alkaline as well, and the camera has a built-in battery test button.

If you really want to dig into this camera internals, please read this first. Be advised. 

It's a very interesting camera IF you can find one in proper working order, but expect to pay $800 (working) to $1500 (for one in perfect condition), body only.

Avoid it if not working ! It may cost you an arm and a leg to get it repaired. If in good working order, it's a pleasure to use it.

The Contarex 35 Professional is the classical mechanical version of the previously mentioned camera. It's still very complicated to service and, again, needs a really good technician. But it's far more reliable than the electronic model.

Contarex 35 Professional

The camera has no electronics of any kind, neither a light-meter. That's the good news, no unreliable mercury-battery powered tricky meter.

The shutter speeds goes from 1s to 1/1000s and the curtain is made of cloth. The viewfinder is, like the electronic cousin, very clear and allows a precise focus.

Contarex 35 Professional
Top View

Not a cheap camera on eBay, but who knows when you will find one on a garage sale ?

Here is a small list of the available lenses for the Contarex

  • 15mm F8 Hologon (outrageoulsy expensive)
  • 18mm F4 Distagon (veeery expensive)
  • 21mm F4.5 Biogon (still veeery expensive)
  • 35mm F2 Distagon (expensive)
  • 35mm F4 Distagon (budget)
  • 50mm F2.8 Tessar (budget)
  • 50mm F2 Planar (expensive) *
  • 55mm F1.4 Planar (very expensive)
  • 85mm F2 Sonnar (expensive) *
  • 135mm F2.8 Sonnar (expensive)
  • 135mm F4 Sonnar (budget) *
  • 250mm F4 Sonnar (no idea)
* My favorites, all insanely sharp.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Legacy Lenses 10 - Zeiss 50mm F2 Planar in Contarex Mount


Zeiss 50mm F2 Planar in Contarex Mount

This lens is a permanent classic and it's still has a very modern look even having more than 50 years!

The lens above was made for the Zeiss Contarex camera (not Contaflex). The material and craftsmanship are absolutely flawless. Sturdy but very smooth, truly precision made piece of Teutonic engineering.

Sharpness is not an issue. It's very sharp from F3.5 even at the corners and it has a jaw-dropping resolution at its center on any aperture from F4 to F11.

As an early model, although coated, its coating is not even close in performance compared to modern ones, but it works well if you use a proper light hood and avoid shooting directly against very bright light sources, so flare is a real issue with this lens.

The contrast and colors are excellent and work like a charm along with the Sony A7 series. Of course, you will need a CRX to Sony E adapter to use it with this camera.

Interesting things are the strange 8-blade iris opening with a peculiar star format in certain apertures, and the fact that this lens has no aperture setting ring. The aperture was set by a control wheel at the camera's body. The CRX adapters usually have an aperture control ring.

It's a rather expensive lens, with prices between $200 and $500 depending on the condition.

It can be an interesting pick if you find it in good shape and for a fair price, otherwise, I would suggest taking a look at the Rollei Planar 50mm F2 in QBM mount which has a very good HFT multi-coating and cost much less. But make no mistake, the craftsmanship of this Zeiss is FAR superior to any lens from Rollei in QBM mount.

Also, there are other better '50s for the price from Canon, Pentax, Olympus, and Minolta. But this lens is classic and a must-have for any serious collector.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Preventing Fungi on Camera Lenses

One of the most common questions in photography is about how to prevent fungi contamination on lenses and other photographic equipment. The solution is very obvious but there is a lot of misinformation on the internet that must be cleared.

First, know your enemy, the fungus.

  • They like dark, humid places.
  • Some of them don't care about the light, others do.
  • About temperature, depending on the species, they can live from subfreezing arctic to equatorial jungles...

The common ground is the humidity, not the temperature unless we're talking about more than 50 degrees Celsius. Don't believe it? Temperatures in the Amazon rainforest can reach easily 42-43 degrees Celcius and there are LOTS of fungi there. Temperatures in cheese maturation caves are always below 10C and sometimes 5C. Plenty of fungi there... Each fungi strain has a specific optimal temperature range for development. 

Keep the humidity low and you'll make any fungus life much harder.

I use two Benro dry cabinets set to 35% RH and I had no problems with fungus since 15 years ago. You can also use hermetic pots with silica-gel, but you WILL need to heat the silica from time to time, or when the RH goes over 40% inside the pot. Put a small cheap hygrometer inside the pot, container, or whatever you use. The key is to have a good SEALED one. No good sealing = no protection.

About the UV urban legend (UV-C lamps, sunbath, etc.)

Some facts:

  • UV-C is dangerous for skin and eyes
  • UV-B and UV-C will damage or even destroy rubber parts
  • UV-B and UV-C will NOT pass through the optical glass used on lenses. Just some part of the UV-A will pass and UV-A will NOT kill the fungus.
But someone said: Oh, but when I sunbathe my lenses I perceive that the fungus would not grow anymore!

Not so simple. What's messing up with the fungus is the HEATH, not the UV. It's easy to reach temperatures well over +40C under these conditions and this is what is disrupting the fungus growth. But the spores are far more resistant and they will probably survive and grow when the conditions turn favorable.

The only SURE way to kill fungi with UV is to expose the contaminated side of the elements directly to UV-C what means to disassembly the lens and I would not recommend this for obvious reasons. If you reached the point of disassembling the lens to do this, it would make much more sense to use a neutral detergent to remove the fungi, dirty and oil, then use a biocide like Lysoform or a Hydrogen Peroxide solution to kill the fungi and spores, rinse everything with water, dry and reassemble everything. NO NEED FOR UV this is stupid.

About X-Rays, the irradiation time needed for sterilization needs to be massive! That 1s dose from your dentist friend's X-Ray machine will do NOTHING and will just be a waste of the X-Ray emitter's life.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Raw Photo Development on Low Buget, what are the options ?

Update on November, 21th 2020

From time to time people always ask what would be a low cost but yet effective suite for raw development of photos.

This is a tricky question because it will greatly depend on what are your plans, how much patience, time, and knowledge you have.

But first, you need to consider some basic things:

  • How many different raw formats do you need to deal with?
  • Is your camera fitted with a conventional sensor (Bayer) or more exotic ones, like X-Trans and Foveon?
  • What's your budget limit?
If you deal with only one raw format I would give a try to the maker's bundled software.

Canon's Digital Photo Professional has lots of features and even remote tether to most of their cameras, It's fast and easy to use.

Nikon also has its own raw converter, pretty similar to Canon's. It's called Nikon Capture NX-D.

Pentax, Fuji and Panasonic bundles an OEM version of Silkypix. It's pretty powerful but staggering slow if you plan to run large batches or have a slow computer.

Olympus' Workspace is pretty basic, but enough for basic adjustments.

But my advice is to try the free versions of Capture One. They have for Fuji, Sony, and Nikon. The free versions are called "Express". Even these free versions are way more powerful than the maker's bundled software. Look for Capture One Express

If you use more than one raw format, the low budget options are narrow. You may try, for example, Luminar 4 (I don't like it) and if you plan to go hardcore, maybe RawTherapee.

All the above-mentioned programs are available for Windows and Mac.

If you have a Mac, RawPower is a simple, yet robust raw converter, and it's not expensive. Actually, I think it's a bargain.

I would avoid subscription-based programs.

Kodak Signet 35

Kodak Signet 35
(I know, I'll make a decent picture ASAP)

This is a very nice small camera made by Kodak, USA, in the '50s. The lens is a super sharp 44mm F3.5 Ektar, a Tessar based design, with diaphragm setting from f3.5 to f22. To be honest the Ektar lens sharpness is as good as the Rollei 35 Tessar if not better!

At the top plate, there are the film advance and rewind knobs and the frame counter. The counter is, like many Kodaks from this era, a regressive counter. You need to set it manually according to the film number of exposures. For example, for a 12 exposure film, you set the counter to 12. It will decrease by one for each frame shot. I really don't like regressive mechanical counters because it's very easy to forget to set it properly in the beginning. 

The viewfinder is small and not very bright, has no parallax compensation neither framing lines, but at least has a decent coincident image rangefinder and good contrast. The rangefinder itself is precise, contrasty and very smooth. Even more impressive is the fact it's still perfect after more than 60 years!

The shutter is very simple with just the "high" speeds: 1/25s, 1/50s, 1/100s and 1/300s plus B. This camera is really built like a tank. It's solid, very solid. For what I saw during the CLA this simple shutter mechanism looks very reliable. It's normal for old shutters to get sticky but it's not that complicated to put them back to work. If your camera's shutter still sticks my advice is to have the x-sync contact removed.

It's very easy to CLA. The complete shutter and optics assembly can be removed just unscrewing (with the help of a spanner) the module screw from inside the camera. It will come out in one piece.
To remove the front lens group just grab it and turn it counterclockwise and unscrew it. It's easy to remove the front plate and get access to the shutter components.

Kodak Signet lens: Ektar 44mm f3.5

You'll also note that this camera has no light meter, but an interesting slide rule for exposure calculation on the camera back. Too bad it's not marked with ISO/ASA values, but by old Kodak film types (Kodachrome, Plus-X, XX and Pan-X). I have no idea of the original specs of the mentioned Kodachrome. Plus-X was an excellent 125 ISO low grain film and the XX was a "high speed" ISO 200 black and white film. Not sure if this Pan-X meant the Panatomic-X ultra-low grain (32 ISO). To be honest, thank's Kodak for NOT putting selenium a meter on it.

Kodak Signet 35 exposure calculator 

The idea is to set the film type and the light conditions and get an exposure value. A bit clumsy but better than nothing. I would carry a handheld light meter or even a cell phone app for this function.

The only quirk is the fact that the shutter needs to be manually cocked before each picture, but at least it has a double exposure prevention lock that works very well. If you want to make a double exposure, there is a manual override for this, by moving a small lever at the bottom of the camera front. Easy to forget to cock, but far more reliable than the dreaded Kodak Retinas mechanisms.

Kodak Signet 35 back

There are two military versions, a black one (USAF) and a green one (US ARMY). Both are highly prized and can reach more than USD 500 easy if in good condition. The standard model is easily found on e-Bay for just a few bucks and worths every cent.

I got mine for $25 in a so-so condition but working. I had to clean the objective and also did an ultrasonic cleaning of the shutter assembly and a basic CLA. The rangefinder assembly needed just some minor cleaning.

Final note:

The Retinas are some sort of cult cameras, they have excellent optics but they are very unreliable. They're hard to find working well and a bit overpriced.

This Signet is just the opposite: Simple, reliable, basic and cheap, but with a superb lens.

Cascata do Caracol - Canela, RS, Brazil
Kodak Signet 35
Kodak Signet 35 / Kodak Color 200

Mike Eckman wrote an excellent post about the Signet 35.
This other page by Mike Elek has some very interesting repair notes.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Raw Power 3.x Released

If you have a Mac and need a simple, fast and less complicated raw file converter, give a try to Gentlemen Coders Raw Power.

The V3 has lots of new controls and tools.

Runs on Mac OSX Mojave and up.

For El Capitan, Sierra and High Sierra, unfortunately, the last compatible version is 2.X 

Raw Power can be downloaded from Apple Application Store

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Olympus Stylus (Mju)

This little camera is, in my opinion, the best single-lens autofocus camera ever made by Olympus, even better in some ways than the successor, the Stylus Epic (mju-II)

Olympus Stylus (Mju)
All Rights Reserved
It inherited the clamshell design from the XA series and its lens is similar to the one from the XA2. The lens is a very sharp 3-element 35mm F3.5 assisted by a precision multi-beam 100 steps autofocus. It was an engineering challenge to make such a compact and advanced camera. The designer was nothing else than the legend Yoshihisa Maitani.

The camera can accept dx-coded films from ISO 50 to 3200. The exposure is full automatic with shutter speeds from 1/15s to 1/500s. Unfortunately, it lacks speeds below 1/15s (The Mju-II can go lower)

The built-in electronic flash can be operated in four modes, full-auto, fill-in, red-eye reduction and off.

I found mine for about $15 in perfect working order, hard to beat.

The Mju-II has better specs, like a 4-element 35mm F2.8 lens and speeds low as 4 seconds, but nowadays it's a rather expensive camera compared to the mju-I, but its lens isn't that sharp at maximum aperture.

Pros: Sharp lens, compact, inexpensive
Cons: No longer than 1/15s shutter speeds :( 

We can make a parallel with the Olympus XA and XA2. The XA is better specced in all ways but by no means makes the XA2 a lesser option. They are different, especially in price and some minor features. Used in daylight I dare you to distinguish photos made with both. The same happens with the Mju and Mju-II.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Kodak S500AF, bizarre point and shoot

Kodak S-Series S500AF

Kodak always had a reputation for making strange looking cameras, and the S500AF is maybe the best example.

The camera is large, more than twice, maybe three times the size of the Olympus Mju. It's one of the noisiest cameras I had in hands and has several weirdnesses:

- Absolutely no overrides. Ok, I can live with this, but this camera doesn't allow you to disengage the flash. It will ALWAYS fire, no matter how high the light is !

- The "program" curve is strange. No slow speeds, just ONE, I have no official value, but it's something like 1/125s to 1/250s, with variable aperture, based on the film sensibility and ambient light.  

The camera internals looks extremely complicated for a P&S camera, with lots of integrated circuits soldered on a flexible printed circuit. Too many components to my taste, for a so-so performance.

The only good thing is the lens. The Ektanar 35mm F3.5 is a fine performer and very sharp. The infrared autofocus system has just one central point but it's precise enough for this class of camera.

When you load an unused film, the camera will pre wind all the frames to the camera spool, and every time a picture is shot, the camera will wind the exposed frame into the film cartridge, like the old Canon EOS Rebels. The LCD screen at the top shows how many frames are still available.

Works with two AA alkaline batteries.

It's a rather rare camera, made by Kodak Brasileira in the late 1980s

There are other models belonging to the S-Series. The simplest one is the S100, with manual ISO/Apertures (3, actually), fixed focus and switchable flash. I don't have any technical specs of any of the S-Series, it's almost a void about these cameras on the Internet.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Luminar 4 , don't buy before testing

Skylum just released Luminar 4 on November 18, 2019 as a PAID upgrade from Luminar 2018 or as a stand-alone program.

Since I was a previous user since version 3, I decided to give it a try and ordered the "early bird" upgrade. Well, I must admit that it was a huge mistake.

I confess I was influenced by the good reviews on the media, but later I realized that all the websites that rated L4 so high were profiting from Skylum. Take a read here and think. Is this just a coincidence? 

V4.1 still has some severe flaws that weren't corrected or even addressed yet. If you have Luminar 3 my advice is to NOT pay for the upgrade unless you test it to bones before.

L4 was promised and advertised as a Lightroom killer. What a bad joke.

It has some cool features like the Accent Ai, Sky Enhancer Dehaze,  Color Balance, Advanced Contrast but it's severely crippled.

The main issues are:

  • Slow like hell
  • It's NOT possible to remove an image from the catalog in a simple way. 
  • The file navigator does NOT show the images file names under theirs. thumbnails, you need to see the file information panel.
  • The claimed DAM is simply too primitive to be called "DAM".
  • The program eats memory like crazy.
  • Bugs, bugs, bugs... 
The DAM features are so badly designed and severely crippled without the possibility to remove selected images from the catalog. If you try to do it, Luminar will move the images to its own trash can and if you decide to empty it, your images will be deleted from disk!

There are awkward workarounds to do this, like flag unwanted the images as rejected, create a new "rejected" folder, move the images to there, and then removing the folder from the catalog. Are you kidding me Skylum?

The sky replacement tool is, well... Ok if you really like to ALTER the reality of a scene. For me, it's kind of meh. Please forgive me if you like this feature.

The details and landscape enhancers are nice features for beginners. Not bad, but they don't qualify for a paid upgrade in my opinion. 

Skylum posture is ambiguous about what will happen to Luminar 2018 and the roadmap for V4 isn't clear just very vague and unconvincing statements. 

My recommendation is to NOT buy or upgrade it unless you test it (well) before and be satisfied with the present features or keep using Luminar 2018.

Do NOT rely on Slylum's promises waiting for something they said they're working on and they will release "when ready". This may take YEARS. I don't like the idea of paying in advance for something I can't be sure if I will receive it.

The fact they did that "Early Bird" version 4 campaign based on an unstable and unfinished product was pitty.

I ended up returning it and got a refund.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Film Ferrania: Alive and Kicking ! Sort of...



After 5 years, they weren't able to make the E6 film yet, and I have my doubts if they will really make it. They made a small batch of the P30 Black and White negative film and that's all.

There is a mixed bag of reactions from the backers, some said the Ferrania guys tried to do something way beyond their capabilities, other ones said that they will never fulfill what they promised. As one of the backers, I really hope they could make it. Let's wait a bit more and see.

My personal opinion is that they at least could give the backers an equivalent reward in the form of a P30 package instead of the promised E6.

Original post below:

Film is Alive. And Kicking. 

Who remembers Ferrania ? Well, they’re resurrecting from ashes in a very impressive and well-thought attitude.

(This blog is not associated with Ferrania by any means)


Ferrania was founded in 1923 as a photographic and cinema film maker and also made some simple cameras aimed to the amateur market. The headquarters still is in Liguria region on northern Italy. In 1964 the giant American company 3M acquired Ferrania and then started to make film under other brands, but in 2012 3M shot down the Ferrania factory due to market difficulties.

In 2013 some Ferrania ex-employees started something that some would classify as crazy: to make film again, in an adequate scale for the present film market. To do this they need to salvage and acquire some large pieces of equipment and adapt them to an adequate scale. And to raise the needed money, $250,000 they started a project on Kickstart under the motto “Alive and kicking”.

“FILM Ferrania is restarting production for analog film in both still photo and motion picture formats.”

To do this they need basically three pieces from the old factory building:

Trixie: The Large Scale Triacetate Base Production Machinery, to make the plastic base.
Walter: High Volume Chemical Synthesis Lab, to make the chemical products.
Big Boy: The Industrial Film Coater

The project raised more than pledged, $322,240 backed up by 5582 people. And I hope that what they said “100 more years of analog film” comes true !

This news are very important because nowadays most of the big players already left or are leaving the game.

Agfa was the first one to leave in 2004 when its photo division AgfaPhoto went down. Agfa was founded in 1873 and had more than 100 years ! They are still working, but on medical and special materials for industry and scientific applications, but no more Agfa Ultra 50, Optima 100 or Portrait 160.  No more RSX , Vista or CT-Precisa ...

The next big punch was when Kodak closed it’s photographic film division. No more Ektachrome, Kodachrome, Tri-X and other excellent films. They are history now.

Fuji has ceased making some legendary films, like the Provia 400X and they’re making a fraction of what they offered a few years ago. And they’re not sure for how long they will keep making film.

So, basically Fuji is the only maker of color film today.

Some other brave makers are producing black and white film, like Ilford, Shangai, Foma and Adox. (Thank God!). Efke and Orwo are gone, but the situation for B&W film is better compared with color films. And Svema was never an option in western countries.

The interesting part is that Ferrania decided to start the production with ScotchChrome, a positive (E6) film suitable for still and movie. I was never a fan of the old 3M films, but since they have experience with it and said it will be an enhanced version, I’m curious.

The choice for an E6 film was wise. This will not push the remaining B&W film makers and also not destabilize the market.

E6 film is much more interesting than C41 films especially if you scan. It’s a real pain to get the proper colors from a color negative film, unless you profile it (or have the ready one). You can scan and then print in a digital lab without much pain.

Not to count the fact it’s ready for super-8 and 16mm  movie. I would even risk a bet about the next step: a C41 film, since Fuji is the only player making color films today.

What will come next ? Old forgotten, orphan formats like 620, 127 and 110 ?  Submini formats like Minox and 16mm (Minolta) ? I sincerely hope YES ! Can you imagine how many submini cameras are idle waiting for film ? But please Ferrania, just let the APS film resting in peace.

I would love to have a good E6 film in 110 and Minolta 16mm again.

Another nice and welcomed would be about an E6 developing kit for home and small scale use for an affordable price.  In some countries, E6 labs are almost extinct. I know people that would kill for it ...

And finally, THANKS Ferrania !

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Running Aperture on OSX Catalina

If you're using a new Mac or upgraded to Catalina and want to use Aperture, Tyshawn Cormier wrote a program that allows using it.

Check here

Alternate source here

Monday, January 20, 2020

Legacy Lenses 9 - SMC Pentax M 40mm F2.8 Pancake

Want a small and light lens for your Pentax ? The 40mm F2.8 Pancake may be what you want.

It's a very thin lens, something like 1/3 of the already small 50mm F2.0.

The optical formula is 5 elements in 4 groups.

Pentax 50mm vs 40mm pancake

Pentax MX and the 40mm pancake

The lens is very sharp when stopped down and acceptable wide open. Not the sharpest lens from Pentax if you plan to use on digital, but perfectly adequate for film.

Not the best lens but it's outrageously small and light (110 g), making it a good option when you need to keep thins at a minimum weight.

The new Pentax DA 40mm for digital has nothing to do with this lens, besides the size and look.

Legacy Lenses 8 - Carl Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4 (Contarex)

The Carl Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4 in Contarex mount is a true classic. It's wonderfully made and optically excellent. One of the best ultra-wide-angle lenses ever made.

CZ Distagon 14mm F4 (Contarex mount)

The main highlight of this lens is the ultra-low distortion, and that it covers a full 35mm (24x36mm) sensor size.

It shows some light fall-off wide open but it vanishes at F8. The resolution is excellent even when used on my 24MP Sony A7-II, especially at mid apertures when even the corners are very sharp. Contrast is moderate / low. Not a problem if you plan to use it on a digital camera, it's easy do adjust those "flaws" in post-processing.

It's not the sharpest lens at F4 but remember that it's a 70 year old design made for 35mm film! Again easy to compensate in post-processing.

This lens can take filters and light hoods. The original ones are bayonet style, but it can handle thread in ones. Beware with vignetting.

There are some little caveats with this lens:

  • There's no aperture control on the lens. The control is on the camera. If you plan to use it on digital cameras, be sure to order an adapter with can handle the lens iris, NOT those ones with a secondary iris on the adapter itself.
  • Be careful with flare. Although coated, this lens suffers from severe flare when receiving oblique light. Use a proper lens hood.
It's not a cheap lens. In good condition, it can cost easily $800 on eBay. Check for haze and fungus. 


For my taste, I would go for the Minolta W-Rokkor 17mm F4. It has an incredibly sophisticated optical design and with some luck, you may find one for the same price of the Distagon 14mm F4

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Legacy Lenses 7 - Pentax Super Takumar 85mm F1.9

This is an interesting lens. Its strengths are to have a very wide aperture and yet to be compact. It weighs 350g.

It's a 6 elements by 5 groups construction with a reasonable lens coating, but not on par with the later SMC coating. Don't forget to use a lens hood.

Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 85mm F1.9
(do not copy without permission)
This is a very well constructed lens, all-metal, no plastic. It takes 58mm filters and the model shown above has an M42 thread mount and automatic diaphragm, with a manual/automatic switch.

The lens is pretty sharp at the center at medium apertures and has some softness wide-open, but the bokeh quality is very good, making it a very versatile lens for portraiture at large apertures. The diaphragm has 6 blades, so take care with out of focus highlights when using small apertures, unless you like hexagons =). At smaller apertures, it's very sharp.

It was made between 1971 and 1972. Not a very expensive lens.

Not my favorite 85mm but it's a nice lens to be used with Canon EOS bodies and all mirrorless systems.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Legacy Lenses 6 - SMC Pentax-M 50mm F1.4 and 50mm F2

Pentax made literally dozens of 50mm lenses, in M42 screw mount, K, KA and KAF mounts. I will not comment about all of them now, just the F1.4 and the F2.0 versions of the SMC 50mm in K mount.

The K mount was the first "bayonet" type mount from Pentax and it has an automatic diaphragm that allows the camera to make a correct light metering wide-open and then closing momentarily the iris to the correct size during the exposure. It has the same function of the M42 lenses with "Auto" setting (those ones with a metallic pin near the mounting thread).

The KA mount was introduced along with the Pentax cameras with Program auto-exposure mode. It has a lock that fixes the aperture to a minimum and an electric contact to tell the camera it's set to Program mode. The only digital cameras capable of fully use KA mount lenses are the Pentax DSLRs.

When using a K-M mount on a Pentax DSLR, the camera will work on manual mode and aperture priority, but not program or shutter priority (For this you need a K-A type)

They can also be used on the Canon EOS range and all mirrorless system with the proper adapter of course, but, again, just in manual and Av Mode.

Back to the lenses...

Both 1.4 and 2.0 versions are although inexpensive, very good lenses, with excellent multi-layer coating and extremely easy to find on the 2nd hand market.

SMC Pentax-M 50mm F1.4
Do not copy without permission !

The F1.4 is very sharp from edge to edge from F3.5 and above and pretty decent even at F2.8, but has soft corners at F1.4 as expected.

SMC Pentax-M 50mm F2.0
Do not copy without permission ! 

The F2.0 version is sharp as the F1.4 at the same apertures, and it's lighter and less expensive.

You need to pay attention when buying one. Triple check the rear lens group, they are very prone to fogging due to the degradation of the optical cement used to glue one of the rear pair of elements. If they aren't absolutely clear, avoid it.

Otherwise, it's one of the best '50s bang-for-the-money you can find.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Legacy Lenses 5 - Leica Elmarit R 28mm F2.8

My story about this lens started when I bought a Canon 5D camera and then had some issues with the Canon EF 28mm F2.8 USM at large apertures. My objective at that time was to have a decent wide-angle lens for handheld, low-light situations and frankly, neither the Canon lens or the 5D were stellar for that.

After some search, I found an Elmarit-R 28mm F2.8 in Vienna, in pristine condition and for a good price. I ordered a Leica-R to Canon EF adapter and a custom made manual focus screen from the now-defunct Haoda Screens. The end of the story was that I started to use practically just Leica-R lenses on my EOS 5D.

Leica Elmarit-R 28mm F2.8
(do not copy without written permission)
This lens is one of the best 28mm I've ever used. It's sharp wide-open and extremely sharp stopped down between F4 and F11. Like all Leica-R lenses, its build quality is superb, smooth and solid. A perfect example of German engineering.

The beautiful coating provides excellent flare protection, hard to see in a 28mm lens even today.

I also used this lens with my old Sigma SD15 Foveon X3 camera. The combination of Leica glass and the Foveon sensor is able to produce stunning images. To use it on the SD15 I converted the camera's SA lens mount to the Leica-R standard by installing a custom-made SigmaCumLaude mount.

This lens works as a standard lens on a camera with an APS-C size sensor, which's very convenient.

After this, this lens was also used on both or my Pentax cameras (K5-II and K3-II), but this time, changing the lens mount for a Pentax-K Leitax mount.