Cheap, fast AND good. An appreciation of a cheap old lens.

Glennn

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Dec 9, 2018
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353
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NJ
Real Name
Glen
Let it be known to the masses- I’m a tightwad.

The fact that my wife insisted on my getting a new camera instead of used as I planned 2.5 years ago is quite the feat. In hindsight I’m happy about it.

As I’ve progressed with my photography since picking up a camera far more capable then I, one of my big interests has been low light and night photography. Some things don’t change I suppose and back in my film days in the 90s the subject was always an interest as well.

The kit lenses that came with the camera weren’t terribly fast - F3.5 on one and F4 on the other. I ended up buying a 14mm f2.5 from a a friend. Closer, and a fun lens, but long exposures and tripods were still needed.

Earlier this year I decided that I need a faster lens and I began perusing eBay. Requirements were minimal. Cheap, fast, and with a big light sucking black hole of an aperture. Brand wasn’t important, and adapted seemed to be the cheapest way to get me there as I already had Nikon and Pentax adapters.

A quick search turned up a Sears 50mm F1.7 for $10. It was a no brainer and a cheap way to experiment. I was the only bidder and even with shipping it was under $20.

About a week later my prize arrived. I enthusiastically opened it and was greeted by a lens that was basically new. Not in its original box, but perfect in every other way. Not a single mark or scuff. Shiny, clean, and zero signs of use. The bright yellow numbers on the focus ring were out of the ordinary and incredibly cool to my eye.
The transformation of my work that would occur over the next couple of months was shocking to me. I began working in fully manual mode which forced me to pay critical attention to every aspect of making a photo. I could now get by on night walks with just a monopod and doing the selective focus thing in daylight reinforced the idea that selective focus, along with composition of light, and the subject itself can lead to some lovely images.
That $10 lens is literally the best thing I’ve bought for the camera so far and has taught me much. I’m a better photographer because it.

Thanks ElCheapo lens. There is an F1.4 version of this lens.... I’m on the hunt... but it has to be cheap😁
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PakkyT

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Jun 20, 2015
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Massachusetts, USA
There is an F1.4 version of this lens.... I’m on the hunt... but it has to be cheap😁

One thing to keep in mind is that the image circle of these old film lenses is bigger than the sensor so a lot of light is lost/bounced around inside the "mirror box" (even though we do not have a mirror anymore so whatever we call that area now. Lightbox?). With old film lenses the larger the aperture you go the more light you are throwing around inside there that is not directly on the sensor you get more lost contrast and other effects. While a f1.4 might give you some additional shallow DoF effects, you may find that once you get below the 1.7 lens you already have, that the image quality tends to drop off a bit or at least require a bit more post processing work to bring back the contrast and other effects. Of course if you find an f1.4 for peanuts, go for it and see what you think. But I warn people about this and to avoid paying premium prices on f1.4 (and faster) film lenses specifically to shoot at the f1.4 (or larger) aperture.
 

Glennn

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Dec 9, 2018
Messages
353
Location
NJ
Real Name
Glen
I appreciate the insight. Thank you. My “post process” is limited to in camera adjustments or from the IPhone that I post from. In other words, limited.
I’m not intending to spend a lot on an F1.4. I had a bid on one recently, but when the total cost ( bid+shipping) passed $30 I let it go. It wasn’t in great shape anyway and the seller stated that it had some hazing inside. I really think I lucked out on the one I got. I’m thankful.
 

HaHa

Mu-43 Regular
Joined
Dec 26, 2019
Messages
70
Location
Oslo, Norway
You could get an inexpensive speed booster to get more light out of adapted lenses. I use a Viltrox 0.71x which turns my Nikkor 50 mm f/2 into a 35 mm f/1.4.
 

Petrochemist

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Mar 21, 2013
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N Essex, UK
Real Name
Mike
There are no shortage of fantastic lenses available many for reasonable prices. The only trouble is you can get hooked & find yourself buying loads of them.

I only paid £10 for my 50mm/1.2, which works nicely once adapted to MFT provided the lights not too bright. It's a projector lens so doesn't have an aperture, or a focusing ring. Mounting via a helicoid sorted the focusing issue & I place card discs in front of the lens to close the aperture
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Mounted 50mm/1.2 projector lens by Mike Kanssen, on Flickr
I'm not sure if others consider it good, but it's certainly fun.
Wide open:
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50mm/1.2 projector lens test shot wide open by Mike Kanssen, on Flickr
With a shaped aperture:
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jaguar in the flowers by Mike Kanssen, on Flickr

The adapter did cost more than the lens but it's also used with quite a number of other lenses.
 

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