In photography (and life) you have to challenge yourself to progress, and we all want to progress right?
That’s why it’s important to always give yourself assignments, a while ago for example I asked you guys to use the hashtag #ruggedadventures to post images where you can see the very recognizable LaCie harddrives in cool or work situations, it’s always a challenge to find cool things to do with these shots (working on some myself as we speak), so please keep using that hashtag for that.
However next to photography concepts you can also think about something else.
Now it’s no secret I love Sony cameras, I think at the moment they have the best line up on the market period, and one of the things that I love about them is the EVF, or in other words the Electronic Viewfinder or in other words the “What You See Is What You Get” viewfinder (which you can also disable and make it act like a normal viewfinder for studio use for example, find the “setting efffect” in the menu).
Now using an EVF is cool for many reasons, but one in particular.
You can use the EVF to show information about your settings and see what you get, but you can also use an option called Zebras (for exposure) and Peaking (for focus), now that last one is important for what I’m going to do.
We are all used to autofocus lenses, you press the button and voila, peeep press and sharp (in most cases). But there are also a lot of cool lenses out there that are NOT autofocus, some modern lenses, but also a boatload of vintage lenses, and the cool thing about these lenses is that all look different, you could say that they have their own character. Now a days a good lens is a lens that doesn’t have any flare, that doesn’t give you a weird Bokeh (out of focus areas), no focus fall off around the corners, no weird colors, no fringing etc. etc. it has to be perfect…. and what do we do….. yep we use filters to Instagram the heck out of shot to make it look cool. Now in all honesty I’m not a big fan of using filters that way, but I do love to play with flare, some tinting and sometimes some focus effects. What I actually try to emulate is that old film look, I just love that.
Now comes the cool part.
Almost all older lenses you can fit on the Sony A series.
The reason for this is very simple.
A lens works on a certain distance to the sensor (flange distance), if that distance is equal to what the lens was designed for… well it can focus the way it was designed to do. If that distance is not 100% correct it will lose for example infinity focus or close distance or it will just not work at all. Now the cool thing about the Sony system is that the flange distance is incredibly short, meaning it’s possible to create a convertor for almost any lens you can imagine to use that body. And that opens up a lot of options.
Just do a search online for the term M42
This is a screw-mount lens that is HUGELY popular among vintage lens lovers (like myself), these lenses are readily available in numbers and for little to no money, in fact I’ve bought several on flea-markets for less than 5.00 each, and some are more expensive but in essence if you calculate between 10-50 for a lens you will have a great lens in the 50mm range, and if you add let’s say another 60-70 you will be able to get some really cool lenses, but as always the sky is the limit, some lenses go for well over 1000.00 so beware.
My personal favorite lenses are of course the M42 but also Leica R glass, somehow those Leica lenses are just amazing in color and look and feel, it feels like they make the image even more 3D than a modern lens, it’s something you have to see. Now first things first… don’t even think you come close in sharpness wide open to a Gmaster Sony lens, those lenses are wickedly sharp, also they are incredibly well build and have hardly no defects in the image, when you go the vintage route…. well…. expect a lot of defects, weird effects and slightly softer images wide open, although sometimes…… it can be amazingly sharp.
So why shoot with old lenses when you have the perfect lens?
First off it’s how it looks on the camera, on the street it will immediately set you apart from the guys/girls with a normal lens, this often opens up conversations and makes it much easier to shoot someone. I’ve had tremendous succes with a Yashica film camera for example, I had ZERO “no’s” when I asked to shoot someone with that camera. But next to looks on the camera there is more….
It has character/soul
All these vintage lenses have a certain look, the Russian models can be very very rough, the German models can be pin sharp with beautiful (or harsh) bokeh, some lenses have an insane amount of blades creating cool smooth buttery bokeh, some lenses have a defect and create swirly bokeh artifacts which can be incredibly cool, some lenses are literally afraid of the light and flare as soon as you aim them in the general direction of the light, etc. etc. In short… all these lenses look differently, and in all honesty somehow I just feel more like a photographer when I’m shooting with these lenses, yeah I know it sounds weird, but it’s true. I just LOVE the looks and how you have to work a bit harder and be a bit more aware of the limitations but most of all the strong points of those lenses.
You WILL be hooked
Now trust me on this one, you WILL be hooked.
Shooting vintage lenses is addictive as can be.
For me it’s always a bit of a wave, sometimes I shoot with it a lot and sometimes I just forget about them and shoot with the new lenses.
Why this new interest?
A few years ago I got into contact with Techart on a trade-show, they were the first to create a module that makes EVERY manual lens a fully functional auto focus lens, yes you heard that right, it will make that old M42 or Leica R lens a fully functioning AF lens. Now that full functional has to be taken with a grain of salt, but it is very impressive. Next to just using AF it will actually also support face tracking, continuous focus, single shot etc. Some people even claim that with a new firmware update Eye focus on the Sony works…. I don’t know that yet (it seems impossible, because not even every Sony lens supports that, but hey who knows).
Ok. so why that new interest.
As explained before I just LOVE that look of the old lenses, but sometimes I just don’t feel like always manually focus and just want to shoot fast, well at least faster than manual focus. Over the last 2 years I’ve tried to get in contact with Techart a few times and with no success, which is a shame because I would have loved to test this convertor out. With the release of the new Sony A7RIII my interest was peaked once before, the new A7RIII has an insane new focus system that is reportedly doing wonders for people with Canon AF lenses, if you have to believe some people, some Canon lenses perform faster in difficult light situations on the Sony than on the native cameras, now that’s interesting.
Now when the AF is that good, and it’s based on the mirror-less concept it really triggered me to try to get that Techart module again. Thanks to CameraLand in the Netherland I now have a review sample and next week I’ll begin testing the AF capabilities of this unit. The unit itself is not cheap, and if you don’t look online it seems way to expensive to get the convertor for Leica R and M42. Leica makes a convertor to mount Leica R on M (the Techart is a M mount) but these retail for up to 320.00 euros which added to the Techart makes it too expensive for what most people will do with it. However when you surf a little bit and google on “Leica R on M” and “M42 on Leica M” you will quickly find good quality converters for around 20 euros, in fact I ordered 2 for 37.50 including shipping. Now we are talking 😀
Ok the Techart is still expensive, but in all honesty it’s worth every single penny, because now you can use all those amazing old lenses on your new camera. And that’s what this project for me is all about.
The coming months I’ll be shooting several M42 and Leica R lenses on my Sony A7RIII, with AF and Manual focus. I will label these as #VintageLensOnNew on my social media, and I ask you to do the same. Write a small piece about your favorite lens and make some images and share it on social media, but most of all send them also to me…. I will select the coolest shots and best stories and post them on my blog with links to your work. Also in our vlogs and digital classroom episodes I’ll be giving attention to this project.
We all need lenses to shoot, and lenses contribute to a large amount of the budget.
By using an AF convertor and some simple converters you have a tremendous amount of choices for lenses. Now don’t expect to be shooting the Olympics with these lenses, but from what I’ve seen now the Techart is fast enough to keep up with model-photography (easily), street and travel photography and I even saw someone doing some sports with it. So next to this project this could be the coolest way you can imagine to build a huge arsenal of very unique looking lenses that will not only trigger your creativity but most of all save you a boatload of money. (hey I’m Dutch).
So join me for this #VintageLensOnNew project and start hunting down those treasures.
Because that’s an added bonus to this project… it will also motivate you to go out to hunt for these lenses, and that….. will give you great shooting opportunities because often these flea-markets are filled with cool characters and colorful or vintage stuff. So this project is not only fun it will also be good for your health (making those extra miles on those markets).
Joining the project is cool of course, but also please spread this blogpost to other people you know that are into photography.
Even if it’s not the love for vintage, it could actually save them a lot of money in lenses, because as mentioned before most of these lenses might be good and ok, some are real gems and rival modern lenses in sharpness and looks, just for a fraction of the price. let’s make #VintageLensOnNew rock. And don’t forget to send me those stories and images and your favorite lens.