The Aggregate: My Lenses

H. G. Dietz
http://aggregate.org/hankd/

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0046

Initial release: September 16, 2010
Latest update: July 23, 2014


This document should be cited using something like the bibtex entry:

@techreport{mylenses20100916,
author={Henry Gordon Dietz},
title={{My Lenses}},
month={September},
day={16},
year={2010},
institution={University of Kentucky},
howpublished={Aggregate.Org online technical report},
URL={http://aggregate.org/DIT/MYLENSES/}
}


This document is a summary of the lenses that I, Professor Hank Dietz, had or have either personally or for my research at the University of Kentucky. The photo above is a nice sampling of my collection as of July 2014. The opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as anything more than that -- my opinions. In most cases, rather than commenting here, I've linked to where my reviews are posted along with others.

However, very informally, the entries here are marked with a minimal evaluation of quality in three dimensions:
Build quality: D C B A best-in-class
Image quality on APS-C: D C B A best-in-class
Image quality on APS-C using a focal reducer (e.g., Lens Turbo): D C B A best-in-class
Image quality on Full Frame (e.g., Sony A7): D C B A best-in-class
On the line after some lenses, I have listed some significant points about them. These are not full reviews, but notable features or issues. Performance of many lenses is very different using a focal reducer -- center resolution is typically increased, the full-frame corners and any badness the lens suffers off-axis get pulled into view, and the optical flaws of the focal reducer itself also interact with those of the base lens potentially compensating for or magnifying defects. Most lenses tested on focal reducers thus far have poorer corners, but a lens that gives crisp corners stropped down can still earn a B or A.

Lens mounts are identified as:
C-mount (TV, video, movie, industrial lenses):
Canon (manual focus): FL, FD, FDn (the bayonet version)
Kiev: Kiev-10 / Kiev-15 (the one with no commercial adapters)
M42: Preset, Auto/Man, Auto
Minolta (manual focus): SR, MC, MD
Sony Alpha (auto focus): A (also Minolta MA), E
Tamron: Tamron Adaptall-2 (improved Adaptall)
42mm x 0.75mm thread with 55mm register (various manufacturers): T and T2, YS (Yamaki Spira/Sigma allows auto aperture)

There are really just three "levels" of sophistication of lens mount. Originally, lens mounts simply provided a way to fix the lens to the body. Next, automatic stop-down of the lens when the shutter button is pressed was the big feature -- and it also required transmitting information about the selected-but-not-yet-applied aperture setting from the lens to the body. The fanciest mounts allow autofocus driven from the camera; many such mounts also implement much of the control electronically rather than mechanically. Note that using lenses with alien mounts on modern digital cameras generally means functionality goes back to the simplest level. Although there is nothing preventing, for example, an adapter to from providing full auto-aperture control, it seems that nobody has commercially marketed such an adapter... yet?

As a reference as to how exotic each lens is, I have also noted the approximate pricing of the lenses. The notation is [$original in year; $what_I_paid in year]. The original numbers are highly unreliable, scrounged from various WWW sites, but they are interesting. Original price references include: Third Party Lenses, Canon Camera prices 1970s, Canon FD 1986 price list, Ad from January 1987 Popular Photography, B&H Canon FD price list August 1992, various Minolta price lists, Minolta Maxxum, Minolta AF lenses, 1971 Pentax retail prices pages 1, 2, and 3, Sony/Minolta AF lens price guide. Yes, there are large price differences between different sources; that should be no surprise to anyone who has ever shopped for a lens. Many of my purchases were about getting a quantity of lenses for my experiments rather than about getting specific lenses. I have sometimes overpaid when getting specifc lenses I wanted (most notably the Vivitar Q-DOS), whereas many of the lenses I didn't seek out were exceptional bargains.

There are a few other notable references on the WWW. For example, various old lens reviews from when they were new were scanned from Modern Photography.

Fisheye Lenses & Adapters

Although I think that fisheye lenses are uniquely well suited for various uses (for example, most of the images I capture under computer control are through various forms of fisheye lenses), fisheye lenses are definitely considered special-purpose by most photographers. The result is that they tend to be expensive. Often, the lenses are implemented as converters, perhaps because that allows use with a wide range of cameras without having to manufacture many different mounts. The best converters certainly seem to produce images that compete well with the best prime lens implementations, although the best converters are at least as expensive as prime fisheye lenses. In general, cheap fisheyes have poorer image quality around the edges, often with poor sharpness and color fringing, but it also is common that vignetting makes the official view angle a potentially serious overstatement of what's really imaged. I actually use $4 door peepholes as fisheye converters for webcams, but keep in mind that their optical quality is barely good enough for even a sub-megapixel webcam and yields a view angle that is far less than advertised for the peephole (e.g., 220 degress becomes 170 degrees). It is also useful to point-out that centering of fisheye lenses is often poor, and even well-centered fisheyes can use any of several diffierent projection formulas, so de-fishing typically requires calibration in order to achieve the best accuracy.

Accura 12mm f/8 () [$225 in 1968; $65 in 2010]
Very endearing, small, fixed focus... despite heavy CA and mediocre sharpness

Deltana Super Wide Angle Door Viewer (special mount) [$4 in 2006]
Claims 200 degree, but really 175; resolves 1-2MP on a small-diameter lens

FIT Ultra Wide Converter Lens F.A.=185 degrees (special mount, special mount)
Farily sharp 185 degree on an Olympus D340-R; works well literally stuck to the front of a Canon PowerShot

Nikon Fisheye Converter FC-E8 0.21x (28mm & 52mm filter thread)
Farily sharp 185 degree on a Nikon 950; not so sharp in front of an SLR lens

Raynox DCR-CF185PRO High-Definition Fish Eye Conversion Lens (various filter thread)
Very good quality on nearly any host lens, but weight stresses filter mount and autofocus motor

Spiratone Auxiliary Fish-Eye Lens (52mm filter thread)
Should give great quality, and does on a fast 50, but is picky about host lens and gives an awkward crop on APS-C with a 50mm

Veentook Osino Magnetic 180-degree Fish Eye Lens (magnetic ring) [$3 in 2013]
Good IQ, but only works with cell phones; clips circle on my Samsung S3

Spiratone Birds Eye Attachment (Series VII filter thread) [; $123 in 2011]
Well designed and built, but outer glass has reflection issues

Wide-Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses for SLRs need to have a longer gap between their rear element and the film/sensor than their focal length... which means that they tend to be retrofocal designs that can be thought of as combining a simple wide angle with an inverted telephoto to reproject the image. In other words, they have lots of elements. That's an unhappy thing for older lenses that predate good coatings, because contrast can be lost on diffuse internal reflections. Because design of ultra-wides is hard, pre-computer-design lenses generally don't get too wide... especially when used on APS-C or 4/3 crop sensors.

Pentax-110 18mm f/2.8 (Pentax-110 mount) [; $20 in 2013]
Tiny! Covers APS-C fairly well, but IQ falls off in corners

Spiratone YS 18mm f/3.5 (:) [$170 in 1977; $60 in 2011]
Nice try, but the IQ just doesn't cut it, especially full frame dark corners and blurry edges; it does focus pretty close and is better close, with swirly bokeh

Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 () [; $10 in 2011]
Not better than an APS-C kit zoom; good on FF, but a touch soft on the right side

Mir 20 20mm f/3.5 () [; $10 in 2012]
See Instructable on Kiev 10/15 mount; really quite a good optic... would probably be reasonably compelling on full-frame

Auto Vivitar 20mm f/3.8 (, ) [$225 in 1970]
Yet another sticky aperture lens -- both copies

Vivitar 24mm f/2 () [$160 in 1976; $40 in 2010]
Good but slightly glowy lens with classic Kiron stuck-open aperture problem, temporarily fixed by tighter spring

Canon FD 24mm f/2.8 S.S.C. () [$287 in 1986]
Although this lens doesn't have a strong reputation, this copy has shockingly good IQ

Mitakon MC 24mm f/2.8 () [; $10 in 2011]

Pentax-110 24mm f/2.8 (Pentax-110 mount) [; $20 in 2013]
Tiny! Covers APS-C fairly well, but IQ falls off in corners and center contrast isn't great

Spiratone Plura Coat 24mm f/2.8 (:) [$110 in 1975; $25 in 2011]
Biggish, but very respectable IQ; favorite lens on my tilt adapter

Auto Tamron 24mm f/3.5 () [; $22 in 2010]
Looks impressive, images captured through it don't

Minolta MC W Rokkor Si 28mm f/2.5 () [$154 in 1970]
Fantastic lens, but hard to UV clean and not spectacular if very yellow

Vivitar 28mm f/2.5 (, ) [$144 in 1977; $50 in 2009]
A little faster, but size increased more than speed or IQ

Starblitz Auto Macro 28mm f/2.8 ()
Not really macro, but small and versatile; good on FF even wide open

Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 () [$89 in 1987]
Typical FDn; good contrast, light (plastic), and ok overall... can flare badly

Super Takumar 28mm f/3.5 () [$79 in 1971; $40 in 2009]
Really a fine lens, but hard to get excited about a very natural rendering f/3.5

Fujian China TV Lens GDS-35 35mm f/1.7 () [$23 in 2012]
Sharp in center, but worst field curvature I have ever seen -- can give ring of focus

Vivitar 35mm f/1.9 (also reviewed here) () [$165 in 1975; $10 in 2011]
Soft and painterly lens, but still sharp enough

S-M-C Takumar 35mm f/2 () [$121 in 1971; $125 in 2009]
Small and sharp with good colors, but bokeh not as nice as one might hope

Canon FD 35mm f/2 () [$313.50 in 1986; $105 in 2012]
Usual FDn good contrast and light (plastic); bokeh marginally better than the Tak

Canon FD 35mm f/2.8 () [$80 in 1986]
Usual FDn good contrast and light (plastic); close focus gives better bokeh than expected

? Canon FD 35mm f/3.5 "chrome nose" () [; $10 in 2012]

Super Takumar 35mm f/3.5 () [$51 in 1971; $40 in 2009]
Very intense colors -- a landscape lens; good behind Spiratone Birds Eye Attachment

Mir 1 37mm f/2.8 () [; $10 in 2012]
See Instructable on Kiev 10/15 mount; uninteresting focal length + aperture on APS-C, but quite good IQ

Normal Lenses

For whatever reasons, normal lenses tend to be optically very good. The only "normal" focal length lenses I've seen with poor image quality are the very abnormal re-purposed surplus lenses from X-Ray equipment. That said, "glow" and "bokeh CA" seem to be common issues for fast normals. Despite being a sharp (even wide open) lens with exceptionally smooth bokeh, my Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 is a textbook example of both issues.

Using a 14MP APS-C sensor, the halation-like glow of this FL lens intrudes as much as about 8 pixels past high-contrast edges. I suspect the combination of this glow with minor user focus errors is why this lens is called sharp by some and very soft by others.... Glow problems seem to be specific to particular lens models; for example, my Minolta MC Rokkor-X PF 50mm f/1.7 has much more glow than my Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50mm f/1.4. The bokeh CA of this FL lens also are obvious in many scenes, with the out-of-focus PSF biased toward red in front of the focus point and cyan behind. The bokeh CA problem seems generally to be worse for faster lenses, although I've also seen severe examples in photos taken with relatively short telephoto lenses.

Kowa 1:0.75 42mm f/0.75 (converted to )
See Instructable; not better than 55mm f/1.0

Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 "chrome nose" () [; $30 in 2012]
Optically quite different from -- and better than -- FDn version; produces good bokeh

Canon FDn 50mm f/1.4 () [; $50 in 2012 (returned due to fungus)]
Nothing special, but lots of SA wide open; I think people love this for the Canon name and light weight (good plastic build)

SMC/S-M-C Takumar 50mm f/1.4 ( ) [$87 in 1971; $30 in 2009]
Deservedly famous for bokeh; must not be yellow (UV clean) to be sharp

Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50mm f/1.4 () [$110 in 1976]
One of the best of the fast 50s overall, but bokeh could be better; too much SA on Lens Turbo

Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f/1.7 () [; $8 in 2014]
Not the best anything, but quite appealing rendering on the A7

Minolta MC Rokkor PF 50mm f/1.7 () [$73 in 1976]
Very Minolta color and good bokeh, slight glow, stop down for crisp corners

Minolta MC Rokkor-X PF 50mm f/1.7 () [$73 in 1976]
Very Minolta color and good bokeh, slight glow, stop down for crisp corners

Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7 (, ) [$74 in 1985]
Seems optically not quite as good as older versions, but it is smaller

Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 () [$88 in 1985; $30 in 2011]
A lot like the MC Rokkor(-X) PF versions, but autofocus and plastic build

Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 RS () [$80 in 2005; $60 in 2010]
RS version differs only in feel of manual focus ring, which is better for RS

Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 S.C. (, )
High contrast, but otherwise one of the poorer normal lenses

Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 () [$54 in 1986]
Like SC version, but light cause it's plastic, so good balance on NEX

Helios 81 50mm f/2 () [; $10 in 2012]
See Instructable on Kiev 10/15 mount; really tiny, but optically like other Helios normals

Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Tessar 50mm f/2.8 () [; $19 in 2014]
Definite Tessar look to images; very well designed but not as well implemented

Pentax-110 50mm f/2.8 (Pentax-110 mount) [; $20 in 2013]
Tiny! Covers APS-C fairly well, but IQ falls off in corners

Minolta MC Macro Rokkor-X QF f/3.5 () [$291 in 1985; $30 in 2011]
Really a very good macro... best one I have, but there are probably better

Kowa 1:1 55mm f/1.0 (converted to )
See Instructable; most commonly available ultra-fast lens, but hard to adapt and only covers APS-C in extreme macro

Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 ()
A really well-made lens; not the smoothest bokeh, but very sharp especially stopped down

Auto Mamiya/Sekor 55mm f/1.4 () [; $30 in 2011]
Not really the best at anything, but among the top few at everything; very rich colors

Auto Mamiya/Sekor 55mm f/1.8 (, ) [; $12 in 2009]
A lot like the f/1.4 version, only slightly less so

Super Takumar 55mm f/1.8 () [$51 in 1971]
Similar to the f/1.4 version in bokeh, but sharper

Super Takumar 55mm f/2 () [$45 in 1971]
Controversial; mine seems to be an f/1.8 that didn't make the grade wide open -- so they put-in an f/2 stop

Helios 44M-4 58mm f/2 () [; $33 in 2010]
Good Soviet glass (based on Zeiss Biotar), rough Soviet build; iris is auto only, see Instructable

Helios 44M-7 58mm f/2 () [; $33 in 2010]
Like 44M-4, but slightly better IQ; my copy has recurring oil on the aperture

Telephoto Lenses

Telephoto lenses tend to be really simple optical designs, with few elements and correspondingly less advantage in newer coatings. There are image quality issues, especially involving CA, but things are not bad and newer designs don't seem to be much better (if they're different in any way at all).

Samyang / Opteka 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF () [$250 in 2010]
Fantastic bokeh and really good sharpness wide open, but not much better stopped down

Jupiter 9 85mm f/2 () [; $10 in 2012]
See Instructable on Kiev 10/15 mount; really sharp stopped down, but wide open SA makes it quite flattering

Tamron SP 52B 90mm f/2.5 () [; $97 in 2012]
A cult classic portrait/macro; controversial design causes sensor reflections, but also gives great bokeh and excellent sharpness stopped down; brochure page 1 and 2

Rodagon XR Heligon 95mm ~f/1.3 (converted to )
See Instructable; somewhat longer rear-focus, but still very special-purpose

Vivitar Macro 100mm f/3.5 (manual focus version of the "plastic fantastic") () [; $35 in 2010]
It's a 100mm macro, but sharpness isn't quite what one hopes to see from a true macro

Canon FDn 100mm f/4 Macro () [; $40 in 2013]
Great macro, as reliably good as the 50mm Rokkor; heavy -- which may have something to do with the mangled mount flange that I had to replace

Minolta MD Macro Rokkor-X 100mm f/4 () [; $100 in 2013]
Great macro, as reliably good as the 50mm Rokkor; slightly better than the Canon FDn competitor

SMC Macro Takumar 100mm f/4 () [; $100 in 2010]
Great macro, but touchier than my 50mm Rokkor; just ok at longer focal distances

Wollensak Raptar 101mm f/4.5 (on lensboard in Rapax shutter) [; $50 in 2012]
Covers 4x5 with very soft corners; a Tessar design? Sharp in the center by f/5.6, but field gets better until f/22.

Kodak Ektar 127mm f/4.7 (on lensboard in Supermatic shutter) [$? in 1948]
A common, coated, lens that just covers 4x5 press cameras; excellent resolution with low contrast, optimal around f/11-16; scanned literature overview, DOF table, and flange dimensions.

Spiratone 135mm f/1.8 () [$135 in 1973; $150 in 2010]
Real fast with exceptionally smooth transition to out-of-focus... which means magnified view is needed for focus

Super Takumar 135mm f/2.5 () [$94 in 1971; $72 in 2009]
Good all-around fast 135mm, but not small nor light

Elicar 135 f/2.8 ()
Very sharp and versatile with close focus; great IQ stopped down, but lots of PF wide open

Sears 135mm f/2.8 Auto Multicoated () [; $8 in 2009]

Soligor 135mm f/2.8 Telephoto () [$117 in 1977?; $10 in 2009]
Wide open good color and very flattering glowy sharpness; stopped down, IQ is horrific (internal reflections?)

Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 Auto Telephoto (, , , ) [$124 in 1975; $15 in 2009]
Very servicable overall, good close up or even on bellows

Canon FD 135mm f/3.5 (, ) [$185 in 1986; $10 in 2012]

Konica Hexanon 135mm f/3.5 () [; $8 in 2014]
Not the best anything, but quite appealing rendering on the A7

Minolta MC Tele Rokkor QD 135mm f/3.5 () [$137 in 1976]
The aperture sticks in mine, so I hadn't tested enough to appreciate IQ; it's actually great except for bokeh-CA

Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5 () [$58 in 1971; $40 in 2009]
Supposed to have and does have really good IQ, but not awesome

Jupiter 11 135mm f/4 () [; $10 in 2012]
See Instructable on Kiev 10/15 mount; people say the 11 isn't great, but IQ on this one is very good (and very Soviet)

Rodenstock Rogonar-S 135mm f/4.5 (on lensboard, on lensboard) [; $10,$13 in 2012]
Only ok as a taking lens, designed for an enlarger; covers 4x5

Rodenstock Omegaron 150mm f/4.5 (on lensboard) [; $10 in 2012]
Really an excellent taking lens, although designed for an enlarger; covers 4x5

Golf Montauk approx. 6" (152mm) f/8 Junior/Wollensak (on lensboard) [$18 circa 1901?]
Low contrast; needs f/32 to evenly resolve perhaps 30 lpm -- covers 4x5, but not compelling on APS-C

Vivitar 200mm f/3.5 Auto Telephoto (, , ) [$169 in 1976; $20 in 2009]
Good IQ, but the poster child for bokeh-CA... either use B&W or beware bokeh-CA when composing shots

NuArc Process Lens 8 1/4" (210mm) f/8 (on lensboard) [; $12 in 2012]
Beautiful construction and probably covers 8x10; better stopped down a little, but contrast is low

S-M-C Takumar 300mm f/4 () [$200 in 1971; $185 in 2009]
Very good IQ after easily fixing CA, but slow to handle and rather long close focus

Spiratone Minitel-S Plura-Coat 300mm f/5.6 () [; $150 in 2011]
Very appealing little mirror lens, but not particularly sharp

Tele-Astranar 400mm f/6.3 () [$76 in 1980; $15 in 2010]
Something like 6-9 pixels of CA and color shift on stopping down... probably ok for B&W

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 () [$180 in 1972; $15 in 2010]
Technically not good because of CA, but very highly usable

C. P. Goerz Apochromat Artar 19in f/11 (lensboard) [$? in 1954?]
Coated (red dot) true apo lens optimized for color process work; excellent resolution covering 19" circle, optimal around f/22; scanned literature overview and pricelist.

Opteka (Samyang) 500mm f/6.3 DX () [$180 in 2009]
May be as good as a 500mm mirror gets; adding tubes gives great close focus without sacrificing infinity

Kimunor 500mm f/8 ()
Pretty light and well corrected as long lenses go, decent IQ (good for a 500mm); can be hand held

Meade DSX-90 Multi-Coated Maksutov-Cassegrain 1250mm f/13.8 (telescope eyepiece mount)
It's a reasonably serious telescope, complete with computer-controlled mount

Zoom Lenses

For similar reasons to wide angle lenses, old zooms are largely bad news. However, the consumer preference for zooms has really made the image quality of zooms much closer to that of fixed-focal-length lenses than one would expect. From the old Vivitar Series 1 zooms on, it was more a matter of cost and weight being higher than of image quality being much lower. However, image quality at the long end of many zooms is markedly inferior to what you get at the short end. Many zooms also have significant changes in the secondary image characteristics (e.g., large-scale contrast and bokeh) as one zooms.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM () [$675 in 2012]
So wide that it's hard to use, but what a great lens! If only the autofocus worked with LA-EA1/2 on my NEX-7...

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC () [$450 in 2009?]
Not sharp until f/7, but sets the standard for APS-C ultra-wides; focus broke on mine

Sony E OSS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (, )
Really a great kit zoom, this deserves more respect than it gets; distortion at wide is significant, but NEX can fix it

Sony AF DT 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 SAL-1870 (, ) [$200]
Really a great kit zoom, harmed mostly by fixable CA that makes it look unsharp at the edges

Sun Wide Zoom Macro 24-40mm f/3.5 ()
Another deservedly famous lens, if not compelling against a modern kit zoom

Soligor C/D Zoom+Macro 28-55mm f/3.3-4.5 () [; $5 in 2011]

Sigma 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 ()

Deitz 28-80mm f/3.8-f/4.8 ()
Unexciting range and aperture with 1:4 "macro"; nice build and IQ is a tad better than average

Tokina 28-85mm f/4 ()

Sigma 28-200mm f/3.5-f/5.6 Macro D Aspherical IF ()
I did not expect decent IQ, but aside from colors this does quite well; autofocuses fast on my A55 too

Canon FD 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 () [$170 in 1986]
Perhaps the most plastic-feeling build, although it seems mechanically and optically ok

Minolta AF 35-70mm f/4 (baby beercan) () [$175 in 1985; $22 in 2010]
Beercan-like good IQ, but not a very useful zoom range and mine has a sticking aperture

Minolta AF 35-80mm f/4-f/5.6 II (silver) () [; $10 in 2011]
I'm starting to think Minolta never made a truly bad kit lens (unlike Canon); looks ugly as sin, works really well

Sony AF DT 55-200mm f/4-5.6 SAL-55200 () [$230]
Really not a bad lens, but I nearly always use the beercan or 75-300mm instead

Tamron SP 60-300mm f/3.8-f/5.4 23A () [$300 in 1986; $50 in 2012]
Big, heavy, optically quite good... but can't get into macro mode?

Rokunar 60-150mm Macro f/4 () [$276 in 1968]

Vivitar Series 1 Q-DOS 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 (Cosina; 5th version) () [; $290 in 2011]
This is the rare 3D capture version... which has horrific IQ in 3D mode, very good IQ otherwise

Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5 (Kiron; 1st version) (, , ) [$340 in 1977; $33 in 2010]
A cult classic; the one-touch zoom/focus actually works very well and IQ is good, but the lens is big and heavy

Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 (beercan) () [$263 in 1985; $160 in 2010]
Not awesome and rather big and heavy, but a very respectable constant f/4 zoom with good color

? Vivitar 75-205mm f/3.8 Close Focusing Auto Zoom ()

Minolta AF 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 D () [$150 in 2005]
I use this lens a lot; it's not perfect, but is small and gives solid IQ for a 75-300mm

Sigma Zoom Lambda II 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 () [; $8 in 2014]
A shockingly good manual zoom! Peaks like crazy even wide open and gives that 3D "pop," nice bokeh, etc. Can actually keep up with the NEX-7 sensor, with just a little glow wide open. Very smooth operation, but does suffer zoom creep.

Soligor C/D Zoom+Macro 80-200mm f/4.5 () [; $10 in 2011]
Better IQ than the Vivitar Series 1 and smaller, but slower too

Promaster 85-210mm f/4.5 () [$180 in 1978]
IQ is OK, but loose build feels like it will fall into pieces at any moment; awkward separate focus and zoom rings

Vivitar 100-300mm f/5 () [; $23 in 2014]
Very good big & heavy build, good contrast even at 300mm, ok resolution; a very likable lens despite the separate zoom and focus rings

Canon FDn 100-300mm f/5.6 () [; $10 in 2012]
Sharp with good color, but PF and glow around 300mm and it's huge

Tele Converters (and "glass adapters") and Focal Reducers

Telephoto converters, which mount behind the lens and increase the effective focal length by magnifying the image, are very convenient. For example, throwing a little converter in your bag can essentially double the number of lenses you're carrying. Another neat feature is that it is not too difficult to use a teleconverter to adapt a lens in one mount to a camera with another; such "glass adapters" can be made to allow infinity focus even for lenses that have a much shorter back focus than the camera body's mounting flange distance. However, there are issues with using any type of teleconverter.

Teleconverters multiply the focal length without changing the physical aperture, so the images get darker: a typical "glass adapter" is around 1.2X and costs about 1/2 stop, 1.4X costs 1 stop, 2X costs 2 stops, and 3X costs approximately 3 stops. For example, a 50mm f/1.4 with a 2X converter becomes a 100mm f/2.8. Further, magnifying the image is amplifying the defects, so problems like color fringing are correspondingly more severe using a teleconverter. Traditional wisdom is that teleconverters should only be used with normal or longer focal lengths, but I think the issue is really that shorter lenses have more elements, and teleconverters are adding to that count -- aberrations, transmission, etc. all are hurt by having so many elements. In other words, teleconverters on zoom lenses might not be the best idea either. Finally, teleconverters seem to cause significant glow when used with fast lenses near wide open; this is probably a reflection issue, and might involve a reflection of the imaging sensor (making the effect body dependent). The good news about the glow is that sometimes it is an artistically desirable effect, and teleconverters often seem to also soften the edges of the PSF of most lenses, yielding smoother bokeh.

A focal reducer is the logical inverse of a teleconverter. They only work where the lens coverage is larger than the intended sensor and there is space for the reducer to get closer to the sensor -- i.e., mirrorless cameras with smaller-than-FF sensors or FF cameras with larger-format lenses. Reducers brighten the image because the aperture doesn't shrink as the focal length does. Aside from the usual badness from having more glass, the big issue with reducers is that they make off-axis image defects of the base lens much more evident.

Zhongyi Lens Turbo Focal Reducer (via eBay roxsen; 0.726x reduction) ( lens to body) [$188 in 2013]
Works very well, but sensor reflection and flare can be issues, too-long aperture pin/tab on lens needs to be shaved; works perfectly (even good rotational alignment -- lenses sit top side up!) with M42 adapter

Metabones Speed Booster (0.71x reduction) (Canon EF lens to body) [$599 in 2013 (owned by UK Visualization Center)]
The reference focal reducer; allows full control of EF lenses, manual M42 lenses using a chipped adapter

Spiratone ~1.22X ( lens to body) [; $12.50 in 2010]

Vivitar macro focusing 2X ()
Great concept; makes a fast 50 into a 100mm macro that's decent stopped down a bit

Tamron Flat-Field SP 2X Tele-Converter 01F () [; $25.40 in 2012]
Supposedly an exceptionally good 6-element converter that also prevents sensor reflections, but it has the usual IQ issues; brochure page 1 and 2

Vivitar 2X-4 (, )

Glassless Bellows, Tubes, and Adapters

There are a wide variety of glassless lens mounting devices intended to either provide closer focus (greater magnification) or the allow use of lenses with a mount different from that on the camera body. None of these should have a dramatic impact on image quality, although lenses often are not as sharp nor well-corrected at higher-than-intended magnifications. Bellows are incredibly versatile for macro photography -- especially the Spiratone below, which has rapid coarse adjustment of length by simply pressing in on the focus knobs -- but all bellows change air volume dramatically as you focus and thus are dust infusers. Tubes are less flexible, but often cheaper and more convenient. I had hoped that the cheap tubes that use screw threads for the extension parts would use the same thread for different mounts, thus also being macro adapters between different mounts, but the tube diameter changes with the mount. Automatic extension tubes provide coupling between the body and lens -- which very few bellows do -- but the coupling doesn't do anything when the tubes are mounted on a digital camera using a mount adapter.

It is worth noting that some of the adapters have quirks. For example, I don't know why, but adapters for and lenses to are often loose unless an undocumented adjustment is made by using the tip of a screwdriver inserted in a thin slot on the edge of the internal bayonette to slightly widen the flange. Similarly, adapters for and lenses often have mounted lenses stop at random rotational positions; there are some variants that allow the rotational stop to be adjusted. Some of those adapters also have a ledge to depress the rear stop-down pin, which makes lenses behave like manual lenses, but can interfere with some lens back ends. Like I said, some adapters are quirky.

The lens mount is particularly problematic. These Kiev lenses are relatively tiny but are fully self-contained with all optical elements, focus helicoid, and aperture iris. Unfortunately, the aperture control is completely inside the mount, which makes adapting hard. There has never been much call for adapters, because this unnamed mount was only used on the Kiev-10 and Kiev-15 cameras which were not intended for export out of the USSR. I got such a good deal on a set of five lenses in this mount that I built my own adapter.

Given that none of these adapters has any glass, rating the optical quality would be pointless... build quality ratings here are if there is any play or optically-visible imprecision (the worst case being lack of infinity focus on an adapter advertised as allowing it), for a basic but solid device, and for units with exceptionally nice build and features.

Tamron Adapter ( lens to body) [; $10.25 in 2012]
Includes stop-down pin and gearing to reverse aperture coupling direction

Tamron Adapter ( lens to body)
Straightforward, well made

Tamron Adapter ( lens to body)
Straightforward, well made

Generic (Da Cheng) Adapter ( lens to body) [$14.50 in 2012]
Apparently a single piece of metal, no chip

Generic Adapter ( lens to body)
Actually, I have several and they're all T2 (rotate with set screw)

Generic Adapter ( lens to body)
Also T2 (rotate with set screw)

Fotasy (eBay rainbowimaging) Tilt Adapter (Canon EF/EFS lens to body) [$79.99 in 2011]
Effective, but somewhat rough to adjust; I use it with M42 lenses

Generic (eBay) Adapter ( lens to body)

Homemade adapter (no aperture control) using Kiev flange in a drilled body cap ( lens to body)
See Instructable; awkward lack of aperture control, but otherwise nice

Homemade adapter with aperture control using Kiev flange on modified Canon FD Adapter ( lens to body)
See Instructable; works really well

Generic (eBay) Adapter ( lens to body)

Generic (eBay) Adapter ( lens to body)

Generic (eBay) Chipped 50mm Adapter ( lens to body)

Generic (eBay) Chipped 100mm Adapter ( lens to body)

Generic (eBay) Chipped 500mm Adapter ( lens to body)

Generic (eBay) Adapter ( lens to body)

FOTGA (eBay emilyandlily) Adapter ( lens to body) [$7.27 in 2012]

Generic (eBay) Adapter ( lens to body)

Petri Adapter ( lens to Petri bayonette body)

Generic (eBay) Adapter ( lens to body)

FOTGA (eBay emilyandlily) Adapter ( lens to body) [$11.30 in 2012]

Generic (eBay rainbowimaging) Adapter (Nikon lens to Canon EOS body)

Sony LA-EA1 Adapter ( lens to body)
Great adapter with body control of aperture and painfully slow autofocus on A-mount lenses with motors built-in

Sony LA-EA2 Adapter ( lens to body) [$306 in 2012]
An LA-EA1 + SLT mirror + screw drive; focus speed very comparable to A55 with A-mount lenses

Generic (eBay adplo) Macro Extension Tube Set () [$6.90 in 2010]

Generic (eBay adplo) Macro Extension Tube Set () [$7.99 in 2010]

Generic (eBay henry-digital) Macro Extension Tube Set () [$5.98 in 2010]

Generic (eBay rainbowimaging) Macro Extension Tube Set () [$10.99 in 2011]

Vivitar Automatic Extension Tube Set ()

Vivitar Automatic Extension Tube Set () [; $22.32 in 2011]

Minolta Bellows III () [$12 in 2012 (new old stock)]
What a deal on the price! Very smooth and solid bellows

Spiratone "Rapid Rail" Macrobel (Pentax K, )
Feels a tad flimsy, but very fast to use and effective... very Spiratone ;)

Camera Bodies

This section doesn't really belong here, but I don't want to make another page for these bodies that can mount the above lenses... most of which I don't use. In particular, I really don't see much point in shooting film anymore. Anyway, most of the following came with lenses I wanted.... It is worth noting a couple of things about this list.

First, although I used Canon DSLRs for years, the lack of electronic controls on DSLRs compared to compacts made me prefer compacts. They were simply more versatile for the tethered shooting that was my primary application. For personal use, APS-C DSLRs were particularly discouraging because I like wide angles, and there pretty much were none for APS-C. It was the release of the Sigma 10-20mm that made DSLRs worthwhile for me personally, and the Sony A100 seemed to be the highest-quality sensor one could put behind it at that time. I also always liked Minolta handling, and the A100 was very Minolta. I have not purchased a non-Sony DSLR since then, and I'm now more centered on mirrorless digital bodies. A NEX-7 is clearly in my future.

Second, I collected most of the film cameras below because I wanted the lenses they were bundled with on eBay -- which explains the heavy bias toward M42 mounts and certain brands. However, there's also a clear trend here. I have not a single bad Kiev, Pentax, Mamiya/Sekor, Zenit, or Sony body. Of 11 Minolta bodies, only one doesn't work (the mirror is stuck up, which might actually be a very minor issue). Of 5 Canons, two have problems: one has the eyepiece glass loose and the other is completely inoperative. The only Petri looks beautiful, but is completely dead with a shutter problem. Read what you will into all that.

Canon FTb (two working) [1971]

Canon TLb (one not working) [1974]

Canon AE-1 (one with broken viewfinder) [1976]

Canon T70 (one working) [1984]

Kiev 15 (one working) [1978]

Mamiya/Sekor 1000 TL (one working) [1966]

Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL (one working) [1968]

Minolta SRT101 (mine from the 1970s, another via eBay) [1966]

Minolta XK (mine from new and still great) [1973]

Minolta X370 (one working) [1974?]

Minolta X7a (one working with motor, another not working) [1974?]

Minolta XE5 (one with broken self-timer) [1975]

Minolta Maxxum 3000i (one working) [1989]

Minolta Maxxum 5000i (one working) [1989]

Minolta Maxxum 7 (one working and still great) [2000]

Minolta Maxxum 70 (one working) [2004]

Pentax Spotmatic (my dad's from new) [1964]

Pentax Spotmatic SP II (one working) [1971]

Pentax ES (one working) [1971]

Pentax Spotmatic SP F (one working) [1973]

Petri MF-1 (one not working) [1977]

Sony A100 (mine from new) [2005]

Sony A350 (mine from new) [2008]

Sony A55 (mine from new) [2010]

Sony NEX-5 (mine from new) [2010]

Sony NEX-7 (mine from new) [2012]

Zenit 122 (one working) [1990]

Parting Comments (personal opinions only)

Since I have so many lenses, I have noticed a number of trends. Here's the quick summary....

For More Info

I have a variety of other links relative to my work in digital imaging, computational photography, etc., at http://aggregate.org/DIT/. That includes various things about use of old lenses with modern digital cameras and sensors.


The Aggregate. The only thing set in stone is our name.