Anything Photoshop or Photography

Recycling Those Old Camera Lenses

While cleaning up my office this week, I came across my beloved Pentax K1000 film camera. It really depressed me to realize that I had several wonderful lenses for this camera and that the chances of ever using them again were pretty slim. On a hunch, I did a search on the internet to see if there were any adapters to attach these lens to my Nikon D300 since I knew that most of the old Nikon lenses still work with their digital cameras. (If you have old Nikon lenses and are shooting Nikon digitally, that is really good news as you may not need an adaptor – same goes for Canon.) Well, I was surprised to find that for $40, I could attach these old lenses to my camera – I decided it was worth the expense and here is what I have happily discovered.
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Tokina SD 28-70 mm F/3.5-4.5 Zoom and Macro Lens (SZ-X270)


My beautiful pink poinsettia was taken with a Tokina SD 28-70 mm zoom lens, though the metadata does not indicate the aperture size, it was shot manually at F3.5, Shutter speed 1/4000 sec, ISO 200, at 28 mm. For post-processing the pink color and detail was enhanced just a bit on the front part of the leaves using NIK’s Viveza plug-in Photoshop CS5. The Sharpen Tool was used to sharpen just around the leaf edges to make them stand out from the wall, and Layer Styles, white Inner Glow and gray Stroke, were added. That is it. Very little manipulation was needed to get this beautiful plant image. Normally I would have cleaned up some of the background distractions. The point is that this lens and my digital camera produced an excellent sharp image that is as good as any I have taken with my digital lenses.

I found out this lens is considered a really good lens. (See Flickr Group Discussing Tokina SD 28-70 F/3.5-4.5 Macro for more image examples.) I have no idea what I paid for it, but I can understand why I was able to get this sharp a shot after reading about it.
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Takumar-A Zoom 1:4 70-200 mm with Tamron-F Tele-Converter 2X


This lens gives a very beautiful result also. This Painted Lady Hibiscus was shot manually at 70 mm at F/5.4, ISO 200, Shutter Speed 1/60 second and -1/2 EV. Since it has a doubler on it, it really was shooting at 140 mm. In Photoshop CS5 a Shadowhouse Creations Texture Clouds and Birds layer was set to Hard Light at 77% opacity and a layer mask was added to painted out texture from the flower. No sharpening or Curves Adjustment Layer were added – this was it.

Now on to the Takumar lens, which applies to any original camera body. It does not get as good ratings as the first lens. This lens is not recommended because it is not SMC (Super Multi Coated). The Photo.Net forum stated: “The non coated Takumars are average lenses. Some SMC Takumars are classics, recommended even today. So, when you see a Tak, look also if it is multi coated.” The Tamron-F 2X Tele-Converter was attached to the lens above. I just realized that to get maximum sharpness, do not use the maximum aperture of the lens. In the image above, a minimum aperture of F/5.4 was used – the camera should have been stopped down two stops to F/11 on the Takumar lens. I will try this on my next efforts.
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Takumar 135 mm Lens


This image turned out pretty nice since I was shooting at a window with bright sunshine coming through it. Maybe that is why I like the image. Very little manipulation here – just increased Exposure by 1/2 stop, added a little Clarity (+59) and reduced the  noise by adjusting the Luminance slider to 31 (probably because this lens has not been cleaned in how long?) in Lightroom. In Photoshop only a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast just a bit – no sharpening was used all! This lens was set to a f/5.4, not the wide open setting and it seems to get the sharpest edges. Other settings were shutter speed 1/250 sec., ISO 320, and EV 1/2.

This Takumar lens gets a five star rating across the board from various sites, even the older lens from the 1960’s. My husband got this lens back in 1972 and has some great pictures through the years to show for it. Therefore, it seems to be in my best interest to try and use this lens. I am looking forward to taking this lens and shooting a nice nearby landscape such as the ocean. Hopefully I will be able to put this old lens through its paces soon.

Lens Mount Adapter

On the Nikon site, this comment was made about the limitations of using a manual teleconverter: “Some newer lenses can be used with older Nikon manual focus teleconverters with limited compatibility. With a manual teleconverter there would be no autofocus operation, the camera’s internal exposure meter would not be active and only “Manual” exposure mode could be used. Further, there may be vignetting (darkened corners of the photo) in some photos or other image defects.”

For more information on the adapter I purchased, see Fotodiox Lens Mount Adapter.

Conclusion

It was definitely worth the money to buy the adapter and have the option of using these lenses again. There are some limitations since the pictures must all be used on a manual setting. Also note that most newer DSLR cameras will use the Center-Weighted average setting for light metering with these older lenses. If you have some nice lenses from previous film cameras sitting around, check them out on the internet and see if it is worth your money getting an adapter to fit your digital camera. Also, because you are shooting through an adapter and the lens, it may require a larger aperture or slower shutter speed or higher ISO to get the same results as the original film camera prints.

I am also finding it helpful to research at what focal lengths each of the older lenses create the sharpest images. A couple websites I researched gave suggestions for special settings to use in camera to improve the results on a particular lens. Also keep in mind the crop factor of your digital camera (my Nikon D300 has a 1.5 crop factor meaning a 10 mm lens will shoot at 15 mm due to the crop factor) which essentially crops around the edge of what you are seeing in the viewfinder so you do not get as much in your photo as what you are seeing. A good explanation of this is in the Digital Photography School “Crop Factor Explained” article, and they give some of the factors for popular cameras here – this is an important issue to understand especially when looking through these older lenses.

Recycling these old lenses is a great way to expand your lens collection without spending much to do it. My impression is that many people are buying these older lenses at incredibly cheap prices so they can shoot very sharp images for a fraction of the cost of buying all the new auto focus, vibration reduction, expensive lenses. I believe a couple of my older lenses are comparable if not better than what I am shooting digitally since I do not own the really expensive lenses so many professionals use.

Go give yourself an early present and try out those old lenses – you might be surprised how good they are!…..Digital Lady Syd

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2 responses

  1. Interesting post and som amazing shots, especially those first two. Since I don’t have much experience with post-processing software and run Linux, so I can’t use Photoshop, I’d be interested to see what the originals looked like.

    I have a Pentax K-r and just purchased an old Pentax SMC-M 50mm f2.0 lens on eBay that I’m looking forward to trying. I’m on a pretty tight budget for photography, so anything I can do to make my dollar go further is a good thing. 🙂

    I also have an old Vivitar 135mm f2.8 lens with the Tx mount and a universal (known sometimes as M42) adapter that I am thinking about getting a M42 to K-mount converter for so I can use it with my K-r. It also has a 2X tele-converter, giving me the potential of 270mm (before conversion for sensor crop factor), so I hope to get a chance to get some shots I could only dream about before.

    01/15/2012 at 11:28 pm

    • Thanks for the comments Walt. It is pretty much trial and error as to whether you get a really good shot since you are shooting through more glass because of the adaptor. Sometimes I get a very soft look but using some post-processing really does help. (If you can, look on the Internet for a free program like Gimp.) I have mainly shot flowers with the lenses which are easy to do since they do not move and the light can be controlled. I plan on doing another blog trying these older lenses on landscapes. As requested, here is a link to my Flickr account showing the original poinsettia image without any retouching.
      Digital Lady Syd

      01/18/2012 at 9:25 am

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