In this blog entry I’ll introduce you to the use of dirt-cheap lenses for your Canon EOS 20D, 350D, 10D or whatever EOS camera you prefer. It may be a bit lengthy, but then again it can save you lots of money if you plan to buy new lenses. (or it can cost you lots if you don’t really plan on doing this. ;-) Beware!)

Let me start by quoting Bot Atkins’ EOS FAQ: Is there any point in using manual focus lenses? I think the answer is generally no, not unless you have to. I found this to be the general view of the Canon DSLR amateur community on the net. What I saw, though, was all the beautiful pictures taken before the auto-focus lenses came about. I remember all the fun I had with my father’s Yashica camera and his lenses were by no means bad. And throw in the fact that the reason I bought my 20D was that I wanted to do more manual work and that I more often than not use my lenses on manual focus, I decided I wanted to try some older lenses.

Now, I think there is only one EF-M lens, a manual-focus-only lens. However, as Bob will tell you, there are lots of different standard-mounts for older lenses, and there are EF adapters for most of them. The adapters fall into two categories, adapters that require optics to maintain infinity focus and those that don’t. The lenses that don’t use Contarex, Contax RTS, Leica R, Nikon, Olympus OM, Pentax K, Pentax Screw (also called M42), Petri Bayonet, Ricoh Bayonet, T2 mount or Yashica FR/FX mounts. The lenses that require optics use Canon FD, Konica F, Minolta MD or Miranda mounts. The mounts that don’t require optics are in general cheaper and keep the lens characteristics, while the ones that require optics usually enlarge the image somewhat and decrease the light transmitted. For instance, the Canon FD adapter zooms 1.26 times and decreases the light transmitted by 1/3 stops. My recommendation would therefore be to get lenses that require an adapter without optics for wide-angle lenses and adapters that require optics for telelenses.

The lenses I’ve focussed on have been M42 mount and Canon FD mount lenses. The adapters have cost me $5 and $35 on eBay. The weird thing is that the FD mount lenses usually cost way much more than equivalent M42 lenses cost, and that’s even though you loose 1/3 stops of light and can’t really use it for wide-angle photos. A thing that has been a bit of a problem is that not much information is available through Google about the lenses you may be offered, while we’re used to extensive reviews on new lenses that arrive on the market.

For this post I want to introduce you to two lenses: my 72-162mm f/3.5 Hanimex FD mount lens which has become my concert-lens of choice for its relatively large aperture for what becomes the 35mm equivalent of 145-327mm f/4. Look at the pictures and by all means give me feedback to what you think of them:

The next lens is a 37mm f/2.8 Russian MIR-1 M42 mount lens. Unlike the previous one, it has no extra magnification or light-stops so it stays at f/2.8 and is a 35mm equivalent of 59mm:
Self portrait 2Self portrait 3

Now, please note that I haven’t gone after these lenses for maximum sharpness. A lot of reactions I’ve got have been on sharpness and you certainly get sharper lenses. But I like the feel of these lenses. Keep watching my photoblog and I’ll be sure to post new pictures of other exciting lenses and I’ll get back to you with a 28mm f/2.8 M42 mount, a 35-75mm f/2.5 and a 500mm f/8 FD mount and later on extention tubes and bellows

A while ago I was pointed at Noise Ninja which is a great program for reducing picture noise. While investigating, I found a few other options, but no open source options. Looking at it again today I found that there are a few plugins for The GIMP in the works: most notably Dcam Noise 2, but also ISO noise reduction. I wonder what’s keeping the open source world away on this, but I’m glad to see someone’s working on it at least. At the moment I’m just adding a bit of blur to my images using GIMPShop and *shriek* iPhoto 5

In my photoblog I’ve started a series on manual lenses. The first lens out is a Hanimex 72-162mm f/3.5 lens with a FD mount that I’m using with my Canon EOS 20D and a FD-EOS adapter. It’s my defacto concert-lens and I’ll be starting off with a series of concert pictures. Next up is a MIR-1 37mm f/2.8 M42 mount lens. Be sure to follow the photoblog for the next couple of days and see if you find these lenses usable. I’ve payed £10 for the 72-162mm and $20 for the MIR-1 through eBay, so perhaps you’ll find that you can have great lenses for a bargain! :-) Then again, perhaps you’ll conclude that it’s a waste of time and money and be glad that I tested this and not you. Let me know what you think!

Joyce Lawrence has captured a great photo:
Read his comments

Finally, my lenses have arrived. :-) They are so much fun, and as soon as I get back to Denmark I’ll be sure to post some pictures taken with them. In the meanwhile, read this nice review which compares the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 to the Canon 35mm f/2 lens. The Tamron is a bit confusing, zooming the opposite way from all my other lenses, and it makes quite much noise while focussing. But that is very easily forgiven because of the nice images it takes. A little bit anoying that it doesn’t have full time manual focusing, though. And it says very clearly “do not use 2x converters with this lens”. Why not? I’ll have to figure that one out.