Berlin and Moscow – Optics and Cameras – Part III

In the first two chapters we learned the theory,
now let’s bring it into practice.
History and choices made by the brands have left a stamp on what’s possible today.
If you want to make use of vintage lenses on a DSLR, the best choice is Pentax.
Pentax is the only brand that stayed loyal to the original M42 Register distance.
Nikon has a larger register whereby making use of a normal ( lens less ) adapter is not possible – although there are lenses with bigger Register distances, like lenses for medium format camera’s.
Pentacon Six mount is a good starting point for vintage lenses with large format mounts.
Canon has a smaller register and can make use of a normal adapter.
However, Canon uses a smaller sensor which brings up another problem.
So there is really only one good choice : Pentax – what else !

With system or mirrorless cameras it’s different.
Register distances are small, so there is no problem to use vintage lenses with an adapter.
The only things you have to keep in mind are the following:
– are controls easy accessible, and usable with manual lenses ?
– is there a possibility for magnification to make focusing more easy ?
– does the camera have a larger sensor ( APS-C minimal )
In my opinion, best cameras that fulfill these conditions are Sony, Fuji and Samsung.

Best lenses, in terms of availability, price and adapter availability are :
M39, M42 and PK ( Pentax bajonett )
Where the first two meet the “Berlin-Moscow” time period more than other,
always be aware of which Register distance the lense was made for.
Its always good to look up a certain lens on Google.
However, don’t get fooled by lens reviews.
I have read reviews bringing down a vintage lens because it was not fast enough, or too soft.
Really ? are we going to compare vintage lenses to modern standards ?
Do we buy vintage lenses to take pictures specially at low light conditions ?
No, I don’t think so, for those occasions there are other lenses.
Vintage lenses are bought for other reasons than performance,
sure, you can say that a certain lens is softer than another,
But vintage lenses have let light pass thru from many years ago,
and thru that same glass and usually super multi bladed apertures,
can see light as we see it today, but then thru 50′ 60′ or more old eyeglasses.
That’s the added value that you can’t have with a modern lens, how fast or sharp it may be.

Caution ! When using (D)SLR cameras, always keep in mind that this type of camera has a moving mirror in it.
So, when u have a lens with something sticking out the back, it could collide with the camera’s internal mirror, and damage it in the process.
If you want to use vintage analog SLR or rangefinder cameras with your old lenses, then you will find a wide range of cameras in M42, like : Pentax, Praktica, Exacta, Zenit, Chinon…
In M39 choices are more limited.
As far as I know, Zenit has the only M39 SLR – and with it a dedicated lens arsenal.
M39 rangefinders’ most important and common cameras are Leica, FED and ZORKI.
And there are also Japanese versions like the Nicca and the Leotax.
An English version under the name Reid, an American version : Tower,
and a few more rare brands.

M39 Rangefinders start from about 1930 with Leica, followed with FED in 1934.
ZORKI’s start from 1948.

M42 SLR’s start from about 1949 with Zeiss Contax, followed by Praktica 1950/52
Japanese versions like Pentax, Yashica, Fuji, Chinon, … and even Olympus made one, start as early as 1952.
Most famous of them all was probably the Legendary Pentax Spotmatic from 1960.

If you have read all three “Berlin and Moscow – Optics and Cameras” articles, then you know by now, there’s a lot to consider and to take into account when buying vintage cameras and lenses.
Certainly in the way of compatibility, so be aware !

Happy lens and camera hunting !

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