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a case for rangefinder lenses

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by Bimjo, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    A Case for Rangefinder Lenses on NEX (this is long, I was bored)

    One of the major reasons I decided to purchase a NEX camera was to lighten my load. Literally lighten it. For many years I have used Pentax DSLR cameras with the battery grip and a range of fast autofocus zoom lenses.

    I was quite happy with how this equipment performed except for one thing-- it was heavy. Heavy to carry, heavy to hold, and heavy on my wallet as well. Initially this was a burden that I carried without thought or complaint.

    However I suffered two motorcycle crashes and a nearly fatal illness in the space of 23 months. Recovering from these incidents was long, and still isn't complete three years later. As a result, my ability to carry hefty camera loads in the field was/is severely hampered.

    So I started looking for a camera that I could use that was lighter than my Pentax gear, and was equal in image quality. My search brought me to the Sony NEX series of camera bodies. I selected the 5N model with the SEL1855, the SEL16F28, and the SEL55210. I subsequently picked up the FDA-EV1S electronic viewfinder because the LCD really doesn't work for me much of the time.

    Once I started to use the 5N I discovered that it was indeed the equal of my K20D for image quality. I also discovered that I could use my PK mount lenses on the 5N. How cool was that? Use the K20 for those things the 5N doesn't do as well as the K20 and the 5N for everything else. What's not to like?

    Over time I came to realize that the SEL16F28 and I were never going to bond as picture taking partners. I'm not entirely sure why, it just wasn't happening. No real complaints about image quality except for some smeared corners occasionally. The weird part was the corners weren't consistently smeared. Sometimes they were ok, sometimes not.

    Having decided that we were not destined to ride of into the photographic sunset, I started looking for a replacement. It became apparent that it was either the 16 or a legacy manual focus (MF) lens. The 16 was out so I started looking at legacy lenses. There really aren't that many ultra wide angle (UWA) legacy lenses out there.

    My search brought me to the Cosina Voigtlander (CV) 12 and 15mm lenses. The CV lenses come in two basic flavors- Leica thread mount (LTM) aka L39, and Leica M mount. The LTM line is smaller than the M mount line, so in keeping with the small form factor of the 5N, I decided on the LTM CV15.

    Now, these are modern rangefinder lenses with all the modern lens coatings etc. that one would expect of any modern camera lens. They are also expensive compared to legacy SLR lenses. They are comparable to autofocus lenses in price. They do have one huge advantage over legacy SLR lenses though- they are relatively tiny in comparison.

    This size difference is compounded by the size difference of the adapters needed to mount non-E mount lenses on a NEX body. Each camera has a lens registration distance. This is the distance between the face of the lens mount and the recording media (film or digital sensor). The vast majority of SLR cameras have a lens registration distance between 40 and 50mm with the most common falling around 45mm. The NEX series has a registration distance of 18mm. The Leica lens registration distance is 27.95mm for M mount and 28.8mm for the LTM.

    So, using 45mm average registration distance for SLR lenses, and 28mm registration distance for Leica mount lenses the difference in the registration distance averages 17mm greater for the SLR lenses than the Leica lenses. So, given a SLR lens and a rangefinder lens of equal size (rarely happens), mounting them on a NEX body results in a smaller lens package with the rangefinder lens.

    Since one of the initial reasons for purchasing a NEX body was smaller/lighter, using rangefinder lenses made real sense. Add the fact that using manual focus lenses on the NEX bodies is a snap because of focus peaking and you have a match made in heaven- small, light, very well built metal bodied lenses and a modern camera system that is incredibly inexpensive for what it is.

    I really had no intention to purchase a whole line of MF lenses. I figured the CV15 and maybe the CV12 later would handle the wide shots, and the Sony E-mount zooms would handle the rest. Then something funny happened. I discovered just how unsatisfying focus-by-wire really is. The Sony lenses have no true manual focus mechanism like a real manual focus lens has. This results in a horrid lack of "feel" when trying to focus the lens. There also are no stops at the closest focus point or at infinity focus. You can turn the focus ring either direction al day long if you like. I'm not picking on Sony here, it's the nature of focus-by-wire.

    So, I picked up a m42 adapter and put my Takumar SMC 55/1.8 lens on the 5N and WOW! What a difference. Totally smooth focus, easily accomplished via focus peaking. Heaven! It was like using an older manual focus film camera, only better. Then there was that size thing again. The Tak55 isn't a huge lens. Added to the adapter though it isn't particularly small.

    I really was liking that real manual focus thing, but I wasn't liking the size and heft of legacy SLR lenses. So even though I have some stunning MF SLR lenses, I decided that rangefinder lenses could give me everything I wanted from the 5N- small size, light weight, stellar build and great image quality.

    It wasn't a quick decision. I used various SLR lenses for over 9 months before deciding that I wanted to shoot MF lenses the majority of the time. Having decided that, I further decided that rangefinder lenses were going to be my mechanism for doing so.

    So, after 5+ months of using the rangefinder lenses are they perfect? Nope. But nothing ever is. So what are the drawbacks? The really small form factor rangefinder lenses are slow optically. The fastest one I have is only f/2.5 which isn't going to set the world on fire. But since I try to shoot off a tripod whenever I'm shooting anything other than snapshots they work for me. And, if I wanted to spend the money (lots of money) I could have fast rangefinder lenses. Fortunately for my ever dwindling bank account I haven't yet felt the need.

    So, I'm happy with my decision to use rangefinder lenses for my manual focus needs. I have most of the focal lengths covered up to 90mm, for anything over that I'll use the SEL55210.

    Now if I could just find a black CV28/3.5 I'd be set. :cool:


    I can't believe I typed this whole diatribe on my iPad. I must be nutz!
     
  2. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    I've already blown way too much $$$ on e-mount and old SLR lenses, last year. If I get a taste of that nice, compact rangefinder glass, I'm in deep doo-doo! ;)

    The CV15 is on my short list.
     
  3. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    916
    Aug 22, 2012
    Yes, the discovery of manual focus joy seems pretty common at this forum, as well as the subsequent dissatisfaction with focus by wire thereafter. I'm actually thinking of putting a Konica M 35/2 as my retirement lens for my 5N and then getting the next 7 or FF NEX as my "serious" do-everything camera. The 5 just seems made for manual lenses, and of these the rf ones look best.

    That said, 3 weeks in Africa with only focus-by-wire lenses (18-200, 50/1.8 and 19/2.8) has really diminished my complaints about NEX AF which is only really bad for lowlight shooting but absolutely fine otherwise. The one time I really missed MF it was trying to catch birds in flight via pre-focus. But I suspect I can find room for both in my heart. :)

    Edit: sorry for picking off a tangent of your long post!
     
  4. tanglewood

    tanglewood TalkEmount Rookie

    24
    Oct 11, 2012
    All those yummy lenses, and you got bored?!?

    :)
     
  5. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    I've been a little under the weather and not felt like shooting. Over soon I hope. ;)
     
  6. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    I'm actually pretty satisfied with the size/performance/cost of the two e-mount primes I own. IMO they do provide a compelling alternative to the more esoteric Leica/Zeiss offerings. Focus by wire can certainly be a drag sometimes - the other night at a party I actually gave up and resorted back to AF. (Even waded into the menus and reconfigured the AF/MF button back to its original function.)

    After my first brush with Leica optics (couple of old SLR lenses) I would love to try their more compact rangefinder offerings. I'm definitely going to wait for FF, though - it does seem a little crazy to me to spend the amounts we're looking at, just to crop half of those beautiful renderings away.
     
  7. RalllyFan

    RalllyFan TalkEmount Regular

    139
    Dec 2, 2012
    Massachusetts
    Tom
    I have to agree with everything, but especially the size difference in adapters. My CV 35 and two Leica lenses match up so well, and the adapter is so small, you'd think they were made for the NEX specifically. Also your point about fast RF lenses: certainly more expensive, and a whole lot bigger and heavier! I've never found a situation where I've wished I had more than 2.5, personally (though I understand people's needs for 1.4, 1.7, etc.). The CV 15 has been on my radar for a while, but I've also been eyeing up the CV 21 lately, I think mainly because I've been looking to get an actual film rangefinder and that would be plenty wide on film. But of course 15 would be super wide and fun, too.
     
  8. Dioptrick

    Dioptrick TalkEmount All-Pro

    Feb 4, 2012
    New Zealand
    Makes perfect sense! I'd be doing it too, but too much coin for me... (too many other hobbies to feed :) )
     
  9. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    916
    Aug 22, 2012
    Anyone tried the new CV 21/1.8 Ultron yet? Doesn't look too big and it's fast!
     
  10. RalllyFan

    RalllyFan TalkEmount Regular

    139
    Dec 2, 2012
    Massachusetts
    Tom
    BTW - when I read the title of this thread, I thought you were looking for a 'case' for rangefinder lenses. If you ever are, I recommend this:

    case_12_15a_copy. :cool:
     
  11. Dioptrick

    Dioptrick TalkEmount All-Pro

    Feb 4, 2012
    New Zealand
    ^ Hahaha... I knew there's gotta be more than just me and Bimjo in this forum that's got a loose nut! lol

    (And yet it makes so much sense, it's scary!)
     
  12. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Well, it made sense when I typed it...

    It should have said Making a case... and keep it up- that Spiratone isn't the only doorstop I have and I know your address. :p

    BTW- where would one get that fancy case?
     
  13. Dioptrick

    Dioptrick TalkEmount All-Pro

    Feb 4, 2012
    New Zealand
    Just ignore me, when this happens. I sometimes crack-up laughing thinking someone's made a dry & clever joke only to realize later that there is no joke! My sense of humour is sometimes off cuz I'm standing upside-down in the southern hemisphere... :rolleyes:
     
  14. RalllyFan

    RalllyFan TalkEmount Regular

    139
    Dec 2, 2012
    Massachusetts
    Tom
    Ha!

    I believe cameraquest.com has the case, and pretty much everything else Voigtlander. My local shop has a used one I've been eyeing. Not sure $50 is worth it, but at the same time, those little lenses seem to bounce around a bit in a regular bag.
     
  15. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Oh no, I was agreeing with you! What's that say about my sense of humor? ;)
     
  16. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Well, that's better than the $65 I found on ebay. I have some neoprene sleeves coming by slow boat that were only $2.25 ea so we'll see how those work out first.
     
  17. jcdoss

    jcdoss TalkEmount Regular

    118
    Jul 6, 2013
    I'm thinking seriously about doing the same thing. I used to have a Nikon D200, then picked up an Olympus EPL2 ages ago. Image quality was OK, but I hated the interface. I looked around and ended up with a Pentax K30, which is a pretty good compromise on the size issue, but I've always wanted a set of Voigtlanders, and they're awfully hard to come by in K-mount (and super expensive, now, too).

    I went to the local Best Buy and played around with a NEX6 (no NEX7 was available), and it matched my hand quite well. Uh oh.....

    Now, I'm thinking of a NEX7 or it's successor, plus some CV lenses for 50mm and lower (maybe I'll make an exception for the 75 Heliar), and look for vintage Pentax manual focus primes for anything longer. Then, I can justify keeping the K30 around, too.
     
  18. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    The idea has merit. I may be biased though. ;)

    Be aware the 7 has issues with wide angle rangefinder lenses (color shift/vignette). Actually I have the same issue with my 5N up to 28mm. Beyond that I'm ok. Easily handled in post processing, but it is an extra step in your workflow.
     
  19. jcdoss

    jcdoss TalkEmount Regular

    118
    Jul 6, 2013
    I wonder if Lightroom 5 is any good at taking care of this? Are there any plugins available that can handle it?
     
  20. gio

    gio TalkEmount Veteran

    382
    Sep 12, 2012
    Manchester, uk
    great thread and advice by the OP, I have now got myself into the mire again with the nex system, last year I was sticking to my dslr stuff and keeping the nex 5n for nightime stuff on holiday and fun photography, never buying anymore nex gear, now 35mm 1.8, LA EA2, later I have sort of tied myself to the nex, I now have,
    nex 6, 16-50mm, 16mm and uwa and fisheye, flash adapter, 30mm sigma, 35mm sony, and looking now at the 24mm zeiss, looks like it's a hook line and sinker for me.
    I should have known, but I'll bet, better men / women than I have fallen under the spell,
    never look a nex in the eye