zaterdag 3 september 2022

An 8.5/8.8 cm Flugabwehrkanone M39(r) in Holland

I've known for a while that the Vesting Museum (fortress city museum) in Naarden, the Netherlands, had a World War Two anti-aircraft gun in its collection. I shot a picture of it two weeks ago and back home tried to identify the gun.

The gun on August 20th, 2022. Shot with A Pentax 645 fitted with an SMC Pentax-A 645 150mm f/3.5 lens, loaded with Fomapan Profi Line Classic 100/120 film, developed in Adonal and scanned with an Epson Perfection V850 Pro.  

At first glance it looks like a regular German 8.8 cm Flugabwehrkanone (FlaK). Whilst this gun generally looks the same it is however something entirely else. It is of Soviet origin but, as it turns out, with German DNA.

I knew of its Soviet origins from an earlier visit to the museum so that is where I started my research. Now the Soviets in the 1930s developed three models of anti-aircraft guns:

The first model was the 76-мм зенитная пушка обр. 1939 г. (3-К) or 76 mm M1931 air defense gun. The model 1931 was based on the Rheinmetall 7.5 cm Flugabwehrkanone L/59. Through the BÜTAST agency the Soviets bought four prototypes and the design drawings of the 7.5 cm FlaK L/59 in 1930 and used these as a basis for a 76mm anti-aircraft gun that would be known as the 3-K or model 1931 in service, named after the year it was introduced in service. It was a towed gun and used the ZU-29 two-wheeled mount with four legs, two of which could be folded during transportation.

After about 4,550 3-Ks were produced between 1932 and January 1940 production was halted after the introduction of the 76-мм зенитная пушка обр. 1938 г. or 76 mm M1938 air defense gun (no K designation). This was the same gun as the 3-K but fitted to a different mount that was quicker when changing from the transport-mode to the firing-mode. This was the four-wheeled ZU-8 mount. About 960 M1938s were built in the period 1938-1940. The reason no more were produced was that work had also started on an upgunned variant of the M1938, fitted with a 85mm barrel.

This was the 85-мм зенитная пушка обр. 1939 г. (52-К) or 85mm M1939 air defense gun (52-K). The first prototypes were built in 1938 and it was in production from 1939 until 1945 with a total of about 13,422 guns produced. During the early years of World War Two all three models were used but quickly the M1939 replaced all preceding models on the front line.

Now this is where it becomes interesting as all these guns look very similar. The main difference between the M1931 and the M1938/M1939 is the mount (ZU-29 or ZU-8) and the main difference between the M1931/M1938 and the M1939 is the bigger 85mm gun barrel on the M1939. This bigger barrel also has a larger muzzle brake and that in particular is a distinguishing feature.

The gun on August 28th, 2022. This was shot with a Pentax 645Z fitted with an SMC Pentax-FA 645 Zoom 45-85mm f/4.5 lens, as are all following photographs.

Whilst the few shots I took gave a great overall impression I decided to go back and this time take some more detailed shots in order to determine which of the three models was on display. This is what I discovered:

First: The serial number of the gun is 3273. This confirms the actual identity of the gun but as I'm not aware of any serial number listings I can't deduce the model from it.

Serial number 3275, built in 1938.

Second: The year of manufacture is 1938. Again this does not rule out any of the models because the M1931 serial production was from 1932 to 1940, the serial production from the M1938 was from 1938 to 1940 and by 1938 the first prototypes of the M1939 were produced.

The ZU-29 mount. This is where the weels would be attached.

Another look at the ZU-29 mount.

Third: The gun mount is a model ZU-29. Now this was only fitted to the M1931 model.

Fourth: The gun barrel has the bigger muzzle brake that was only fitted to the M1939 model.

Fifth: During the war the Wehrmacht captured loads of M1931s, M1938s and M1939s on the battlefield and put them to good use themselves. Most of the captured guns were modified to take the same 88mm shells the dreaded 8.8 cm Flugabwehrkanone used and according to the museum staff this is one such example. Furthermore, in a 2020 tweet from former museum director Bas Kreuger he mentions that the museum traded the 'Russian M35/85' with the Overloon War Museum. He adds that the gun has a pre-production barrel.

Sixth: I also emailed the Vesting Museum about the origins of the gun. Current museum director Tammo ter Hark wrote back, stating that this is an 'M85' that they have on loan from the Overloon War Museum and that it arrived about ten years ago.

Another view of the 8.5/8.8 cm Flugabwehrkanone M39(r)

So what model is it? My conclusion is that this is in fact a German upgunned Soviet 85-мм зенитная пушка обр. 1939 г. (52-К) or 85mm M1939 air defense gun (52-K) based on the fact that the gun itself has the bigger muzzle brake. The fact that both museum directors talk about an '85', probably referring to the caliber 85mm and that Bas Kreuger mentions the pre-production barrel support this conclusion. That the gun is mounted on the older ZU-29 mount is odd, but this could have happened either during or after the war. The German designation for an M1939 converted to 88mm in Wehrmacht use is 8.5/8.8 cm Flugabwehrkanone M39(r) with the (r) standing for Russia, indicating that this is a beutewaffen or captured weapon. It came from the Overloon War Museum, a museum that was created in 1946 with a collection that consisted of weaponry that was left behind after the 1944 battle of Overloon. This would make the museums 8.5/8.8 cm FlaK M39(r) a veteran of this battle, the only tank battle on Dutch soil. It is fair to assume that this gun was also used as an anti-tank gun in this battle, much like the Germans used their own 8.8 cm FlaK guns against tanks.

All in all this makes for a very interesting exhibit in the Vesting Museum. But why is it displayed there? The answer to that lies in the same Twitter message from former director Bas Kreuger. He reacted to a tweet from Klaas Meijer, in which Klaas speaks about the remains of a bunker complex formerly used by the Kriegsmarine Lehrbatterie Naarden (naval training battalion Naarden). Here Kriegsmarine personnel manning the Atlantic Wall were trained on the 8.5/8.8 cm Flugabwehrkanone M39(r) and similar 10.5 cm FlaK guns, shooting at targets over the IJsselmeer (Lake IJssel). This gun was brought to the Vesting Museum to tell that story.

maandag 3 januari 2022

Lens review: The Porst Color Reflex MC Auto 50mm f/1.4 G

This review is about the Porst Color Reflex MC Auto 50mm f/1.4 F lens. I must admit that I hadn't heard of this specific lens before I was doing research on its bigger brother, the Porst Color Reflex MC Auto 55mm f/1.2 F lens. As it happens, an eBay seller had both the 55mm f/1.2 (early f/22 version) and 50mm f/1.4 for sale. The f/22 version of the 55mm/1.2 went for € 139. I was however intrigued by the 50mm/1.4 so I bid on it and was able to purchase it for a mere € 56.

Like its bigger brother this lens was made in Japan for the German Photo Porst chain of camera stores. I have since managed to find that the Porst lenses in K mount were actually produced by Cosina, thereby confirming my hunch. It is no surprise that both lenses have the same kind of style, the later f/16 version of the 55mm/1.2 and this 50mm/1.4 look very much alike. 

The 50mm/1.4 has a nice solid feel to it. You can tell that these were lenses that were made to last. 


Focal length:                        50mm

Minimal focus distance:        0.5 meters

Aperture:                             f/1.4 - f/22

Aperture blades:                  8

Lens elements:                    7

Diameter:                            49mm

Mount:                                Pentax K

Manufacturer:                     Cosina

Built:                                  1970s-1980s


This lens is equipped with the Pentax K mount. As with the 55mm/1.2 its focus ring turns to the left towards infinity. Again this may seem a bit unnatural at first for Pentax users as the Pentax lenses turn to the right.

Focusing is smooth and in general, the lens has a nice feel to it. I've used this lens with Pentax film cameras and with a digital Canon EOS camera via an adapter. Due to the design of the K mount these lenses will not fit APS-H and full frame EOS cameras, the mirror will hit the back of the lens. K mount lenses will only work on EOS cameras with an APS-C sensor (much like the EF-S mount). 


The images you see below were shot with a Canon EOS 90D set at ISO 200. These images were converted from RAW to JPEG, slightly cropped (to just show the chessboard) and resized. No other actions were taken in Photoshop.






As you can see at f/1.4 subject isolation is great! Wide open it also shows chromatic aberration (CA) which disapears when the lens is stopped down. At f/4 it is almost gone and at f/8 there is no sign of it. Wide open there is also some vignetting, although this does not show on these slightly cropped images. As with the f/1.2 version I found it hard to focus with this lens on the EOS 90D which shows, the f/2.8 and f/4 shots are slightly out of focus. When using these lenses solely on AF cameras I do recommend getting a split-image focusing screen for better accuracy.

In the field

I fitted the Porst Color Reflex MC Auto 50mm f/1.4 G to my Pentax LX, loaded it with Fomapan 100, teamed up with fellow photographer Joeri van Veen and headed out for some shots. 

In the field the lens is easy to operate, the fact that it focuses the 'other' way round did not hinder me in any way. And as for the results, judge for yourself:

The harsh winter light posed no problems for this lens. Only when shooting directly into the sun the back light bleached out the subject somewhat as can be seen below.

All in all I found this lens to be a solid performer, both wide open and stopped down. When using it with the Pentax LX I found focusing no issue at all, whilst using it with a digital camera without a split-image focusing screen was sometimes challenging wide open. For the price this lens is a fine performer for as far as I am concerned, this is a keeper.

zondag 2 januari 2022


This 2nd of January has me reminiscing about the past year. 2021 has given me a 'first' when it comes to photography, but in other fields things were slow to say the least.

The one thing the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than anything else was a restriction of travel for me. Luckily no-one in my family and circle of friends was negatively affected by COVID-19 but it has left its mark on my travel itinerary. Travel was slow, very slow. That meant having to rediscover my local surroundings when shooting. 

Naardermeer nature preservation area, Pentax 645Z

I've managed to get my hands on some interesting stuff in the past year. The purchase of a brand new Pentax 645Z medium format digital camera and the refurbishment of my Kiev 60, Kiev 80 and Kiev 88 medium format film cameras had the most impact on my photography. With regard to the Pentax 645Z, its predecessor the Pentax 645D blew me out of the water when I managed to get hold of one in 2014 and the Pentax 645Z did that all over again. The image resolution I get with this camera is simply amazing. And although I really enjoy the work fellow photographer Joeri van Veen creates with his large format Cambo Ultima 23D camera plus Leaf Aptus digital back I feel that with the arrival of the Pentax 645Z my digital needs are fully fulfilled. The three Kievs are another story. These really take me back to the pinnacle of film photography. I really like their classic feel and look. 

Naarden, ARAX (Kiev 88) CM-MLU

The fortress city of Naarden, Canon 90D

Another piece of kit I bought was a new scanner. After years of loyal service my Nikon LS-8000ED Super Coolscan stopped working. Sadly Nikon no longer supports their superb film scanners and replacement parts are not available. That meant having to buy a new scanner and after some deliberation I chose the Epson Perfection V850 Pro. On the one hand this scanner allows for more negative formats to be scanned, up to 4x5 format. On the other hand it is no dedicated film scanner like the Coolscan and that is very apparent when for instance you use the ICE dust removal option. It worked pretty flawlessly on the Coolscan, on the Epson ehh, not so much. But in the end it gets the job done and if I ever want to venture into the world of large film photography I've got a scanner that supports that.

Black and white
2021 had a photographic 'first' for me: I started developing film myself. Due to that 2021 saw an uptake in the use of black & white film. It was also fun to discover how an expired color film would look when developed in black and white chemistry. 

The best shot
So what was my best photograph of 2021? If I had to pick one it would probably be one of the shots seen above. However my friends over at Flickr had the following thoughts on that:

According to my Flickr pals these are my best shots of 2021. Funnily enough the first one was scanned and uploaded in 2021 but was shot a few years earlier. So the winner is...

Naarden, expired color film developed as b&w, Pentax LX

This year will see the start of a new project: 12 months - 12 cameras. Regular updates will appear here so stay tuned!

zaterdag 13 november 2021

Camera review: The Kiev 60

The camera

This review is about the КИЕВ 60 (Kiev 60) single lens reflex camera. Built by the Arsenal plant this Soviet (later Ukrainian) medium format single lens reflex camera was the successor to the КИЕВ 6C (Kiev 6S) camera model. The Kiev 6S was introduced in 1970 and was produced until 1986. The camera design was no doubt influenced by the 1956 East German Praktisix and copied its lens mount. Not only the Soviets were enamored by the 'big conventional SLR' design, the Japanese Asahi Optical Company released the Pentax 6x7 in 1969 that shares the same design philosophy. In fact, when I first laid hands on a Kiev 60 I was struck by how similar is was to the Pentax 6x7 - my first medium format camera. In 1984 the Kiev 6S was replaced with the Kiev 60 and this camera was built to at least 1999. It was sold by Arsenal for much longer though thanks to a formidable stockpile of Kiev 60s. In fact, one can still purchase new Kiev 60s, rebranded as ARAX 60s, today from ARAX which took over the Arsenal stock after Arsenal closed down.

My Kiev 60 as it was when I obtained it, fitted with an Arsat-C 80mm f/2.8


Camera:                        КИЕВ 60 (Kiev 60)

Built:                            1984-1999

Mount:                          Pentacon 6

Shutter speeds:             2-1/1000 seconds, B

Self timer:                    yes

Mirror lock-up:            no

Film type:                    120 film

Weight:                        1,950 grams with lens

Light metering:            no, add-on TTL prism with light meters available

Battery:                        none for the camera, 3x LR44 for the TTL prism


Like the Pentax 6x7, the Kiev 60 is a big son of a gun. There is nothing delicate about this camera, it was built like a T-55 tank and it will last a lifetime. It is a very straightforward camera, anyone with 35mm SLR camera experience will immediately know how to operate it. It shoots twelve of those big and gorgeous 6x6 negatives on 120 film. But the best thing of all: It uses the Pentacon 6 mount! Hello Carl Zeiss Jena lenses! So we've got a simple, usable design and those superb Carl Zeiss Jena lenses. Is all good? Well, there are issues reported with this camera. Some have overlapping frames and/or light leaks. Not so desirable. Also it has no mirror lock-up (MLU) which could be quite useful.

My Kiev 60 dates from 1994 and is thus an Ukrainian rather than a Soviet camera. It was originally bought by my uncle Wolfgang and he very kindly gave it to me. It hadn't been used for a while and when I ran a roll through it it had developed a light leak. I decided to have it refurbished by ARAX and MLU added. I also had it redone in a black finish and the mirror box flocked to reduce flaring.

My Kiev 60 after overhaul and modification

My Kiev 60 with a Carl Zeiss Jena MC Biometar 80mm f/2.8 fitted


I took my Kiev 60 into the field today to see how it would perform after the overhaul and modification.

Kiev 60 with a Carl Zeiss Jena MC Biometar 80mm f/2.8

All in all my refurbished Kiev 60 really delivers. After the attention it got from ARAX this camera doesn't only look and feel like new, it works like new! No issues with film spacing, no issues with light leaks and a fully operational MLU. And using the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses without having to manually open up, focus and then stop down again is, well, a luxury.

I really like this camera. I realize that not everyone gets one as a present but these medium format cameras are still affordable. I would however recommend investing in having it refurbished if you're serious about shooting with it.

maandag 8 november 2021

Camera review: The Pentax SV

The camera

This review is about the Pentax SV single lens reflex camera. The SV is, one might argue, the last version of the original Asahi Pentax SLR series introduced in 1957. It predates the Pentax Spotmatic series and is, together with the lower-budget S1a released at the same time, the last of the first generation of Asahi Pentax SLRs. The SV was introduced in 1962 and remained in production until 1968 with 481.696 cameras built. There are two versions of the SV, the later one has an orange 'R' on the rewind knob to indicate that the camera can use the 50mm f/1.4 lens which protrudes further into the camera than other 50mm versions. The 50mm f/1.4 cannot fit on the earlier version.

My Asahi Pentax SV fitted with a Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZS

This really is a beautiful camera. This early SLR design has clean straight lines, not hampered by the boxy shape of a flash hot shoe, a clean body surface without extra buttons and an undisturbed view through the view finder. Yet it packs a self timer on the top of the camera, it has a high 1/1000th of a second shutter speed and can be fitted with an additional cold shoe for the use of a flash and an add-on light meter as the SV doesn't have an inbuilt meter.


Camera:                        Asahi Pentax SV/Honeywell Pentax H3v

Built:                            1962-1968

Mount:                          M42

Shutter speeds:             1-1/1000 seconds, B

Self timer:                    yes

Size:                             140 mm wide, 92mm high and 50mm deep

Weight:                        600 grams

Light metering:             no, add-on light meters available

Battery:                        none


I acquired this SV as part of my Pentax Project a few years ago. It is the later version with the orange 'R'. I loaded some Paradies 200/24 (which is rebranded Fuji) economy color negative film, shot a few images and then moved house. The SV was displayed in a small display cabinet in my new house and stood there until I realized that there was still film in it. So I took it on my first outing and finished the roll. I used two lenses with the SV, a Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 28mm f/3.5 and a Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 105mm f/2.8. The SV is a joy to use. I used 'sunny 16' for exposure but there are add-on light meters available, both vintage and modern, that can be used with the SV. The view finder is perhaps a bit darker when compared to later Pentaxes but focusing is a breeze. And after spending time with Soviet lenses and their eccentric ways it is so good to hold and use smoothly functioning lenses such as these Takumars. This SV found its way back to my camera bag and is there to stay. 


All shot with a Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 28mm f/3.5

Shot with a Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 105mm f/2.8

All in all I am pretty pleased with how these shots came out, given that the film was in the camera for quite some time. I've since shot some black and white with it, these rolls will be developed once I finish the last roll.

zondag 17 oktober 2021

Lens review: The Mir-38 65mm f/3.5

This review is about the Mir-38 65mm f/3.5 lens. This is a medium format lens built by Arsenal for their medium format cameras. As a medium format lens, the 65mm falls between the 80mm standard lens and the 45mm wide angle lens. Not quite a wide angle, but certainly wider than a standard lens. Sort of a 40mm lens in 135 film parlance. The Mir-38 supplemented and later replaced the Mir-3 65mm f/3.5 in the Arsenal line-up and was built in an early and late version. The early version can be recognized by the 'Takumar-style' focusing ring and was replaced in the 1980s by the late version pictured below. The specifications below apply to both versions, however the two Mir-38s I own are both later versions so my findings are limited to the late model only.

The Mir-38V 65mm f/3.5 (late model)


Focal length:                        65mm

Minimal focus distance:        0.5 meters

Aperture:                             f/3.5 - f/22

Aperture blades:                  6

Lens elements:                    6 elements in 5 groups

Diameter:                            72mm

Mount:                                Salyut/Kiev and Pentacon six

Manufacturer:                     Arsenal

Built:                                  1972-1993


Both the early and late versions of this lens were built by Arsenal in Kiev with two different camera mounts: A screw mount for their Salyut/Salyut-C/Kiev 88 series cameras called the Mir-38V and the Pentacon six mount for their Kiev 6S/Kiev 60 series cameras plus the Kiev 88CM called the Mir-38B. For this review I used lenses with both mounts, a 1984 Mir-38B and a 1990 Mir-38V. 

My Kiev 88 with the 1990 Mir-38V

My Pentax 645D with the 1984 Mir-38B

The biggest difference between these two lenses is of course the lens mount, but the 1990 Mir-38V also has a Depth of Field (DoF) preview button, something the 1984 Mir-38B lacks. Both lenses focus fine although the focusing rings from both lenses feel a bit "heavy" in use. Both stop down from f/3.5 to f/22 without issue. I also noted that the 1990 Mir-38V has a rather loose aperture ring.

In the field

I used the Mir-38V on my Kiev 88 and the Mir-38B with a P6-Pentax 645 adapter on my Pentax 645D. The DoF preview button on the Mir-38V is said to be a potential light leak so I used a bit of gaffer tape to cover it up. The loose aperture ring on the 1990 Mir-38V was a bit of a pain in the lower regions, it meant constantly checking if the aperture hadn't changed accidentally. Other than that, both lenses were a joy to use and the heavy focusing didn't bother me at all once in the field.

The images below were shot with my Kiev 88 fitted with a 645 back and loaded with Fomapan Profi Line Classic 100 120 film, the negatives scanned by an Epson V850 Pro and resized in Adobe Photoshop from 9,968 x 7,247 pixels to 1,000 x 727 pixels.

The color images were shot with my Pentax 645D, converted from RAW to JPEG and resized in Adobe Photoshop from 7,264 x 5,440 pixels to 1,000 x 749 pixels.

I am really pleased with the images the Mir-38 65mm f/3.5 produces. Clean crisp images with a lovely color rendering. 

Wide open, 100% crop

Bokeh, left upper area of the image, 100% crop

Wide open this lens produces nice sharp images and as can be seen on both 100% crops the out-of-focus bokeh is smooth and not distracting at all. On a full frame medium format camera this 65mm lens provides a very good semi-wide angle lens and on a digital medium format camera with a crop sensor an excellent standard lens. It is not the fastest medium format lens around but its performance is good all across the board. Recommended.