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. 

Specifications:

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

Use

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). 

Images

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.


f/1.4


f/2.8


f/4


f/8


f/16

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

2021

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.

Travel
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

Gear
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

2022
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

Specifications

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

Shooting

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

Images

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.

Specifications

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

Shooting

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. 

Images





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)

Specifications:

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

Use

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.

zaterdag 2 oktober 2021

Camera review: The Kiev 88

The camera

When you see a Kiev 88 the first thing you notice is how much it resembles a Hasselblad V series camera. This is not by accident. When Hasselblad introduced the 1600F model camera, built from 1949 until 1953 they introduced a new camera design. This was not lost on engineers in the Soviet Union and it was decided that the Arsenal factory in Kiev would develop a camera based on the Hasselblad 1600F design. In 1957 they came up with the Салют (Salyut) camera which was basically a reverse-engineered 1600F. At the time the similarity of the two cameras was explained by stating that both Hasselblad and Arsenal based their camera design on that of a camera prototype designed in Germany at the end of World War Two. A nice story but as this mythical prototype has never been found or shown elsewhere that is probably all it is. 

Now the Salyut and the Hasselblad 1600F look very much alike but the Salyut is no exact copy. Both are modular camera's with detachable lenses, film backs and viewfinders. The lenses and film backs however are not interchangeable with the Hasselblad versions. The viewfinder actually is compatible with not just the Hasselblad 1600F but also its V system successors. These are smaller differences too, for instance the fastest shutter speed on the first Salyut models was 1/1500th of a second whilst the Hasselblad had a 1/1600th of a second shutter speed (hence the name).

The original Salyut camera was produced between 1957 and 1972 and during its production run several changes were made. The first series had a self timer and a maximum shutter speed of 1/1500th of a second, the second series lost the self timer and the third series had a reduced maximum speed of 1/1000th of a second. All of these were supplied with the Industar-29 80mm f/2.8 lens. Export versions were built under the names of Zenith 80, Revue 6x6, Revue 80 and Vitoflex. Around 50,000 Salyuts of all versions have been built.

My Kiev 80 as bought

Next in line was the Салют-C (Salyut-S), an improved Salyut produced from 1972 until 1981. Around 30.000 were made. The main difference was the fully automatic diaphragm that the original Salyut lacked. It was standard equipped with a Vega-12B 90mm f/2.8 lens. Like the original Salyut, this camera was exported under different brand names like Soyuz, Zenith 80 (second use of this name) and Kiev 80. Some Kiev 80s were supplied with a different standard lens, the Volna-3 80mm f/2.8. My Kiev 80 however came with the standard Vega-12B lens.

My Kiev 88 as bought

The Salyut-S was succeeded on the production line by the Киев 88 (Kiev 88). These models were produced between 1980 and 1994. The biggest difference between the Kiev 88 and its predecessor was the addition of a hot shoe on the camera body. The Kiev 88 also came with a new TTL metering prism This combination was called the Kiev 88 TTL but as the viewfinder is detachable the only difference between the Kiev 88 and 88 TTL is the use of the metering prism. Its standard lens was the Volna-3 80mm f/2.8. Like its predecessors the Kiev 88 was also exported. In the US it was sold under the Cambron name but usually it was sold as a Kiev 88, the main difference was that this was written in Latin rather that Cyrillic script.

Last in the line was the Kiev 88CM. By now the Soviet Union had collapsed and Arsenal was now a Ukrainian company. The Kiev 88CM (by now Arsenal stopped using the Cyrillic script) was produced from 1994 up until the factory closed in 2009. The biggest difference between the Kiev 88 and the 88CM was the new lens mount. All previously built Salyuts and Kievs had a screw mount not unlike but different from the original Hasselblad mount. With the Kiev 88CM that lens mount was replaced with the Pentacon Six mount. This meant that beautiful lenses such as the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses built for the Pentacon Six could be used on Kievs. As Arsenal already produced their lenses in this mount for the Kiev 60 series of cameras both the original Soviet/Ukrainian lenses in Pentacon Six mount and other lenses who use the Pentacon Six mount can be used.

The closure of the Arsenal factory was not the end of the Kiev line of cameras. There were loads of unsold Kiev 88CMs around and companies like Hartblei and Arax took over that stock. Both companies already offered repairs and upgrades to this line of cameras and started producing their own versions using unsold Kiev 88CMs, upgrading them and selling them on under their own brand names. 

Arax offered the Arax CM and CM-MLU versions, the last one adds a mirror lock up (MLU) to the camera. Hartblei offered the Hartblei 1006 and 1006 Master models with the Pentacon Six mount with the Master version also receiving MLU and Hartblei 1008 and 1008 Master models with the original screw mount. Hartblei also offered a commonality with Hasselblad, theirs are the only Kiev cameras modified to take Hasselblad film backs. The Hartblei modified film backs can also be used on Hasselblad V type bodies, something that cannot be done with the original film backs. 

Unfortunately both companies no longer sell their brands of the Kiev 88 cameras. Hartblei stopped selling and servicing these cameras around 2018. A shame really, I would have loved to get my hands on one of those Hartblei 1006 Master cameras with that Hasselblad commonality. In 2021 Arax also stopped selling new cameras as their supply of Arsenal built bodies ran out. However Arax still offers repairs and modifications to all Salyut/Kiev models at this time (October 2021).

Back to the Kiev 88. My copy was built in 1985 and when I acquired mine (together with a 1976 Kiev 80) it was still in full working order. At that time I had just bought my first Arax version of the Kiev 88CM which I was very happy with. With Arax also servicing, repairing and upgrading all models of this design I decided a few months ago to send mine off to the Ukraine for servicing. I decided to have everything serviced and MLU added. It would also get a black coating replacing the silver look.




My Kiev 88 after servicing

Shooting

Shooting with the Kiev 88 (or any of the other camera models described above for that matter) is not for the impatient. Are you in a hurry? Go grab something digital. But if you're willing to spend the time then shooting with this camera is fun. Now when shooting with these Kievs there are a few things you'll always have to remember. By far the most important is to cock your shutter before setting the shutter speed. Doing it the other way around will most likely damage the shutter mechanism. Now, your shutter needs to be cocked before you can compose your shot anyway (cocking it also lowers the mirror) so it is best to just learn and use the mantra 'before doing anything else, cock the shutter'. My Kiev 88 came with both the folding view finder and the TTL metering prism. Working with the folding view finder takes some getting used to. You're looking at a mirror image and when composing moving the wrong way happens almost inevitably the first few times - or more... I opted to fit the TTL viewfinder that I bought together with my Arax after trying the folding view finder. Shooting handheld is no problem with these cameras but I would recommend a tripod when using the folding view finder or when using lower shutter speeds. So, you've set op your shot, cocked the shutter, composed, focused, selected the proper shutter speed and aperture and removed the metal sheet from the film back so you're good to go. One last focus check and CLACK, there the shutter and mirror go. A very satisfying sound.

Images

The Kiev 88 delivers twelve beautiful 6x6 images when using the standard film back. There is also a 645 film back that gets you sixteen 6x4.5 shots. I used the standard film back that came with my Kievs, fitted the Vega-12B 90mm f/2.8 lens and shot some black and white. A few examples, straight from the scanner:







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 w...