|The Yashica 50mm f1.9 lens......found in a wall|
I love having little lenses like this to play with, and the size of these old film lenses, that used to come standard as kit lenses with camera bodies, are nice and small. They were also, usually incredibly sharp. There is little reason you can't continue to use them on modern cameras with adaptors, provided you don't mind manual focusing. With cameras like the E-PL1 where you can zoom in on an electronic viewfinder, manual focusing is a snap. But of course most modern DSLR's have live view that allow for zooming on the screen to check critical focus.
|Yashica on an E-PL1|
And the real bonus? These sort of lenses can usually be found in the bargain bins at your local used camera store. They are so plentiful that you can get them dirt cheap. No matter the brand, you'll usually find one that is very sharp as well. Just watch out for fungus or oily aperture blades. Then again, if you get a bad one, just replace it. Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Canon, Minolta, whatever, you can find adaptors for them all.
|Shot wide open at f1.9|
Throughout the aperture range it maintained a reasonable sharpness. The biggest issue I had was camera shake. I tended to zoom in on my focus point using the electronic viewfinder but found myself being kind of shaky while doing so. This ran me into trouble when I was at or near the closest focusing distance of the lens as I would often tip slightly too close while rocking around.
The rubber focusing ring on my lens has also slacked loose over time so you have to kind of squeeze it together to get a focus movement. Once doing that though it is as smooth as silk and that's the beauty of these old film lenses, they are made to manual focus and the movement is smooth but still gives ample feedback and feel for accuracy.
|Shot at about f9|
One of the biggest compliments I can give the Yashica lens is that I just really enjoyed using it. I found myself just getting into it and having a blast. It made me connect with the little E-PL1 more than any other lens has so far. The experience of shooting it, and manually focusing was joyful. Without the pressure of being forced to deliver a product, I was just running around a campsite having fun and falling into a moment with my equipment that was harmonious.
I even found myself enjoying photographing things like flowers, something I normally hate taking images of. Actually to be honest, I can't really tell the difference between flowers and weeds, so I'm not sure what I was doing.
One thing was certain, I was having fun and the bokeh was nice and the gear was helping me forget itself if that makes sense. It was helping me connect with the enjoyment of the moment. If you don't believe that can happen, you haven't found the right gear yet.
Was I nailing every image and creating jaw dropping art? No, not really, but I was having a great time doing it. And all for a lens that cost me exactly $15 to use (by buying the adaptor). It wasn't a $2600 70-200 f2.8, big honking white or black lens. It wasn't a 200mm f2 or a fancy dancy tilt shift. Nope, this baby was found in a wall.
And it's really a testament to the E-PL1 and cameras like it as well (like the NEX7 or X-PRO1 or OMD) that are really built again like the film cameras that this lens was originally married to. They are small, light, and a joy to use. No big black obnoxious camera bodies with huge lenses bolted on them. Are they pro cameras? No, not really, but they are highly capable, and most importantly they are the only tools out there now that are getting out of the way of photographers and allowing them to re-connect with being image makers in a non-obnoxious way. You opinion may vary. The last time I saw an E-PL1 for sale it was in the clearance bin for $150. So your price of entry for this whole kit is under $200. How do you beat that????
My friend at our local camera store emailed today and said my OMD by Olympus (in silver thank-you) should be in this week. I'm really looking forward to that a lot. I stare at (when I'm not using it) my OM4t at times and keep thinking that that was when they made cameras correctly. Small, unobtrusive and build solid. Same with the new digital version. And with the new image stabilization it should help a lot to steady that image when I zoom in for manual focus through the viewfinder. I'll be sure to let you know.
One thing that is for certain is that my hand-held video should get better, and that is important because I did a little video for you all with the Yashica lens and I should warn you that it is a little unsteady. I'm a pretty shaky guy and I had no tripod. So except for laying the camera on the ground, the IS in the E-PL1 just couldn't make up for Mr. Shaky.
So for those of you that are going to be upset at my bumps and wiggles, please don't click play on the video at the end of the post. For those of you that are curious about the shallow depth of field that you can get for video with this lens, do click it. It's only about a minute long.
The use of these small film primes for video on a DSLR or mirrorless camera is really a dream come true. Manual focus is a snap and their size and sharpness wide open is really fantastic. Plus that shallow depth of field we all love in large sensor filming is easy to attain. If you are serious about video, I recommend forgetting about a $400 Nikon or Canon 50mm f1.4 in the modern age and digging through the bargain bins for a smaller, lighter, sharper 50mm film lens. You can find them at f1.8, f1.4, f1.2 or even wider. It's all good, old-school rocks!
Thanks for dropping by the blog.