Mir With The Crazy Flare

2013 10 13 JMZ Boat mir Pentax Spotmatic Kodak Portra 400 02350036
Pentax Spotmatic, KMZ Mir-1B 37/2.8, Kodak Portra 400

This has to be the most extreme example of lens flare that I
have personally achieved in a photograph.  Even J.J. Abrams would be proud!

I see at least a dozen distinct flare elements, and that is
counting the stars as just one each rather than once per point.

One of my reasons for getting a vintage Pentax Spotmatic
35mm SLR was to try out some older lenses with character.  When I read up on the KMZ Mir-1B on Vintage Lenses for Video it was
described as having out-of-this-world flare under the right circumstances.

The front of this lens needs to be wielded with care as I found that having the front of the lens pointed anywhere
near the sun resulted in at least one circular flare somewhere in the frame.

I am sure there are creative ways to use it though, so whenever I need lens flare I know just where to turn to.

KMZ Industar-50-2

2013 09 20 JMZ Swim Pentax Spotmatic Kodak Portra 400-8628-0020
Pentax Spotmatic, KMZ Industar-50-2 50/3.5 (wide open), Kodak Portra 400

The first soviet lens I have been trying out is an Industar-50-2 made by KMZ.

KMZ was one of the most prolific of the soviet camera and lens manufacturers, and the Industar-50-2 was one of their more common lenses.  I think this was "The People's 50mm" for many back in the day.

It is incredibly compact and so some call it a pancake lens, but I find its sloped edges more reminiscent of a squat nuclear cooling tower.

As with many of the older M42 mount lenses, the Industar-50-2 features a smooth (if not loose) aperture ring with no stops, meaning that it rotates smoothly from f/16 up through f/3.5.

You focus the Industar wide open and then stop down to the desired aperture in order to meter.  This can be tough to do by touch given the lack of clicks, but on the other hand there is nothing preventing you from dialing in any intermediate aperture to nail exposure just where you want it.

The relatively slow maximum aperture means that this is not a good lens for low-light situations or minimizing the depth of field.  However, I have found that I can shoot wide open even in daylight and still get nice, rounded out of focus elements in the photo.

Rejuvenating Yellowed Lens Glass Via UV Light

2013-09-28 21.09.31
UV rejuvination in progress

There is a curious phenomenon which affects some older lenses as
they age: the cement used to bond glass elements together can turn yellow.

While comparing two of my recently acquired M42 lenses with each other,
a 50/1.4 Super-Takumar to a 58/2 Helios-44-2, I was puzzled when meter
readings from the Super-Tak called for a slower shutter speed on the same
subject with both lenses wide open.

I also noticed the view through my Spotmatic's finder was yellow-ish
with the Super-Tak.  Some research on this topic turned up that this is a
common issue afflicting these lenses.

Others report success bleaching the lens back to clarity using ultraviolet
light, either from direct daylight (window glass blocks UV) or via a strong UV light
bulb.  I decided to try a CFL party black
and heat lamp fixture from home depot.

After merely 24 hours of exposure to UV there was a noticeable
difference, and by 4 days later it appeared cleared up to the naked eye.

My meter readings now called for a one-stop
faster shutter on the Super-Tak so I figure I am done with the UV light treatment.

Before and After: Helios 44-2 on the left and Super-Takumar 50/1.4 on the right



As an added bonus I now have a black light at my disposal just in time for Halloween trick-or-treaters!

Happy 10th Anniversary

2013-09-26 14.44.41
Pentax Spotmatic, Asahi Super-Takumar 50/1.4, Kodak BW400CN

Today my Dear Sweet Wife and I celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary.

I took the above photo of my DSW using my first M42 lens, an
Asahi (Pentax) Super-Takumar 50/1.4 shot wide open.

It was just one of two shots taken for fun while at lunch the
other day, but I think it captures her beauty and charm quite nicely if I do
say so myself.

Happy anniversary my love!

Thanks for all the good times: the family, home, travel, and
all sorts of fun and adventure.  But
mostly thanks for doing it together with me.

Here is to the next ten years and beyond!


Spotmatic Overview

2013-09-30 14.00.34
The majority of Spotmatic controls are right here

After a few weeks
playing with my Pentax Spotmatic camera I find shooting it a blast.

It is a fully manual SLR
with typical layout of the controls.  You won't find much more on this
camera than shutter speed dial & release, film advance level and a
self-timer.  Aperture and focus is of course controlled via the lens.

The Spotmatic has
through the lens (TTL) metering, but unlike newer cameras there is a switch
near the lens mount to enable the meter.  This engages an automatic
diaphragm release on newer M42 lenses to stop the aperture down for metering.

The documented usage
model is to first compose and focus with the aperture wide open and then engage
the meter and adjust exposure as needed.  The image through the viewfinder
darkens during metering as the lens stops down to the chosen aperture.

Personally I found
myself metering first and then disengaging the switch to perform final
focusing; either method works fine.

The only quirks I have
encountered are

  • It required an PX-400 mercury battery, but I used the
    replacement WeinCell instead
  • The battery chamber prong had to be pried up a bit to
    get the meter working
  • The fresnel focusing screen in the viewfinder requires your eye to be dead center to work

Taking a Spin with a Spotmatic

2013-09-21 11.15.36

While I use a variety of film cameras, my SLRs and interchangeable
lenses so far have been mostly Nikon.

I wanted to branch out and try an older interchangeable lens
system and decided on the M42 mount.  There
is some pretty nice M42 glass with unique aesthetics, often available at affordable

M42 is a thread mount where you literally screw the threaded rear
end of the lens into the camera body.  M42
is sometimes known as the Praktica or Pentax thread mounts as those were two of
the most prolific camera makes to use it.

After some research it seemed that the original Pentax Spotmatic was
one of the best camera bodies made to use M42 lenses.  It has TTL metering, a reputation for quality,
and a pleasing design.

It has a few quirks for those used to more modern SLRs; primarily
that you often have to focus and meter as separate steps. But now that I have put a few rolls through one it has a certain
charm to it that I find hard to resist.