Archive for the ‘Cameras’ Category

Lots of people come to PhotoFair and are amazed at all the fabulous lenses from yesteryear that make wonderful images on modern cameras. For years the micro 4/3 system offered an array of adapters for mounting old school classic lenses. The thrill at the time was the fact you got a 2x crop. You can mount a rather affordable old 100/2 on a 4/3 camera and the 2x crop yields a field of view similar to a 200mm on full frame. It became super easy to shoot high speed teles on these cameras. But when confronted with the notion of standard or wide angle lenses that became an issue. The same 2x crop that was fun for tele-photo kills all the joy of vintage wide angles.

But early on full frame cameras were just too expensive. And most of them were also DSLRs which are not as flexible with mounting older lenses. Sony charged ahead in 2013 offering the first system of modern autofocus full frame mirrorless cameras. The a7 and a7R. The a7 featured a 24mp sensor and the a7R featured a 36mp sensor. The 7 and 7r has remained to date with upgrades carrying a II, III, and IV. moniker. The newest models are an a7III 24mp, a7s III 12mp, and a7R IV 61mp.

It is hard to beat Sony if your primary desire is to use vintage glass. The system is well established and has a large user base, allowing for manufacturers to support a wide variety of adapters for just about any mount ever made.

The title of this article is “budget” and I feel that most of the brand new full frame mirrorless cameras really don’t fall into a reasonable person’s idea of budget. You know, it’s like that budget Lamborghini, the Huracan; those are only $205,000 😉 But if we take $1000.00 as the budget there is at least one brand new camera and several excellent used models that fall under that threshhold.

Here is a list of excellent budget full frame mirrorless bodies:

  • $999 NEW: Canon RP 26mp 2019-date. Squeaks under that budget mark but it is brand new. It features a 26.2mp sensor and Canon’s DIGI 8 processor. It can do both 1080p and 4k video. It has a rather pedestrian 2.36m-dot EV and a 1.6 m-dot rear display that is fully articulating. The real advantage to the Canon is its seamless integration with the DSLR EF lenses as well as the native RF lenses. There are a wide variety of adapters for mounting vintage glass such as Leica LTM and M mount and most old school SLR mounts. It does not have nearly the range of third party adapters as rival Sony.
  • $400-$600 Used: Sony a7 24mp 2013-2018. This is the best price you’ll find on the list. I wouldn’t pay more than $500 unless it comes with a lot of cool extras. The A7II has 5 axis IBIS and that is worth a few hundred more. Especially for use with vintage glass! This is a very compact camera. Sony managed to nudge the size up a little with each new variant. The original is noticeably smaller than the current models.
  • $600-$800 Used: Sony a7R 36mp 2014-2018. This camera has a higher resolution sensor than the standard a7. This comes at the expense of dynamic range and ISO performance. That said 50% more resolution may be a fair trade off if you like to do large crops or giant prints.
  • $600-$900 Used: Sony a7 II 24mp 2014-date. The second gen Sony a7 cameras got a refreshed body that was slightly larger but widely cheered for better ergonomics and more buttons and dials allowing for less menu diving. The real feature was the world’s first five axis sensor stabilizer in a full frame camera. Totally worth the price jump. Even the brand new Canon up top of this list does not have IBIS. Sony still sells new for 1399.
  • $900-$1200 Used: Sony a7R II 42mp 2014-date. Basically the same camera as the standard a7 II with substantially higher resolution. The camera gives up a little dynamic range and ISO performance for the extra pixels. Sony still offers this camera new for $1599. It’s going to be hard to find one under $1000. Any you do find under may be well-worn models or high use cameras well in excess of 50k shutter actuations.

Nikon recently released the all new Z5 which sells new for $1299. It has 24mp sensor and some upgraded software to allow for eye detection AF and new focusing hardware that uses nearly the entire frame. This camera exceeds the budget, but it is worthy of mention none-the-less.

The best value on the list is the Sony a7 II. It is easy to find a super clean, low shutter click unit well under the $1000 and it has a good IBIS system. Again, IBIS stands for “In Body Image Stabilization” which means lenses that do not have an optical stabilizer will still get stabilization. This allows for slower shutter speeds hand held providing the subject isn’t moving around. IBIS can be a life saver in low light situations.

You can find most of these cameras used at PhotoFair and other camera shows around the country, just as soon as the pandemic subsides of course. Once you have yours you will have a world of amazing vintage lenses to play with. There are some good quality and fun lenses for under $50 on tables at PhotoFair. But you can also shoot legendary glass like Leica M lenses on these cameras. These won’t be cheap but they will delight!

I can’t wait for our shows to reopen!

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A few years ago at the PhotoFair I bought a Spiratone T-Mount Bellows system that had a simple 150/4.5 view camera lens attached and is able to use T-mount adapters for most cameras. What really intrigued me with this item was the amazing build quality and the full suite of monorail view camera movements. Seriously this thing is a Sinar miniaturized to work with small format. I really haven’t played with it much in fact it is a bit dusty, but I pulled it out recently and fiddled about for a while.

This particular unit is equipped with a standard T-ring in the back and a T-ring adapter for M42 universal lenses up front. The Spiratone lens is a 150/4.5 that is mediocre and appears to be uncoated. The Bellows, uh, er, I mean camera is well made with solid lock down and smooth controls for movements.

The 150mm lens has decent coverage for 35mm/full frame but the movements can rather easily find the edge of the image circle. Using an APS/C camera like my EOS M5 adds substantial range of movements if you really want to tweak the bejezus out of it 😉 I used my EOS M5 with the Metabones speed booster so I was getting closer to 35mm/full frame coverage. I needed the extra working room as 150mm is a bit long for my small “man cave” / office space.

I decided to make a few images and use the camera movements to try and compensate for various “problems” that might come up in a studio situation. The first shot is a simple picture of two lenses one near and one set back. The lenses were inside a small light box. This was a test shot just to see how sharp or “unsharp” that Spiratone 150/4.5 is. The lens is as I said earlier “mediocre.”

Then I put a couple of smaller EF-M lenses in the light box and decided to leave the camera in a fixed position and try to use nothing but movements to remedy the “problem” you will see in the first image. keeping the camera perfectly level left me with the camera too low. Now I could easily just raise the tripod, but sometimes in a studio situation it may not be that easy. Perhaps the subject is really large and the camera needs to be 10 feet in the air. Well that was not the case here, but hey, I needed a reason to mess with the movements, right?

So this first image on the left was with no movements, straight through the bellows. You can see that the back lens is chopped off and the camera position is too low. The first movement to remedy the low camera position is a simple rise on the front standard. That produces the second image on the right. Here we see that without moving the camera position at all we can effectively “raise” the camera by raising the front standard. You may recall I did a shift lens adapter article a few years back discussing this technique.

The focus is on the front smaller lens leaving the back lens way out of focus. The back lens was about 6 inches behind the front lens and with a 150mm focused at 6 feet distance, even F/8 or F/11 would be a challenge to sharpen up that back lens. F/16 is available but diffraction tends to soften things up a bit at F/16 not to mention the epic long shutter drag to get the exposure and the increased depth of field reveals “flaws” in the background.

So to sharpen up both objects wide open would normally require a change of camera position to a diagonal that create a nice focus plane through the two lenses. But these are in a light box so that is not possible and I did agree at the onset not to change the camera position, right? Right.

Here is where a swing movement can make a dramatic change in the image. I decide to keep the lens WIDE open just to make a point about the benefits of view camera movements. Ideally stopping down to f/8 would have sharpened it up wonderfully. I used the rear standard for the swing movement because that won’t change the lens to subject distance like a front swing will. Now without changing the camera position or the focus and still shooting wide open, both lenses are now more or less sharp. Again if this were a real product shot F/8 and a slight tweak to focus would have made both lenses razor sharp. Full disclosure here, I was right at the limit of the lens circle thus you see some heavy vignetting on the left, Had I not used the Metabones speed booster and backed the camera up a bit that would not have been the case. or better yet if that silly Spiratone 150mm lens had more coverage 😉

This miniature view camera has surprising quality. On the front standard you have a geared smooth shift, geared smooth rise/fall, front and back tilt, front swing. The rear standard has all the same movements but the rise/fall on the rear standard is not geared. This is a true mini monorail camera! With a little machine work or shopping time you could find mountts to allow for true view lenses to be used on this unit. I would recommend 75mm – 105mm for full range use with infinity focus. Shorter focal lengths will have little or no movements at infinity or long focus as the bellows is collapsed. Shorter focal lengths work great for super closeups.

If you are interested in finding one of these, I occasionally see them on EBAY as well as camera shows, like PhotoFair, where I found mine.

I have also played with some real view lenses on this mini-camera. I made some images with the Kodak Ektar 100/4.5 and some other silly stuff like a Holga lens and even a few with my beloved Zeiss Biotar 58/2. Ah too much fun.

Kodak Ektar 101/4.5 @ f/4.5

A super closeup using a plastic Holga 60mm F/8 on a stack of US dimes

Super close Zeiss Biotar 58/2 on stack of US dimes. @f/4

There’s that dime-stack again, this time Russian Helios 58/2 @f/2

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